Orchestral Instrument Sample Libraries


Hey guys and gals! Me and ThomasVoMusic were discussing what sample libraries were good for orchestral instruments, and I am intrigued to see what other people use.

I am currently using the Vienna Symphonic Library Legacy samples that come with Kontakt in Komplete 7, but some of the sounds, as ThomasVoMusic pointed out, are very synthetic ‘out of the box’, and require careful automation to keep them as realistic as possible.

So how about you!? Have any of you used the VSL, and how do you find it, or what other samples do you use?




Hey Craig. I had a similar discussion with Thomas a while back. There’s just way too much out there that can be used. I have almost all of EWQL libraries. They offer a wide variety of stuff to choose from. Also stuff from Tonehammer is very nice too, a lot of good percussion stuff and vocal libraries and custom instruments. Tonehammer samples things that other people wouldn’t think of sampling, which adds a nice variety to the sounds.

Also, if you’re looking for more percussion stuff, I can also suggest ProjectSAM True Strike 1 and 2. There’s some amazing percussion sounds there. Like I said, I mainly have EWQL libraries, but I’m looking to get a ton more stuff from Tonehammer and ProjectSAM.

You can find a bunch of good info and discussion on VSTs here as well: http://audiojungle.net/forums/thread/komplete-7-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/34053

And some website links if you like:

Soundsonline (Eastwest/Quantium Leap): www.soundsonline.com

Tonehammer: http://www.tonehammer.com/</a

ProjectSAM: http://www.projectsam.com/Home

Hope this helps out a bit! :slight_smile:

  • Derek


Hi Derek, thanks for your detailed reply! I have spoken to many people who use the Eastwest stuff and have heard nothing but praise, but I must say from what you have mentioned ProjectSAM seem to have some very impressive stuff, once I make some sales on here I may invest in the True Strike library, sounds incredible!

As for Tonehammer, Liberis looks to be something really special.



I’m not going to praise Eastwest I’m afraid. Their non-orchestral libraries are excellent (particularly Silk and Pianos) but their orchestral library is very dated (the actual recordings are well over 5 years old, possibly more) and there are way better sounds out there now. They used to be the king, but…the king is dead, long live the king…

I will say that EW Orchestra is good for its price range, but personally, I want to cringe every time I hear them.

If you’re serious about doing orchestral recording with computers, you CAN’T use one library to get a good result, you have to mix and match from multiple libraries.


Audiobro LA Scoring Strings - http://www.audiobro.com/

Here is a demo of LA Scoring Strings in action. It’s an excerpt from Bruckner’s 5th Symphony.


Orchestral String Runs - http://www.orchestraltools.com/

Essential for doing John Williams style music.

Symphobia - http://www.projectsam.com/Products/Boxed-Products/

Can’t be beat for the warm pad sounds and has a great (but overused) effects section.

Zero-G Animato - http://www.zero-g.co.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1077

Amazing little effects library for strings (and flute)

***Hollywood Strings is good, but it’s a bloated library, that really doesn’t have that much over it’s competitors. LA Scoring Strings is a much better recorded, more efficient and MUCH better programmed library, in my opinion. Though like all things, it takes time to learn.


Symphobia - http://www.projectsam.com/Products/Boxed-Products/

Great brass ensemble sounds in here.

Orchestral Brass Classic - http://www.projectsam.com/Products/Boxed-Products/

Showing its age, but it’s still the best brass library for filmic stuff. Eastwest are recording a new brass library though, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.


HollywoodWinds http://cinesamples.com/products/hollywoodwinds/

Amazing library that gets a great ensemble sound.

VSL Winds http://www.vsl.co.at

The Vienna Symphonic Library solo woodwinds are by far and away the best sampled wind instruments on the planet.


*There are so many percussion libraries out there, but these are a few of my go-to libraries.

True Strike 1 and 2 http://www.projectsam.com/Products/Boxed-Products/

Great orchestral percussion in True Strike 1, great world percussion in True Strike 2. Recorded in a wonderful room too.

Drums Of War 1 and 2 http://cinesamples.com/products/dow2/

Drums Of War 1 recorded percussion that was used in Lord Of The Rings. Drums Of War 2 recorded percussion that was used in Battlestar Galactica (the percussionist is MB Gordy). Great usable sounds.

All Tonehammer Stuff http://www.tonehammer.com

I shouldn’t need to say anymore. These guys are the best.

There are all kinds of other libraries out there focusing on synth FX, processed orchestral FX, grooves, etc… but these are the main ones out there. Most of the A-list composers use the same libraries but enhance it with privately sampled stuff. (Hans Zimmer has sampled the London Symphony Orchestra…)

Now, I’m not going to suggest that I’m really good with the samples, but I know I’m not bad. With a bit of work, you can get something like this. (no live instruments in this recording). This was written and recorded over 3 days.


There are people on Audiojungle who can probably do better than this, but this is still pretty good IMO.


I knew Gareth would be by to shed some insight. I agree that EW is a bit dated, but hey…I’m not made of money :smiley: I’m slowly building up a good collection.


Hey guys, I think I have a little wisdom in this debate between Derek and Gareth. It’s not what you have, but how you use it that decides whether you are a master composer or not. You can have the best equipment, vst plugins, (heck, you could even have the money to hire a real orchestra), but if you don’t know how to use those resources, then having the best stuff is a waist of time (and money). The best composers take whatever they have available and are able to make masterpieces with it. I will take a composer who has the least amount of resources and has to use his (or her) imagination and creativity to wield a masterpiece, than a composer who never has to use his imagination to come up with stuff because everything he has seems to sound so good.

Just a thought. Sorry, got a little philosophical.

P.S. Anyways, I would stick with EWQL



Lengthy reply coming up…sorry… I try to avoid these, but this reply bothered me a little.

Ezrasound said

It’s not what you have, but how you use it that decides whether you are a master composer or not.

Agree. I would hope that much is obvious.

Ezrasound said

if you don’t know how to use those resources, then having the best stuff is a waste of time

Agree. Again, I would hope that much is obvious.

Ezrasound said

I will take a composer who has the least amount of resources and has to use his (or her) imagination and creativity to wield a masterpiece, than a composer who never has to use his imagination to come up with stuff because everything he has seems to sound so good.

Fair enough, but saying a composer doesn’t have imagination just because he/she has the best resources is a pretty ridiculous statement and shows a basic lack of understanding of how the industry works although…if you want to be a composer just to write music for pleasure, then absolutely you don’t need the best resources.


  • John Williams had Itzahk Perlman for Schindler’s List, widely regarded as one of the greatest film scores of all time. He chose Perlman, because Perlman plays the violin in a certain way, and has a certain tone, not to mention he is probably one of the greatest violinists that ever lived.

-The London Symphony Orchestra recorded the Harry Potter and Star Wars music. Why not record it in LA? Because the LSO is one of the best orchestras in the world.

  • Zimmer used 15 or so trombones + other brass instruments for the signature Inception sound, which is a score which had a HUGE cultural impact in 2010 (it has been ripped off so many times!). If he doesn’t have the resources to do that, then there is NO signature Inception sound.

  • Coker (yes, me) hires Ayana Haviv - soloist from Avatar, to do a recording, because she is really the only person that can nail the vocal style that I want. If I don’t spend the money to do that, I get removed from the film project for not finding the right sound for the film.

  • It’s possible to make even the best libraries sound bad. Believe me, I’ve heard people do terrible jobs with Symphobia and Tonehammer…!

  • I’ve had the pleasure of recording with an orchestra here in LA, and there really is nothing like it. And they are FAST at reading music, which saves time and money…

  • Would you prefer to listen to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra? Or by a high school orchestra? If you had to pick only one, which would you be more likely to choose?

  • If you wrote a piece of music for orchestra, would you prefer the world premiere to be played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra or a high school orchestra?

I could go on and on…these are all statements about resources.

Anyway, if you really want to have a successful career, or what would be regarded as a successful career in the industry amongst industry peers, with a legacy/history, you need to have the best resources available. And I’m afraid it really does matter what you have. It’s really easy to hear the difference these days. Even musically untrained directors notice it.

That’s why the best composers charge so much $$$$, it’s not just because they are great composers, but they also have the best resources available to them, and that costs a lot of money. Conductors for orchestral sessions can easily charge $300 an hour. Mixers/engineers the same. Being a composer for film/tv/games, especially at the A/B-list level, you have to execute everything perfectly, not just adequately. Thats why it takes a while these days to break in (there are not many A/B-list successful composers under 30, only Bear McCreary is the one that springs to mind). Zimmer, Williams, Powell, Gregson-Williams, did not have major success until their early 30’s, because it takes a long time and a lot of experience to build up these skills and resources. It also takes time to learn how to execute something perfectly, as opposed to just doing a good job.

The simple fact is, - although this is a pretty big generalization - the best-produced music (and film/TV is all about production quality) you hear often comes from people who have great resources.

If your music isn’t well-produced, no-one is going to want to listen to it. It could have the greatest melody ever, but being a composer is not just about writing a good piece of music, it’s about executing a concept or idea meticulously and in the best way that you possibly can. This i s achieved by any of the following: composition, orchestration, arrangment, mixing, production, and probably a few more that I’ve forgotten.

I’m sorry @Ezrasound, but I felt pretty strongly about what you said. I spent 2 months working at John Powell’s studio as a tech assistant while he was scoring How To Train Your Dragon, and it really was a big eye-opener. The bagpipe sound you hear in that score, is actually seven bagpipes recorded in a HUGE room with special microphones. It’s a signature sound, and one that can’t be achieved without significant resources, which Powell has. He came up with a concept, and figured out the best way to execute it.

Maybe I’m just over-ambitious and still a bit naive, but nothing would please me more to come into work every day and have a full orchestra waiting for me and every synth/VSTi ever made. Because that gives me options and choices and inspiration, and from that comes great music. I’m striving to reach the top of my field, and I don’t know if I’ll get there, but I want to try, and having been in Hollywood now for a while, I see and understand what it takes.

NO-ONE in Hollywood at the top level got to where they are because they did everything themselves, we all need people and resources to help us along the way. I’m starting to acquire these resources, after spending 18 years training and now that I’m being given bigger budgets for projects, I can more easily accomplish better recordings because I have better resources.

John Powell had numerous orchestrators work for him on How To Train Your Dragon, thus meaning he didn’t write every note of music, does that make him a lesser composer??

Steve Jablonsky uses Hans Zimmer’s studio and has access to all the resources there, does that make him a lesser composer?

Even John Williams has an orchestrator, Conrad Pope!!

For the most part, I respect your opinion, but that one statement does a dis-service to all the composers out there who spend and sometimes LOSE money because they strive for the best recording possible by hiring the best musicians/orchestrators/conductors/arrangers.(Chris Young of Spiderman 2 / Drag Me To Hell almost went bankrupt when he got started in films because he often paid for the orchestra out of his own pocket and not out of the film budget).

I understand why you wrote this, because there are LOTS of composers who DO buy the best libraries, but don’t have the training to know how to use them or write decent music with them…

But there are also lots of composers who DO write decent music with them and have spent years training harmony/counterpoint/melody-writing, etc.etc.etc.

Anyway, live musicians and great software are tools of the trade that allow us to create great music. It shouldn’t be about who is the ‘best’ composer. If you can do something with no resources, then that’s great, but it doesn’t make you more (or less) skilled than someone who writes a good piece of music with a full orchestra.

I will take a composer who can give me a good end result, regardless of the resources used. A good piece of music is a good piece of music.

I feel like I’ve made my point, feel free to comment / agree / disagree.

garethcoker said

, regardless of the resources used. A good piece of music is a good piece of music.

I think, this is the one and only good answer to all these “whos a real genius” threads in the whole wide world :slight_smile:

Or maybe " There are only two types of music, the one i like and the other one".


If we could divert this discussion back to sample libs for a second…

Everything that Gareth recommended is awesome and right on the money; however, that stuff is going to cost you many many thousands of dollars to acquire. Unless he/she is a trust fund baby, it may not be financially realistic for the working composer to go out and blow that much cash on samples (and the kind of rig that will allow you to use them all stably). Having spent the last 15 years in L.A., I have known lots of successful, working hollywood composers who don’t even own half of that list. Why? Because only a tiny fraction of working composers actually score big budget films, and only a fraction of those films use sampled orchestral scores. A good mock-up is one thing, but it can be done with less.

The most important point is that writing orchestral music requires good old-fashioned orchestration chops. You may be a good composer, but if you haven’t mastered the orchestra, you will be wasting your money on top-end orchestral sample libraries. You’ll still sound fake.

These would be my suggestions if you want to focus on orchestral music:

  1. A good orchestration textbook (the Grantham book is good and seems to be pretty popular) and some recordings of the great symphonic works of 19th and 20th centuries.

  2. Vienna Special Edition + extended… you’ll get a good springboard and can practice your skills, plus I agree with Gareth that EWQL is not the best out there. And EW is a pain to deal with on a support level.

  3. SAM True Strike 1

  4. the rest of Gareth’s list once you’ve got the chops and the income to justify it.

It doesn’t have to be a ‘chicken and egg’ argument, where the composer either can’t buy the library before he/she gets the gig, or can’t get the gig unless he/she buys the library. Work with what you have and do the best arrangements you can with the good sounds you’ve got.


Wow. Gareth, you do have a lot to say. But I agree with all of it. I probably should have said that I will take a imaginative and creative composer with the best equipment than I would over the others. I was simply trying to make the point, and your composer friends would probably agree, that you utilize what you have and be creative with it. For many of us, this means the less expensive equipments, software, instruments. As you gain knowledge in the lesser things, you will build wisdom and experience for the time you can purchase the best equipment. Sometimes that time of learning is priceless. Even if its an older vst, or recording software.

If you can purchase the best stuff, then by all means. But I was simply saying it doesn’t mean that you’ll make more sales.




@SimpleProductions, you’re absolutely right, I should have added a note, that this list should be acquired over a period of time. It took me 2 and a half years to put it all together. Staggering it out helped me learn each product to a reasonable degree.

It would be impossible to learn all this stuff quickly.(not to mention it would take a couple of days to install when it all arrived)!!!

You’re also spot on about learning orchestration. There are a number of good books out there, and if you’re serious about it, you need to know at the very least…The Rite Of Spring (Stravisnky) and Daphnis et Chloe (Ravel) like the back of your hand, (the more Ravel the better), as they are the most referenced orchestral pieces in film.

Ezrasound said

Wow. Gareth, you do have a lot to say.

Yup, I sure do. Us composers are boring, whenever we get together, we talk about this stuff all day long! It’s why I try not to hang out with other composers too much :smiley:

garethcoker said

Yup, I sure do. Us composers are boring, whenever we get together, we talk about this stuff all day long! It’s why I try not to hang out with other composers too much :smiley:

This is so true :smiley: I find myself when around other musicians, I constantly talk about upcoming projects and various music tid bits…even when we were talking about something totally different like…football :smiley:

garethcoker said

Yup, I sure do. Us composers are boring, whenever we get together, we talk about this stuff all day long!

Hmmm. . . Now that you mention it.

Hey isn’t the Super Bowl on this week?


Go Packers!

(I hate the Steelers, I’m a Ravens fan)


Yeah, but the real question is : Who do you have money on in the puppy bowl?


yes, I went there.


Thanks for all the replies everyone and i’m glad it sparked a good discussion. Like I said i’m going to go for the True Strike 1 but certainly make best use of what I have for the time being, as you guys said, it’s how you use it!

Also, being from the UK the Super Bowl discussion is beyond me, all I really know about Super bowl weekend is there is usually a great UFC card, OFY :smitten:

garethcoker said

Go Packers!

(I hate the Steelers, I’m a Ravens fan)

I’m with the packers as well :wink:


great discussion in here guys! learned a lot…thanks for sharing info on libraries…


Thread revival!

So it was over 6 months that I started this thread, and I thought that I would update any of you who are interested on how I expanded my Orchestral library.

First of all, I took on board all of the advice you shared with me, and it massively influenced my decisions. I have made 2 purchases, that cost me a lot less than originally intended, and I even managed to pay for them using my AJ earnings!

First up, I bought True Strike Tension

As I couldn’t afford the full versions of Project SAM True Strike 1 & 2, I opted for this cut down Kore Soundpack version. Kore still isn’t 64-bit, so I run the samples via Kontakt player, and find them to be excellent. I plan on upgrading to the full versions eventually, but priorities…

East West Symphonic Orchestra Gold Edition

Although some people find the EWQLSO samples slightly dated now, I find the quality to be excellent, even with alternatives such as symphobia occupying the higher-end of the market.

This purchase was easy - the Vienna samples I used previously were very ‘synthetic’ and featured few articulations with no round-robin sampling. EWQLSO has a huge array of articulations, has been recorded at a very high quality and gives the option to upgrade microphone positions when funds allow! I have written a few pieces, and resampled some older ones with the new library, and have to say i’m head over heels with it. I won’t use the forum to link these pieces as it would appear to be advertising, but if you are interested they are the newer orchestral pieces in my portfolio.

So thank you to everyone who gave their recommendations and input, it really did help with handing over my hard-earned AJ money! True Strike Tension cost me around £60 and I bought East West Symphonic Orchestra for £187, as sounds online currently have a 40% off sale on here.


Congratulations on your two purchases! Hope it serves your music production well!

You might also want to have a look at AudioBro’s L.A. Scoring Strings to compliment your Quantum Leap Orchestra Gold Edition :slight_smile: