Bringing a cinematic track together means having the right orchestral sounds to stand above the rest.
Serious music lovers know how heart-pounding and tear-jerking a great orchestral performance can be. Hearing a large group of musicians come together to play in sync under one roof can deliver an indescribable sense of wonder.
Of course, most home producers and composers can't afford to hire a real 60-piece orchestra to record for them on a whim, let alone pay thousands of dollars for top-of-the-line virtual instruments.
For this reason, we've put together a list of some of the best free orchestral VST plugins so you can make hair-raising orchestral pieces without ever dropping a dime.
1- VSCO 2 Chamber Orchestra
- An open-source subset of the main VCSO 2 orchestra library
- 1GB of samples
- Wide variety of orchestral instruments
- Built-in mic positioning
VSCO 2 Chamber Orchestra is an incredible freeware sample library that delivers a wide variety of instruments to build your own orchestra. While Versilian Studios also has a paid version with far more instruments and samples to choose from, this free orchestral VST comes with one GB of orchestral instruments, including violins, harps, flutes, and clarinets, horns, trumpets, percussion, keys, and tubas.
Even with all of these options, the interface is easy to use, giving people a reasonable amount of control with a few parameters to choose from. You can even vary the mic positioning for your orchestra to give it a unique sound!
2- DSK Overture
- 40 included instruments
- Can play up to four layers at once
- Included effects, filter envelope, and pan controls
- Advanced multi-mode filter
If there was one free orchestral VST plugin that could deliver the classic flavor of orchestral sounds that you know and love, then that free orchestral VST would be DSK Overture . This plugin includes a wide variety of instruments, such as acoustic piano, cello, horns, violin, drum kit, and trumpet.
One neat thing about this plugin is that you can play up to four instruments at once, allowing you to compose and record on the fly!
There are plenty of controls on the interface, allowing you to alter or fine-tune your instruments to fit in the context of your mix. Beyond that, DSK also put in a few built-in reverb and delay effects. With an array of advanced effects and controls, you can adjust your orchestra in the way you need to get it to fit perfectly with your production. Plus, with a wide array of great-sounding instruments and an intuitive interface, crafting orchestral productions has never been easier.
3- DSK Brass
- 23 instruments to choose from
- Two layers with independent controls
- MIDI automation
- Built-in effects
When talking about orchestral plugins, it's hard to go without talking about brass. While there are many all-in-one plugins that give you the sounds of a full orchestra, having a dedicated brass plugin can be helpful.
DSK Brass is certainly no match for many paid orchestral plugins, as the plugin only gives you access to two layers. However, with 23 instruments to choose from, including saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tuba, french horn, flugelhorn, and a full ensemble, you get plenty of tonal options to explore.
Another good thing is that though it only has two layers, the plugin delivers independent controls for each of the layers, including ADSR, level, spread, octave, delay, and flanger.
Brass is definitely one of the hardest instruments to emulate, so we have to give it to DSK Brass for making this plugin as best as they could. While we wouldn't recommend it for solo orchestral brass, it's certainly worth having this plugin in your arsenal.
4- Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra
- Included strings, brass, woodwinds, keys, choir, and percussion
- 2x round-robin staccato and pizzicato
- 16-bit, 44kHz stereo recordings
- Adjustable room ambiance
The one-of-a-kind Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra might be one of the best and most well-known free orchestral VST plugins on the market today. Whether you're a professional composer or a complete beginner, you'll find something to love about this plugin.
The Sonatina Orchestral module comes in 32 or 64-bit and has a wide range of elegant, high-quality sounds for creating strong orchestral productions. Within the plugin, you'll find an excellent array of instruments, including strings, keys, brass, percussion, and more.
The melodic and chromatic percussion instruments were sampled in minor thirds for added realism throughout the frequency range, and all pizzicato and staccato patches have a 2x round-robin. You can even vary the front-to-back placement of the instruments in your orchestra, thanks to the included stage ambiance parameter.
5- DSK Virtuoso
- Around 40 instruments and six simultaneously playable layers
- Two send FX and one master reverb
- ADSR, level, and pan controls
- Assignable MIDI controls to each instrument
DSK Virtuoso is another great plugin from the DSK realm, perfect for those who are looking for a full-fledged orchestral sound in their compositions. You get to enjoy about 40 instruments in this free orchestral VST, which deliver the sounds of professional orchestral instruments at your fingertips.
Taking it a step further from DSK Overture, DSK Virtuoso can play up to six sounds simultaneously, allowing you to create the sound of your orchestra without having to load up several instances of this plugin. Beyond that, there are plenty of control options to shape and manipulate your instruments individually, including ADSR, reverb, chorus, and more.
The interface might not be the prettiest one out there, though if sound and ease of use are things you prioritize, then this free orchestra VST is a good choice.
6- Virtual Playing Orchestra
- Solo and section instruments
- Varied articulation for included instruments
- Light pitch randomization for repeat notes
- SFZ format
Because Virtual Playing Orchestra comes in SFZ format, loading it into your DAW might require a bit of additional effort. However, when you consider the wide array of instrument samples, this plugin provides you to mess around with.
To add an element of uniqueness to your orchestral productions, this plugin has attack and release controls, as well as a few different articulation modes. Beyond that, you get two velocity layers for trumpets, trombones, and french horns, round-robin for staccato strings for up and down strokes, and reverb to make the sounds more cohesive.
By no means is Virtual Playing Orchestra revolutionary, though we definitely thought it deserved a place on our list.
7- One Track Orchestra
- Ultra-lightweight on CPU
- Wide variety of high-quality sampled instruments
- Real-time, light-up keyboard with velocity information
- Reverb and volume faders
If you need a free orchestra VST that isn't going to put tons of strain on your computer, then we highly recommend checking out One Track Orchestra . This is one of the few free orchestral plugins that we can truly consider lightweight .
However, don't underestimate this plugin, as it includes a wide variety of instruments.
You can even map different instruments through a single MIDI channel, which is not a function we see everywhere. It's a great way to create and develop large orchestral tracks with ease. We also love how simple the GUI is, especially with the real-time keyboard at the bottom that lights up with each note and provides velocity information.
As of right now, One Track Orchestra is only available for Windows operating system.
8- Orchestral Strings One
- Innovative Neo Hybrid Modeling Engine Sampling
- Real-time articulation switching
- Fully controllable legato system
- Built-in 64-step sequencer
If you simply need a plugin that recreates the beauty of orchestral strings, then Orchestral Strings One is a game-changer. This plugin has such wildly high-quality samples that it almost sounds as if you're listening to a real string section play.
You get 14 violins, ten violas, eight cellos, and six double basses, all beautifully recorded and stuffed into this unique Neo Hybrid Modeling Engine.
This orchestral plugin is wonderful if you want to enhance your modern tracks with a bed of strings. With plenty of parameter controls onboard, you can adjust your articulations and melodic characteristics with ease.
You can even route the plugin to your MIDI controls to add vibrato, making your strings all the more realistic.
Overall, if you're in the market for beginner-friendly free orchestral VST plugins, Orchestral Strings One is a surefire win!
9- DSK ChoirZ
- Three layers and 32 chorus and pad sounds
- Three advanced filter options
- ADSR, pan, and fine-tuning controls
- Built-in chorus and reverb FX
One of the other great free orchestral VST plugins from DSK is DSK ChoirZ . This incredible freeware plugin allows you to add the sweet sounds of male and female choirs and pads into your productions.
With DSK ChoirZ, you can add up to three pad or chorus sounds at once, all while taking advantage of advanced filters to customize and personalize your orchestral productions.
It's actually pretty incredible how much customization you get access to, with features like reverb, pitch control, MIDI automation, and fine-tuning. As with many other free orchestral VST plugins from DSK, DSK ChoirZ is very user-friendly.
As of right now, however, it is only available for Windows operating systems.
10- Total Composure Orchestra
- Requires Kontakt engine
- 1,500 high-quality samples
- Unique modeling technology
- Full orchestral sample library
With Total Composure Orchestra , you get an incredible set of instruments and top-tier sound quality. You can access any of the included 1,500 samples with ease, and anyone who is familiar with Kontakt will feel right at home with its functionality.
With Kontakt's scripting capabilities, Total Composure Orchestra has an elevated level of functionality and playability, with unique physical modeling techniques that enhance the public domain samples used in this orchestral sample library.
The interface is very easy to use, with the Kontakt keyboard at the bottom, which gives you a visual of the MIDI notes being run through it.
11- Violin Freebie
- 1,080 violin samples and four round-robins
- Spiccato and pizzicato rhythms
- 400MB of space
- Easy-to-use interface
The first instrument that typically comes to mind when people think about orchestras is the violin. For that reason, we believe it's important that every orchestral producer has a realistic violin plugin to recreate the nuances found in this angelic instrument.
Violin Freebie is that plugin, offering a mico library of 1,080 violin samples, spiccato rhythms, pizzicato rhythms, and four round-robins. In short, you can get a surprising amount of variety with this small plugin.
The interface is easy to use, though the sounds are incredibly powerful. Definitely scope the demos on the company's website, as they are the only things that can truly show you how realistic this VST can sound.
- Modeled lip valve instruments
- Plenty of modulation parameters
- Impressive articulations
- Available for Windows operating systems only
When it comes to brass plugins, Aerophone is certainly one-of-a-kind. This unique free orchestra plugin was meant to solely model lip valve instruments that have cylindrical bores, including trombones and trumpets. The developer modeled the lip valves using an oversampled third-order mass-spring.
To our ears, the sound that comes from this plugin is a bit synthetic, though that is kind of the charm of it. Plus, if you're careful enough to dial it in with some of your more realistic free orchestral VSTs, you can get a neat layer that sits on top or underneath.
The user interface might be a bit overwhelming for some, though if you find comfort in working with synthesis plugins, there are many parameters that should look familiar. We love how flexible this plugin is, and we hope you do too!
As of right now, Aerophone is only available on Windows operating systems.
13- LABS Strings
- Host a variety of free software instruments
- Very intuitive and easy-to-use interface
- Gorgeous, high-quality string instruments
- Minimal parameter manipulation
Spitfire Audio is one of the top orchestral instrument developers on the market today, and it baffles us how they are able to offer so many high-quality orchestral VST plugins for free. Of course, we're glad they're still at it and wouldn't want to do anything to jinx it!
While you can find a wide variety of instruments and sounds in their free collection of LABS plugins, the LABS Strings plugin is one of the most stand-out orchestral plugins we've heard in a long time.
The team at Spitfire Audio got together and captured an array of London's best string players using a wide variety of microphones to make a plugin that is nothing short of stellar. Even if the Strings plugin is not for you, we recommend downloading LABS anyway and checking out the variety of instruments they have available, as this company is truly amazing.
- 40 high-quality 24-bit samples
- Sustain level and release time
- Amplitude dynamic range control
- Simple interface
In the grand scheme of orchestral plugins, people often seem to forget about the importance of bells. However, that doesn't mean that they are any less important than any other orchestral instrument.
While there are certainly great plugins that act as "all-in-one" VSTs with full orchestral libraries, we often like when developers hone in on single instruments, as it provides more flexibility for the composer and producer.
BellsEbuth is your modern glockenspiel plugin, which is available on both Mac and Windows operating systems. The plugin features a collection of 40 24-bit glockenspiel samples from the University of Iowa's Electronic Music Studios public domain.
The interface is relatively simple, giving you access to a few parameters, including dynamics, volume, sustain, release, and level. As for realism, BellsEbuth hits the nail on the head.
15- Etherealwinds Harp
- Diatonically-sampled folk harp
- Three velocity layers
- Mono samples
- NKI version included
Beyond bells, another orchestral instrument that does not receive the kind of attention it should is the harp. Of course, as one of the most nuanced instruments in the world, it can be difficult to get right.
Thankfully, the Etherealwinds Harp sounds absolutely fantastic! This unique orchestral plugin samples a diatonic folk harp recorded by Etherealwinds, a wonderfully talented Newgrounds musician.
And yes, the term "folk" tends to confuse a lot of people, so don't feel alone if it threw you off. This harp is smaller than your typical orchestral harp, giving it a smaller range and naturally, a different sound. While the difference shouldn't stop you from using it if you like the sound of it in your orchestral arrangements, it is worth noting.
The user interface is pretty standard, providing controls for volume, reverb, pan, attack, decay, sustain, and release. Beyond that, there's not much else to say except you should try it for yourself!
16- Iowa Tenor Trombone and Tuba
- Sampled tenor trombone and tuba
- ADSR and pan controls
- Only available for Windows operating systems
While these are two different orchestral plugins, we recommend getting them in a bundle, as they sound absolutely great together! The Iowa Tenor Trombone is a sampled trombone, while the Iowa Tuba is, of course, a sampled tuba.
The interfaces on both of these plugins are wildly simple, giving you access to Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release controls, pan controls, and an output volume control.
Having the added element of control of working with an instrument solo can be super helpful for more detailed arrangements. As we said before, emulating brass can be quite difficult, and we never expect that any paid orchestral plugins will get it totally right, let alone free orchestral VST plugins.
However, the developers came pretty close with these plugins, and we think they work great in any orchestral arsenal.
17- DSK Saxophones
- Two different saxophone types: Tenor and Soprano
- Velocity curve selector
- ADSR envelope control
- Available reverb FX
There's nothing quite like having access to solo saxophones to use in your orchestral mixes, and DSK Saxophones are surprisingly high-quality. This free version of this instrument is a bit more flexible and customizable than arguably one of the most popular saxophone VST plugins, DVS Saxophone.
As you probably guessed from the name, this plugin gives you access to multiple saxophones, including tenor and soprano saxes. You also get the option to manipulate a few parameters, including ADSR, Level, Velocity, and Reverb settings.
Like brass, the sax is another instrument that is near-impossible to emulate correctly, especially if you're working with fewer instruments that aren't drenched in reverb. While we wouldn't go as far to say these are authentic sax sounds, DSK did a pretty good job at capturing the overall tones of these saxes, making it a VST that works in a pinch.
18- Kettle Drum
- Sampled timpani percussion
- Pitch, vibrato, and ADSR controls
- Onboard EQ for tone-shaping
- Only available on Windows operating systems
When talking about orchestral instruments, you can't go without talking about percussion. The Kettle Drum plugin emulates one of the most dynamic percussion instruments around — the timpani.
This plugin actually sounds amazing . The attack hits hard enough to poke through the mix, and the plugin gives you plenty of sustain when you need it. There is a slight bit of artificiality in the decay when played on its own, though, in the context of a larger orchestral mix, it fits like a glove.
You also get plenty of controls to shape the sound of your timpani, including vibrato, pitch, shape, EQ, and output, allowing you to customize your tones.
As of now, it is only available on Windows operating systems as a 32-bit VST.