From composition and sound design to songwriting and electronic music production, you just never know when orchestral elements might take center stage or sit nicely in the background in your various productions.
But we know that shopping for plugins can add up and trying to find the best sounds on a tight budget can be a trial by fire, even at the best of times.
That’s why we’ve compiled the best free orchestral VST plugins you can download, install, and start experimenting with today. Let’s get to that list.
LABS by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire Audio’s ever expanding LABS series of free VST plugins has fast become a go-to resource for composers and sound designers everywhere.
They’ve got strings, guitars, pianos and keys, brass, drums, choir and vocals, percussion, synths, experimental, basses, folk and world, orchestras, plucked, woodwinds, and hybrid – basically, everything you could possibly need to score a commercial, TV show, video game, or film.
So, in terms of the sheer number of instruments, as well as their overall quality, there aren’t any collections that are going to outclass or surpass LABS. This is the first place to look when you need a virtual instrument, because you’re near guaranteed to end up with highly usable, high-quality sounds.
Am I saying that it’s your one-stop-shop for everything? Well… maybe not (and honestly, that would kind of make the rest of this guide redundant). But if there’s an instrument you need, they’ve probably got it, and chances are good that it sounds great.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns with LABS, mind you. Each plugin weights upwards of 1 GB or more, you’re required to download and install the plugins through the dubious Spitfire Audio app, and our experience has been that these aren’t the most stable plugins. For instance, we’ve had it where even after installing a plugin, the host simply can’t locate it.
Aside from that, though, you’ve found yourself a gem of a library that’s sure to complement your orchestral and compositional project needs.
Download: Spitfire Audio
The Free Orchestra by ProjectSAM
It’s not too hard to find artists, producers, and composers raving about ProjectSAM’s The Free Orchestra Kontakt instrument. This plugin is loaded with a stunning 1 GB of cinematic sound content stemming from ProjectSAM’s highly praised premium libraries.
Whether it’s orchestral string staccatos, dystopian sound design, symphonic percussion, or brass clusters, The Free Orchestra includes a lot of sounds that could come in handy for your scoring sessions.
In total, The Free Orchestra comes with 12 cinematic instruments recorded in a concert hall environment, sounds from their Symphobia series, and an easy-to-use interface.
Said interface features controls for envelope, filter, preset-specific effect, master effects, dynamic control, quick equalization, ocatver on / off, and reverse sample.
While The Free Orchestra can’t realistically compete with a premium compositional plugin, it is, after all, free. And for what it is, it does sound quite good. Check out the video below to hear it in action.
Layers by Orchestral Tools
Orchestral Tools’ Layers gives you an easy way to add orchestral sounds to your projects. It comes with strings, woodwinds, and brass instruments with multiple articulations. Full chords can be generated for layered goodness, including major, minor, and suspended chords with multiple inversions (could be why they called it Layers).
Layers also features mixable mic positions and configurations, as well as the ability to blend instrument sections and shift dynamics with your MIDI controller.
The sounds were all captured at the Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin with handpicked musicians and select microphones (gee, never heard that one before).
Overall, we find Layers sounds very smooth and rich – near authentic too. It sounds a little inorganic in the decay, but it’s kind of negligible given the free nature of this plugin, and in a full mix, you probably wouldn’t be able to hear it.
To be able to use Layers, though, you will also need to download Orchestral Tools’ SINE Player, so take note.
Download: Orchestral Tools
DSK Overture by DSK Music
It’s quite old school by now, but we’ve been finding that DSK Music’s DSK Overture still gets talked about a lot. We’re not sure if that’s because it was the Big Mac of the day, or if it’s because producers still love to mess around with it.
Either way, it was built on a cool concept. There are four layers you can manipulate, with 40 orchestral instruments to choose from, including piano, harpsichord, organ, brass and woodwinds, orchestral drum kit, and more.
This means you can layer the same sound four times, have four different instruments playing at the same time, or mix and match. Again, a cool, maybe even revolutionary concept back in the day, but it’s rather taken for granted these days.
DSK Overture also comes with MIDI channel selector, level, gain, mute, advanced multimode filter (HP, LP, BP1, BP2, notch), filter amp, envelope, FX (reverb, delay, chorus), MIDI automation, and velocity response parameters for your fine-tuning fancy.
Given how far orchestral VST plugin have come, the music coming from DSK Overture doesn’t sound so much like an orchestra anymore. It sounds more like video game bleeps and bloops from the SNES era. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if classic video game music is what you’re trying to create, and in composing, there’s a time and place for that.
Download: DSK Music
Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra by Mattias Westlund & Big Cat Instruments
Here’s another free orchestral sample library that’s caught and held the attention of many a producer – the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra.
This plugin may not come with the “kitchen sink,” but it does come with the basic building blocks for creating virtual orchestrations, making it a great choice for beginners. It includes strings, brass, woodwinds, keys, choir, and percussion instruments to help you create a full orchestral experience.
The included samples are all stereo, 16-bit, 44kHz. Melodic instruments and chromatic percussion were sampled in minor thirds, and staccato / pizzicato patches come with 2x round robin.
As the demo below demonstrates, Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra is quite capable. It is possible to create some huge orchestral sounds with it, and layered together, the instruments sound cold. Taken individually, or even one section at a time, the instruments don’t sound quite as authentic, and this is where Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra shows its limitations, but it is after all a free library.
Versilian Studios Chamber Orchestra 2 Community Edition by Versilian Studios Virtual Instruments
Versilian Studios Chamber Orchestra 2 Community Edition is an open-source library ideally suited to hobbyists, students, and young composers. It includes over 3 GB worth of samples, totaling 3,162 samples. It’s basically a subset of the Standard and Professional Editions, which can be purchased at a premium.
Given that it’s open source, many developers have created their own versions of VSCO 2 Community Edition and have extended or changed its functionality. You can even find many of these “hot rodded” versions on the Versilian Studios website, and they’ll even tell you which they think are hot and which are not.
VSCO 2 includes woodwinds, brass, keys, mallets, strings, and percussion for the full orchestral experience.
Overall, Chamber Orchestra 2 Community Edition comes with a variety of great sounds. It also has a nice interface. For sketching and raw instrument sounds, it’s going to get the job done.
But there are certainly some inconsistencies from one instrument to the next. You don’t always get the same mic options or articulations, let alone the same quality. Ultimately, it’s probably not going to give you a “big trailer” sound either, even if you do upgrade to Standard or Professional Editions.
That said, VSCO 2 Community Edition is free, and it puts a lot of power at your fingertips, so it’s certainly worthy of a mention.
Download: Versilian Studios Virtual Instruments
The Total Composure Orchestra by Xtant Audio
Xtant Audio’s The Total Composure Orchestra sample library and Kontakt instrument was created using public domain samples exclusively.
The developer found that most of these samples only came with one set of samples per articulation, and one dynamic layer. But they overcame these limitations by taking advantage of physical modeling techniques – dynamic filters and intelligent repetition scripting. You don’t need to know what that means to appreciate the result.
The Total Composure Orchestra contains more than 1,500 samples at 1.5 GB. There are, of course, a variety of instruments – grand piano, marimba, clavichord, strings, brass, woodwinds, and more.
They all sound decent. The piano may well be the crowning jewel of the library, but that doesn’t mean the other sounds aren’t also at least usable. If you’re looking for ultrarealistic samples, you should not be surprised to find public domain samples can only take you so far, but The Total Composure Orchestra should be more than enough for sketching and demo purposes.
Download: KVR Audio Software
One Track Orchestra by make some music now!
For those looking to sketch out and prototype their orchestral arrangements, there’s One Track Orchestra.
This instrument will put a full orchestra on a single track of your DAW. You can add strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion simultaneously, with just one MIDI channel.
Given the nature of the plugin, the only two controls in the GUI are reverb and volume faders. There are no ADSR envelopes or additional effects here, let alone multiple articulations or round robin samples.
But for songwriters and producers who want to test out their ideas quickly and easily, One Track Orchestra can certainly come in handy.
Don’t expect One Track Orchestra to sound like a premium plugin, let alone one of the best free options we’ve already looked at. But it doesn’t sound half bad, and as a songwriting aid, it’s a ton of fun.
Download: KVR Audio Software
Keyzone Classic by Bitsonic
A competent piano is an essential in every composer’s toolkit. Now, LABS has got Glass Piano and Soft Piano, both of which are great instruments. But if, for whatever reason, you’re looking for other options, or want to add additional color to your VST library, we get it. There are, in fact, several more pianos featured in this guide.
Bitsonic’s Keyzone Classic certainly isn’t anything new or fancy. Parameters include attack, decay, sustain, release, detune, reverb, volume, LFO rate, LFO depth, and pan controls. Pretty basic stuff.
There are, however, five sounds built into Keyzone Classic – Keyzone Piano, Yamaha Grand Piano, Steinway Grand Piano, basic electric piano, and Rhodes piano.
And wouldn’t you know it, Keyzone Classic sounds quite good regardless of which piano sound you choose.
Download: KVR Audio Software
Piano One by Sound Magic
Sound Magic wants you to know just how amazing their virtual instrument plugins are. Which is why they decided to make their Piano One VST available for free.
The Sound Magic Neo Piano Hybrid Modeling Engine was used to build Piano One, and this technology is claims to be the best of both worlds – sampling and modeling. But what exactly is Piano One sampling / modeling? The famous Yamaha C7 concert grand, of course.
Piano One only comes with one sound, but there are a variety of parameters that allow you to dial in your compelling cold keys character. There’s reverb (time, width, mix, surface, smooth, E.R.), noises (pedal, strings, hammer off), style (amount), damping (time, tracking, release, level), harmonics (gain, shift), tone (low, high, lid), perspective (player, audience), tuning system, and key dynamics (range, tracking).
Piano One doesn’t sound half bad, especially once you’ve added in a little reverb. That said, it’s certainly not going to be able to compete with premium virtual pianos.
Piano One is compatible with Windows and Mac.
Download: Sound Magic
Room Piano by Sample Science
If you’re in the mood for a little lo-fi piano in a lightweight package, Sample Science’s Room Piano Kontakt instrument is worth a look. In creating this VST, a living room upright acoustic piano was sampled in two velocities every three semitones, and it was captured in 24-bit stereo.
You can tweak the sound using the amplitude ADSR, multi-LFO, highpass/lowpass filter, and room reverb controls. There are also three voice modes – monophonic, polyphonic, and legato.
Obviously, a lo-fi piano isn’t something you would necessarily use in every production, but there are times when it can come in quite handy, such as when you want a distant sounding piano in your mix, or to create a false sense of security in your tracks before they explode – the tension before the release.
Seriously, have a listen – this thing is dope.
Download: Sample Science
Piano in 162 by Ivy Audio
We haven’t reached the end of piano alley yet. Ivy Audio’s Piano in 162 features a Steinway Model B grand piano sample library. And it’s available in several formats, just in case – Kontakt, SFZ, and Korg Kronos.
The samples were recorded at 96kHZ through a pair of Rode NT5 cardioid microphones, an ambient pair in the hall, and a close pair inside the piano. Piano 162 has five dynamic levels, two round robins, as well as pedal on and off samples.
Out of the box, Piano in 162 features a great sound, and that’s always a great place to start from. By combining the various microphone mic positions, you can get a rich, full blended sound.
Give it a try for yourself and see how you like it.
Download: Ivy Audio
Atmos 2 by Electronik Sound Lab
Electronik Sound Lab’s Atmos 2 is just one of several free creations they’ve generously offered up to the world.
With a Yamaha C3 grand piano as the source, Atmos 2 was recorded at a music school in Mallorca (Balearic Islands) in November 2019. These sounds were captured using a Zoom H6 digital recorder. And if you know anything about that recorder, then you’re either scared or intrigued by this entry, which is probably the right response.
Atmos 2, though, has a beautiful, deep, and rich dry piano sound. Really, it’s surprising. It’s just that the parameters let you take the sound to some very mysterious and eerie places. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need for your scores.
So, take advantage of attack, decay, sustain, release, level, LFO D, cutoff, LFO R, and piano volume to take your sounds from gorgeous, lush piano to futuristic fantasy cyberpunk techno land with the twist of a few dials.
Altogether, Atmos 2 features 56 samples, two layers, ADSR controls, LFO manipulation, and filter HP / LP.
This should become a fast favorite for those who know what to do with it, and Atmos 2 is compatible with Windows and Mac.
Download: Electornik Sound Lab
DSK Brass by DSK Music
You can rely on DSK Music to have a variety of free orchestral VST plugins at the ready. Again, given their legacy status, you can’t exactly compare them to the gorgeous premium sample libraries out there, but for sketching and demos, their plugins can work in a pinch.
DSK Brass comes with two layers and 23 instruments – sax, trumpet, piccolo, trombone, tuba, flugel horn, French horn, brass ensemble, and more.
DSK Brass also includes octave select, micro-detuner, effects (delay, flanger), and MIDI automation.
As you would likely expect, DSK Brass sounds decent, and it tends to work best when you layer two different instruments together. That said, the sounds are probably better suited to old school video game compositions versus epic orchestral trailers.
Download: DSK Music
Brassinematic by Fanan Team
Fanan Team seems to have a knack for birthing distinct VST creations, and the Brassinematic cinematic brass machine is no exception.
The four 32-bit waveform oscillators allow you to generate four instruments – baritone saxophone, French horn, trombone, and trumpet. The oscillators can be mixed and blended to create a brass ensemble.
The oscillators come with a full synthesis section, two MIDI velocity options, global hipass-lopass filter, as well as effects – EQ, saturation, compressor, chorus, phaser, tremolo, reverb, and delay). There’s also a telescopic microtuner and range split filter.
If a synthesized brass sound is what you want, then Brassinematic is a fun plugin to mess around with. It sounds like it might be better suited to 80s rock or funk stabs than epic orchestral arrangements, but for demoing and sketching, it’s more than competent.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
BellsEbuth by Alan ViSTa
The humorously named BellsEbuth is anything but hellish and is probably closer to angelic in tonal texture. The crystal clear, high-pitched attack of bells are instantly charming and will probably have producers saying to themselves, “neat – but let me tame those highs.”
The 24-bit 40 stereo sampled orchestral bells (glockenspiel) come from the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios public domain library.
BellsEbuth lets you optimize your tones with release time, sustain level, amplitude dynamic range, and the main volume control.
This plugin probably won’t change the world. It’s more like the icing on the cake, or maybe the cherry on top. It sounds quite nice, though the samples are what they are – not the best, not the worst.
Download: Alan ViSTa
Gala Free by Fanan Team
The ever-inimitable Fanan Team graces us with another orchestral entry, this time in the form of the dull golden backdropped Gala Free, featuring 15 virtual analog instruments in a virtual bundle destined for your hard drive.
Gala Free includes three pop strings, four cinematic-pop brasses, four clarinets, and four saxophones. The virtual analog oscillators let you combine any four instruments in any way you want while delivering synthesized goodness through the power of soundwaves.
Along with the full synthesis section comes two MIDI velocity options, global hipass-lopass filter, effects (saturation, chorus, phaser, tremolo, reverb, delay), draw-bars system per oscillator, advanced mono mode, full MIDI map, stereo and gleam effect, as well as a resizable, customizable interface.
Obviously, we appreciate the effort, but at the end of the day, make no mistake – this is essentially a four-layer synthesizer. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that if that’s what you’re looking for.
But it comes with the standard warning that, if you can make this baby hum like an orchestra comprised of the best players on the best sound stages captured with the best microphones and processed with the best analog gear, you might just be a god.
Download: Fanan Team
Top Free Orchestral VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
And now you should be set up with everything you need to start making scores that change the world. Every journey begins humbly, so don’t fret – take your time, develop your skills, build up your library of sketches and ideas, and your time will come. Happy composing!