11 Best Free Strings VST Plugins 2021 – Free Orchestral Sample Libraries

11 Best Free Strings VST Plugins 2021 – Free Orchestral Sample Libraries

Last Updated on May 3, 2021

Music producers, sound engineers, beat makers, and home recordists use them often. Most composers consider them essential.

What are we talking about?

Strings.

Strings are perfect for traditional and even modern compositions. They can create atmosphere and vibrance. They can create or enhance the mood of a song, whether it’s happy and cheerful or haunting and ambivalent.

In this guide, we’ll look at the best free string VST plugins.

LABS – Strings By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Strings By Spitfire Audio

In this guide, and perhaps in other ones, it might seem like we’re gushing when talking about what Spitfire Audio has been doing with their LABS project.

While all the LABS plugins are basically one trick ponies, what they do, they do extremely well, and it isn’t exactly easy finding high quality VST plugins for free.

Well, when it comes to strings, they have several VSTs worth checking out, which means you can get quite a bit of range, even if it means downloading multiple plugins.

We’ll start off with LABS – Strings. In developing this plugin, Spitfire recorded a string ensemble, and you will find that it sounds quite professional and realistic.

Note that all Spitfire Audio plugins features the same, simple, minimalist graphical user interface, so there isn’t much to say here in that regard.

LABS – Strings is compatible with Mac and Windows, and is available as a VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU right on the Spitfire Audio website.

Not only is this one of the best free strings VST plugins, but it’s one of the best free VST plugins ever.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Amplified Cello Quartet By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Amplified Cello Quartet By Spitfire Audio

Sometimes you don’t need a full orchestra, let alone a complete strings ensemble.

With LABS – Amplified Cello Quartet, as the name would suggest, you get access to a cello quartet. The cello is an incredibly versatile “midrange” instrument with warmth and darkness, as well as beauty and melody.

Spitfire Audio founder Christian Henson and engineer Harry Wilson recorded Amplified Cello Quartet in 2017 right at Spitfire HQ. What makes it unique, though, is while the recording session was happening, the cellos were put through guitar amps and effects pedals.

So, this is not your average, run of the mill cello VST (if there were such a thing). It’s a quality if unique sounding plugin that would be perfect for soundtracks.

Give this one a go and you’ll see what I mean.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Frozen Strings By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Frozen Strings By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Frozen Strings were recorded with just six string players, completely dry (i.e., no effects). The result is a minimal, haunting string sound that works perfectly before a build section in your track.

Frozen Strings also offers versatility, though, so it would be worth testing out in a variety of musical situations.

Frozen Strings was the project that led to the creation of Albion V Tundra, one of Spitfire’s most renowned libraries.

For authentic, beautiful, minimalist string tones, give Frozen Strings a try.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Scary Strings By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Scary Strings By Spitfire Audio

With a name like “Scary Strings,” you know you’re going to get something kind of “out there” with this plugin.

A small ensemble of string players was recorded for this session, creating shifting, tension-filled, unbalanced textures.

This VST comes with three presets – Cool (for “icy” overtones), Sustain, and Stretched (for disturbing effects).

For all those times you need to create a haunting atmosphere in your music, you will find LABS – Scary Strings quite nifty.

Download: Spitfire Audio

LABS – Strings 2 By Spitfire Audio

LABS – Strings 2 By Spitfire Audio

Spitfire Audio returns with LABS – Strings 2, the “second chapter” of strings. This VST comes with three new playing techniques: Pizzicato, Bartok Pizz, and Swells Ensembles to give you even more tonal possibilities.

The strings were performed by 14 of London’s best string players and recorded at Spitfire HQ. They were mixed b Spitfire co-founder Paul Thomson.

The strings sound stellar and can add texture and vibrance to any track.

Download: Spitfire Audio

The Deputy Mark II By full bucket music

The Deputy Mark II By full bucket music

The Deputy Mark II emulates classic string machines and polyphonic synths.

It features a polyphonic and monophonic synth section, built-in ensemble and phaser effects, and double precision audio processing.

The poly section comes with up to 61 voice polyphony, two band-limited frequency divider-drive oscillator banks, sawtooth and PWM waveforms, two-pole multi-mode filters and ADS envelopes per voice, global ADSR envelope for paraphonic modulation, and resonator band (three zero-delay feedback filters).

The mono section includes a single VCO plus suboscillator and noise, four-pole zero-delay feedback lowpass filter, ADSR envelope and LFO. As well, the output of the poly section can be sent to filter input.

Deputy Mark II offers a combination of sounds, including those you would expect from synths and organs. If you’re expecting ultra-realistic string sounds, you should look elsewhere, but as a synthesizer, this VST has quite a bit on offer, and I think it sounds great.

This multipurpose VST is available for Windows and Mac.

Download: full bucket music

Nabla By full bucket music

Nabla By full bucket music

full bucket music’s Nabla simulates the KORG Delta DL-50 Strings Synthesizer from 1979.

It comes with paraphonic synthesizer and strings section, up to 64 voice polyphony, flexible pitch/filter modulation by LFO or noise, and double precision audio processing.

As with Deputy, Nabla features a couple of sections. The first is the synthesizer section, with four band-limited frequency divider-driven signal generators, additional noise generator, and four-pole zero-delay feedback bandpass/lowpass filter.

The strings section comes with two band-limited frequency divider-driven signal generators, two-band equalizer, and ensemble effect.

Nabla, like Deputy, is kind of an all-purpose synth with a variety of sounds. The closest thing to strings you get is pads, but the sounds available are amazing.

Nabla is compatible with Windows and Mac.

Download: full bucket music

DSK Overture By DSK Music

DSK Overture By DSK Music

DSK Overture is a little old school so far as VSTs are concerned. So, while it may not boast the utmost quality, it’s still highly usable, and most importantly, free.

This VST is kind of like an orchestral sample library, complete with 40 instruments, one drum kit, and 10 internal combos. You get acoustic piano, harpsichord, church organ, celesta, glockenspiel, vibes, harp, flute, piccolo, English horns, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, cello, contrabass, viola, and violin, just to name a few.

It comes with controls for amp, envelope, MIDI channels, panorama, level, gain, mute, advanced multimode filter (HP, LP, BP1, BP2, notch), filter amp, envelope, FX (reverb, delay, chorus), MIDI automation, and velocity response.

DSK Overture allows you to play up to four instruments or layered sounds simultaneously.

This is not a bad sounding plugin at all. The horns don’t sound entirely authentic to my ears (they aren’t half bad), while many of the string sounds are quite pleasant (pizzicato strings are so-so). I feel like I’ve heard some of these sounds in video games…

With the effects, you can produce some nice atmosphere, and that’s my go-to when a virtual instrument doesn’t sound entirely realistic.

Overall, DSK Overture is quite easy to use, decent sounding, and versatile.

Download: DSK Music

DSK Strings By DSK Music

DSK Strings By DSK Music

DSK Music has a couple more VSTs on offer that might pique your interest.

DSK Strings is one I have personal experience with. It comes with two layers, 22 waveforms, octave select and micro-detuner, effects (delay, flanger), and MIDI automation.

Cello, contrabass, viola, and violin are just some of the included instruments.

The sounds are quite good, and if you know what you’re doing, you can even achieve some realism.

To me, the sounds remind me of Super Nintendo era video games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For a basic, all-around plugin, get ahold of DSK Strings.

Download: DSK Music

DSK World StringZ By DSK Music

DSK World StringZ By DSK Music

DSK World StringZ offers a unique combination of world string instruments – Celtic harp, cumbus, dobro, kanun, koto, dulcimer, tar, and Turkish oud.

It comes with velocity response, amp, envelope and micro-detuner, HP/LP filter, and MIDI automation.

Again, I feel like I’ve heard some of these sounds in video games, but they aren’t bad at all.

If I were composing a song for a client, I probably would not use World StringZ, but if I were just experimenting, or creating interesting layers in one of my own mixes, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it.

Download: DSK Music

Orpheus By B Serrano

Orpheus By B Serrano

Orpheus features a lovely design, especially for a free plugin. It’s simple, yet effective.

This strings/organ machine comes with two generators and three string types, organ, 128 voice polyphony, unison, drift, mono mode with portamento, vibrato, three band resonators with LFO and randomize, low/high EQ, chorus, delay, auto-pan, tremolo, and “LCD display” for patch management.

The included sounds are fine. They aren’t realistic, but I don’t think they were meant to be. Basically, if you want a synth that produces basic string/organ type sounds, you might like it.

You can get Orpheus on PLUGINS 4 FREE as a 32-bit Windows VST.

Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE

How Can I Make Less Realistic Sounding Virtual Instruments Sound More Realistic?

Obviously, there are certain tricks you can employ to make “lesser” VST plugins sound better.

These days, you don’t necessarily need to compromise, especially with the LABS plugins being free and high quality.

That said, making older, free plugins sound better is kind of like a creative challenge, and if you just can’t find anything else suitable, you might find yourself needing to enhance the sound of virtual instruments that aren’t the best.

There are many ways of enhancing the sound of a plugin, but much of it is going to come down to effects, panning, and layering. I’ll talk about each below.

Effects

Effects can sometimes help you “fudge” the sound of lesser virtual instruments.

Reverb, delay, and chorus come in especially handy. Reverb and delay cause the virtual instruments to sound more atmospheric and distant, which can take some of the unrealistic “edge” off.

Chorus basically multiples whatever voices are available and can work as a modulation effect besides. Again, it can smooth out the sound of the virtual instrument and even enhance it. Like you deliberately added an effect to the strings to achieve a different or unique sound.

In a manner of speaking, this is just covering up what is obviously an inferior sound, but when your options are limited, innovation tends to prevail. And innovating can be a lot of fun as applied to music production.

Panning

Panning is an essential part of any mixing project, and there are different approaches depending on who you ask.

Generally, the vocals and bass sit in the middle. The drums are often panned according to their real position (e.g., the kick is in the center, the snare is slightly to the left, the hi-hat is almost hard left, etc. – depends a lot on the player).

The guitar might be near hard panned to one side, but these days it’s more common that multiple guitar tracks are layered, with tracks panned left and right, and sometimes some in the middle too.

Again, that’s just a starting point, and if you want to learn more about mixing, there are plenty of articles online covering different techniques.

The point is that, depending on how you pan your virtual instruments, you can make them seem more authentic.

Hard panning to one side, for example, can certainly fool the ear. And in old Van Halen recordings, one side was dry, while the other side was reverb drenched. That’s something you can experiment with to.

Panning is more powerful than we tend to think and placing your instruments at different points in the stereo field can make them stand out in a mix, send them further back, make them sound as though they are part of another instrument, and so on.

Layering

Layering is an easy way to cover up parts that don’t sound right, virtual instruments that don’t cooperate, and even hide mistakes.

Even The Beatles made mistakes at times, and there are sections of music where they utilized horn riffs to cover up errors in chord changes.

The point is that you can send your strings to the back (or sides) of your mix, while you layer other instruments on top of them – guitar, bass, piano, etc. And that has a way of smoothing out the “inauthentic” edge some plugins can have.

If you’re not planning to add layers to your music, then you’ll either need to work with what you’ve got or try another method.

But it’s still good to know you can “cover up” certain sounds to bring out their best qualities.

Top Free Orchestral VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

The free strings VST landscape has changed quite a bit in recent years, especially compared to other categories of VST plugins where many legacy plugins are alive and well.

Overall, though, I feel like this is a change for the better, especially now that we’ve got high-quality options like the LABS plugins.

And if you’re looking for something different, there are still other options available.

As always, experiment plenty, and see what you can come up with. Some of the best ideas come through experimentation.

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