Looking to add some nice sounding violin to your projects? You can hardly be blamed for that. Whether it’s lo-fi beats or intimate singer-songwriter tunes, violin can be effective in a variety of musical situations.
And wouldn’t you know it, there are a ton of free VST plugins that might just do the trick.
In this guide, we look at the best free violin VST plugins you can use to enhance your beats and projects.
Spitfire Audio is bar none one of the best providers of composition and sound design oriented free VST plugins, specifically with their LABS series.
The best thing about their LABS series is how good their plugins sound. So far as free virtual instruments are concerned, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better.
If there are any downsides, it would be that a) all the LABS series plugins have the same basic interface, b) you need the proprietary Spitfire Audio app to download the plugins, and c) the plugins can take up a lot of space on your hard drive, and d) the plugins seem prone to error, depending on your computer-DAW setup. Overall, these are minor inconveniences, though.
Let’s check out the flavors you can choose from.
LABS – Strings
Naturally, LABS – Strings is the most natural and generic sounding VST plugin of the bunch. The string ensemble was recorded by engineer Harry Wilson, taking advantage of a wide range of microphones, including a well-used BBC AXB1.
The result is a virtual instrument that should work for most types of projects, be it film and TV, classical, rock and pop, or otherwise. As a “go-to” strings VST, you can also single out the violin sounds by sticking to the higher notes.
LABS – Strings is also highly complementary to the other LABS series strings instruments featured below.
Download: Spitfire Audio
LABS – Strings 2
Strings 2 comes with new articulations / playing techniques to round out your string sounds – pizzicato, Bartok pizz, and swells ensembles. 14 string players were captured at Spitfire HQ and were mixed by co-founder Paul Thomson to create this sublime virtual instrument.
Where different playing techniques are required, Strings 2 comes to the rescue. Artists who understand strings will know the beauty and power of pizzicato and swells when used in the right contexts. This is a great virtual instrument to complement the original LABS – Strings as well.
Download: Spitfire Audio
LABS – Scary Strings
LABS – Scary Strings served as the inspiration for Spitfire’s Evolutions libraries. In creating Scary Strings, they brought together a small ensemble to record and create three unique presets – Cool, Sustain, and Stretched.
Just as the name would suggest, Scary Strings is perfect for the horror or thriller genres. The Stretched preset is especially haunting with its draw-out, disturbing effect. Any time you need dramatic sounding strings that give you goosebumps, Scary Strings is well worth a try.
Download: Spitfire Audio
LABS – Frozen Strings
For Frozen Strings, Christian Henson recorded six string players for a dry, stark sound. The result is a virtual instrument that sounds beautiful, haunting, and atmospheric – one that ultimately led to the creation of Spitfire’s own Albion V Tundra library.
The strings have a slight horn-like quality to them, with a gentle sound on the low end, and an enhanced, slightly abrasive high end. For slower, quieter pieces, whether happy, sad, or dark, Frozen Strings should come in quite handy.
Download: Spitfire Audio
BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover
Spitfire Audio’s generosity seems to know no bounds, as their free offerings extend beyond their LABS series of plugins.
Take BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover for example. This virtual instrument includes 33 orchestral instruments and is perfect for just about any style of music.
The symphony orchestra is made up of violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, horns, tuba, harp, snare drum, glockenspiel, kettle drum, and triangle. Together, they sound spectacular.
Whenever you need a great sounding violin or full symphonic orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover is sure to be your go-to as well. It’s not hard to isolate the violin sounds.
The plugin has been designed to work with just about any DAW.
Download: Spitfire Audio
As a plugin developer with an extensive library of free virtual instruments, DSK Music is worth a look, especially if you can’t get enough of early virtual instrument sounds (the kinds of sounds you might remember from classic video games).
If you’re looking for the most authentic, organic, and realistic sounding virtual instruments, then you would be better served with other plugins appearing in this guide (also see Spitfire Audio).
But if you think slightly “lesser” sounds might work in your projects (and sometimes they do), these are still highly usable.
There probably isn’t too much that needs to be said here, because the name of the plugin and its graphical user interface tells most of the story.
DSK Strings allows for two layers of sound, which means you can freely combine violin, viola, cello, and contrabass – your typical string ensemble – in any way you want.
In addition to ADSR controls, there are multiple effects – flanger, delay, and reverb, with parameters for each. There’s also an octave select and micro-detuner for added realism.
DSK Strings also comes with MIDI automation functionality.
DSK Strings doesn’t sound bad, but the sound quality will likely remind you of video games from yesteryear – which to me is not a bad thing at all. But the virtual instrument is probably best suited to that type of application (classic video games).
Download: DSK Music
DSK Overture is more of a comprehensive orchestral solution than a singular violin or strings ensemble virtual instrument. You’ve got violin, of course, along with other strings – viola, cello, and contrabass. But you also get:
Acoustic piano, harpsichord, church organ, celesta, glockenspiel, vibes, harp, flute, piccolo, English horns, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, orchestra drum kit, and full section settings.
The idea here isn’t all that different from DSK Strings. But where you only got two layers with DSK Strings, DSK Overture lets you freely combine four layers of orchestral sounds in any way you see fit. And there are way more instruments.
Each layer comes with ADSR controls, level, panorama, and other advanced controls – multimode filter (HP, LP, BP1, BP2, notch), and FX (reverb, delay, chorus).
Again, to me, these are classic SNES era video game style sounds.
Download: DSK Music
Again, DSK Virtuoso seems to expand on the DSK concepts already explored. There aren’t two layers. Not four. DSK Virtuoso sets six instrument layers at your fingertips to mix and match, combine as you see fit.
The standard viola, violin, cello, and contrabass sounds are all here, and there’s no need to take advantage of others if you don’t want to. But with DSK Virtuoso you also get everything from DSK Overture (all orchestral sounds).
Each layer comes with its own ADSR, level, and pan controls, but DSK Virtuoso also comes with two send FX (chorus and delay), as well as one master reverb. DSK Virtuoso also features velocity response.
Download: DSK Music
Other Violin VST Plugins, Orchestral Sample Libraries & Virtual Insturments
Naturally, there are plenty of other developers out there, though not all of them have multiple free offerings. Here we look at some of the best free violin VST plugins and orchestral sample libraries set forth by developers we haven’t already looked at.
The Free Orchestra by ProjectSAM
This is obviously a free orchestra virtual instrument rather than just being a violin VST (and we do look at a few of these throughout this guide).
The Free Orchestra comes with 16 free cinematic instruments, sounds from ProjectSAM’s Symphobia series, and a 1.5 GB sample pool. The Free Orchestra works with the free Kontakt Player.
Users say they especially love the “Dream” function, which adds a delay with an atmospheric quality. Great for Sci-Fi style compositions or even lo-fi beats.
Overall, the samples are of a high quality, even if they can’t quite compare to Spitfire Audio samples. The Free Orchestra is still well worth a look, especially considering the price tag.
Violin Freebie by Virharmonic
Virharmonic’s Violin Freebie is a free micro violin and solo violin library. It includes 1,080 samples (400 MB) with four round robins, as well as pizzicato and spiccato rhythms.
Violin Freebie requires the free UVI Workstation to work, so keep this in mind. You can’t just download it and drop it into your DAW as you would with most.
Violin Freebie sounds better than your average run of the mill violin VST. You can easily find better premium options but given how much content you get for free here, it’s well worth a try.
Slinky Violin – FREE by decent|SAMPLES
Here’s a little something from the “experimental” and “novelty” categories (see the video below for the full story).
Producer / violinist Dave Hilowitz experimented with attaching a slinky to his violin in November 2020, thereby turning his studio into a reverb tank.
Then, he went ahead and created five patches, each with their own characteristic – Slinky Violin, Slinky Violin (forte layers only), Slinky Violin (piano layers only), Slinky Violin Duet, and Slinky Violin Duet (modwheel). Slinky Violin also comes with a convolution reverb with a level knob.
The library comes in three convenient formats depending on what works best for you – Kontakt (for full version of Kontakt), SFZ version, and Decent Sampler version (works with the free Decent Sampler plugin).
Slinky Violin has a great sound overall, producing lush, pad sounds that could be described as somewhere between a violin and a string machine. But the strings sounds are overall quite realistic! If you’ve got a project that could benefit from some atmospheric sounds, this plugin is certainly worth a look.
Layers by Orchestral Tools
This free orchestral instrument includes quality strings, woodwinds, and brass samples. Perfect for the developing composer.
Layers features 17 GB of samples, 24 bit / 48 kHz patches, a one-touch chord generator (major, minor, and suspended chords with multiple inversions), and the ability to blend layers and dynamics from your MIDI controller.
Layers is easy to use and is very polished sounding. To me, it sounds best with a rich reverb, but chances are you’d add that anyway.
Download: Orchestral Tools
Sonatina Violin by bigcat instruments
Basic but still remembered by many. bigcat instruments’ Sonatina Violin is a sampled violin virtual instrument. It has nine basic instrument types / articulations (which was probably revolutionary in its time) – solo violin, 1st violins sustain (1 and 2), 1st violins tremolo, 1st violins staccato, 1st violins pizzicato, 2nd violins sustain, 2nd violins staccato, and 2nd violins pizzicato.
It is a basic instrument for sure, but given how long it’s been around, it doesn’t sound half bad. In a full mix, you could almost fool some ears.
Sonatina Violin is available for Windows and Mac.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
French Violin by SampleScience
This multi-sampled violin comes with six articulations – arco vibrato, arco non-vibrato, pizzicato vibrato, pizzicato non-vibrato, spiccato, and tremolo.
French Violin also features multi-LFO, room reverb, highpass / lowpass filter, amplitude range controls, as well as three voice modes – polyphonic, monophonic, and legato.
The samples don’t sound half bad. They can’t quite compare to others on this list, especially Spitfire Audio and ProjectSAM plugins, but they are quite competent.
Technically not free, French Violin is a “pay what you want” plugin. Either way, it can be acquired affordably and added to your VST library.
The Total Composure Orchestra by Xtant Audio
Xtant Audio’s The Total Composure Orchestra is obviously an orchestral library but built into it is an extensive strings module you might be interested in. It takes advantage of public domain samples exclusively and makes the most of these limitations.
Total Composure features 1,500 samples (with over 1.5 GB of material) and comes with similar functionalities for all instruments.
As you can see from the GUI, you’ve got controls for tuning, volume, vibrato, legato, length, rate, reverb, and more.
Given that the sample library consists of public domain samples, The Total Composure Orchestra doesn’t sound half bad. The developer even went to the trouble of using dynamic filters and intelligent repetition scripting to enhance the limited audio material.
It’s not the most realistic sounding VST out there, but it is versatile and competent, all things considered.
Download: KVR Audio
Whoever the developer of Edirol Orchestral, they stopped supporting it years ago. But the plugin is still quite usable, and the synthesized orchestral sounds aren’t half bad. Since you can still download and use it for free, it might just be worth a look.
Edirol Orchestral comes with strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and keyboard sounds, multiple articulations (vibrato, tremolo, pizzicato, spiccato), up to 16-part and 128-voice polyphony, up to 24-bit / 96 kHz sampling resolution, multiple output, and fully assignable MIDI control.
As you can tell from the interface, it’s basically like an “instrument loader” where you can select which instrument you want for each layer and mix them together as you see fit. There’s also convenient chorus and reverb effects onboard.
As Paul Cecchetti says (you can download the plugin from his website), the sounds are quite a bit nicer than you might expect from a legacy VST.
Download: Paul Cecchetti Music
Virtual Playing Orchestra by Virtual Playing
This free orchestral sample library comes with solo and section instruments – strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.
Virtual Playing Orchestra features looped sustain samples, multiple articulations for strings, brass, and woodwinds (sustain, normal, staccato, accented), pizzicato for all strings, tremolo for all strings, round robin for staccato strings, and two velocity layers for trumpets, French horns, and trombones.
It also comes with light randomization of pitch and volume when repeating notes for added realism, as well as general purpose patches for the full string section, full brass section, and full woodwinds sections.
Virtual Playing Orchestra is available in SFZ format and will require a SFZ player to work.
Download: Virtual Playing
Serpo by JD TECH
With sounds recorded from artists all over the world, JD TECH’s Serpo aims to be an easy-to-use virtual instrument. This is neither exclusively a violin VST plugin nor an orchestral sample library. It’s simply a VSTi that includes a violin sound.
There are plenty of sounds here in addition to violin – acoustic drum kit, grand piano, Rhodes, organ, vibes, upright bass, electric bass guitar, trumpet, male and female vocals, African wood flute, whistle, harmonica, steel drum, acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, electric guitar, theremin, and more.
The violin sound is a little cheesy, but so are most included sounds. This might be a fun one to mess around with for lo-fi or video game music though. It’s fine for sketching and demos too.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
There is one last category of VST plugins we’d like to look at before wrapping up this guide – namely, synthesizers.
Synths obviously got their inspiration from somewhere, and they originally took liberally from traditional orchestral instruments as well as the latest and greatest electric instruments (of the time).
The synthesized sound of strings is still quite popular as reflected by premium VST plugins like ANALOG STRINGS. Pad sounds are frequently used in all types of music, to “fill out” empty sounding mixes, or to provide a bit of background atmosphere.
Synthesizers don’t necessarily sound like realistic strings or orchestral instruments. But that’s kind of the point. Synths have their own sound and their own uses.
Here we look at some competent, free soft synths you might want to check out.
Orpheus by B Serrano
B Serrano’s Orpheus is a hybrid strings-organ machine. The soft synth comes with two generators, three string types, an organ, 128 voices polyphony, unison and drift functions, mono mode with portamento, vibrato, three bands resonators with LFO and randomize, low / high EQ, and effects (chorus, delay, auto-pan, tremolo).
Orpheus can’t really compare to some of the premium synths out there, but it does a competent job overall for a free virtual instrument. Check out the video below to see for yourself.
Download: PLUGINS 4 FREE
Cheeze Machine 2 by 2getheraudio
Cheeze Machine was originally created by Big Tick Audio and launched in 2007. Cheeze Machine 2 was later remastered by 2getheraudio. This is an extra cheesy, saucy, vintage string machine virtual instrument.
The latest version, of course, comes with more than the original – convolution reverb, an expanded oscillator section, a vintage ensemble chorus, and more. They’ve also thrown in some bonus preview presets from the forthcoming Cheeze Machine Pro (which will come with additional filters, pitch envelopes, and performance controls).
There are multiple built-in presets categorized by bass, brass, leads, misc, pads, and strings, which all offer a great starting point for additional tweaking.
I have nothing else to say except “go and download this thing immediately.” It sounds great, and if you like the sound of classic synthesizers, you will like Cheeze Machine 2.
Nabla by full bucket music
Nabla was inspired by the KORG Delta DL-50 Strings Synthesizer, originally from 1979.
The paraphonic synthesizer with a strings section includes up to 64 voice polyphony, four band-limited frequency divider-driven signal generators, an additional noise generator, and four-pole zero-delay feedback bandpass / lowpass filter in the synthesizer section.
The strings section comes with two band-limited frequency divider-driven signal generators, a two-band equalizer, and an ensemble effect.
There’s also a pitch / filter modulating LFO or noise, “GOD Mode” for true polyphony, panning for synthesizer / strings sections, built-in delay and phaser, double precision processing, and MIDI control.
Nabla has got some cool sounds, for sure, whether it’s saws, pads, drones, organs, basses, or otherwise. Check them out in the video below.
Nabla was designed to work with Windows and Mac.
Download: full bucket music
The Deputy Mark II by full bucket music
The Deputy Mark II is a polyphonic string / synthesizer with a polyphonic and monophonic section. IT features built-in phaser and ensemble effects, and flexible keyboard assignment for poly and mono sections.
The “Poly” section comes with up to 61 voices of polyphony, two band-limited frequency divider-driven oscillator banks, sawtooth and PWM waveforms, two-pole multi-mode filter and ADS envelope per voice, global ADSR envelope for paraphonic modulation, and resonator bank (three zero-delay feedback filters).
The “Mono” section includes single VCO plus suboscillator and noise, four-pole zero-delay feedback lowpass filter, ADSR envelope and LFO, and the option to send the output of the Poly section to filter input.
Overall, The Deputy Mark II sounds surprisingly lush and warm and is well worth a look if you’re looking for a synthesizer.
full bucket music has plenty of other free synths and effects VST plugins too, just in case!
Download: full bucket music
I Don’t Want Strings – I Want Violin!
It may have come to your attention that many of the above VST plugins are not exclusively “violin” virtual instruments, but rather orchestral, synthesizer, or other types of instruments and sample libraries.
Some even require Kontakt, an SFZ player, or other environments / plugins to work. What do you expect for free? Plus, Kiontakt is awesome – the free version is well worth a look.
But more to the point:
In many cases, you can isolate the violin sounds with the above selections, even with orchestral instruments. For instance, with a plugin that has multiple layers, you can assign violin to one (or all), or even mute the other layers so the violin is the instrument being heard. It’s easy, especially if you’re used to working with VST plugins.
Depending on the plugin (such as a strings plugin), you can simply play the higher notes and you will have found the built-in violin sound (because the other strings – bass, cello, and viola will have been assigned the lower notes by default). It’s relatively easy to work out with your MIDI controller.
There may be an exception or two, but for the most part, the above VST plugins can all be used as competent violins!
As for the string machine / synthesizers, they could come in handy depending on the project you’re working on. You should not expect their violin sounds to be realistic or authentic though, because they typically aren’t, and they were never intended to be.
There’s a reason they’re called synthesizers. They synthesize sound.
But synthesizers have plenty of other uses, so if you haven’t gotten into that world yet, it can’t hurt to download a few so you can start experimenting with some new sounds. Trust me – it’s fun.
For instance, combining synthesized sounds (in the background) with more realistic sounding string sounds (melody) can sound awesome, especially when done creatively.
Finally, there are a few plugins in this guide that are exclusively violin, so take a seat and chill. At the end of the day, there should be something here for everybody!
And, as always if you require a more realistic sound, consider premium violin VST plugins instead. They almost always have better sample libraries and features or parameters. They just cost a bit of money.
Top Free Violin VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
And now it’s time to produce.
If you’ve worked with violin sounds before, then there’s a good chance you already know what to expect.
But if you have yet to incorporate violin sounds in your mixes, don’t forget – the exact effects chain and settings for optimal sound depends a lot on the instrument. So, be sure to study up in this area if you haven’t gotten around to it yet.
But most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.