Orchestral Music Software

Any orchestral 'music maker' is going to being trying to emulate the real thing. The real thing would be to go sit down and write some music! However, you can use just about any of the programs common here on amongst newgrounds users, but some that I prefer are Finale and Sibelius (understanding of music theory is required). 6 of the Best Orchestral Software Best Delicate Phrasing – Sonokinetic Sotto. Sonokinetic is famed for making some of the best orchestral software. Titles like Grosso and Capriccio have focused mainly on the grandiose, but Sotto concentrates on the lighter side of orchestral composition with a variety of soft beds and patterns.

Most of us don’t have the budget of The Beatles - we can’t afford to hire an entire orchestra. Heck, many of us can’t even afford to pay one or two string players.

That’s why a kick-butt plugin can be a DIY musician’s savior.

Stringed instruments are the most difficult for software developers to replicate. There are so many different variables to factor in when a violin player gently glides their bow over the strings of the instrument.

This leaves no option but to tediously record instrument samples with complex multi-microphone rigs.

Even after the software developers have the samples, there is still the challenge of programming a plugin that will intelligently play their samples.

Unfortunately, putting in this much effort into a plugin gives the developers no incentive to release it for free.

The best sounding orchestral plugins tend to cost money.

However, that’s not stopping us from also mentioning some interesting free plugins as well!

Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional producer, this article will help you find the plugin of your dreams.

Use the table of contents below to navigate to the section most suitable for you.

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​If you enjoy this article, do remember to check out our complete guide to real-instrument VST plugins.


First, we’ll look at plugins that have it all -- every orchestral instrument you need in one simple piece of software.

Imagine having more than 500 orchestral instruments at your disposal. Fortunately, you don’t have to imagine it, because the Garritan Personal Orchestra 5 plugin provides that.

It also includes specific articulations for specific instruments as well as different playing techniques.

You can choose from different performance spaces, reverb sounds, and basically customize the sound of the instruments.

Garritan has vastly improved the realism and authenticity of the instruments, allowing you to record an orchestra that listeners might think is an actual orchestra.

Additionally, you can’t build it one instrument at a time instead of using a predetermined, fixed-size, typical section.

Best of all, it’s an affordable package. The quality-cost balance is perfectly suited for any decent bedroom producer, yet it can also be a supplemental plugin for the music producers in high-end studios.

System requirements:

  • Windows 7 or later / Mac OS X 10.8 or later
  • Audio interface must be compatible with ASIO or DirectSound drivers
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 16 GB memory
  • Hard drive with 7200 RPM speed or more (recommended)
  • USB port needed for product installation

Film Score Companion has five main components to it: brass, strings, woodwinds, Big Bang Cinematic Percussion, and the grand piano, Eighty Eight Ensemble.

Brass -- not only do you get the brass ensembles, you have a selection of solo instruments at your disposal. This section includes trumpets, trombones, bass trombones, French horns, and tuba, all with different techniques and methods.

Strings -- this component is great for composing and using as a background orchestra. Thanks to the individual instruments, you can build custom sections piece by piece.

Again, you have the option to use different techniques with first violins, second violins, violas, contrabasses, and cellos.

Woodwinds -- you also have a wide selection of woodwinds, which are actually the closest instrument to the human voice in frequency and tone. So they can be a nice compliment to a vocalist.

Eighty Eight Ensemble 2 -- this component is a beautiful recreation of a Steinway 9-foot CD 327 grand piano, packed into a great piece of software.

You’ll get the real grand piano sound (in 1,500 samples) that you’d expect in your home recordings. What more could you want?

Big Bang Cinematic Production -- no matter what you need - from big drums to supplemental rhythm - the BBCP has you covered.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.8 or later / Windows 8, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Home Premium
  • Dual Core 2 GHz, Intel Core i5 or i7
  • 2-4 GB of RAM
  • 35 GB of memory
  • Mac supported plugin formats: VST, AU, or AAX
  • Windows supported plugin formats: VST or AAX

If you want real strings played by real people, the Miroslav Philharmonik 2 plugin is the one to check out.

You can choose from legatos to pizzicatos to spicattos to staccatos and all the other “os”. Because just having a good recording of a stringed instrument isn’t enough -- it’s all about making the corresponding samples sound real and stay true to that instrument.

One reason this plugin works, for both beginners and experts, is that the legendary jazz bassist Miroslav Vitous had a hand in it.

IK Multimedia partnered with Vitous to record over 58 GB of sounds including more than 2,700 sampled instruments.

With his vision, the instruments can stand alone or blend in with an entire orchestra.

Plus, you get some of the best post-production options, like five EQs, four dynamic processors, nine modulation effects, nine reverb and delay options, and more.

System requirements:

  • 64-bit Mac OS X 10.7 or later / Windows 7, 8, or 10 (needs ASIO driver)

  • Mac supported plugin formats: Audio Units, VST 2, VST 3, AAX

  • PC supported plugin formats: VST 2, VST 3, AAX

  • Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended) or AMD Athlon 64 X2 (Microsoft only)

  • 58 GB of memory

You may not have heard of Keith O. Johnson, but you should become familiar with him.

He’s an 11-time Grammy nominated recording engineer and has recorded audio for the Symphonic Orchestra plugin by EastWest.

This piece of software has won many awards, including Sound On Sound's Reader's Choice Award, three times!

The recording of these samples is unique in that Johnson used three mic positions on each instrument: close, stage, and hall.

This means you can choose which mic position you want in your recording, giving you more control and customization and less need for post-production reverb.

Basically, you can get the true sound of a professional orchestra on your computer and in your songs.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.7 or later / Windows 7 or later (need ASIO driver)

  • Mac: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.1GHz or higher (PPC not supported)

  • Windows: Intel Core 2 Duo, or AMD Dual Core 2.1GHz or higher

  • 7200 RMP or faster hard drive (needed for sample streaming)

  • 8 GB of RAM

The whole point of Instant Orchestra is to make arranging an orchestra super easy, sans sequencing and annoying setups. This allows anyone to orchestrate quickly and beautifully.

It only takes a minute to get the ideas in your head into audible music.

You can mix and match ensembles, including all of the same instrument or a combo of strings, horns, and woodwinds, for example.

The emphasis is in getting the instruments to flow together in perfect unison.

Plus, you get plenty of effects for post-production, like glissandi, rips, and harmonics, among many others. This plugin also provides playing techniques to make everything sound that much more authentic.

You can even find samples based on the mood you need, giving you a great starting-off point for your arrangements.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.6 through 10.11 / Microsoft Windows 7, 8 and 10, Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP (SP3 required)

  • Mac Intel CPU (PowerPC not supported) / Core 2 Duo CPU or later recommended

  • 2 GB of RAM

  • 3 GB of memory

  • Hard drive speed of at least 7200 RPM

  • PC: ASIO sound card

  • Mac: Core Audio sound card

Now we get into string plugins. Focusing in on just providing killer-sounding strings means the quality you find may be better than in an all-in-one plugin.

Recorded in the Futura Productions studios, the Orchestral Companion Strings plugin provides beautiful sounds from members of the Boston Pops and the Boston Ballet Orchestras.

They used both spot and ambient mic-ing on these musicians and their instruments.

Under the direction of SONiVOX’s Jennifer Hruska, every sample session was recorded by Emmy award-winning recording engineers Antonio Oliart and John Bono (who also won an RIAA award).

They positioned the musicians in the same way they would for an actual performance, even taking into consideration when certain musicians were absent and treating the room accordingly.

So no matter what your level of producership is, you can easily play these virtual instruments and make them sound like they’re in the room.

System requirements:

  • OS X Version 10.8.5 to 10.10 / Windows 8, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Home Premium, Profession, or Ultimate

  • PC: Minimum Quad-core processor, Intel Core i5 or i7

  • Mac: Core 2 Duo Processor or later; Core i5 or i7

  • 2 GB of RAM

  • 15 GB of memory

  • PC compatible host application: VST or AAX (Pro Tools 11)

  • Mac compatible host application: VST, AU, or AAX (Pro Tools 11)

If you need top-notch orchestral sounds that are ready at the touch of a button, Session Strings might be a good choice for you.

They recorded their samples at one of the best studios in Germany, using instruments from the 18th and 19th century played by some of the top musicians from the best orchestras in Europe.

With this plugin, there’s no need to spend hours upon hours tweaking little parts of your arrangements. It’s super easy to get up and running.

The sounds of these instruments don’t require post-production -- they’re at a pro-level right from the gate.

But if you do want to tweak the sounds in post-production, you have EQ and reverb available.

Plus, you have the Animator feature, which takes your orchestra and “funkifies” it. You can use it to riff on chords, adding rhythmic staccatos, spiccatos, or pizzicatos.

System requirements:

  • Mac: Intelmac (PPC not supported)

  • PC: SSE2 (CPU supplementary instruction set)

  • 2-3 GB of RAM

  • Free Kontakt 5 Player or Kontakt 5

With a name like Hans Zimmer associated with a plugin (or really anything music-related), you know it’s going to be one of the best.

Using 344 professional players, Zimmer conducted music that eventually became the 205,501 samples in this plugin.

It’s geared toward other composers -- those who can’t always have a full orchestra at the snap of their fingers.

It’s a big and bold piece of software for those looking to create big and bold productions.

System requirements:

  • Mac: OS X 10.10, 10.11, 10.12, 10.13

  • PC: Windows 7, 8, or 10

  • 200 GB of disk space during installation, 184 GB needed afterward

  • 16 GB of RAM

  • 2.8GHz i5 (dual core)

    Marvell 91xx config. I had to look on the specs page for the motherboard and yes, they were there. Marvell 88SE9172 chip: 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA35, GSATA36).

8Dio’s Century Strings is a realistic orchestral plugin crafted by multiple-award-winning producers Colin O’Malley and Troels Folmann.

There are three main volumes in this plugin: Traditional Ensemble Strings, Sordino (Muted) Ensemble Strings, and a bundle with both of them together.

The Traditional Ensemble Strings volume has five main ensembles:

  • First violins with six players

  • Second violins with four players

  • Violas with five players

  • Cellos with four players

  • Basses with four players

They each have matching articulations, meaning you can blend them together with ease.

The Sordino Strings Ensemble is the same but with muted instruments.

It, too, blends well within itself and with the instruments in the Traditional Ensemble.

System requirements:

  • PC or Mac

  • Kontakt 5.6 or later

  • 204 GB of memory

  • 4-8 GB of RAM

  • Compatible host applications: VST, Audio Units, AAX

Woodwinds -- the instruments closest to the human voice in tone and frequency. Let’s take a look at the top woodwind plugins.

Speak to type windows 10. This plugin is a part of the aforementioned Film Score Companion. SONiVOX is a reliable name, and thanks to John Bono, this is a reliable plugin.

If you can’t afford or don’t need the full Film Score features, the Woodwinds section of the Orchestral Companion is the perfect option.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X versions 10.8.5 to 10.10 / Windows 8, 7 Service Pack 1 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate

  • PC: quad-core processor, Intel Core i5 or i7

  • Mac: Core 2 Duo Processor or later; Core i5 or i7

  • 2-4 GB of RAM

  • 15 GB of memory

  • PC compatible host applications: VST or AAX

  • Mac compatible host applications: VST, AU, or AAX

Some say CAGE is the most comprehensive orchestral plugin.

The Custom Aleatoric Group Effects (CAGE) was put together by Folmann and O’Malley, the same award-winning producers who produced the Century Strings Bundle from 8Dio.

The woodwinds volume includes nine microphone positions for a wide range of sound options.

Under the umbrella of those nine positions, there are two main groups: Ensemble and Divisi. So you’ve got options, to say the least.

The woodwinds sections also have over 380 effects, making it almost impossible to not find the effect you need.

System requirements:

  • Kontakt 5.5 or later (not compatible with Free Kontakt Player)

  • 14 GB of memory

  • 4 GB of RAM

  • 2.4GZ+ for PC / 2.6Ghz for Mac

Native Instruments is a trusted name, so you know their Symphony Series Woodwind plugin is a solid piece of software.

It provides 400 different articulations, four different mic mixes, and they recorded it at Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California. So you get a full, real orchestra sound.

Plus, you get plenty of effects to help your song reach pro-level quality, like true legato, EQ, reverb, compression, and filter.

System requirements:

  • Kontakt 5 Player or Kontakt 5 (5.6.8 or higher)

  • 54 GB of memory

  • Intel i5 processor

In my opinion, every song needs a bit of brass. And with these awesome plugins, you can use as much brass as you want.

Here we see SONiVOX yet again. You can tell their plugins are gold because they have multiple plugin libraries on this “Best Of” list.

With their brass plugin, you get top-of-the-industry brass players playing more than 80 patches of ensembles, sectionals, and individual instruments (like trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba).

System requirements:

  • OS X Version 10.8.5-10.10 / Windows 8, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate

  • PC: Quad-core processor, Intel Core i5 or i7

  • Mac: Core 2 Duo Processor or later; Core i5 or i7

  • Windows compatible host applications: VST or AAX

  • Mac compatible host applications: VST, AU or AAX

  • 2-4 GB of RAM

  • 15 GB of memory

EastWest is on the list yet again, this time with their brass plugin.

It’s one of the most powerful and realistic on the market. Its quantity matches its quality -- it has 10 times the amount of content than the next guy.

It’s easy to play and uses just one MIDI channel.

This top-notch performance is thanks to producers Doug Rogers, Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergersen as well as award-winning sound engineer Shawn Murphy.

They recorded these samples in one of the best studios for brass recording -- EastWest Studio 1.

Using five mic positions, the brass sound they’ve capture is meant to perfectly meld with Hollywood Strings.

System requirements:

  • Mac: Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.1GHz or higher

  • PC: Intel Core 2 Duo, or AMD Dual Core 2.1GHz or higher

  • 8 GB of RAM

  • Mac OSX 10.7 or later / Windows XP SP2, Vista, or Windows 7

  • 7200 RPM or faster hard drive

  • PC: ASIO driver

The Orchestral Brass Classic is a re-issued version of the SAM Horns, SAM Trombones, SAM Trumpets, and SAM Solo Sessions plugins. The OBC is famous for its beautiful ambient and cinematic sounds.

If you’re a composer for TV, film, or video games, this is one plugin you have to at least try out.

System requirements:

  • Kontakt version 5.1.0 or higher

  • Mac OS 10.8 or higher / Windows 7 or higher (not XP or Vista)

  • i5 CPU

  • Plugin interfaces: VST, AU, or AAX (not RTAS

  • Compatible with Kontakt (full version) and Kontakt Player (free version)

Built for use with Kontakt, CineSamples’ Cinebrass plugin was recorded at SONY Pictures Scoring Stage and mixed by a pro - Dennis Sands.

Sands has worked on films such as Avengers, Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Shawshank Redemption, just to name a few.

Composers created the CineBrass CORE plugin for their fellow composers and accepted feedback from others in the film music community along the way, so you know this is a solid choice for a brass plugin.

System requirements:

  • PC: Windows 7, XP, Vista

  • Mac: OS X 10.7 or higher

  • 2 GB of RAM

  • 11 GB of memory

Using a special multiple-microphone setup, Samplemodeling created The Trumpet 3 plugin, a member of their larger brass-plugin family.

They did everything possible to capture the natural timbre of each instrument and present it in a sample.

Its top features include velocity and expression mapping, mutes and wah-wah, breath and wind-controller mode, microtuning, and much more.

System requirements:

  • Windows XP / Mac OS X 10.4.11

  • 1.6 GHz Core2 Duo CPU

  • PC: ASIO driver

  • 1 GB of RAM

Percussion is often the glue needed to hold a song together. That’s why getting the right percussion plugin is crucial.

BFD drum plugins are some of the best you’ll find, and BFD Orchestral is an expansion pack including BFD2, BFD3, and BFD Eco.

Perfect for film composition and commercial work, you’ll be all set to glue your song together.

In this expansion pack, you get orchestral bass drums, snare drums, hand cymbals, and other supplemental percussion like chimes.

Each sample seeks to present the true dynamics of each instrument, allowing you to work across many different genres.

System requirements:

  • Windows 7 or higher / Mac OS X 10.6.8 or higher

  • BFD3, BFD Eco or BFD 2

  • BFD3 version: 8.6 GB of memory

  • BFD Eco or BFD2 version: 25 GB of memory

We briefly talked about SONiVOX’s Big Bang Universal Drums because it was packaged with other SONiVOX plugins.

Well, now you can get that plugin along with Big Bang Universal Drums, Blue Jay Drums, and Session Drums 1, thanks to the Percussion Companion plugin.

It has pretty much any type of drum you need and they’re all professional sounding. With this plugin, you get multi-velocity and multi-take round-robin programming.

System requirements:

  • Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate

  • Mac OS X Version 10.8.5 - 10.10

  • Dual Core 2 GHz, Intel Core i5 or i7

  • 2-4 GB of RAM

  • 35 GB of memory

  • PC compatible plugins: VST, RTAS (Pro Tools 10) or AAX (Pro Tools 11)

  • Mac compatible plugins: VST, AU, RTAS (Pro Tools 10) or AAX (Pro Tools 11)

Rhapsody: Orchestral Percussion by Impact Soundworks

The Rhapsody: Orchestral Percussion plugin includes a compilation of over 50 instruments that were mic’d at three different positions (close, stage, hall).

For this reason, it’s easy to mix these three together and it’s no problem to tweak the sound of the instruments, without it throwing the whole mix out of whack.

System requirements:

  • Kontakt 5.3 (full version, not Player)

  • 9 GB of memory disk space

  • 4-8 GB of RAM

  • 2009 Intel processor or better

Now we get to many home producers’ favorite section: the discount rack. In this case, these are all free plugins.

Like the name suggests, these plugins have it all, from brasses to woodwinds to percussion.

​VSCO 2 is an orchestral plugin that is powered by 3GB of samples. Its interface allows you to have easy control over the samples' envelopes as well as volume, panning, and reverb. There ​is an assortment of great-sounding instruments to play around with.

There are no rules or royalties, just free samples.

The only thing you can’t do is sell them to other people as-is. Other than that, make whatever you want with this free software.

System requirements:

  • 4 GB of RAM

  • 111 MB to 3.2 GB of memory

  • DAW that supports VSTi or Audio Units

  • 5000 RPM hard drive speed or faster

  • MIDI keyboard

A Swedish musician named Mattias Westlund gathered together all of the top-quality, royalty-free orchestral samples from the internet.

Then he cleaned them up, organized them, and created his own library of orchestral samples.

Obviously, it’s not going to match some of the orchestral plugins you’d pay big bucks for, but for $0, it’s not a bad piece of software.

System requirements:

  • 440 MB of memory for download

  • 16-bit WAV format

Squidfont has several pretty sounding strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion, including effects like sustain, detache, pizzicato, and tremolo.

It’s a free plugin (26 MB) and not much information is available online, so it probably doesn’t meet the professional standard that many of the other orchestral plugins meet.

But heck, free is free.

Free orchestral string plugins often don’t sound super realistic, but that may be the effect you’re going for if you make, say, electronic music.

StringZ offers an eclectic mix of instruments, like eight world string instruments, Celtic harp, cumbus, dobro, kanun, koto, and dulcimer.

If you know what half of those instruments are without looking them up, this is your plugin.

Make Orchestral Music Software

It includes velocity response, a micro-detuner, and MIDI automation.

Overture offers your basic orchestra instruments, and allows you to add four layers made of the 40 instruments, one drum kit, and 10 internal combos.

Some of the instruments include harpsichord, church organ, trumpet, and an orchestra drum kit.

The Cheeze Machine plugin doesn’t even pretend to be realistic sounding -- it admits it’s cheesy sounding in its own name.

It copies the string ensemble sound but in a synth-y type of way.

It has a chorus ensemble, a six-stage phaser, and reverb, presented in a saw-like waveform.

With the FTM String plugin, you get an oscillating string simulation.

It can emulate tons of string instruments, like guitar and bass, while it also offers different percussion instrument sounds, like xylophone and vibraphone.

I mentioned earlier that woodwinds are the instrument that resembles the human voice the closest. But is that true with these free plugins?

The Iowa Alto Flute plugin is one of those that you just have to try to get the full effect.

It’s an underground piece of software with not much info shared about it online.

What we do know is that it’s a sampled alto flute from the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios.

Here are the versions it’s available in:

  • Windows 32 VST (28.6 MB)

  • Windows 64 VST (28.8 MB)

  • Mac OSX VST (32.6 MB)

  • Mac AU (32.6 MB)

The Sonatina Oboe is a sampled oboe from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra sample library.

Here are the versions:

  • Windows 32 VST (22.6 MB)

  • Windows 64 VST (22.8 MB)

  • Mac OSX VST (26.6 MB)

Sonatina Clarinet is a sampled clarinet from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra sample library. It allows you to switch between three options: solo clarinet, clarinets sustain, and bass clarinet.

Here are the versions:

  • Windows 32 VST (29.2 MB)

  • Windows 64 VST (29.3 MB)

  • Mac OSX VST (33.1 MB)

  • Mac AU (33.1 MB)

The Sonatina Flute plugin is a set of sampled flutes from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra sample library. There are five options you can choose from: flute, flutes sustain, flutes staccato, alto flute, and piccolo.

I said earlier that you can’t go wrong with brass, but does that sentiment hold when using a free brass plugin?

Available for Windows 32 VST, the Brass plugin from DSK has 23 waveforms, two layers, and the ability to select your octave. It comes with effects like delay, flanger, and assignable automation capability.

The Aerophone brass plugin emulats lip valve instruments with cylindrical bores, like trumpets and trombones.


It attempts to capture the true expression of an acoustic performance by oversampling a third.

This small download (2 MB) is available for Windows 32 VST.

DSK’s Saxophones plugin includes soprano and tenor saxes with ADSR envelope control. It also has a velocity curve selector and a reverb effect.

Here are the downloads available:

  • Windows 32 VST (9.8 MB)

  • Windows 64 VST (10 MB)

  • Mac OSX VST (13.9 MB)

  • Mac AU (13.9 MB)

VSCO2 Percussion is a sampled orchestral percussion set recorded at Versilian Studios by Berklee College of Music graduate Sam Gossner.

Here are the available downloads:

  • Windows 32 VST (131.3 MB)

  • Windows 64 VST (131.5 MB)

  • Mac OSX VST (138.6 MB)

  • Mac AU (138.6 MB)

All of these plugins are excellent choices if you are interested in digitally replicating orchestral sounds.

My favorite plugin on this list has to be Orchestral Suite. Its an all-in-one plugin that offers a ton of quality!

Free Orchestra Composing Software

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