Updated: Jan 6
Many games want the modern cinematic sound of strings, brass and epic percussion to come to life, however most of the orchestral libraries are several hundred dollars so are out of reach to many before they start making an income from music.
A couple of years back I picked up Audio Imperia's Nucleus lite for $99 and was blown away with it's sound. Couple this cheap library with ProjectSAM's Free Orchestra and you have all you need to blow away your first few clients. Another benefit of this set up is that there are not many options for articulations (as they are mostly just sustained notes and short samples). This really helped me hone in on my skills without getting distracted by having too much choice. And the great thing was, as soon as I was writing great tracks with this combo, I could upgrade to the full version of Nucleus with the price I paid for Lite deducted (which was even better on Black Friday!).
So what can you do with $99
I wrote two albums pretty much exclusively with Nucleus and The Free Orchestra along with some of my client work at the time. I did technically have more varied orchestral libraries but they sounded very dated in comparison. Also, as I mentioned, being limited to just a couple of articulations and the ensemble patches meant I could concentrate on the composing rather than complex orchestration.
Some things are definitely better demonstrated so here is a video on a piece I made using this combination:
Get Good before moving on
Even if you have lots of money to invest in virtual instruments, make sure you can compose and produce consistantly good music with this set up before upgrading or adding additional libraries from other companies. I would say at least write an album's worth this way, before investing in new ones.
I will make a post on my experience with various libraries in the future but you can't go wrong with products by Orchestra Tools, Audio Imperia, EastWest and ProjectSAM. Spitfire Audio are highly regarded as are VSL and Cinesound, but my experience with these are a bit limited. There are many others too so I recommend adding to the basic setup methodically when you know what it is you need next.
Is there a free alternative
Unfortunately The Free Orchestra doesn't have enough to be a standalone product by itself. However, if you want to learn to orchestrate all the instruments then BBC Discovery is, in my opinion, your best bet (at the time of writing it's still free if you fill out a survey). This is going to be harder to learn than having ensemble patches but it sounds great and you can't argue with the price. I believe there are some other free projects, but have not personally tried any so I'd be interested to hear of your experiences if you have used any.
And that's a wrap for today. Keep composing and getting better every day.
Products mentioned (not affiliated):
The Free Orchestra: https://projectsam.com/libraries/the-free-orchestra/
BBC Symphony Orchestra Discovery: https://www.spitfireaudio.com/bbc-symphony-orchestra-discover