Virtual Playing Orchestra is a free orchestral sound library released by Paul Battersby, offered as a completely royalty free virtual instrument in SFZ format.
The sound collection has actually been around for several months now, but we decided to feature it in our news section even though the release happened a while ago. This is simply one of those freebies that are too good to miss!
Virtual Playing Orchestra includes samples from the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra library, University of Iowa, VSCO2, and several other royalty free orchestra libraries. The authors have combined what they considered the best samples of all of these libraries and organized them into Virtual Playing Orchestra which is available in SFZ format. The release includes woodwinds, strings, brass, choir and percussion samples in different velocities and several articulations.
The staccato strings, for example, have a round robin feature to prevent them sounding artificial when the notes are repeated. They’ve also included pizzicato, accented, and sustained notes. To make the performance sound more authentic, users can use the modulation wheel to fine tune the attack speed of the samples depending on the musical material being played.
I thought it was helpful that the creators of Virtual Playing Orchestra only let you play the instruments in their actual register. This prevents the user from having the violas play in the range of the cello or violin for example. The description on the website recommends using this library with ample reverb as it will smooth out some of the inconsistencies that are inherent in a collection of multiple libraries.
When listening to the Virtual Playing Orchestra demo tracks available on the website, they sound very rich and pleasant, although admittedly not 100% realistic. They seem to work very well in a busier mix, but (as is the case with almost all orchestra libraries) the more intricate melody lines tend to sound a little phoned in. Regardless, I think this library could work well in a lot of situations, especially for layering live strings/brass/woodwinds to create a larger sound.
Virtual Playing Orchestra is available for free download via Paul Battersby’s website (842 MB download size, ZIP archive, contains 168 instrument patches in SFZ format).