What products should a newbie buy first?

What set of products would you recommend to a newbie film score composer to start with, for a total budget of £1000?


  • Sarah
    Sarah admin
    10 Comments 25 Likes First Answer Spitfire Employee

    I'd say it would depend on the type of music they're looking to make! A combination of an orchestral library such as BBC SO Core or Albion ONE + a couple of Originals pianos (Cinematic Soft Piano is a personal favorite) would be an excellent starting place. However, going down the Contemporary Drama Toolkit route paired with one or more of our Spitfire Studio Orchestra libraries would also be a fantastic and inspiring place to begin.

  • gregoryd
    edited March 16

    I started with BBCSO Core and Spitfire Solo Strings! The Solo Strings have been a great grab, but my next purchase is gonna be Albion One or Spitfire Studio Strings. So I'd second what Sarah said from a fellow newbie. *edit: I have a preference for orchestral writing haha

    BBCSO Core is great for detailed orchestration; sounds wonderful. If you aren't in a place to buy individual section libraries (brass, wws, strings, perc), grab this. You get a full orchestra with solo instruments for everyone but the strings. You can survive without a solo violin for a while.

    You'll want a "broad stroke" library like Albion One to save yourself some project time. Otherwise, you'll be doing a lot of rough draft work/instant composition using cello sustains. Nothing wrong with that, but trust me: you'll want a broad stroke library.

    And if you have extra money after that, I'd pick a focused sound that you like! That could be like CDT, one of the "Studio" libraries, or a couple pianos as mentioned by Sarah. I personally want to grab a more focused "studio" string library with divisis; you may want to get solo strings at this point.

  • I‘m very happy with AlbionONE, Studio Orchestra, BDT and CDT. This combination can do a lot!

  • My first purchase was Abbey Road One. Was very pleased and hooked right away with the quality and the ability to create musically expressive works with that library. I quickly jumped into BBCSO also for the individual instruments as I like to orchestrate with detail. Of course, I follow the symphonic route.

    Associate Professor of Music / The University of Virginia’s College at Wise

    Conductor + Music Director / Winds of the Mountain Empire

  • Nic
    25 Likes 10 Comments
    edited March 16

    My first purchases were BDT and Solo Cello. Great libraries! However, I'd actually suggest against BDT/CDT for your first libraries, as they don't feature short/staccato/spicatto/pizzicato articulations or legatos.

    Since fleshing out my folder with stuff like BBCSO, Alt solo strings, etc, I can definitely now see that the drama toolkits are insanely powerful and great sounding tools, however, I really suggest you buy a "Meat and potatoes" library first, which has all the basics covered.

    I don't own either of them, but I'd say Albion 1 or Albion Neo would be an amazing place to start. If you've got synthy stuff already (Native instruments packages, maybe a CDT type thing) you might wanna veer off into Abbey Road instead of Albion.

    If you know some amount of theory (For example, I have a degree in electric guitar, so understand harmony and melody on some level) BBCSO is unbeatable value for money, in my opinion. If you don't play an instrument to a high level, and are more of a beginner/intermediate in music as a thing, I'd suggest that BBCSO might be a bit overwhelming to figure out and orchestrate for.

    The free stuff is really good. The originals stuff is... Well.. Really, reallly good!

    Can't go wrong with tampering with the originals and labs. By the time you've written a few tracks from beginning to end with the free stuff, you'll know what library will best fill your needs and tastes. :) Good luck Spitfirerin'!

    - Nic Stride

  • what kind of music do you want to make?

    my suggestion is to get albion one first. then additional libraries recorded at AIR. i find that they sit together very easily.

    albion one will save you time with sketching

    air recorded libraries will save you time with mixing

    this does not mean you cant mix libraries, you definitely can and its not hard. i am only speaking from the aspect of lowering your learning curve to get into it.

    here is my, mostly complete, list of spitfire library recording venues.


  • I'm working mostly in theatre, so I'm not the classic film composer and am not writing your standard orchestra stuff.

    So I have a very different perspective on that subject but am sill very into the Spitfire Soundworld as those libraries are offering a very pristine sound with a lot of thought in them rather than being clean cold plugins.

    I would always recommend libraries with a lot of character. I find those most of the time in the LABS program.

    So save the 1000$ bucks for holidays and your partner and family as those are the ones, who keep you grounded and make you stand up every day. :-)

    But I don't have a single cue, in which you wouldn't find a Spitfire library.

    So just for fun and to spark an idea: Buy all SA Recordings libraries, they're always inspiring and come from a deeply forged background, as composers already created those sounds for very specific purposes and are not trying to reach a wide audience as your normal sample library is trying to. Dive into LABS, as those sounds demand an artistic approach to them and not just some nice chords and melodies.

    Rather than looking for sounds that just work and sound beautiful - as all Spitfire Libraries! - search for sounds that give you character and that make you ask yourself: What can I do with that? Where is that coming from? What story is that sound telling.

    Rather than: What story can I tell with my chords and melodies. As those stories are mostly told - in my opinion.

    All the best + kind regards from Munich, Germany,


  • @joshua's first question war my first thought. It's a difficult question.

    Albion One is great, also the new Abbey Road One library. For more control over the instruments I recommend the BBCSO Core. And then you have budget for some hybrid stuff. I'm in love with the Contemporary Drama Toolkit (yes, I know, it's very special). EDNA Earth is a good choice for an enormous spectrum of sounds.

    Greeting from Regensburg, Germany

  • I started out with BBCSO. I actually bought the Discover rather than wait for it and I'm glad I did as the price I paid was discounted from the upgrade to Core.

    Subsequently I've gone a bit overboard since I first came across Spitfire last year and would highly recommend:

    Albion One (I think that's my favourite over Abbey Road One which I also own).

    British Drama toolkit is amazing.

    London Contemporary Orchestra Textures (which I got in the last sale) is just out of this world. Absolutely amazing sounds.

    Out of all of those, I'd say BBCSO Discover is definitely the best place to start as well as (obviously) Labs.

  • Film? Albion One

    Orchestra? If you don't want to break the bank, BBCSO Core

    Chamber pop, chamber jazz, indie...etc. (this is me, btw!!!)? I dig things that inspire me. Hauschka, LCO Textures, SA Recordings, ...etc.

  • So understanding how an orchestra works and voices go together is important. I assume you are new to this. I did not know this and was attracted by BBC Discover at no cost. I then upgraded to BBC SO Core. Both now I feel was an initial mistake. To ease your knowledge having ensembles be it strings, brass and woodwinds is a must to be able to sketch our what you need to orchestrate, so I bought Originals strings, brass to achieve this. Today I have discovered Unify which is a new way of layering. BBCSO which comes with ensembles. You should treat this like learning an instrument, i.e., start with something easy before you move to the more professional orchestral software. In this way you should look at freebies including Orchestral Tools layers https://www.orchestraltools.com/store/collections/layers. So if I were starting again today I would start with orchestral tools layers and take some existing scores and orchestrate them. You will also need to learn the DAW especially the midi editing inside out before you feel you have good scores. You can also download orchestral scores midi http://www.kunstderfuge.com/tchaikovsky.htm. these are classics in midis and then look at them on how they are scored and instruments are used. I also recommend to join Professional Composers forum https://forum.professionalcomposers.com. here you will get advice that is not just Spitfire.

    After a year I have progressed to using BBC SO Pro as my main orchestral programming using Unify to layer ensembles for sketching. I have downloaded Albioni adagio, Giselle, Pastoral to understand how orchestra voices go together, I have bought macvideopro recording and editing midi on the DAW side. Christians free Orchestral programming videos are invaluable on YouTube, he is a star. I still have my L plates on but I can now do things I couldn't do when I first bought core and my knowledge is now at level of stage 2. Which means I can edit existing scores change instruments and plugins and compose ensemble sections. I also use Scaler 2 which helps with chord progression composition.

    Good luck, it would be good if Spitfire made an index of all their super videos on how to get started.

  • Starters, depends on the style of music but BBCSO Discover is a good one to learn a lot about how to use the interface, the instruments, use articulations. The originals are my favourite ones and I have about all 29$ packages because they are pretty unique with very specific characteristic sounds.

    So beginner, the cheap ones - to learn the job - later buy better quality packages fitting the style you work on and if you can afford it. It's never disappointing.

  • I started long time ago with Eact West Symphonic Orchestra Gold. Las year, I switched to Studio Orchestra Pro. I love the clear and crisp sound (and it has divisi sections for strings), but I wouldn't recommend it for a beginner. I had to improve a lot my mixing skills to make it sound as I would like (good EQ and Reverb ar eessential).

    I rencently bought the BBCSO. I'm still not sure to love it.... I need time. The sound is so different from the Studio Orchestra.

  • It depends on your needs and experience.

    I came into working with digital audio having extensive experience arranging and orchestrating, playing numerous orchestral instruments, and having been a conductor for a couple decades. I almost always load up BBCSO Core or Pro first to work, and I want that individual control over every single instrument in the mix (for example, Clarinet 1, Clarinet 2, Bass Clarinet, etc.).

    However, I did pick up Orchestral Tools Berlin Inspire 1 + 2 on a whim to try it out, and I can see the value in something that has a lot more "pre-baked" ensemble patches so that a work can be quickly sketched in the DAW without having to go and write out/play every single instrument's part. For those new to orchestration, some of the combination instruments are really useful to start off with.

  • Scoring Essentials bundle (Albion One, Solo Strings, and Olafur Arnalds Chamber Evolutions), and BBCSO Core.

    Around $850 during a 40% off sale (next one is in May).

  • If, as the question implies, you're not really sure where you're going it's probably going to be a process of getting a very general toolset and testing it to the limits to find out what it WON'T do for you and then investing further to fill in the gaps.

    e.g. are you frustrated by the inability to capture nuances of instrument articulation, or writing detailed orchestration or generating looping atmospheric textures etc

    Starting completely from scratch I'd say download all the Labs. There's a great selection of solo instruments, orchestral pads and loop-based options.

    Starting from the next level, as many people above have suggested, go for a general library like Albion One.

  • Drue
    edited March 22

    @Thaimuso What is unify and how do you use it? Is there a tutorial somewhere, as I am super interested! Great response by the way. :)

  • Double Helix
    edited May 4

    As an absolute pre-neo-newbie, the first VSTs I ever bought from Spitfire Audio were Epic Strings & CDT, later adding BBCSO Discover (Discover and Core, by the way, have been "unified," i.e. adapted to work in Unify, from PlugInGuru). @Drue, check out PlugInGuru (dot) com to find out what all the buzz about Unify entails.

    Honestly, I considered myself more a synth guy than an orchestral composer, but I have fun than should be legal combining/layering the above SA libraries with Omnisphere, Zebra2/HZ, Unify, and a few hardware synths. My next purchase will be one of SA's "outside the box" libraries, leaning toward Fragile Strings/Evo2, or perhaps Realitone's Sunset Strings. I use PreSonus Studio One 4.6.2

    Finally, I cannot say enough about the support team: Aaron, Jack, and Charlie in particular have exercised extraordinary patience.

  • Maybe I missunderstand the question and it's all about software,...but if not I would highly recommend to buy a good hardware controller and learn to handle and map your instruments. Perfect handling of the controller will it make much more easier to work with different Libraries from different manufactures with different layouts.

    That will save you a lot of time!

  • For what it's worth (which probably isn't much) here's my 2 cents.

    I'd put the $1000.00 bank and subscribe to East West Composer Cloud at $20/Month for a while or purchase some of the very inexpensive Spitfire "Originals".

    Learn how to use the various instruments and get a feel for what you might like to focus on musically in the future. Then you can buy a library that will suit your needs. Remember to consider that in most cases the more advanced the library the more costly the computer and storage you'll need.

  • So many variables it is impossible to say! Your answers to these questions would help us (and you!) understand more.

    Are you coming to DAW-based music composition as a newbie, or just to the orchestral/film end of it? Are you looking just for libraries or an entire hardware/software set up? Do you need to be able to write to video directly, or do you just want to compose?

    What's your musical background? Are you an orchestral player/a pianist/a producer? Are you a working musician looking to diversify or a hobbyist looking for the next level?

    What kind of sounds do you want to make - "traditional" orchestral stuff, electronics, live audio, or some kind of combination?

    For me, put as much money as you can into hardware - a good computer and keyboard controller, good headphones and an interface and mics if you want to use live audio. There's enough free/cheap VSTs out there that are incredibly inspirational (LABS/Originals, the SINE player/Orchestral Tools sounds...) and will get you started until you work out what you like. Then you save up some more and get the library that you need to take you further.