It seems like every music software company has to give something away for free in order to sell something else. Layers from Orchestral Tools is no exception to the rule. Of course, it’s not really free – it just doesn’t cost money out of your pocket. The price of entry is one email address. So today I sacrificed my email address to Orchestral Tools for this free orchestral VST instrument (VSTi).
After verifying my email address for an account, I was able to “purchase” the free downloadable VST instrument. There is a download for both MacOS and Windows, but no Linux. Sorry, nerds.
I can’t speak for the Windows installer. But on my Mac, I downloaded a 300MB dmg file and had to manually drag 3 items items into different folders to install it. Not too difficult. It only took a matter of seconds and I was ready to fire up Komplete Kontrol and test it out. Wish me luck!
Upon opening the Sine Player VST instrument in Komplete Kontrol, I was asked to sign in by Orchestral tools and activate the plugin. It was at this point I realized that I still hadn’t downloaded Layers, the free library, only the player for the library. It wasn’t immediately clear how to download it. Go to My Licenses > Layers > Details. I selected basic kit and hit download. It did allow me to choose my destination which is fantastic! There’s nothing worse than filling up your main hard drive with libraries.
I should mention here that after loading the Sine player into Komplete Kontrol, my Apollo X6 started making that super fast clicking noise like something was terribly wrong. I’m not sure it was a sample rate issue or if it was due to no libraries being present. Restart…
The Sine player groups your downloaded libraries into folder with what could be described as patches. If you drill down into Strings you can choose between major, minor, and suspended 4ths. You can also choose the style of playing like sustained and staccato.
It’s worth noting that Layers is not NKS compatible, but can still be loaded as a plugin inside of Komplete Kontrol or any other VSTi host.
As you add patches to what they call an articulation list, you begin to discover that you can load multiple patches. Each patch, or item in your articulation list can be assigned to different MIDI inputs and sections of the keyboard. You can also put more than one patch inside of an articulation list for switching between patches. After a few minutes I had created a small ensemble spread out across my 61 key keyboard.
I was genuinely impressed with the sound quality and how easy it was to immediately throw together a beautiful sounding blend of instruments. I think this library would certainly work well in film. It would also sound amazing on a rock record or even in more pop influenced music. There is a lot of fun and creative things you can toss into a mix if you know what to listen for.
I don’t encourage people to go download instrument libraries just because they’re free. I actually discourage it. Too many tools can leave you not knowing which tool to choose for a job. But here’s the thing, this is a very specific library. It’s not another synth or drum kit. You should really give this a try unless you already have a killer sounding orchestra or would never use it.
Should you decide to pick it up, here is a full walk through that will help you get the most out of it! You will thank yourself for watching it. It explains some of the details that may not be super intuitive.