Get the BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover instantly with Spitfire Audio – free, lightweight

It’s got all the basic elements of the BBC Symphonic Orchestra in plug-in form, it sounds great, it’s easy to use, and it’s all in a tiny 200MB. And now it’s free instantly, no strings attached. (No pun intended.)

So the BBC Symphony Orchestra Discover has been around for a bit – along enough to pick up some rave reviews, along with the full-blown BBC Symphony Orchestra packages from Spitfire. You could pay fifty bucks for the package, or there was an option to fill out a big survey and then wait for two weeks.

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The UI is refreshingly simple. Just click on a section to pull up that ensemble and automatically map the expected range on your keyboard. Then choose articulation and start playing. There are even tool tips to give you a kind of software rendition of a “young person’s guide to the orchestra.”
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While it’s a fraction of what’s in Spitfire’s full high-end set, you get all the basics – plus some extras like percussion, harp, and celeste. In addition to navigating graphically, you can bring up presets via this menu.

Ironically, I did fill out the survey, waited, and promptly forgot about the whole thing. (I’m probably not alone there.) But now, Spitfire generously dumped the price and the survey, so you can just grab the thing for free. You do need to set up a Spitfire Audio account and the Spitfire Audio app, but that’s worth doing anyway for the excellent LABS series – which includes lots of more exotic and experimental sound packs, in case big orchestras aren’t really your thing.

The advantage here is, you get some extraordinary sounds in just a 200MB package with a stunningly simple UI to match.

The appeal for kids or students or anyone new to orchestras is obvious. You just click on the section of the orchestra, visually, and get some tips to which section is which. If you didn’t grow up with orchestra concerts, that’s a big boon.

But for sound designers, this is also worth grabbing. These are just lovely, organic-sounding orchestra samples – but in lightweight form. That means if you just want to try some experimental sound creation beginning with a viola section spicatto, you can. You don’t have some massively complex MIDI mapping, mind-bending UI, or big storage or memory consumption to worry about.

There’s something uniquely liberating about just being able to click on the bass trombone section, have it mapped to the logical pitch range, choose an articulation, and go. You can drop this into your software modular, even, if you want. Feed a celeste through a granular processor. You get the idea.

The engine here is similar to what’s in LABS, so don’t expect a lot of editable parameters – for that, you will want to dive into a more involved library. But the price is right, and this is handy to have around.

And yeah, here’s what you’re working with:

If that’s all too western for you, Spitfire are working on some other directions, too – more on that later.

Meanwhile, all the free stuff:

That will also lead you to pianobook. Despite the name, this is not about pianos but a community of folks sharing sample libraries and techniques and loads of details about instruments. Far from just making samples disposable, people are really getting into unique instrument creations and even making samples a kind of gateway to more instrument inventions and extended techniques:

Now someone should clearly do an updated snarky version of the guide to the orchestra…

Huh, I guess these comments on Tchaikowsky kind of fit now.

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