Let’s have a look at 20 of the top FREE Kontakt libraries available in 2022.
As you probably know, Kontakt is the first word that comes to mind when we talk about software samplers. Furthermore, with so many libraries available for Kontakt, even I get overwhelmed trying to decide on one to try! So, I figured a list of the best free libraries is long overdue. However, let’s talk about some key things about Kontakt and the free libraries first:
Kontakt is a sampler developed by Native Instruments, the brains that provide the necessary framework to power this world of sampled instruments and sounds. To access any of the Kontakt Libraries, you’ll need to install one of the two variations of the Kontakt Sampler: the paid version or the free Kontakt Player.
However, since the free Kontakt Player is only for the brands that have a business deal with Native Instruments, many of the free sample libraries will require you to purchase the paid version of Kontakt. Still, a few companies generously offer Kontakt Player support, and such libraries are usually outstanding.
Now that we’re done covering the basics, let’s check out what the list has in store for us:
Top 20 Free Kontakt Libraries 2022
1. Heavyocity FOUNDATIONS Piano (Piano Library)
Foundations is a series of instruments by Heavyocity that are available for free, and this piano library is the first and currently the only one in the series.
Foundation Piano is a soft-dynamics piano library with a beautiful sound. It’s ideal for creating film scores and writing backing piano parts in softer pop songs. Frankly, I enjoy playing it simply for its warm sounds and textures, which inspire compositions quickly. Furthermore, the library provides an arpeggiator and some effects to get even more creative.
- Dual Layers
Foundations Piano employs two layers of samples to generate its sounds. The first layer is a deeply-sampled grand piano prioritizing the softer side of the instrument. Further, the piano doesn’t have an overly loud hammer noise that many felt pianos do. Similarly, the second sample layer is the texture layer, which employs synth sounds. You’ll also find ten presets that help you discover the variety of sounds this library can create.
- Sound Design
The library offers an arpeggiator, gate, and volume envelope to help you shape the sound. You can use the gate to create rhythmic lines impossible to play live, while the volume envelope lets you create pad sounds out of a piano. Similarly, other sound design features include three master effects: punch, delay, and reverb.
The library is available for Kontakt 6.6.1 and Kontakt Player 6.6.1 or higher.
The piano is possibly the most sampled instrument ever. I don’t even remember how many piano instruments I have. So, it’s rare for a new piano library to draw my attention. However, Heavyocity focuses on the softer side of pianos to create a cinematic sound, which, admittedly, is still an overdone concept. Yet, this library provides very high-quality sounds for a free instrument. It also supports the free Kontakt Player, which is an added plus.
2. Sample Logic Taste the Fury (Drums 1)
Any composer knows how important percussions are, and this library acknowledges your needs.
Taste The Fury by Sample Logic is a taiko drum ensemble instrument based on the paid Drum Fury library, which features over a hundred drums and percussion instruments. The free library is excellent for action-packed scores and adds a dramatic vibe to your songs. And alongside the straightforward interface, robust refining controls, and built-in effects, the library doesn’t disappoint.
The taiko in the library provides samples for the two hands playing the percussion, and each features a huge number of dynamic layers. However, there aren’t any round robins. So, you’ll have to make some minor velocity adjustments on each note to keep the taiko from sounding robotic.
- Polished Interface
Taste The Fury has a single-page interface and provides everything necessary to customize your sound. You’ll find pitch adjustment, a velocity randomizer, an amp envelope, and filters. Similarly, there is an equalizer, compressor, delay, and reverb to help speed up mixing. Each effect also provides a detailed page for customization.
- Polish Up
The library provides two sliders named Energizer and Polisher, which add specific characteristics to the sound. The energizer slider adds grit and dirt to the sound, making the taiko sound aggressive. Conversely, the polisher slider rounds off sharp edges, creating a smoother sound.
Taste The Fury is available for Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
The taiko is a crucial part of any epic percussion ensemble. So, Taste The Fury offers cinematic composers one of the most important instruments you could have in your arsenal for free! Furthermore, despite the gigantic sound, the library is only about sixty megabytes in size. Hence, I love using this library to layer with my existing percussion sounds with little impact on the RAM.
3. Splash Sound Percussion Elements 3 (Drums 2)
Add some epic rhythms to your musical arsenal with this action-packed percussion kit.
Splash Sound’s Percussion Elements 3 is a free pack based on the paid Epic Percussion 3 library, featuring three drum kits and seventeen solo percussion instruments. Percussion Elements 3 provides the same engine as the paid library, offering you various effect processors, multiple mic positions, stage manipulation, and a rhythm generator.
- Epicness & Mics
The Epicness knob is the large globe-like parameter at the center of the user interface. Turning this parameter up results in a multi-band compressed sound that tightens up the low frequencies while increasing their volume. Similarly, it adds air frequencies at the top end, making the sound pop through the mix. A little saturation helps make the drums sound upfront and aggressive.
- Mic Positions
The library offers three mic positions for you to mix: a stereo close mic, a stereo hall mic, and a mono room mic. You can change the level of each microphone from the main UI and create variations easily. Similarly, the Stage tab opens another page where you can pan and add “distance” to the following elements of the kit: kick, taiko, toms, snares, tambourine, and cymbals. It adds distance by fading the volume between the close and room mic while keeping the hall mic’s volume constant.
The Effects tab features four effect processors: three-band EQ, reverb, compressor, and delay. Furthermore, each effect provides detailed controls for you to customize. So, you can easily create full mixes without using any third-party plugins.
- Rhythm Generator
The Rhythm tab opens a page where you can load and make minor customizations to the built-in rhythm loops. It loads seven loops at a time, and you can change the type between Normal Time and Displaced Accents. Further, each of these types features Straight and Triplets style rhythms. So, there are 7×4 = 28 loops in total.
Additionally, you can change the loop tempo from ½ to 2x, which helps make the loops sound mysterious to epic and climactic easily. And you can add time and velocity humanization. Unfortunately, you cannot drag and drop these loops into your DAW as MIDI clips.
Percussion Elements 3 is available for Kontakt 5.8.0 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Almost every film or game score requires some dramatic percussive parts, whether you’re scoring for horror, fantasy, or sci-fi. So, this free library is an excellent bread-and-butter percussion kit if you don’t already own another set. It features ensembles of taikos, epic toms, and snares alongside a solo tambourine, cymbals, and a kick drum. Frankly, I suggest downloading it even if you own a percussion library solely because it’s superb for layering.
4. Rigid Audio Drum One (Drums 3)
Write and perform electronic drum parts fast with Drum One.
Rigid Audio’s Drum One combines a sampler and synthesizer engine to create extensive loops, and modulated drum takes. With control over seven different synth engines, you can create sounds for various production needs. Furthermore, effect processors allow you to add body, grit, and saturation to your drum sounds.
- Main Interface
The main page has all the controls for audio generation, including amp envelopes, filters, modulation, and velocity settings per drum instrument. You can dial in specific settings for each of the seven instrument engines independently and emphasize three main sound generation elements. These elements include Body, Hit, and Noise. Besides these, master controls and effects like reverb, saturation, and compression process the entire kit.
- Synth Engines and Mix Page
You can randomize the re-triggering of the sampler depending on your needs. Additionally, you can add effects like drive, feedback, saturation, EQ, Stereo width, and more for a cohesive sound across all engines. Likewise, the Mix Page allows you to gain-stage the engines into a balanced kit and even add an EQ.
- Other Features
Choose from 64 included kits or load your custom samples for use within the plugin. You can map MIDI CCs and use MIDI learn to modulate your controllers. This feature is great if you like to use MIDI controllers or keyboards. Furthermore, the library allows you to create separate audio outputs for the drum engines, which allows you to mix the kit in your DAW.
Drum One is available for Kontakt 6.4.2 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Drum One is an excellent drum library with sixty-four drum kits. Each kit features seven drum engines with three generators each. However, my favorite feature is that it allows you to load custom WAV samples, something many other drum libraries keep avoiding. This feature allows you to create custom kits with onboard effects.
5. Rigid Audio Metawave (Atmo / Granular Soundscapes)
Metawave could be the perfect library for you if you make ambient music or underscores.
Creating atmospheric soundscapes requires you to either manipulate samples and layer multiple synths or use a granular synth. However, they all require time and effort to finish. So, Rigid Audio’s Metawave provides sixty-four cinematic granular soundscapes with a built-in engine to customize the samples. Let’s take a look at what features it provides:
- Four Layers
Metawave uses four waveforms to generate its soundscape. However, they don’t all play at once. Instead, it plays each layer’s grain in order, creating unpredictable sounds. Once the four layers have finished playing, it starts over. Furthermore, you can change the waveform for each layer, change its volume, add reverb, and enable or disable pitch tracking. Other than these effects, the library provides a flair (metallic overtones with pitch control), a flanger, and a phaser effect on the main output.
In addition to creating variation by using multiple waveforms in order, you can swap the waveform for a layer into random ones by clicking on the RND button. It automatically changes the waveform every time it’s the layer’s turn to play and creates variations.
- Granular Control
The green knobs on the upper part of the user interface allow you to control how the library plays its sample layers. Use the Flux knob to adjust the speed of layer cycling. Similarly, Speed controls the playback speed, while Spread changes the stereo imaging. And finally, the Length and Multiply knobs control the grain length and sample playback offset, which helps the instrument cover more of longer audio samples.
There are two sequencer lanes available. The top one controls the sample offset or start position for all the layers. So, it can create variations even from the same samples easily. Similarly, the second sequencer controls the formant shifting for the fourth layer.
Metawave is available for Kontakt 6.4.2 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Despite only having sixty-four samples, Metawave can produce a wide variety of sounds. You can automate various knobs to create excitement or softness. Or, you can use the built-in sequencers to do so. Furthermore, it provides sixty-four presets for you to delve into and find out what the library offers.
6. Impact Soundworks Heritage Percussion (Ethnic Percussions)
Impact Soundworks offers a set of well-sampled percussions with an excellent user interface.
It’s rare finding a free library that looks and sounds good, but Heritage Percussion does just that. It provides you with thirteen percussion instruments: cabasa, large/small clave, cork drum, cowbell, djembe, beaded rattle, large/medium/small rattle, squash calabash, double-sided shaker, and half-gourd shaker. The squash and gourd ones produce very ethnic and earthy sounds, fitting for cinematic scores or New Age music.
As I mentioned earlier, Heritage Percussion has a fairly elaborate layout for a free library. You’ll find a volume and pitch envelope and a low-pass filter for each percussion instrument that you can select by clicking on its picture. Furthermore, you can change each instrument’s volume, pan, tune, and randomize the pitch. Other controls include round-robin modes and velocity curve adjustment.
The Console page reveals two audio channels: close mic and room mic. You can add effect processors to each audio channel. And these effects include EQs, compressors, limiters, chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion, cabinet simulation, multiple types of reverbs, delays, etc. Furthermore, you can add effects to the master channel.
Heritage Percussion is available for Kontakt 6.5 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Percussions play a vital role in music. So, having multiple libraries of percussions never hurt. And Heritage Percussion is well-sampled and provides five dynamic layers and up to ten round robins. Furthermore, some of the instruments are quite uncommon, making it a very worthy download.
7. Sonixinema Medicine Man (Ethnic Percussions 2)
With all that’s been going around in the world, a little peace and tranquility are long overdue.
Medicine Man is a library featuring a hand-crafted Indonesian tongue drum recorded by music producer Saša Dukić. The library features deep samples of the instrument alongside an atmosphere layer to help add character and beauty to the virtual instrument. Let’s check out its features in more detail:
- Deeply Sampled
You won’t find any controls on the library’s user interface. However, it provides a very well-recorded set of samples with multiple dynamic layers and round robins for various sound elements like the striking noise, the ambiance noise, the instrument itself, etc. Of course, you could edit the library by entering Kontakt’s editor page, but it’s completely unnecessary.
- Background Sounds
Aptly named, Medicine Man features relaxing pad sounds alongside the tongue drum. You can play chords and let the beautiful textures create peaceful atmospheres. Similarly, pressing the C0 note plays a relaxing night environment sound effect. You could create meditational music effortlessly using the built-in atmospheric sound.
Medicine Man is available for Kontakt 5.7.0 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
If you make ambient music, New Age music, or film scores, Medicine Man is an absolute gem. The tongue drum is really well-recorded and sounds natural. Furthermore, the background layers help make the instrument even more relaxing and peaceful. I’d have loved to see some controls like strike noise volume, texture volume, etc., but you can adjust all of that using Kontakt’s editor if you need to. Remember to create snapshots if you do, though!
8. Sonora Cinematic Magnetica REDUX (Pads, Textures & Cinematic Soundscapes)
Evoke calmness or eeriness with this library’s eccentric sounds.
I was surprised to learn that the main sound source for Magnetic Redux was a Fender Stratocaster played with an eBow because it sounds like it. However, the library provides a peculiar drone sound that you can manipulate with built-in effect processors. The library leans towards distorted sounds that bring a dark quality like many of my picks of horror-scoring libraries.
The large crystal-like knob at the center of the interface allows you to dial in a texture layer. It adds complexity to the otherwise minimal sound. So, what I like to do is automate the texture layer and only bring it in when I want it. You could even modulate it with MIDI sequencers to create exciting rhythms.
The library features a delay, reverb, distortion, screamer, Lo-Fi, formant filter, and low-pass filter. Each of these provides detailed control to customize the sound. Furthermore, you can add tape saturation by clicking on the tape icon below the texture knob.
Magnetica Redux is available for Kontakt 6.4.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
If you create ambient music, New Age, or mystical/horror scores, this library could be handy for you. The instrument is very straightforward, but the built-in effects make sound design flexible. So, I recommend Magnetica Redux to all experimental and cinematic composers.
9. Decent Samples Lewis Pyle Violin (Violin)
Recorded from a second-hand violin, Lewis Pyle Violin provides a very basic violin instrument.
The whole story behind this library is quite heartwarming. And I highly recommend checking out this video by David Hilowitz, where he talks about how he came across the violin and the untold story behind its maker. The library only has sustained samples with no editing. So, the instrument is suited to add rawness to ensembles. And of course, David has quite a few other instruments on his website, including Resonator Glockenspiel and Tea Kettle Air Keys. So, you could check those out as well, alongside the others I’ve listed in this article.
- Simple and Easy
The library provides a single sustain patch. So, you can play chords and simple melodies with it. Furthermore, you’ll find a volume envelope on the user interface to help you shape the sounds.
The library features a three-band EQ and a convolution reverb. Unfortunately, you cannot change the reverb’s parameters except the wet level.
Lewis Pyle Violin is available for Kontakt 5.3.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Try layering this 1895 beauty with your collection if you own other violin samples. The result might be surprisingly gorgeous!
10. Wrongtools Trapeze Organ (Organ & Ambiences)
The name of this library does come from the circus, and that’s where it gets interesting.
In the 70s, Easter European circuses were famous for their trapeze artists. However, alongside the death-defying leaps and flips, another element was at play all the time: music. And this music involved a very specific electric organ. So, the Trapeze Organ library features this 100KG organ recorded through the internal speakers, spring reverbs, and mini-Leslie outboard gear.
- Resizable Interface
The library allows you to change the size of the user interface by clicking on the magnifying glass icon at the top right. Remember to click on the ‘!’ at the top right of Kontakt’s interface to refresh and update the interface size of the library. This feature is helpful if your screen has a high resolution.
You’ll find four mic channels: spot, room, spring, and direct. You can change the volume of each of these mics. Or, you can disable (purge) unwanted channels entirely. Furthermore, you can route each mic channel to a new output for more control. And the channels also display a peak meter to help you adjust the levels.
The library offers a convolution reverb and delay, both of which provide some more control in the advanced settings. Similarly, you’ll find vibrato control, velocity curve adjustment, and an LFO. Furthermore, the built-in XY-pad helps you explore even more sonic possibilities.
Trapeze Organ is available for Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Such instruments have a rather specific use. I find Trapeze Organ excellent for comedic pieces or contrasting horror pieces. Of course, it can also sound magical and beautiful as was intended back in the 70s. So, if you create film scores or enjoy using unusual instruments, give Trapeze Organ a try!
11. Decent Samples Mandolin Guitarophone (Mandolin)
Yet another odd instrument on the list, Mandolin Guitarophone, offers a familiar type of sound yet utterly different.
Based on the fretless zithers played with picks, the marxophone was invented in the 20th century by adding keys to the zithers with built-in hammers. And the mandolin guitarophone is yet another variation on the instrument that added an extra string per note. It resulted in a chorused, warbly sound that mandolins have. And film composer David Hilowitz recorded said instrument to produce this library.
The library features multiple instrument patches that provide various types of sounds. These include a hammer and a pluck patch, both of which have four round robins and multiple velocity layers. Similarly, you’ll find a pluck unison patch that plays all of the pluck samples in unison, with more samples coming in with higher velocity. And finally, there are swarm patches that provide softer, looped samples that almost sound like pads.
You’ll find an amp envelope and reverb control on the user interface. The reverb is a convolution reverb, which sounds fairly well for most uses. However, I like to add extra processing like chorus or delays to make the sound a little spicier.
Mandolin Guitarophone is available for Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Mandolin Guitarophone is a well-sampled library that provides a unique instrument for you to work with. So, you’ll undoubtedly find it useful if you make scores or New Age music. Furthermore, you might find it useful in some types of hip-hop music. Ethnic instruments have found a lot of fame in modern music. So, why not, right?
12. ProjectSAM The Free Orchestra (Strings, Brass, Percussions & Sound Design)
ProjectSAM is well-known for its Symphobia and True Strike instruments, but did you know about their free offering?
The Free Orchestra is a collection with one gigabyte of cinematic instruments that help you quickly create many types of music. These include strings, brass, synths, and even percussions. Furthermore, the library is compatible with Kontakt Player, meaning you don’t have to spend a cent to use it! Let’s take a closer look at this exciting library.
The library features many types of instruments. These include accented cellos and basses, dark drones, eerie clusters, an eight-player French horn section, warm choir swells, tutti hits, woodwinds, lush violins, bold brasses, and a bass ensemble featuring a piano, harp, and bassoon. As you can see, the library prioritizes mysterious and darker sounds. However, it can also create beautiful and ethereal sounds just as easily.
- Mic Positions
While not all of them provide it, some instruments feature two mic positions. These include a close and a hall mic. You can blend them to customize the intimacy of your instruments.
Other features in this library include a volume envelope, reverb, low-pass filter, limiter, quick master EQ, and octaving. Similarly, you can change the dynamic control mode from velocity to modulation wheel (CC 1), which is helpful to write dynamic sustain parts.
The Free Orchestra is available for Kontakt 6.2.1 or higher and Kontakt Player 6.2.1 or higher.
If you make cinematic music for films or games, there is no reason to avoid The Free Orchestra unless you own the paid instrument already! The instruments in this library are extremely well-recorded and sound fantastic. Further, the clusters and percussions help create moods super-fast with barely any tweaking necessary.
13. Shreddage 3 Stratus Free (Electric Guitar)
Stratus Free is the free version of a paid instrument, making the recording quality impeccable.
As you might guess from the name, Shreddage 3 Stratus Free features a Fender Stratocaster. However, it only has the neck pickup, a clear contrast from the paid version’s multiple pickups. Still, the library is excellent for playing arpeggios or rhythms. And you can use it to play fast shredding notes, which is a specialty of this library. Let’s check out its main features:
While the library doesn’t come with many articulations, Stratus Free uses a dedicated Shred section that employs scripting to provide convincing performances. You can also use the Offset knob to reduce the picking sound, an important feature for authentic shredding performances.
You’ll find five articulations in this library. These include sustain, choke, pitched release, unpitched release, and mute. Furthermore, you can trigger these articulations using a key switch, velocity range, or MIDI CC. And you can change their volume, playback offset, and dynamism.
- Strum Engine
The library offers a complete strumming engine that recognizes chords and allows you to play rhythms using key switches. You can play downstroke, upstroke, and muted strokes. Furthermore, manipulating the velocity or MIDI CC allows you to control the dynamics and speed of the strokes.
Stratus Free is available for Kontakt 5.7 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
I find Stratus Free excellent for playing rhythms and arpeggios. Furthermore, some types of music don’t require elaborate slides and other articulations to sound nice. Many rock/metal solos rely on fast runs and quick picking. You can perform these using Stratus Free easily. So, it’s definitely a worthwhile download!
14. Output Signal Free (Synth)
Taste the brilliant pulsing instrument, Signal, by Output with this free, non-restrictive demo.
In our case, “pulsing” means moving or animated with arpeggiators, sequencers, etc. Of course, you can also turn the pulse engine off to play the original sound. Signal Free comes with twenty-five presets with most of the features from the paid instrument. These include beautiful soft arpeggios, thick analog gated pads, basses, rhythmic leads, etc. Let’s have a look at the instrument’s key features:
The four sliders at the top of the user interface are the macro sliders. These differ based on the presets you have selected. And each slider can control up to six parameters in the instrument. Hence, they provide a huge amount of control over the sound with almost no detailed tweaking.
- Dual Engine
The library features two pulse engines, each with two rhythm engines. So, you could have four patterns running at once. Furthermore, you can change the rate and type of each rhythm. The types include wave shape, step sequencer, arpeggiator, and loops. There are also many presets in the step sequencer and arpeggiator engines that will help you get started.
- Advanced Menu
The advanced menu features all the parameters you can modulate using the engines above. These include volume, pan, filter, tube, bite, and volume/pitch envelopes. So, you can easily adjust how much the engines should modulate these parameters by adjusting the sends value.
Signal Free is available for Kontakt 5.3.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Signal Free is an excellent synth library that all modern music genres and scores will find beneficial. While there aren’t as many presets or sounds available in this library as the paid version, you can still use Signal Free to layer with other synths. Furthermore, I sometimes use Signal Free’s built-in rhythm presets solely for inspiration that I can then expand using more synths.
15. Decent Samples Box Violin Sustain & Swells (Violin 2)
Experimental music takes on a whole new meaning with this unusual instrument.
Box Violin is an instrument library. It features samples of a violin built out of a paintbrush box, a personal project of a film composer Dave Hilowitz. The odd design makes the instrument sound thin and airy, making it sound best when mixed with a darker instrument.
- Two Articulations
The library provides a Swells patch and a Sustain patch. The Swells patch contains three velocity layers, whereas the Sustain patch contains four velocity groups that you can control using the modulation wheel. Furthermore, the modulation wheel transitions from a single sample to eight overdubbed samples, resulting in an ensemble-like patch.
There are merely three controls on the user interface: volume, tone, and reverb. You can make the violin sound darker using the tone knob. And the reverb knob adds a convolution reverb, which sounds quite nice and doesn’t use up much CPU resource.
Box Violin is available for Kontakt 5.8.1 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Box Violin is an excellent instrument to mix with your string sections. It may not sound very appealing alone, but it adds beautiful, almost glassy high-end frequencies to other instruments. So, it could be a great companion library for orchestral or cinematic composers. Similarly, you might like it if you enjoy creating experimental and strange music.
16. XPERIMENTA Minima (Guitars, Pianos Glass Hit, Carillon, Pads)
Create complete minimal, ambient tracks using this collection of instruments.
Minima is a library that includes fourteen natural and synthetic instruments. Xperimenta has recorded and designed each instrument to sound as smooth and soft as possible. Furthermore, the minimal user interface reflects the library’s name with only one knob dedicated to adjusting the FX amount.
The library offers crucial instruments required for ambient-style music. These include piano, carillon, glass, glockenspiel, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonics, five synth pads, whale (synth), and distort (distorted synth). Load these instruments, add bass and drums, and you’ll have a complete template for pop, New Age, chill, ambient, etc.
You’ll only find one knob on the library’s user interface: the FX knob. This knob controls various effect parameters under the hood, and the exact effects defer based on the instrument you have loaded. For example, the electric guitar instrument primarily has delay linked to the knob, whereas the harmonics instrument adds reverb with the FX knob.
Minima is available for Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Despite not being the most customizable library, Minima genuinely sounds excellent. I love its glockenspiel most of all, and the other instruments like the harmonics, pads, whale synth, etc., also come into use once in a while. So, if you make scores, ambient music, or other soft music, Minima is indispensable.
17. Alpine Project Triple Pack (Brass, Strings & Woodwinds)
This library is proof of how important scripting is to creating a realistic virtual instrument.
Alpine Project uses public domain orchestral samples to create a set of excellent orchestral solo instruments. However, the main difference from many other similar libraries is that Alpine Project uses complex scripting and balancing. So, it provides scripted legato in all of its instruments. Hence, these solo instruments are excellent companions for other free ensemble libraries.
Of course, the scripted legato is the most important feature of this library. You can enable or disable legato using a key switch. Similarly, you can change the transition length using the velocity of the target note. Furthermore, if you want to avoid a legato transition, avoid overlapping the notes.
You can change how hard or soft the instruments are playing using the modulation wheel (CC1). Some of the instruments feature true dynamic layers, whereas others use filters and scripting to generate faux dynamism. Either way, manipulating the dynamics is key to ensuring your performances sound as natural as possible.
Many of the instruments provide multiple articulation patches. You can use these to add variations and authenticity. For example, the violin features long (sustain/legato), tremolo, staccato, pizzicato, etc.
Alpine Project is available for Kontakt 6 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
It’s difficult finding usable orchestral instruments when you’re on a low budget. So, Alpine Project is undoubtedly one of the best free orchestral libraries available today. It provides multiple articulations, dynamics control, and scripted legato. And if you need an ensemble library to combine with Alpine Project, I recommend checking out Orchestral Tools Layers, Spitfire BBCSO Discover, and ProjectSam: The Free Orchestra.
18. KLANG The Free Instrument Series (Various Instruments)
Explore the eccentric with KLANG’s unusual approach to sampling and sound designing.
Unlike many libraries that attempt to recreate some natural instruments, KLANG instruments go the opposite route. They use unusual recording techniques and unconventional effect plugins to produce bizarre and sometimes beautiful sounds. Hence, the instruments are quite handy for score composers and ambient music producers.
Each instrument in the KLANG series features only three knobs dedicated to sound design. Depending on the instrument you’re using, these can include a release knob, distortion, filter, additional texture, etc. For example, the beautiful prepared-piano library called Alto Glockenspiel features a drive, destroy, and filter frequency knob.
Each KLANG instrument provides a delay and a reverb. The reverb types include room, chamber, church, plate, rich, algorithm, space, infinite, and deep valley. Furthermore, you’ll find two more effects at the bottom left (under the Master label), which often include a modulation effect.
Amore Grand Piano is available for Kontakt 5.6.8 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
KLANG is labeled a tiny instrument series, and it’s very appropriate. Most of the instruments in this series are unique and serve a very specific purpose. So, they may be super handy if you find the exact thing you’re looking for, or they may just be utterly useless. And that unpredictability is what makes these instruments some of the most exciting on the free market. And if you happen to like these, you can also buy a pack of fifty-three KLANG instruments for Kontakt here.
19. Precisionsound Amore Grand Piano (Piano)
Amore is a standard grand piano library fitting for pop, hip-hop, and similar genres.
PrecisionSound’s Amore grand piano prioritizes resource-saving and being straightforward. So, instead of using multiple dynamic layers, the library uses a single sample per note with faux dynamism created by using a low-pass filter. It’s a super minimalistic way of faking multiple sampling, and it works for backing pianos. Hence, if you don’t want to load gigabytes of samples for playing a few chords in a busy mix, Amore is the perfect fit.
Amore allows you to add a convolution reverb with various impulse responses, including halls, rooms, stage, plate, etc. Similarly, you can add a simple delay. And if you need to sculpt the sound a little, a three-band EQ is available on the main page.
- Velocity Response
The library allows you to write a custom velocity curve or use the Response Type and Shape parameters to create and tilt various curve shapes. This feature lets you adjust the library’s velocity sensitivity to match your MIDI clips or keyboard.
Amore Grand Piano is available for Kontakt 3 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
Amore offers an intimate recording of a Yamaha grand piano. It keeps the size small, making the library ideal as a backing instrument. I wouldn’t recommend it for playing solos, but it’s excellent if you intend to add plenty of effects like Lo-Fi plugins for hip-hop.
20. Impact Soundworks The Stroh Violin (Violin 3)
Continuing the unusual instruments on this list is the Stroh violin, a variation on the traditional violin.
The most recognizable feature of a Stroh violin is the resonating metal body and horn, which makes the instrument self-amplified. It produces a much louder and brighter sound compared to a classical violin. Furthermore, it’s beloved for folk music and street performances, where self-amplification is a desirable feature.
The library features three articulations: legato, spiccato, and pizzicato. Furthermore, you can select the key switch you want for each articulation. And the library provides scripted legato to make note transitions smooth and flowing, which is important for playing solos.
- Rhythmic Engine
The Stroh Violin employs a rhythm engine with three layers: note dynamics, length, and attack offset. You can use these to create pulsing, gated sounds with the sustain patch or ostinato patterns with the spiccato and pizzicato patches.
The library offers various effects to customize the sound. These include dirt blend, vinyl effect, distortion, sample offset (start point), and reverb with multiple impulse responses.
The Stroh Violin is available for Kontakt 5.4 or higher (NOT the free Kontakt Player).
The Stroh Violin is a unique instrument that I have yet to find in any other mainstream sample library. It’s frankly generous of Impact Soundworks to provide this library for free. Furthermore, the library features three dynamic layers with up to five round robins. So, the instrument is fairly usable, even for solo performances.
There are more free sample libraries nowadays than ever, and it has become more and more difficult to find the ones you need. I hope this article provided you with a list of possibilities you wish to try. Note that most of these require you to purchase the full version of Kontakt. However, like the Klang and Decent Sampling instruments, some of them offer their libraries in other formats like SFZ or Ableton Sampler. SFZ is free to use, while Ableton Sampler comes with the Ableton Live DAW. So, you should check those out if you don’t own Kontakt.
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design:
K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.