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vst instruments?

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Very easy to use, especially some of the lighter ones that consist of just a .dll file. That one is heavy on the processer i think so as long as uve got a hefty computer you should be able to do loads with it. I think its also one of those you need to install as a program before you can rewire it through whatever software you use. This makes it a bit more complicated but generally more powerful.

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I use VST instruments. They are generally not as straight forward or 'plug and play' like a hardware keyboard is but they are usually a lot more flexible. I wouldn't recommend starting with them if you simply want to learn how to play keyboards but for production or to supplement an existing sound set they may make sense.

Some of the VST instruments I've used have been relatively easy to use but most of them tend to be very complex and there's a large learning curve attached.

I've never used Steinberg Hallion Orchestra but there are many options that do the same sort of thing, such as various packages by East West Samples and Garritan Personal Orchestra. The Native Instrument's Kontakt Full Sample Library isn't badly thought of by some people also.

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Piles of free ones out there for you to try your hand on before splashing the cash

Piles of free high quality orchestra samples? I'll believe it when I hear/see it. Some of these things are recorded using instruments worth 6 figure sums each and recording gear worth a similar value.

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Here are some orchestral samples. Free to download, they can be used with a vst sampler. The page has a nifty little search function but if you want to just get hoards of samples go: make music > samples > downloadable sound samples.

Philharmonia Orchestra: The Sound Exchange: Make Music: Samples: Sample Library

Here is a site with a bunch of different virtual instruments; brass, keys, strings, harmonica, sitar:

DSK Music Free Virtual instruments (vsti) and SoundFonts (sf2) Downloads

Should be able to make some reasonable, appropriate sounds out of all that. But remember, a sound will always be out of place if you just throw it into your tune as it comes. The trick is making it sit properly through studio effects and mixing. You could have the highest quality violin sample ever, but it still won't fit your song. Use your ears and have fun :p

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