What libraries to get (for beginners)

So, I’m just getting into this. I’ve played music my entire life, but I’m just getting into the DAWS thing. I’m really wanting to make trailer type music, and also to build music around my piano songs (similar to Ludovico). However, I don’t have 5k to drop on all of these libraries. Does anyone have a good idea of where I should start? I’d ideally like to drop no more then 2k, and that’s MAX. I was thinking about starting with Albion, because they seem to have a great starting library for making epic cinematic trailers, and incorporate strings and all that jazz without having to drop 800 dollars on each library.

However, are there any other options? I will be getting a new computer pretty soon and I want to be ready to purchase everything I need as soon as I get it. Also, should I get the $99 cubase? Or should I just purchase the pro one? Or if I purchase the $99 one and begin to grow can I get the pro one for a discount? In addition, I don’t really know what the differences are between pro,artist, and elements…

Hi BeautifulNoise,

this is a vast chapter… :slight_smile:
If Cubase Elements will be enough for you or if Artist or Pro will be required depends very much on what your expectations are and also on the level you are. I have Pro and I could not do without it since I’m using features only available in Pro - but I’m a Cubase user for 25 years now.
For the feature differences, go to the Steinberg homepage. There is a comparison chart.

As a beginer I would not invest in Pro yet. Elements comes with a library of sounds (With Halion Sonic SE and Groove Agent - both Sample players). Recording with a DAW and using VST instruments is somewhat different from recording with a tape machine or a digital multi track recorder. You will need a decent audio interface with low ASIO latency driver. Here I would suggest, you contact your local dealer and check what is best suited for you (how many physical I/Os, what microphone or instruments, MIDI etc.). This will cost you starting at $ 200.00. Don’t buy too cheap. Make sure it has direct audio. Never use the computers internal sound chip. Latency is too big and audio quality is to poor).

By the way - there is demo versions available for Cubase Pro that runs for 30 days. You will need to buy the USB-License-Key. I think Elements runs with a sonft license too but I strongly recomend you buy the USB-dongle. If your PC fails, you can easily move the dongle to a new or other machine and continue with your work.

As soon as you are familiar with the DAW and VST instrument concept, you can start scaling up and purchase more customised libraries. There are several companies that supply free sample players and free libraries (Native Insstruments - Kontakt Sampler). On the internet you can search for free VST instruments and libraries. Otherwise you might spend a fortune on stuff that might quickly frustrate you.

I just checked about Albion libraries : Looks like you will need the Native Instruments Kontakt sampler for it. Check if it runs with the Kontakt Free Player or if it requires the full (not free) Kontakt software and which version.

Best regards


I would start by buying Native Instruments Komplete 10 Ultimate. It’s a huge package and although the Orchestral stuff is limited, you certainly need to buy Kontakt 5 (which is part of Komplete) to use most high end libraries. It’s so worth the Money. Once you have that, look into a decent string library. 8Dio Adagio Strings are incredible. Spitfire libraries are incredible. I am slowly building up with libraries but I do a lot of research before paying out as this is a very expensive game. Honestly, check out Komplete. Has some great plugins, instruments, drum kits, synths, limited orchestral stuff, a few usable Pianos (8Dio Pianos are also great as is Steinberg The Grand 3). There’s so much that I’m still struggling to get through all of it!

+1 for Komplete 10 Ultimate.
It has everything a beginner/intermediate may need in any genre both instruments and fx. Only the orchestral stuff is not so strong there. But you have that second $k for that. And you may probably start using Kontakt’s strings/brass to develop some understanding of what you need from an orchestral library - then try the 8Dio, Cinematic Strings, EastWest, Spitfire and see what you like.
Plus you get a full license of Kontakt, which opens the world of free stuff. Lots of great free stuff out there.

Yea, currently I use Kontakt free player. I use Cubase Element Daw currently , isn’t that all I would need to utilize libraries? Yes, this is a very expensive game lol. I’ve been doing a lot of research and putting a data base together of things that I would like, and hell yea, it’s a lot of money. I do like the idea of getting Kontakt’s 10 Ultimate. Albian has some really cool libraries too. I plan to purchase the Akai professional MPk mini mike 25 key ultra portable USB midi keyboard when I get my new computer. I already have a digital piano that seems to work fine for most things. But I see that buying Complete ultimate 10(<—god that’s annoying that they autocorrect that, so I’ll leave it and you get the point) would save me a small fortune, because it includes action strings, rise and hit, and so on.

Also, when purchasing my computer, should I get a flash hard drive or a go with HDD? I notice that the flash drives only got up to about 500g give or take 20g’s. While HDD non flash go up to 750g, and I know these programs can really load your HD with g’s. It just seems like the flash drives are much more efficient. Plan on buying the best Mac they got at this point in time.

Thanks so much for al the help guys!

I’m not exactly sure which direction I want to go or what kind of music I want. But kontakt seems to have a pretty large array of stuff in their ultimate 10 package that would really let me spread my wings and just fly, and see where I end up.

Any other tips are welcomed!

You won’t be able to use many top end libraries without Kontakt 5 and that is £349 by its self So hopefully you can see why Komplete 10 Ultimate for £849 is so worth the money (if you don’t already own any NI stuff). I read that the whole package bought separately would be around £5k.

I am currently running most of my sample libraries of an external USB3 hd (and they load perfectly fine) but do plan on getting a couple of SSDs as I have installed The Grand 3 Piano collection onto an SSD and the Pianos do load in around 3 seconds which is amazing. Their only downside is that they are expensive.

Also, perhaps hold off on a Keyboard controller for a while? native Instruments have recently released their Kontrol S Keyboards and they are due for an update this month which will make them brilliantly useful for writing and composing. There are many choices out there but most of them feel like utter garbage!

It’s a great time to be alive for Music Technology. There’s just too much choice.

Jono, I see your point when it comes to the controller. I may even go ahead and get the controller with 10 ultimate (since the keyboard would be 50% off, not sure if this will still hold for the newest update but I’m hoping it will). So you bought an external for all of your libraries? That’s actually a pretty good idea, that way they don’t take up all the room on my computer and if something happens to my computer I don’t lose all of my libraries. I’m not going to be getting another computer for at least a month (maybe more). I’m just in the planning stage right now at this point so that when I do get it, I know exactly what I want/need to get.

Also, I plan on getting a MacBook. Because I want to be able to work on stuff wherever I am. Does anyone suggest a pc desktop or otherwise? I mean, the best MacBooks they got now (which is what I plan to get) are pretty damn fast and I can’t imagine that I will need to upgrade anytime soon (like 4 or 5 years), and if I can’t upgrade in that time then I can just keep doing what I’m doing without adding anything else that would be more demanding than my current setup once I get it. I’m very excited. And yes I can completely see the value in the Kontakt 10 ultimate since you pretty much get 7k worth of stuff and the kontakt 5 player since the free one doesn’t have the capability to run high end libraries.

The computer discussion is a whole different discussion to “what libraries to get for beginners?”

The one thing that is you main friend when using libraries is RAM. You want as much as possible. A Mac Book Pro only allows 16gb RAM so it is therefore a wise choice to buy a desktop PC (or Mac - whatever works). I thought putting 16gb of RAM in my PC was a lot when I built it 3 years a ago. Now I can use all 16gb on a small string template.

You can buy a piece of software called Vienna Ensemble Pro 5 (VEPro 5) and this allows you to have your main computer to run your DAW and then connect multiple slave computers to run all your instruments, plugins, effects, etc and it uses all the slave computer’s RAM, CPU, and hard drives. You could for example, have a Mac Book Pro with 16gb of RAM as your master computer and have a desktop PC with 64gb of RAM. Anyway, this is way too advanced just for a beginner and so expensive and you will no doubt need Cubase Pro 8. To be honest, you should just buy Cubase Pro 8 anyway if you are planning on buying and getting into the World of sample libraries. Hope some of this helps!

Hi, another vote vor Komplete 10 Ultimate. especially if you want to touch various Musical Genres. It is definitely worth the Money.

Cheers, Ernst

Concerning the Controller question: The NI gear is of course well suited for Komplete . On the other Hand the devices have ridiculous costs. There are other Options around - and again it all depends what you are looking for. If you are also planning to “Play the piano” while recording, I would strongly advise you to get a decent 88 keys master Keyboard with a weighted Keyboard.

The Computer Thing: I have installed Windows and cubase on an ssd and all the Sound libraries on an extra ssd. This is only to a degree because of Performance (a normal HDD would do) but mainly for the noise reduction. My DAW has a fanless power supply, fanless graphics Cards (Matrox for multi-Monitor out) and now also no hdd anymore. The CPU is cooled by a very big cooler with a very slowly rotating silent big fan.

I prefer to NOT hear the DAW when recording, mixing…

^ Yep.

The Native Instrument Kontrol Keyboards at the moment only really work well with Komplete. This is why I have said to possibly wait because the 1.1 Update is coming out and allows the thing to work with all 3rd Party stuff (amongst loads of other features that should have been with it to begin with). NI have also said they are releasing a new addition to the current line up which is basically going to be an 88 note (or 76 note) fully weighted Controller which is obviously the one to get (if you wanted an NI Keyboard). They integrate with NI stuff incredibly well, which if one has Komplete, then that’s kind of the point in buying one haha!

Of course there is a lot of choice out there and this is down to personal preference. Ideally, one should have a fully weighted Keyboard controller (check out the Doepfer LMK4+ - expensive but amazing) and a synth Action Keyboard.

Like zibin888 said "This is a vast chapter! haha! Exciting though. Get yourself a decent Keyboard controller. Cheap one’s play horribly and you won’t regret it!

Komplete Ultimate costs a fair bit of money (€999). Nevertheless it’s an excellent value for money. However, because BeautifulNoise is operating on a budget and according to what he wants to achieve, he may not need most of the instruments and libraries included. In his case, I would recommend buying Kontakt only (€399) and the use the rest of the money for good quality libraries.

Advising on which libraries to buy is impossible, as it is mostly up to personal taste. Visit the major vendors’ sites. They all have audio demos (and some times videos) that you can check out. Symphobia and Cinesamples are both major names when it comes to orchestral libraries (then there are some, such as VSL and Garritan that does not use Kontakt but proprietary players).

While you’re at it, look (in the System Requirements) whether the libraries you are interested in requires the full Kontakt program or if they can be used with the free Kontakt Player. There’s lots of money to be saved here.

The important thing is; don’t by a library because someone else tells you to. Do the legwork, so you can make informed decisions and buy libraries that suits you. After all it’s you who’s gonna live and work with it, isn’t it?

Aw thanks guys! Yea, I’m checking out all my different options. I’m definitely doing legwork to find out what it is that I really DO need. However, I do feel I would use a lot of the different styles that 10 ultimate offers. Because my initial interest was for piano/orchestra type of stuff, but I also like electronic music…As for my keyboard, right now I have a Yamaha P-85. But I really like the thought of having sliders so I can add a more human element into the mixes. Maybe there is a way to do it in Cubase, my computer sucks so bad I haven’t really been able to get down to the nitty gritty and explore everything. I’ve just been able to play very basic piano parts before it just stops making sound and then plays all the sound at once.

When it comes to my computer, I will make a completely new thread in regards to that. I will definitely take all of the opinions shared here into consideration. I’ve contacted both Kontakt and Native-instruments to see if they offer any educational discounts since I’m also a student. I guess my bigger concern is now my computer, since I thought 16gb of ram would be enough! So I’ll start that thread now.

EWQL orchestral libraries are top notch and look to be within your budget. From there you could grab a dedicated piano VSTi, and there are a great many options to choose from. Although, I don’t think The Grand 3 would be your best bet.

I currently have Alicia Keys VST, and it’s decent enough to inspire me, which at this point I’m grateful for. I really want to be able to get other things that will build a solid and full sound, without restricting me to strictly “orchestra” instruments. That’s why I was thinking the complete 10 or albion.

But I have heard that their libraries are pretty much top of the line, but at the same time I’m not making movie scores yet lol. So I just need them to be inspiring more than anything and don’t hamper my creativity by lacking things like staccato, legato, and the such. I’ve been using the strings that came with the trial of Cubase 8 elements, and well. I just can’t manipulate them the way I need to. I’ve tried doing legato and all that and it just sounds, lets say, not too good. lol

Alicia Keys is a perfectly good piano VST, and from what I’ve heard its malleable enough to fit in most any production you wish to use it in. Unless you plan on doing solo piano, there’s really no reason to upgrade that, so long as the piano is sitting in a mix.

Trying to find a VST instrument that facilitates creativity, for most of us, is kind of counter-intuitive. Because I know I get at my most creative in front of a real instrument or at least a well crafted workstation keyboard. I’m guessing you are looking for a streamlined user interface and variety of samples, in which case I would definitely say NI Komplete is looking to be the ideal option. And usually the bundled strings with Cubase aren’t the best, as you seem to be finding out.

  • 1 for NI Complete 10 ultimate. They make amazing products…

I purchased The Grand when Steinberg had a sale, sign up to their newsletter and their offers, anyway compared to Kontakt libraries, I think it is superior (+3xpedal controllers & repedalling, Kontakt + Best Service Ivory has half-pedalling and for lots more cash, but not better sound). Hope this helps.

Yea, the strings in Cubase (trial version) just are blah. They are really only good for making very basic melodies, try to do something complicated and it just sounds like dirt…Yea, I’m satisfied with the Alicia’s Keys piano VST. It sounds 100x better than my standard keyboard sound…