12 Free VST Plugins Every Musician Must Have
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Music production is now more accessible than ever before. Once an expensive hobby, free software like Audacity (along with powerful Audacity alternatives 6 Awesome Alternatives to Audacity for Recording & Editing Audio 6 Awesome Alternatives to Audacity for Recording & Editing Audio There's nothing wrong with Audacity, and we recommend giving it a try if you haven't yet. But alternatives do exist - here are some of the best ones we've found. Read More ) make it open to all. Some of the biggest tracks in the last few years have been made by bedroom producers using cheap equipment.

While most music software has its own built in instruments and effects, learning how to use external VST (Virtual Studio Technology) provides you with thousands of tools to take your sound to the next level. Many of these VST plugins are free, and they can make a free setup sound like a professional studio.

Today we’ll look at 12 of the best free VST plugins.

1. Piano One

Sound Magic’s Piano One is arguably the best free acoustic piano VST available. The samples come from a Yamaha C7 Grand piano, captured using Sound Magic’s own Hybrid Modeling Engine technology. The free version lacks features but makes up for it with its incredible sound.

Download: Piano One

2. TAL-NoiseMaker

TAL-Noisemaker is a fully featured synthesizer with three oscillators, along with an array of effects and options. It is as comfortable creating soft and lush pads as it is creating harsh EDM lead lines and even drums.

The synth panel is intuitive, easy to use, and there are an array of presets bundled with it to help you get started quickly.

Download: TAL-NoiseMaker

3. VK-1 Viking Synthesizer

The VK-1 Viking Synthesizer is a lovingly created emulation of an analog monophonic synthesizer. On top of three oscillators, two modulation channels, and an LFO, accurate transistor ladder filter emulation give this synthesizer an authentic sound that is hard to match.

VK-1 is a “pay what you want” product, and therefore technically available for free. At a time when Moog is releasing $30 iPad synthesizer apps Animoog: The $30 Moog Synthesizer You've Always Wanted Animoog: The $30 Moog Synthesizer You've Always Wanted The Moog name has been synonymous with quality, analogue synthesizers since the late 1960s. These items have always been prohibitively expensive for many, so now you can get Animoog for iPad instead. Read More , trusting the user with the price is a bold move.

Download: VK-1 Viking Synthesizer

4. Spitfire Audio: Labs

It’s impossible to feature a single instrument from Spitfire Audio’s Labs project. Each one is unique, ranging from overdriven cellos to high-quality live drums, to strings recorded on vintage mics from a professional ensemble.

They are all available as easy-to-use free VST plugins.

Download: Spitfire Audio: Labs

5. Guitar Rig 5 Player

Guitar Rig has been the go-to name in all things amp simulation and guitar FX emulation for years. Guitar Rig 5 Player edition brings some of the functionality of the full program to a free VST download.

While limited compared to the Pro version, the Native Instruments Factory Selection library makes a powerful tool for guitarists lacking in hardware. Even non-guitarists will find this plugin perfect for making screaming synths and dirty sounding drums.

Download: Guitar Rig 5 Player

6. CamelCrusher

The CamelCrusher plugin is known and loved by producers with good reason. A deceptively simple combination of distortion, compression, and filtering add up to some meaty results. Presets ranging from “Annihilate” to “Tube Warmth” give great options for radically changing your sound quickly.

Camel Audio stopped distributing CamelCrusher after Apple acquired them, but the original version of the plugin is still freely available from third party VST sites.

Download: CamelCrusher

7. TAL Reverb 4

Free, simple, and almost universally loved, the TAL Reverb 4 is a great free plugin to give your sound some space. Based on the classic sound of vintage reverb units, it is capable of a lot more than its simple interface suggests.

Download: TAL Reverb 4

8. Glitchmachines Hysteresis

Glitchmachines make VST plugins and packs for those who love modern, sci-fi sounds. Hysteresis is a delay unit with a difference. Its primary design is to take any input sound and morph it in a variety of crazy ways—often leaving sounding radically different to the source sound.

While this VST will primarily be of interest to electronic music producers, the plugin can also be tamed to give more standard delay effects too. As with all of Glitchmachines VSTs, things get really interesting when you spend a little time in their documentation learning superuser tricks.

Download: Glitchmachines Hysteresis

9. Glitch 1.3

Illformed (also known as DBlue) is a name many producers know well. The Glitch VST does precisely as its name suggests. It takes your sounds and glitches them in a variety of mind-melting ways. Sounds get reversed, reshuffled, bitcrushed, and repitched, along with many other controllable presets.

Glitch 2 is now available, though Illformed still offers Glitch 1.3 for free, bundled with the excellent Tape Stop, Crusher, and Stretch effects.

Download: Glitch 1.3

10. 4ormulator Vocoder Extreme

4ormulator Vocoder Extreme Free VST Plugin

Vocoders have gone from fringe devices used in experimental music to mainstream instruments used in hit songs. 4ormulator’s Vocoder Extreme allows users to emulate these sounds, along with some extra features you wouldn’t normally see on a free instrument.

By adding a variety of effects and resonators, the Vocoder Extreme can be used as an instrument in its own right. This is the perfect effect to learn the basics of vocoding, or, as 4ormulator say, create “…musical entropy generators, ambient chaos fields, or even resonant soup machines!”

Download: 4ormulator Vocoder Extreme

11. ReaPlugs

Reaplugs ReaJS JavaScript Plugin

Reaper is a fully fledged DAW, and one of the best alternatives to Garageband The 6 Best GarageBand Alternatives for Music Production on Windows The 6 Best GarageBand Alternatives for Music Production on Windows Here are the best alternatives to GarageBand, Apple's popular music production software, that you can run on your Windows PC. Read More .

What many people do not realize about Reaplugs (Reaper’s VST suite) is that they can use them with other programs. Reaplugs contains powerful compression and EQ tools, along with some unique ideas.

If you are already streaming your gaming sessions using OBS How To Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions Using Open Broadcaster Software How To Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions Using Open Broadcaster Software Live streams have become all the rage these days in the world of gaming, and with Open Broadcaster Software you can join in with your own streaming sessions for the world to watch. Read More , then you can use these plugins to improve your sound quality. On the other hand, if you are learning JavaScript Really Learn JavaScript with 5 Top Udemy Courses Really Learn JavaScript with 5 Top Udemy Courses JavaScript is the programming language of the web. If you have a reason to learn JavaScript, these five excellent courses from Udemy could be the place to begin your coding journey. Read More and looking for practice, then the ReaJS plugin allows you to create new sounds using code.

Download: ReaPlugs

12. MSI Stereo Buss

MSI Stereo Buss Mastering Plug-in

As the only purely mastering VST on this list, the MSI Stereo Buss is special. There are many free VST mastering plugins, modeling old analog sounds to give that final mesh and punch to tracks. The MSI Stereo Buss does it nicer than most.

Originally paid software, Minimal System Group re-released Stereo Buss as freeware in 2014, and it is still one of the best simple mastering tools out there.

Download: MSI Stereo Buss

Plugin and Play

Free VST plugins can completely change the way you create music. Almost all free music production software supports using them. This list should have helped you find new sounds to build tracks, or tools to make them sound better. There are however, many more out there waiting to be discovered.

Alternatively, if you are starting out with Ableton Live Ableton Live: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide Ableton Live: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide Ableton Live is a complicated piece of music software -- but with our beginner's tutorial, you'll be making and recording music in no time. Read More or another big name DAW, you’ll be glad to hear that these will work perfectly there too.

Explore more about: Music Production.

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