Software Instruments (VST)
I’ve got too many software instruments to even remember at this point, as I’m a bit of a plugin junkie, but here is a list of the notable ones that I use most often (in no particular order).
- Native Instruments Komplete 8 Ultimate – This is a bundle of pretty much everything they make, delivered to me on a hard drive since there is so much content! I’ve been using Native Instruments software since their very first release. Gotta love them! So many cool instruments and sound libraries with this… simply WAY too much to list them all individually. But, Kontakt is my go to sampler these days, and I love the great piano libraries. Razor (for Reaktor) and Massive are both very cool synths. The Funk Guitarist library and instrument for Kontakt is tons of fun to play as well!
- Spectrasonics Stylus RMX, Omnisphere & Atmosphere – I started with some sample collections on disc from them (Vocal Planet being one of my favorites), then got Atmosphere, Stylus RMX, and eventually Omnisphere. This company is all about a great collection of killer sounds! Omnisphere is now one of my favorite software synths.
- XLN Audio Addictive Drums – I’ve always been a huge proponent of hiring real drummers when I wanted a real drum sound, or at least using really good live acoustic drum loop collections (many of which I produced myself for Big Fish Audio). However, this software instrument has changed the way I work. Great drum kit sounds with lots of adjustable parameters to dial in pretty much any sound you like, plus a really nice collection of MIDI drum patterns that you can easily modify by simply dragging them out to a MIDI track in your DAW. For those times when I couldn’t afford to bring in my professional drummer friends, this software is the next best thing! And, now I often lay out a guide drum track using Addictive Drums to give the real drummers I bring in later a better idea of what I’m going for.
- East West Symphonic Orchestras – I’ve been using the Gold & Silver additions of this great orchestral sample library since it was first released using a custom Native Instruments Kontakt Player as the interface. I was a bit disappointed with their early versions of their own Play software when they switched to that, but the newer version of Play seems to have worked out all the issues I used to have and is a very nice interface. But, I use it for the sounds and not the interface. When I need real orchestral sounds, this is what I turn to.
- GForce Minimonsta & ImpOSCar – I’ve got the four VST collection from GForce, which also includes Oddity and M-Tron, but it’s Minimonsta & ImpOSCar that I used the most often. I actually just updated to the newer ImpOSCar2, but haven’t had much chance to play around with it yet.
- MusicLab RealGuitar, RealStrat & RealLPC – I can play a few chords on a guitar, but not well enough to even try recording myself. These may not be exactly the most realistic guitar sounds from a plugin, but they are the easiest to get a rough guitar part going quickly. I’ve got better sounding guitar libraries (such as the Vir2 Electri6ity), but for laying down a guide track quickly, the MusicLab Real series wins. The sounds are certainly good enough for power chords and background rhythm tracks (especially when run through a good amp sim), and I’m sure if I was better at playing and programming, I could make all of them sound very convincing.
- ImageLine Sawer, Toxic Biohazard & Sytrus – Yes… the same company that makes FL Studio has some pretty cool synths that work in other software as VST plugins. Sawer is my favorite of the bunch, but I like to mess around with Toxic Biohazard for cool starting ideas as well. Sytrus gets pulled out on occasion as well.
- Rob Papen Predator – Rob makes great sounding synths and effects. This is a really nice, analog styled software synth that I really enjoy working with! I also use it as an effect to process other tracks.
- AAS Ultra Analog & Lounge Lizard – Ultra Analog is a very straight ahead analog type synth that’s quick and easy to use when you need some basic analog style synth sounds. Lounge Lizard will cover any electric piano needs you may have with ease!
- Vir2 Electri6ity – I like the sounds in this guitar library, which works inside of Kontakt, but I’m still not very good with all the complex key switching for this one. I still use it, but not as often as I would if it were as easy to use as the MusicLab series of guitar products. If I have to break open a manual to figure things out, then I think it’s just not a great design. Granted, this is a VERY powerful instrument, and it needs to be complex in order to give you all the variations it supplies, but I find I’m always fighting to get it to work the way I want.
- Camel Audio Alchemy – A sampling instrument with many more synth type features. Great sound library and lots of flexibility for shaping sounds in real time.