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VST Audio Plugins: Create Music Without Instruments!

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Know How VST Audio Plugins Allow You to Make Music Without Instruments!
Now that you know how to set up a home studio and which Digital Audio Workstations to begin making music
with, we will now tell you how you can elevate this experience some more with an array of audio plugins.

Lets admit it, as kids, it was exhilarating to playing around with a myriad of presets and instrument voices on our
so-called CASIOS. Today, VST Audio Plugins have opened the door to a much wider range of possibilities in
terms of what one can do with instruments to improve the musicality of a musical composition.

Imagine not having to invest in instruments to create tracks! Gone are the days when youd spend weeks
contemplating over which guitar eects pedal to buy. Today you can have overdrive, distortion, and fuzz crunch,
all in one little VST eects plugin!

VSTs, or Virtual Studio Technology, are plugins for DAWs (Digital Work Stations) or other stand-alone hosts, that
allow you to add layers of instrument voices on top of your track and transform your bare vocals and acoustic
accompaniments into thriving pieces of music.

In more technical terms, VSTs are software interfaces that emulate the sonic properties of studio hardware and
help integrate the resulting synth-lines, sound eects, samplers, and the likes, to audio editing software and
recording systems. Their GUI is built complete with knobs and switches that give you a more or less realistic feel
of playing instruments in a studio.

VSTs can be of instruments (VSTi), eects, and MIDI eects types. There can be some other kinds too, like the
spectrum analyzers and meters.

VSTi typically come as synthesizers or samplers, the VST eects plugins help produce sound enhancements like
reverb and phase-outs (very popular in the 80s), and VST MIDI eects that help relay MIDI data to other virtual
instruments and can also transpose songs a key up or down.

These little workhorses come handy, not only to beginners, but also to professional sound engineers, as buying
all the instruments in a musical arrangement is not always part of every musician or sound engineers plan.
Besides, it anyway gets quite hard to nd people who can play rare instruments when recording tracks and
having such musicians play in your live band is asking for a lot.

But not to worry, today, there are thousands of VSTs (rare and popular sounds alike) available over the Internet,

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both as paid and free versions. We have listed some free ones available for downloads later in the article.

The rst ever VSTs to come into the market were those developed by Steinberg in 1996, and these were
released along with their DAW, called the Cubase. VSTs have since come along.

Steinberg VST for bass lines: Model E

How do you make audio plugins work?

VSTs, that have been integrated with DAWs, can be communicated with by hooking up your setup with a MIDI
instrument, such as, a MIDI keyboard or a digital piano (as explained here). This way, notes that you play on your
controller can be relayed to play these virtual instruments with ease.

Your host application (or DAW) is also capable of directing audio outputs from one VST to another, this process
in eect is known as chaining of audio plugins. For example, the output from a VST synth can be connected to
an eects VST that produces reverb (continuing reections of a note even after the sound from the source has
stopped).

How to Install VST Audio Plugins

You will need to rst download these plugins, the installer packages come with extensions like, PKG or EXE. For
most plugins, you will also need to unlock authorization codes and license les. VSTi and VST eects are the
most popular ones that are universally downloaded and integrated into DAWs/VST hosts. These come in raw
DLL (for Windows) and VST (for Mac) formats that need to be manually copied to the plugins folder.

Suppose you are working with Cockos REAPER DAW, you will rst need to set-up a directory like:
C:\Program Files\VSTPlugins

Plugins by default install into: C:\Program Files\Steinberg\VSTPlugins

Select this directory in Reaper under Options > Preferences > Plugins > VST
Navigate through the folder containing the new plugin and click on open
Click on Rescan, and REAPER will add this to its list of VSTs
Go the to Insert tab in the menu bar and click on the VST that was just installed
And you are good to go!

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VST Formats

To make things clearer, VST is basically a type of a format for audio plugins that has a cross-platform
compatibility and is still one of the most preferred formats used. (VST3 is the latest version.) AU, AAX, and RTAS
are some other plugin formats in use today.

VST plugins are written for either 32 or 64-bit systems, though, its best to upgrade to a 64-bit system as it can
support more number of plugins without much lag.

AU (Audio Units) audio plugins do not allow you to send MIDI outputs. Avids AAX format is found only in the
Avid Pro Tools software.

Itching to know how virtual instruments are created?

The preferred language for writing VST plugins is either C++ or Python. Its best to start out by learning your
basics, because lets face it, programming is hard. Consider enrolling in a programming class.

Developers will need Audio Plugin Frameworks for building audio plugins. We have listed some of the popular
ones used below:

JUCE: C++ class library


IPlug: A C++ framework that helps develop sound plugin and good quality GUIs
Cockos IPlug: A C++ framework that helps you target multiple plugin APIs with the same code
Yapsy: Helps design audio plugins in Python

Next, how should you record instrument sounds?

The sounds that come out of VSTs are recorded and processed to sound good in any genre of music (pop, rock,
and metal productions.) Analog signals from instruments are pre-processed with compressors and EQs to make
them a perfect t for any mix. These sounds are usually recorded either using microphones (especially for drum
kits) or audio interface for string instruments, pianos, etc.

Here we list some of the best freeware for audio plugins

For bass lines

Steinberg Model E
TAL Elek7ro
Plogue Sforzando TableWarp2

For drums

Mx Project T.Rex 606


Wavosaur DjinnDrum
Studio Linked Drum Pro
MT Power Drum Kit 2

Synths

Dexed FM Plugin Synth

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Audjoo Helix
Martinic Combo Model F

For eects (VST eects)

Valhalla Freq Echo


Audio Damage FuzzPlus3
Tritik Krush Bit Crusher
Mercuriall TSC Overdrive
Pecheng Tremolo

Go ahead and sample some of these and create your very rst track!

Want to learn how to make VSTs of your own, but have no prior experience in coding? Start by learning Python,
enroll into AcadGilds course today!

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