Making authentic VSTi of guitars is incredibly impossible. I’ve been fairly vocal about this in the past, and my opinion remains the same.
You can find effective virtual emulations of many guitars that may be used for a variety of creative purposes, but it’s a different storey finding anything that makes you sit back and go “wow” (however, has any software ever made you do that?)
I’m not sure why trumpets, flutes, and other ridiculously obscure instruments that no one in their right mind has ever heard of make for incredibly convincing VSTs, but guitars – one of the most popular instruments in modern music — are so far behind.
I believe it has to do with guitars’ distinct playing technique — the way they are plucked, strummed, or fingerpicked is unique to that class of instruments and has yet to be consistently recreated in the virtual realm.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “For an article about guitar VSTs, there’s a lot of anti-guitar VST emotion.” ‘Are you going to spend the entire time whining?’
You would know the answer is no if you simply LET ME FINISH. While I understand the challenges of reproducing the intricacies of guitar playing, it’s not like other instruments with better VST emulations don’t have similar playstyle nuances. That, combined with the fact that the overall quality of guitar VSTs has been continuously improving, meaning there is actually a lot to commend and talk about in a favourable perspective.
If you try to compose a complete song with sample libraries instead of real guitars, you can run into some audio difficulties, especially when strumming chords or controlling dynamics on an emotive solo.
There’s no reason why a VSTi for any sort of guitar (electric, acoustic, or bass) can’t be a helpful tool in your — I tried to think of another word but failed — toolbox if you chose to work hard to make the MIDI notation and articulation sophisticated with a specific purpose in mind.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GUITAR AND AMP VSTS?
While this appears to be a simple solution (one is a guitar, the other is an amp! ), a quick Google search reveals that this is not the case.
After sifting through the results of a Google search for “best guitar vsts,” it’s easy to forget you’re no longer in Kansas and end up with a bunch of pricey software.
Because the intricacies of guitars are historically difficult to master for digital playing, most producers avoid virtual guitars and offset a lack of equipment/space with a virtual amp, as I indicated before (you may have missed it; I only spent the entire introduction talking about it).
Guitar vs. Amplifier
The distinction between an amp simulator and a virtual guitar is in the sort of VST they are — guitar or amp simulator. VSTs are virtual instruments that generate sound using MIDI data from your DAW’s software that may be drawn manually or played with a suitable MIDI keyboard.
Amp VSTfxs, on the other hand, are used to change the sound and can only be added to a MIDI track’s plugin effects chain after a virtual instrument has been added (however on audio tracks, virtual amps can be placed anywhere on the signal chain to affect recordings from guitars, keyboards and even vocals).
Amp modelling is incredibly popular, well-known for its diversity (imagine any amp and pedal in existence at the click of a mouse), and routinely produces excellent audio results.
Because of their importance and prevalence, we’ve dedicated a whole article to them HERE.
Prepare to dig through a haystack of amp simulators and pedal libraries if you’re looking for that one good virtual guitar that’ll shake up your audio recordings.
SOME AMP SIMULATION IDEAS FOR USING NOT-SO-REALISTIC GUITAR VSTs
Amplification for guitars
The subject of the last paragraph is a wonderful segue into one of the finest ways to get the most out of your virtual guitar: pairing it with an amp.
Even if you’re merely utilising an acoustic guitar, adding a certain form of amplification, such as a Send/Return, can help bring its audio attributes closer to reality.
While precisely modelled VSTis provide some versatility in terms of changing tonal characteristics, they are ultimately limited by the amp used to capture the samples.
Combining a guitar and an amplifier (who’d have guessed it’s a match made in heaven!) allows for more flexibility in terms of the tone of the guitar you want to use in your recordings — it goes without saying that near endless amp simulators = near endless guitar sounds.
Blending the original amp sound (or lack thereof, in the case of most acoustic VSTis) with another is a possible technique to make most guitar software more viable in your songs.
ORCHESTRAL MUSIC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAL ORCHESTRAL ORCHESTRAL OR
Orchestral guitars are, unsurprisingly, the best guitar VSTs for cinematic/symphonic composition. These are usually acoustic and come as part of a bigger library or bundle that includes strings, horns, woodwinds, and other instruments.
The fact that there are usually a number of different textures and harmonies thickening the sonic sphere of the song means that the guitar won’t be in the foreground of the mix and can play more of a complimentary role is part of the greater application value of orchestral guitars.
Because this programme is frequently included as part of a larger collection of virtual instruments, the guitar tone will blend in nicely with the rest of the piece.
This implies that, while the guitar VST may sound unnatural and lifeless when used alone, it will be a match made in heaven when combined with a complete ‘orchestra’ (don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you didn’t play and record all 40 instruments in your song).
Music Texture as a TEXTURE/ATMOSPHERE
Though acoustic guitars can add a unique layer of instrumentation to your piece, this is primarily for electric guitar VSTs.
This programme may be a soldier for a variety of composition genres when combined with a decent reverb, saturation, or some analog-modeled EQ effects.
Full-bar chords in the background of a pop, rock, or indie song provide your music a distinct tone that’s different from what you’d get with a pad.
DELAYS! TAPES! HEAVY EFFECTS!) Yes!) single, long-held notes can give a breath of fresh air to your ambient, metal, or post-rock compositions, adding a fresh aspect to the song’s atmosphere that would otherwise be missed if you didn’t have a guitar (or the means to play it).
FOR SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS, SPECIFIC VSTis
Types of Guitars
There are many different sorts of instrument models to pick from in the realm of guitar software.
When it comes to sound design and the samples each product employs, it stands to reason that virtual instruments intended for a specific purpose will perform better than a “all-rounder.”
For example, an acoustic ‘strummer’ guitar would not be appropriate for a classical, fingerpicking folk composition, but it would be ideal as a background instrument in an alt rock song.
A leisurely, jazzy sunburst is unlikely to help a death metal tune, but it might help a dream pop band. It should also go without saying. To get the most accurate sound, use a bass VSTi.
Bass is a type of bass.
PROCESS AND ARTICULATE
You’re not giving yourself or the software a fighting chance if you buy a relatively expensive guitar VSTi, open it up, crank up the volume, play something ridiculous like Fur Elise on a midi keyboard, spout some onomatopoeia like “blergh” or “eugh” in disgust, close it, and complain about how bad the programme sounded.
I’ve harped on about how difficult it is to truly replicate the intrinsic ways a session, professional, or even amateur guitarist would play the guitar, so it stands to reason that if you don’t try to address this while experimenting with a plugin, it’ll sound as realistic as a parrot doing voiceovers for the next blockbuster movie — nothing more than a cheap imitation of Trail’s smooth, deep voice.
When you put in the time to master the keyswitches, different articulations, rhythms, and programming settings on any particular sample library, you’ll notice that many of the more advanced virtual guitars start to resemble something that’s not too unlike from the real thing.
Those inconsequential melodic qualities that go overlooked until they’re gone are essential for accurately replicating a guitar sound.
The unintentional ring and bleed of a note into the next, the faint scraping sound when you alter chord fingering, the slide from fret-to-fret — these are the sort of critical things you’re missing out on by not devoting yourself to studying the complexities of numerous guitar-modeled VSTis.
ANOTHER VST Plugin for Virtual Guitar
In the end, you’ll have a hard time finding software that both emulates the expression and playing style of a real guitar and records an actual musician.
While this is a principle that applies to almost every instrument in existence, it’s usual for producers to claim that VST guitars fall short in this department. To some extent, this is correct, however certain new sampling software and plugins are getting closer to the sweet spot.
My advice is to come up with a unique way to use them. Add more virtual amps and saturators to them, and utilise them in scenarios that will complement their distinct sound rather than exacerbate the brittleness and artificiality.
If you had an indie/alternative song with a genuine drumkit, bass, vocals, and acoustic guitars, adding a fake electric guitar to the mix at random would be blatantly obvious.
However, a lo-fi tune with a bitcru could be interesting.