The VST (Virtual Studio Technology) world can be a scary place.
It’s similar to how a vacuum cleaner works. There’s a lot of loud noise and bells and whistles, but if you get too caught up in it, you’ll get dragged in and never come out.
Okay, so you may think that was the worst comparison I’ve ever made, but it’s technically correct. Spending a few hundred dollars on VSTs in the hopes of having your songs sound like they were recorded at Abbey Road studios is an intriguing concept.
Notes on Music
This is, to be clear, what makes virtual software so hazardous. You may spend an unlimited amount of money and yet see no progress in the quality of your music.
You’re simply throwing your money down the drain if you don’t know how to mix, record, or create songs, even on a basic level (see, I told you it makes sense).
But, hey, that’s why I’m here, right?
I don’t claim to be a professional music engineer. I’ve never studied it in school.
If I showed up to a professional studio, I’m sure the large, burly security officers would be sent to remove me from the premises for attempting to create the world’s next huge pop song.
But I’ve worked on enough of my own and others’ songs, seen enough YouTube videos, and read enough books to feel confident in my ability to become passionate about my next piece of software.
Note: We’ll be focusing on the greatest VST effects in this post (VSTfx). Check out our in-depth Virtual Instruments Guide if you want to learn more about virtual instruments (VSTi).
While a few online articles won’t turn you into Rick Rubin, by the conclusion of this writing series, you should have enough of a foundation to get your ‘VST licence,’ the musical equivalent of a pen licence.
I understand your point of view. ‘Yes, Ben, you’ve informed us.’ We must trial before we purchase. Before making a purchase, we must consider the pros and cons. Stop lecturing us and just go to work! ’
Okay, that’s OK. Let’s get this party started.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A VISUAL STUDIO TEMPLATE (VST)?
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Recording
A virtual ‘plugin’ is a programme that generates or manipulates audio in some way. These are often found in digital audio workstations (DAWs) such as FL Studio, GarageBand, Pro Tools, and others, but they may also be found in video editing software such as Sony Vegas.
They’re usually.VST files that may be found online in the form of packages. They are typically rather simple to instal once downloaded, needing nothing more than dragging and dropping into a previously chosen location. Isn’t it simple?
Although the terms ‘effect’ and ‘plugin’ are sometimes used interchangeably, a VST differs from stock effects in that it is produced by a third party rather than the DAW creator.
However, for all intents and purposes, they are the same thing.
VST plugins are divided into three categories:
Outcomes (the focus of this article). Rather than being the source of the audio, these modify, alter, and manipulate pre-existing sounds. Unlike VSTi, which is almost always a MIDI track, VSTfx can be used on any type of track in a DAW.
Everything from the aforementioned “five vital effects” through spectrums, frequency analyzers, tape emulators, and so on is included.
THE INTERESTING STUFF
Guitar with a Crocodile on it
It can be exciting to look for VSTs. The possibilities are unlimited, whether it’s sifting through sale after sale, following your favourite company through every new release, or discovering an obscure $20 piece of software that turns all of your piano records into harmonies of a cat meowing.
In this article, I’ll do my best to keep it neat by examining the five most common types of VST effects used in music design, creation, and mixing.
That said, I’ve set aside room in an article (one of the VSTi ones) to talk about some of the more bizarre VSTs. Sorry for the inconvenience. I couldn’t help myself.
THESE ARE THE 5 INTERNATIONAL VST EFFECTS FOR ANY HOME STUDIO.
If you’ve read the first piece in this series — and I’ll make it clear that you won’t be able to pass my so-called “course” unless you’ve done so! — You probably already know this, but here’s a quick rundown of the most common VSTfx you’ll find in your DAW’s mixing tools.
Audio Effects Mixing
Compression is the compression of anything.
Saturation is the state of being completely saturated.
These five effects may be found in almost every song ever released, from lo-fi black metal to 80s synthpop (and often many more).
They’re vital for creating a sound, whether you’re using them to ‘clean up a mix’ or to develop and create a unique sonic brand for your music.
However, don’t make your brand synonymous with “throw a bucket of reverb on everything!” We’ve had our fill of them. Tame Impala, I’m talking to you.
ADDITIONAL BITES AND PIECES
You’re almost done with my class now that we’ve learned about the various sorts of VST plugins and their uses. HOLD IT, I almost said. We haven’t finished yet.
What is the best way to combine VSTs?
Okay, but how do I go about installing VSTs?
Software vs. Hardware
Presets are a great way to get started.
ALWAYS MOVING IN THE SAME DIRECTION
Hurrah! The theoretical portion of the composition has been completed. Hopefully you’ve learnt a lot – I tried to keep it short (HA!) but comprehensive, which I’m now realising is an oxymoron for a reason. Anyway…
You’re getting closer to getting your VST licence — the piece of paper you can print off, frame, and hang over your home studio as a reminder that Ben from PianoDreamers, who never studied mixing, VSTs, or became a professional producer, let you download and use VSTs.
License for VST
Isn’t this exciting? I think it would be remiss of me not to inform you where you can find VSTs now that you know what they are.
Although the list below is far from comprehensive, many of these concepts will have been used in productions ranging from Derek’s SoundCloud rap with 10 listens to, well, I don’t know. Name a song that was released before to 2010.
That’s the one.
VST PLUGINS WITH THE BEST EFFECTS
Before we get started, keep in mind that most VSTs come in a ‘pack,’ which frequently provides significantly more value than purchasing each plugin alone. While the focus of this part will be on VSTs in isolation, I will make sure to highlight the whole package from which they come if necessary.
Also, keep in mind. Your studio’s centrepiece is your music, flair, and imagination, and no number of VSTfx can replace passion.
VST Plugins from the Store
Almost every DAW comes with a set of ‘stock plugins,’ which are VSTs that are native (included) to the application. Some come with more features than others; see my article on DAWs for a more detailed look at what the most popular applications include.
I’m not going to argue about which stock plugins are better than others – it’s a pointless exercise, and to be honest, I haven’t tested every DAW from a mixing standpoint, so it would be dishonest of me to remark on that.
However, I believe that a very essential point to make, if not a glamorous one, is that stock plugins are typically very, very solid operators.
Stock EQs, compressors, reverbs, delays, and saturators may undoubtedly be used to create a passable mix.
It could be a better idea to put off the intriguing, but ultimately distracting, various alternatives available on alternative plugins for later and become well-acquainted with your DAW’s vanilla plugins, especially when you begin to dip your toes in the wide, terrifying world of VSTs.
They’re typically “no-frills” audio components that have all the necessities you need to make a great-sounding beat without drowning you in the ludicrous (and tantalising) details that fancier and more expensive plugins brazenly flaunt.
My weapon of choice (Ableton) has a variety of easy-to-use EQs and compressors that I like to use over some of the more complex, hardware-modeled choices I have.
Audio Effects in Hardware
I realise that in most cases, the more expensive alternative is preferable, but each situation is unique. Because of my comfort level and the enticing simplicity of a handful of Ableton’s built-in plugins, they get significantly more use than some of the more frillier alternatives in my VST library.
What is the main point I’m attempting to make?
Stock VSTs aren’t to be overlooked. Spend that money on anything else if a free plugin accomplishes the same functions as a $100 plugin.
Meow Synth is a good example.
GET IT FOR FREE
There are numerous free plugins available. Trawling sites like KVR and Plugin Boutique, picking out random enticing software like apples from a tree, can quickly fill your VST reservoir.
This is a lot of fun, but it might end up filling up your DAW’s library with useless apps and effects that sound (get it? because they’re audio effects?) fantastic in principle but are available for free for a reason.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll only go over 5 free VSTs in depth, one for each of the essential mixing elements I discussed in prior posts. Having said that, I’ll suggest a few other options that are well worth your attention.
What about a broad overview of free VSTs in general, encompassing instruments, synths, and other strange effects? That is the subject of a separate article. I know it’s exciting, but it’s probably best if you quit drooling over the thought.
This list will not cover one-time cheap VSTs, but keep a watch out for them because developers will periodically release their work for free in the wild.
MELDA’S MEQUALIZER (EQ)
MEqualizer EQ Melda Melda Melda Melda Melda Melda
THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE
Melda is one of the more well-known VST developers, offering a near-infinite number of free plugins, the majority of which are of exceptionally good quality. The MEqualizer isn’t any different.