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Top 5 Free VST Instruments

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Zebralette - U-he

This is a scaled back version of u-he’s popular Zebra synth, but it still offers a lot of versatility and a fantastic sound. You get your oscillators, ADSR controls, oscillators FX, LFOs, and a modulation FX section where you can add chorus and delay effects.

You also get this unique LFO in the bottom window with which you can expertly control your modulation. The preset section is comprehensive and makes it easy to quickly find great sounds. The plugin is versatile enough to create bass parts, pads, leads, rhythmic, FX, and other types of instrumentation.

Let’s listen to a track in which everything but the drums was created using Zebralette.

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Labs - Spitfire Audio

Labs by Spitfire audio is a collection of instruments - the controls are incredibly simple with volume and velocity sliders on the left, and a dial in the middle which includes various controls depending on the library you’re using. Labs is perfect of ambient, cinematic, rock, and singer-songwriter productions.

Currently, Spitfire offers 42 free libraries for their Labs project , but more are being added. I personally love the drum set, the pads are great for filling in a mix, as are some of the experimental options.

Lastly, the soft piano is a great choice when you’re writing, and you want an enjoyable but not overbearing instrument to lay down some chords.

Let’s listen to a production created using only Lab libraries.

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Amore Grand Piano - Precision Sound

Amore Grand Piano works with Native Instruments’ Kontakt plugin, and offers a warm sounding piano with a good deal of versatility. Within the plugin you can alter the envelope and tone, introduce reverb and delay with 9 different reverb types, and shape the velocity response, which comes in handy.

I don’t think this is a perfect instrument by any means, but it’s worth adding to your collection for its uniquely subdued sound. You can brighten it a little within the plugin, but it might be a good idea to use a high shelf filter to get a more balanced sound.

Let’s listen to a section of Clair de Lune using the Amore Grand Piano as the instrument.

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The Orchestra - The Alpine Project

The Orchestra really surprised me in that the quality for a free orchestra was a lot higher than I expected. It’s not a perfect or completely professional sounding sample pack but it does a lot better with complex arrangements than I expected, and with a little reverb it sounds great.

The pack offers everything you’d need including multiple violin, viola, cello, and bass sections, and well as brass and woodwind. At the moment there isn’t a percussion section, but Spitfire Labs does offer a free percussion sample pack - so the 2 go well together.

While we’re on the topic, Spitfire also makes a great free orchestral plugin which is worth checking out. You get multiple sections and playing styles which make the plugin incredibly versatile - the only issue is you have to wait about 2 weeks after you sign up, before you get the download link.

Let’s listen to a piece from the Nutcracker Ballet, using The Orchestra plugin for all of the melodic instruments, and Labs percussion samples for the occasion percussive hit.

Watch video example

Smashed Analog Kit - Noiiz

Last up we have another instrument that utilizes Kontakt - I couldn’t find the design or interface file for it, so unfortunately I’m stuck with this generic display; however, the sounds of this kit are fantastic. You get 4 different sample sets, include balanced, dirty or distorted, dry, and room.

By duplicating your track you can use these various styles and blend them using your faders. Since the set was recorded in a professional studio using a Neve console,I think they got some really fantastic sounding samples.

Additionally, the dirty option was created by driving the Neve’s preamps, no with a plugin or processor after the fact. This makes it a great option for analog distorted drums.

Watch video example

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