Virtual Instruments

Hi guys,

Just wanted to open a discussion about virtual instruments. What do you guys use? Paid, free or combination of both? I use Reaper as my main DAW.

I've come across a lot of great free effects plugins and synths, but as far as real instruments, it seems like I'll need to spend some cash to get something that sounds nice. Any recommendations? I'm at the point where I feel like I have plenty of synth and effects to tinker with but having a good package of real instrument plugins would push my compositions to the next level.

I also want to start utilizing samples. What sampler do you guys use and any good sources for samples would be greatly appreciated.


  • Hey @shoouhboo, it's a fairly old thread at this point but we did start building up a 'getting started' resource list of virtual instruments, sfx, samplers etc. which you can find HERE

    To answer your question about samplers for realistic sample libraries, the best I can recommend is Kontakt from Native Instruments, which I think should work with Reaper but not sure (personally use Ableton). Maybe test it with the free Kontakt 5 Player demo

    Also recommend subscribing to the newsletters of the big guys like Native Instruments, 8Dio, Soundiron etc. as they often have big sales on which makes certain libraries much more accessible. 8Dio is actually running some really good deals (up to 70% off) at the moment
    Thanked by 1Mexicanopiumdog
  • @shoouhboo, Reaper comes with it's own sampler ReaSamplOmatic 5000 - simply load samples in to that, tweak and you're set. There are plenty of other tutorial videos with people whose voices are less soporific.
    And, there are plenty of sites providing free samples (of varying quality). Philharmonia is quite comprehensive for orchestral sounds.
    Otherwise, as @Gibbo says, sign up for various newsletters and check for specials from various VSTi libraries. Plugin Boutique is pretty good for a start.
    Thanked by 1Mexicanopiumdog
  • Ethnoworld is one of my go-to instruments for World Music, Native Instruments Komplete gives you a ton of content (is a bit on the pricy side but definitely worth investing in) Spitfire has a thing called Spitfire Labs and are selling smaller instruments for $2 a pop (Ridiculous!) so thats also a goodie. The other big one is Omnisphere which holds a huge variety of traditional instruments and synths. I suggest investing in one or two versatile libraries (Omnisphere is definitely on top of that list)
    People say it isn't just about owning the best libraries but having a couple quality sounding ones that have expression and control will make your music sound so much better, quicker.
  • I think the first thing that should be said is that compositional skill trumps good sample libraries in most cases (An example I saw quoted was the Warcarft III score - it was mainly done with the Garritan personal orchestra VI apparently, which today would sound like a 'bad' library, yet was used to great effect). There is no 'magic bullet' sample library that's going to make a poorly composed piece sound amazing, but of course a great composition played through great samples will sound better than the same composition through poor or dated samples.

    Secondly, it's about knowing your tools deeply and proficiently. This is probably the strongest creative argument against pirating virtual instruments: if you have EVERYTHING at your fingertips you will just grab what you think you need from the surface without exploring all the potentially awesome patches deep in the library. If you've paid a fair amount for a library, you're going to push yourself to get the most 'bang for your buck'. And listen, listen and analyse what the pros do. Check out scores, recordings, textbooks. The best way to progress is to see what has come before and learn from it. You won't know which virtual instruments to buy of you don't know which real instrumentalists you would hire for a hypothetical score recording session.

    The sample libraries mentioned by Gibbo and Mexicanopiumdog are definitely ones to check out (I have no personal experience with the ones mentioned by MCA though I am sure they are decent). My 2c: student discounts! Often companies give non-restrictive student licenses for up to 50% off. If you're not a student, Native Instruments often have deep discounts in June/July, and the rest often Black Friday (November) deals.

    Just one last thought: I'm not a fan of Phrase based libraries (that essentially playback complex pre-recorded melodic or harmonic/accompanying phrases at the touch of a single MIDI controller key). I find they hem you into a creative style and create the risk that your music will not sound original (if you rely 100% on these phrases).

    So find some libraries that inspire you and will give you the virtual tools you need to make some kick-add music :)
    Thanked by 1Sigh_Leeeee
  • @shoouhboo

    How do you find Reaper? Is it cool?

    I compose in Cubase, using some of it's inbuilt synthesisers. There are loads of them, and most sound amazing.
    It's also really easy to find sites like these that offer free plugins:

    For drums I use Superior Drummer, and for Orchestra, I bought myself the East West Quantum leap package. Really expensive, but I was studying through Berklee Online at the time and so got a 70% discount!!

    Through Cubase, I bought the Halion Symphonic Orchestra, which cost about R1000 or so. It's a fantastic string library to start out with if you're looking for something cheap.

    Here's an example of a song I composed and recorded using all the above mentioned plugins and vsts:

    Happy creating!!
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