Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best Free VST Plugins: A List Every Musician Can Use

The biggest goal I set for myself growing up was to become a professional musician. I wanted to play in a band, tour the world, have thousands of people coming to my shows and sing along to the songs I wrote in my bedroom. A lot of things have changed for me, since I was a day dreaming kid, and I have been able to become a professional musician. Most of the time I feel like I just shoved my way into the music industry, but instead of being an entertainment musician, I am a commercial musician. I create music for television, radio, video games, ads, film, and really anything and everything commercial. You can check out my music through my website Musco Sound to get an idea of what I am talking about. It is a far cry from being in a rocking band but it allows me to pursue my love for music, and at the same time make a living. A big chunk of my income comes from licensing my music. I highly suggest licensing as an option for any musician that wants to earn money with their music, and I have written several posts about what licensing is, how to license your music, and where to license your music. Make sure to check those posts, if you are interested in making money licensing your music.
Just about every other musician I know has a day job, and plays music in the evening and weekends. It is my new passion to be able to help aspiring musicians that want to have a career in music realize it is possible, and there are more ways to have a career in music other than just playing in bands. Making commercial music is a lot like graphic design, only instead of photoshop you use a digital audio workstation (DAW). Once you have a DAW you are going to need good synths and samples to get a professional sound. I am assuming if your reading this you already have a DAW and are looking to spice up your sound, but if your just starting out you probably don’t have a lot of money. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the best free vst plugins, solid resources to learn about free vst’s, and websites to download legit plug-ins.

E-MU Proteus VX

Proteus VX
This is a serious must have VST. What I like about it is that there are tons of amazing presets to experiment with.  As you get better at working with Proteus you can create your own sounds, but having a large variety of presets makes the learning process fun and productive. Most of the presets sound amazing, and I guess the biggest criticism is you might spend so much time playing around with it, you might not get around to making any music. I have a download link below and I highly recommend trying it.

E-MU Proteus VX Download
(I had a problem with getting Proteus to export correctly in Fl Studio 10, and believe that is a common problem unique to FL Studio. It works fine with all other DAW’s)

Piano One

Piano One by Sound Magic
You want to talk about an AWESOME free piano this is it. I use this vstall the time, and it works great for professional sound if the piano is buried in the mix. This is an absolutely must have and
will probably blow any other generic piano vst out of the water.

Piano One Free Download


Rez by Ugo
This is a really cool synthesizer, and creates some amazing sounds. It is not one of those vst’s
you can use for every project but really does an awesome job if you want to make an out of the
box style track. It really is a fun vst to play around with and defiantly something to download
and play around with.

Download Rez


Synth1 by Toda
When you hear a must have free vst, synth1 is a consistent contender. It makes an amazing amount of sounds, has tons of free preset banks, and is very light on the cpu. There are a lot of a commercial musicians that have synth1 in there arsenal, and I suggest you try it out.

Download Synth1


daHornet by DASHSignature
This is a really cool plug-in and kind of sounds like its name. It makes a really cool buzz saw type sound and has potential for a lot of uses. It is based on a plug-in that used to cost money and it is something to check it out. Again this might not be a vst you use in ever track but every once in a while it gives some new variety and get the creative juices flowing.

Download daHornet

Orchestral Strings One

Orchestral Strings One by Sound Magic
Sound Magic, makers of Piano One, has done it again offering another free amazing plug-in. This one has great quality strings for an unbeatable price, free. Everyone loves the sound of piano and string music and now with Sound Magic offering Orchestral Strings and Piano One free, you can’t beat that combo. When it comes to adding high quality strings to your music Orchestral Strings will soon be your go to plug-in.

Download Orchestral Strings One

Crystal by Greenoaks
Crystal is one of my  new favorite vst's. It has a lot of really cool sounding presets to mess around with and if your into making some experimental music it is really a plug in to have in your arsenal. There is a lot of control over the sounds so if you take the time to learn how to use it, I am sure you will be able to make some awesome leads that are totally unique. I've found it works great for leads, rhythm, and pads.

Download Crystal

T-Force Alpha Plus

T-Force Alpha Plus
This is an amazing trance synth that has a great variety of sounds. The tones and melodies this synth can create work awesome for trance leads, rhythms, or subtle pads. It has high quality sounds that don't bog down the cpu.

Download T-Force Alpha Plus


This is an awesome free VST with an amazing amount of high quality presets. It is really a most have and I highly recommend trying it out. The music that can be created with this plug-in is top notch and it works great for lead melodies, pads, bass, and everything else in between.

Download FireBird2

TT Dynamic Range Meter
TT Dynamic Range Meter
This is a great free meter that helps monitor the levels of your music. Not only does this meter come complete with real time dynamic range information but also a very helpful correlation meter to detect any phase issues you might have with your mix.

Download TT Dynamic Range Meter

These are just some of the best free vst’s that I have come across, but I am sure that as time goes on many more will appear. All these free plug-in's have a great sound and can really be a nice starting spot for a new musician getting into the game. As you progress in producing music, you will find sometimes free just wont cut it anymore, and eventually you will start having to upgrade to higher quality paid for vst’s. In the future I will compile a list of the best vst’s that aren’t free so make sure to subscribe to this blog not to miss out on that.

As I said earlier, I wanted to compile not only a list of vst's but also resources to help you find some of the best free vst’s that are currently available. Trust me, there are a ton of them. I only named a small select few, and didn’t get into vst effects such as reverb, distortion, delay, chorus, ect. I found an amazing group of forum posts on Audio Jungle where musicians are actively discussing the best free vst instruments, effects, and sample libraries. It’s an amazing resource to help you get the free quality products which music producers are using in commercial music today. Here is the forums:
Also I found a great list of 11 more free vst plugins at Audio Tuts+ located at 11 Totally Free VST Synthesizers that Sound Great.

Finally, I also said I was going to point you in the right direction on where to download legit free vst plugins. I am sure there are a lot of sites out there to do this but the one I use all the time is KVR Audio. It is free to register and you can find everything vst plug-in related there. Every single one of the free vst’s I listed above is available on KVR Audio with download links, and reviews. Also there is a really cool area of KVR called the ranks and ratings. In this section you can see the top rated and downloaded free plug-ins for the week, month, and year. It is an amazing resource worth checking out.

I hope this information is helpful and helps you to get the sound you’re looking for. Thanks for reading, good luck, and have fun with your new free vsts!


  1. Hi Michael,
    Excellent info and thanks for giving!

    Mark. (Australia)

    1. Hey no problem, thanks for reading!

    2. check out Free Mpc 2000xl vst Plugin
      I love it nice features and easy to use and comes with mpc 3000 sound kitC
      go to this link to download
      Add punch and the sound of a mpc to your tracks

  2. Can't wait to try these out! Thanks so much for sharing :D

  3. Thanks for publishing the list - just one note, the Proteus VX is PC-only. All the others have mac-compatible versions.

    1. Thanks for letting everyone know, I appreciate it!

  4. I love the Proteus VX, but unfortunately I have been having trouble getting it to work with my 64x Laptop. I also can not seem to get Piano One to work, and it's one of my favorites! Oh well.

    1. I had a problem with it when I tried downloading the presets or whatever then it wouldn't play.

    2. I've since been able to fix Proteus.
      I have also found some sick (in a good way) free VST in addition to these. Would you mind if I posted them in a comment here sometime?
      I just can't hold back sharing this one though -- Shortcircuit 1 and 2
      They are not instruments, but samplers. You just need to try one of them out. I can't really explain it. Probably should stick with 1 because ver2 crashes Reaper every once an a while (with my experience) --though I love it's features and considers the crashing worth it lol.

      Here's a link

    3. Awesome, thanks for adding that, I appreciate it. I will have to try give it a try. Thanks for the link!


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