Virtual Instruments For Modern Music Producers

Instruments For Making Beats Right Inside Your Hard Drive

Who Owns Real Instruments Anymore?

Well, lots of people do actually. But not for music producers. Beat makers play all instruments without every playing an instrument. How? Virtual Instruments that’s how! Instruments that are sound wave files loaded onto your computer that you trigger with software or hardware controllers. All virtual instruments are created equal though. That when you have to ask, where do the sounds come from?

Sounds are just waves. Waves as we all know can be recorded. Waves can also be created from scratch like with a synthesizer. A synthesizer takes an electronic signal and manipulates it in order to create wave vibrations in the magnet of speakers to produce sounds. Which is better, a recorded sound, or a synthesized sound? Well, it really depends. Some of the best sounds I have heard came from synths. But also some of the dopest realistic sounds I have ever heard came from recorded sounds.

One could simply use one microphone pointing straight at a trumpet to record a trumpet noise. But is that everything your ears hear when you hear a trumpet? What about the sounds of the finger pressing action, the reverberation in the room, the proximity of the ears to the instrument, and more? Simply just recording a sound is how some sounds can sound very corny, while other sound masterful! It requires more microphones, brain power, sound control and more. But when done right, its almost as if your computer was a real New York grand piano.

Synthesized sounds are the same way. Sounds have layers of audible properties. So just sending a basic sine wave through a synth, usually doesn’t sound the best. But when you take that wave and add some more sounds like a pad on top to combine the sounds, add a little reverb, shave the low end, maybe automate a arpeggiated bell, and more, thats when you start to have a sounds that other worldly and perfect for a new R&B ballad of sorts. There is always a symphony of sounds going on in your everyday life. Your ears will never tune into just one dry sound unless you are in a totally deadened room. So in order for us to like virtual instruments, the companies had to realize this and start incorporating them into their presets.

I remember going up to many synth only keyboards and always hating them until I realized that its more of a design process then it is a beat making process. A synth versus a workstation is just the fact that the synth will not allow you to make beat patterns. Its either used to play live or to record into a DAW. Usually they don’t have presets or very few presets, so when I would test them out at Guitar Center, I would be annoyed with them. Not because they sounded bad, but because I’m a producer, and the main thing I want to do is make a beat! Sound design is cool and fun, but it is not what I ever think about doing. I mostly sound design when I have found a sound that is close to what I want in a preset, and then tweak it to my liking. But ultimately, I want to make beats!

Native Instruments And Omnisphere Are My Go To Favorites For Beat Making

Just this combo of NI Komplete and Omnisphere 2 gives me 39,000 preset virtual instrument sounds to play with!!!!!!!! First of all, I have never been through them all although I have tried. And second, its crazy to see how todays times have changed so dramatically. I used to dream of having tons of sounds at my finger tips. The workstations before barely had 1000-2000 sounds and to expand the sounds was a hell of a chore! No wonder producers are making beats like crazy these days and coming up everywhere. Access to sounds libraries are critical to your success as a beat maker. You can always make your own sounds also.

Komplete by Native Instruments gives you an enormous amount of options. A lot of their sounds are a mix of real recorded instruments and synthesized sounds. You also get access to keyboard sounds and drum pads as well in case you decide to dive into their Maschine and other hardware. It comes with a ton of effects along with loops and samples. It really has a lot of things in one with the ability to still add more sounds if you get bored with the 24,000 thats already in there. Omnisphere 2 is all about synths. The sounds that they have engineered with the presets are straight bananas. So combining the two virtual instruments together is like having a powerhouse of sounds.

There are also a ton of other virtual instruments out there. Some a free, and some costs hundreds of dollars. Its time for you to explore to find what you like. You may not like NI and love Korg and other options. There are a ton of non name brand type options also to explore. I would suggest to find free trial versions of all the ones you are interested in and test them out in your own set up. No one knows better what you will like besides yourself. If you are a vigorous sample based producers then this bundle would not be up your alley. Its great, but you may want to invest more into VSTs that give you more sampling flexibility and a ton of drum packs to accompany your samples. That’s why I give options, because my experience differs from others.

Audio Unit or VST? Whats The Difference

Audio Units (AU) are made for Apple devices where as VSTs are for Microsoft PCs. I have never seen or heard of any major differences between the two besides the type of computer they work on. Its not something that you really need to worry too much about though when buying the software itself. If I’m not mistaken, all of them come with both options as long as they say they are compatible with both Mac and PC. The main thing you need to check is when you go to install it, it will ask you what do you want to install and give you options. Usually they are all checked and downloaded to your computer, but you want to double check that the right box is selected for the type of computer you have. If you get it wrong, its no big deal, it just a little more time figuring it out and then reinstalling the right version. Nonetheless, you won’t see any differences within the two.

Standalone VSTs And Audio Units Are For Quick Access Beat Making

Standalone means just that, the software can open by itself without you having to open up a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Not all software sounds have a standalone option though. Why is this option good to have? Well, sometimes I personally do not want to open up Logic Pro and create a new project just to open up a audio unit and start making beats. Sounds like a lot right? Well, actually its not that bad, but I can be impatient. Also the more clicks on a computer it takes me while making a beat the more I lose my inspiration. My inspiration comes by pressing keys and tapping pads! Kind opposite of many of todays producers.

Standalone virtual instruments give you that option. I really like the sequencer option also with Maschine. Its like I make 2 clicks to open up the program and start twisting knobs and tapping pads right after that. Thats what I like! Instant gratification! If you want this too, make sure that when you install the software, that you select the box for the standalone option also. This is usually pre selected, but make sure just to save yourself sometime.

Many VSTs Cannot Record Audio To Add Vocals After Making A Beat

Watch out there now! Many VSTs are just that, instruments only. What does that mean? It means you can access a ton of sounds, and some you may even be able to sequence those sounds into a beat, but many of them if not the vast majority of them do not let you get much past that. The reason they are in the VST or AU format is for you to be able to access them inside of a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) in order to finish the process of making a beat into a full production. This is not always obvious so some people may go out all excited and chunk down $600 for Omnisphere too, only to find out when they get home that they have thousands of sounds and no way to combine them all in sequence, or record vocals, etc. So make sure you look at what you are getting. As a good rule of thumb, always grab the free trial and have fun with it for 15-30 days or so and see if its missing what you need the most.

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