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Thread: Some help with VSTs

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    Some help with VSTs

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    Hello guys.

    I am a singer (working on it) and I need some help. I have a keyboard connected to an AUDIOBOX USB (my external sound card) and I can use different VSTs thru FL studios with it.

    I have created a few beats/melodies for my songs, but they usually sound like something's missing.
    What I usually do is:
    pick some vsts (usually Cakewalk TTS-1 that comes with sonar), go to piano roll and write the notes. I thought that since I'm using a Plugin of an instrument, that it is already at it's best and no other reverb/plugin is needed...

    Anyways, can anyone help me, or give me some hints on what to do? I mean I always thought that coming up with the melody, the right chords and the right notes should be the hardest part..

    I have downloaded some VSTs like Spicy Guitar, Piano One, Revitar 2 and UpSterio, but I still feel like it's not enough..
    I've also found this link: The 27 best free VST plug-ins in the world today | MusicRadar
    but I can't even understand why I need most of it. Some of them are instruments, but others are some sorts of different amplifiers or reverb plugins (at least this is how I understand it) and I don't know why in world do I need so many.


    I can't afford to pay for VSTs right now (unless it's a really small price). I'm looking for some decent sounding free VSTs, especially Electric guitars and Rock/Metal drums. Any suggestions?

    And when I do get the right instruments, what steps do I need to go thru to make the best out of a VST (make it sound good)?

    Thank you very much for your help in advance!

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    What you are looking at are VSTi(s) - virtual instruments. VST(s) such are reverb are effects that are added to a sound. It sound like you are starting from scratch - making VSTi's sound like real instruments (rather than just synthesizers) requires lots of work, and usually expensive sampled VSTi engines, rather than free ones.
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    I can't offer much in suggestions. I do have one question; when you write in your notes, are you changing the velocities and timing to vary the strength of each note? Add a little human touch to the midi data?

    I have always thought writing midi data note for note is very tedious. Can you play the parts on a keyboard then edit the midi data?

    Okay, that was more than one question, but you know what I mean....

    I don't know of any free drum vsti's that sound good. The cheapest out there is probably ezdrummer with the DFH expansion kit. It's along the lines of what you want for in heavy metal drums. Somtimes it goes on sale for a really good price.

    I've never heard any vsti for electric guitar that sounds good at all. I think you need a real guitar for that. Hard to do if you're trying to keep it all in the computer. Plus the added expense and time of buying and learning to play a guitar (if you don't already).

    But you might be creative and replace the guitar with other types of tones/patches/sounds. And you should be able to do that with some decnt free synths. It takes a lot of time and experimentation.

    Sorry can't be of more help. Good luck!!

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    RAMI Guest
    I'd say first off, good luck making anything from a VST sound like a guitar, like Chili mentioned.

    On top of that, to get even close you have to know how to voice your chords so that they have the same intervals a guitar player would play. You can't play piano/keyboard voicings and expect it to sound like a guitar. This takes some knowledge of theory. Same thing with programming drums, bass, etc....If there was no learning curve, there wouldn't be so many horrible recordings out there.

    Other than that, your questiob os extremely broad and almost impossible to answer other than: Practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mjbphotos View Post
    What you are looking at are VSTi(s) - virtual instruments. VST(s) such are reverb are effects that are added to a sound. It sound like you are starting from scratch - making VSTi's sound like real instruments (rather than just synthesizers) requires lots of work, and usually expensive sampled VSTi engines, rather than free ones.
    Does it mean that w/e I do on a computer only will sound like pop/electric music? Is there some sort of a guide to help me get close to good sound somehow?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chili View Post
    I can't offer much in suggestions. I do have one question; when you write in your notes, are you changing the velocities and timing to vary the strength of each note? Add a little human touch to the midi data?

    I have always thought writing midi data note for note is very tedious. Can you play the parts on a keyboard then edit the midi data?

    Okay, that was more than one question, but you know what I mean....

    I don't know of any free drum vsti's that sound good. The cheapest out there is probably ezdrummer with the DFH expansion kit. It's along the lines of what you want for in heavy metal drums. Somtimes it goes on sale for a really good price.

    I've never heard any vsti for electric guitar that sounds good at all. I think you need a real guitar for that. Hard to do if you're trying to keep it all in the computer. Plus the added expense and time of buying and learning to play a guitar (if you don't already).

    But you might be creative and replace the guitar with other types of tones/patches/sounds. And you should be able to do that with some decnt free synths. It takes a lot of time and experimentation.

    Sorry can't be of more help. Good luck!!
    Yes, I do "humanize" the notes too. and I can play the parts myself, but most of the time I choose not to. (Don't even know why lol).

    Any suggestions on "creative replacements"? =]

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMI View Post
    I'd say first off, good luck making anything from a VST sound like a guitar, like Chili mentioned.

    On top of that, to get even close you have to know how to voice your chords so that they have the same intervals a guitar player would play. You can't play piano/keyboard voicings and expect it to sound like a guitar. This takes some knowledge of theory. Same thing with programming drums, bass, etc....If there was no learning curve, there wouldn't be so many horrible recordings out there.

    Other than that, your questiob os extremely broad and almost impossible to answer other than: Practice.
    I'd love to practice, but I need a direction... What to work on? Let's say I've got some guitar chords for a chorus. What do I add to it? Does it need EQ? Does it need reverb? Is there anything elso I'm not even aware of?

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    This is only my opinion but it is born of experience. Trial, error, frustration and experience.
    Having gone through a load of VSTis, I mean payed for ones, not free ones, I've never heard a decent electric guitar. I've heard one fairly decent acoustic in Sonik synth and that was individual notes and had to be mixed in a not upfront way with double bass, drums, a couple of real acoustics, percussion and flute kind of masking any chance of identification.
    I've concluded that some instruments lend themselves well to being reproduced as VSTis and some just don't, or at least, not yet. Guitars are among those that don't.
    When I use them, I observe two unshakable 'rules'. One, I always play the instrument in real time. I may slow the recording down or do it in sections but I'll play the part. Also, though I'm using a keyboard to play the part, I will not think like a keyboardist {which I'm not anyway}. I think like the player of whatever the instrument is. If it's cello, I play like a cellist. If it's a french horn, I play like a horn player etc, etc. The only time to play like a keyboardist is if I'm playing piano, clavinet, mellotron, organ, synthesizer etc.
    Secondly, I use real instruments, which I know isn't always possible for people, but I do. Drums, bass, guitars, voices, mandolins, saxes, oboes, clarinets, percussion, double bass......The reason I mention this is that it ensures that the VSTi doesn't stand out on it's own too much. There's less chance of it sounding like
    Does it mean that w/e I do on a computer only will sound like pop/electric music?
    {as you put it} if you mix real instruments and VSTis. The issue isn't whether it's recorded on a computer or not. When I first used VSTis, I was using tape and I literally used to turn on and play and thus, some of the sounds were kind of fake. It took a couple of years before I figured out that I needed to tweak whichever instrument I was using, often meaning take out the reverb because they often come with far too much on them, among other things.
    I don't know if any of this makes sense or helps or even part answers your questions but who knows ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by grimtraveller View Post
    This is only my opinion but it is born of experience. Trial, error, frustration and experience.
    Having gone through a load of VSTis, I mean payed for ones, not free ones, I've never heard a decent electric guitar. I've heard one fairly decent acoustic in Sonik synth and that was individual notes and had to be mixed in a not upfront way with double bass, drums, a couple of real acoustics, percussion and flute kind of masking any chance of identification.
    I've concluded that some instruments lend themselves well to being reproduced as VSTis and some just don't, or at least, not yet. Guitars are among those that don't.
    When I use them, I observe two unshakable 'rules'. One, I always play the instrument in real time. I may slow the recording down or do it in sections but I'll play the part. Also, though I'm using a keyboard to play the part, I will not think like a keyboardist {which I'm not anyway}. I think like the player of whatever the instrument is. If it's cello, I play like a cellist. If it's a french horn, I play like a horn player etc, etc. The only time to play like a keyboardist is if I'm playing piano, clavinet, mellotron, organ, synthesizer etc.
    Secondly, I use real instruments, which I know isn't always possible for people, but I do. Drums, bass, guitars, voices, mandolins, saxes, oboes, clarinets, percussion, double bass......The reason I mention this is that it ensures that the VSTi doesn't stand out on it's own too much. There's less chance of it sounding like {as you put it} if you mix real instruments and VSTis. The issue isn't whether it's recorded on a computer or not. When I first used VSTis, I was using tape and I literally used to turn on and play and thus, some of the sounds were kind of fake. It took a couple of years before I figured out that I needed to tweak whichever instrument I was using, often meaning take out the reverb because they often come with far too much on them, among other things.
    I don't know if any of this makes sense or helps or even part answers your questions but who knows ?
    It does, and thank you for taking your time to answer. The only problem is that I am on a REALLY low budget, and do not have any real instruments.
    And even if I had, I can only use the keyboard for now.

    So what you're sayin is that I should record with a keyboard even if I'm using a plugin? I'll do so, if that makes that big of a difference it'll be woth the time.

    But since you do have much experience with plugins, can you recommend some that sound decent?
    I know I am no professional, and event the mic I am going to buy for the recordings will be only 125$...

    The question is, will it still sound any good? And if it's worth my time, what are the steps needed to make the best out of a plugin?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    So what you're sayin is that I should record with a keyboard even if I'm using a plugin? I'll do so, if that makes that big of a difference it'll be woth the time.
    Well, we all have different workflows and ways of doing things and to generate VSTi sounds, I use a keyboard. I once watched someone just write in the notes as MIDI then they assigned whichever sound they wanted to play those notes. It should've been impressive but it wasn't because I prefer to play in real time, so obviously, that's my bias. It's just the way I've developed. So yeah, my recommendation would be to use a keyboard, even with a VSTi plug in. If nothing else, it's a whole lot quicker ! Unless you're Beethoven or Rick Wakeman.
    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    But since you do have much experience with plugins, can you recommend some that sound decent?
    Sampletank is a pretty good one and I think they do a free version. I'm afraid I can't recommend any good ones for electric guitar because I've never come across one that I'd use and ditto with the drums because I use acoustic ones ~ I'm fortunate that I'm friends or relatives with a few drummers. Sampletank is a good place to start. You may feel it's rubbish, but finding certain VSTis rubbish was crucial in spurring me to look for better ones. And in the case of not being able to find a great double bass or harmonica {the ones I had, well, had their moments, but were just missing that vital something}, I had to buy an actual double bass and a set of harmonicas and start getting to grips with playing them again.
    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    The question is, will it still sound any good? And if it's worth my time, what are the steps needed to make the best out of a plugin?
    This is, as they say, the $64,000,000 question. Some well known, high falluting VSTis sound like utter CrÍpe to me. The Halion ones that came with Cubase 5 for example. Even some of the Sampletank ones, First call horns, M~TRON, Garritan personal orchestra, Trilogy and others are {to be polite} 'less than stellar'. On the other hand, some of their sounds are superb.
    You need to experiment, especially in the area of tweaking. I rarely find a sound in any of the programmes I have that don't need tweaking. You need to experiment with the EQs, filters, levels, things like attack, sustain, release, levels, velocity and in particular, effects. If there's one thing that is a dead giveaway of VSTis, it's the effects, in particular the reverb. I generally take off the inbuilt reverb and add it in after the event ~ at least that way, I can put in how much I want.
    Whether it will sound good can only be determined by you. For me, it's been a process of trial and error. No one showed me how to or what to do but in many ways, it was better to develop bit by bit as I went along. It took me ages, for example, to twig to the importance of the release parameter or the sustain parameter. They all work in conjunction with each other but the good thing is that you can save each setting you come up with, certainly in Sampletank. Definitely play around and see what you come up with.

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    I installed Sampletank FREE, but there are no instruments in it.. (Can't locate that "root folder" or something).

    Also, I've downloaded Guitar Rig 5 free, is it any good? Or I should just find a fully free one?

    And I wasn't asking only for guitars, but for any good plugin you can recommend. Acoustic drums and maybe a piano would be good.

    What plugins do I need to look for except instruments? I've noticed there are amps for guitars only, does it mean I need to find a different one for a piano? and a new one for each instrument? Or are there general ones?

    I also thought that EQ was for vocals only... Is the Fruity parametric EQ 2 good enough?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    Sampletank but there are no instruments in it. (Can't locate that "root folder" or something).
    There should be a whole load of instruments there.
    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    And I wasn't asking only for guitars, but for any good plugin you can recommend. Acoustic drums and maybe a piano would be good.
    Miroslav Philharmonik has some great orchestral instruments including some nice Steinway pianos, First call horns has some good brass, B4 has plenty of wicked Hammond organ {this freebie might be interesting}, Celtic instruments has some good, well, Celtic folky instruments {!}, Lounge Lizard carries lots of fantastic electric pianos {Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzers}, Danny Thompson bass has a passable set of double bass samples if you're not overly fussy.......

    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    What plugins do I need to look for except instruments? I've noticed there are amps for guitars only, does it mean I need to find a different one for a piano? and a new one for each instrument? Or are there general ones?
    I don't really have experience of non instrument plug ins. However, you don't need a separate vst amp for each VSTi. You can use one, I guess, for colouring purposes. They are all self amplified. I guess it's different with guitar, given that much of the guitar's sound can lie with specific amps.
    Having said that, sometimes, I play the brass sounds out into a real amp and mic that, in a variety of positions. Sounds good.

    Quote Originally Posted by SexAnDrugS View Post
    I also thought that EQ was for vocals only... Is the Fruity parametric EQ 2 good enough?
    EQ is most certainly not for vocals only. You can apply EQ to anything you like. You can actually improve or worsen any sound with EQ. Some midrange can make a snare pop with meat but too much on a vocal can distort it in horrible ways. The way I put it is "It's not so much that 'anything goes', rather, 'everything can go....'".
    I don't know about Fruity loops but I'd be surprized if it's parametric EQ couldn't at least get you started and to the point where you have some idea of how EQ can affect each sound you apply it to.

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