What is a VST?

Imagine having a whole Orchestra at your fingertips, having the power to creating your own movie scores using nothing but a VSTi Sample Library and your MIDI Keyboard. Imagine mixing an album on world-class audio equipment worth hundreds of thousands of pounds without ever going to a studio. Well, you can. We live in an exciting time where VST Plugins and VST Instruments sound so convincing that it's extremely hard to distinguish between what's real and what's "fake". Audio Developers dedicate thousands of hours and millions of pounds in research & development to create amazing products for everyone to use.

What is a VST? 

Virtual Studio Technology or VST is a piece of software that integrates audio samplers, synths and effects with your DAW. Typically they are broken down into two categories; VST Plug-ins (VST) and VST Instruments (VSTi). To put it simply Virtual Studio Technology takes real-world hardware and musical instruments such as outboard; EQs, Compressors, Mixing Consoles, Drums, Pianos, Guitars etc... then re-creates them as usable software to work within a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). All VST plugins and instruments have a graphical user interface (GUI) which display the controls, features and functions of the software allowing the user to do a number of different things depending on what the VST is designed for. Today we will be focusing on VST Instruments and leave VST Plugins out for a separate tutorial.

Generally speaking, VST instruments fall into one of two categories, Samplers or Synthesisers.  A Sampler generates audio by using sound recordings (samples) which are triggered by MIDI from the DAW sequencer or by playing notes on a MIDI Keyboard. Synthesisers do not use samples to generate audio, they emulate hardware synthesisers using a range of different methods such as; Subtractive Synthesis, FM Synthesis, Additive Synthesis, Physical Modeling, Phase Distortion, Granular Synthesis, Wavetable Synthesis, Sample-based Synthesis and Subharmonic Synthesis.

Sample-Based VST Instrument Example;

Native Instruments - Action Strings

Synth Based VST Instrument Example;

Native Instruments - Monark


There are many different third-party developers out there who create amazing VST Instruments. Each developer has a different take on how a VST Instrument is created, what it should sound like and what kind of features it should offer. You'll find that many developers have similar products to each other, like Drum Kits or Pianos and you might ask what makes them different? Sound quality, features, playability and price. When it comes to choosing a VSTi you'll eventually find yourself cherry picking the libraries that suit your needs best, mixing libraries together to get the sound you want. Now you understand the basics let's move on and take a look at some sample libraries. To start off, we'll be looking at sample based libraries before moving onto synths. 

P1 - Orchestral Libraries