The foundation of all electronic music is set in the synthesizer. Synthesizers can be used to formulate the sounds required to make an entire song with a wide variation of sounds; all of this is from one basic instrument. You can create bass lines, 808’s (kick sounds), lead lines, arpeggiations, and a multitude of other sounds. Many people love the beauty of analog and using the real thing in front of them. But many of us cannot afford the actual physical equipment, and that is why we have virtual instruments.
Virtual instruments have changed the game in a multitude of games so that you can essentially have a room full of keyboards right in your lap on your computer, Now certain sounds I will agree need to be done with the actual instrument and are hard to imitate with a VST. Instruments like pianos and guitars are coming along in the virtual world but are just not there yet. However, virtual pianos can be extremely convincing these days. What is so unique about customizable synth patches is that they are essentially able to be tweaked in every aspect of it. The type of wave whether is be sin, square, triangle, or sawtooth can be chosen and even mixed with each other to get either a smoother or edgier sound.
Another perk about Virtual Instruments is that if you have no idea what you are doing, they almost always have patches for you to use and build off of. See it as a cheat sheet for getting started. Although if you are looking to learn more about synthesizers and how to use them in a structured environment, you should check out the info we have for you here on taking some next steps. In that article I go into how I took a course online to learn about using synthesizers and how to make all of the sounds I hear in songs myself.
But here we are going to focus on virtual synthesizers themselves. (These are listed in no particular order)
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Top 5 Virtual Synthesizers
I have used Omnisphere on a few projects myself and it has so many built in patches and settings that I am almost certain that the possibilities of this are endless. Most of the time I did not even change the sound of the patch itself because of how great they all sounded right off the bat. So this may not be the best choice if you are wanting to learn the ins and outs of synths, but for ease of use, it is definitely one of the best.
Strobe 2 is a fantastic VST. In the Coursera class Creating Sounds for Electronic Music, this is the synthesizer of choice. The waveforms can be mixed together to get the ideal sound you are looking for. Strobe also has built in effects for amazing reverbs, choruses, delays, and all sorts of FX that you will fall in love with like I did.
Price- $198.34 (€179)
What I really like about this one is the interface. It is very straightforward and easy to navigate. From what it looks like, it only has the option to combine 2 waveforms but most of the time that is all you really need. Make sure you listen to some of the attached demo videos on Splice, the sounds from this are amazing. I was vibing the whole time while checking it out. On the developers site there are also tutorial videos they provide to help give you a head start.
Price- $165.10 (€149)
Massive delivers sounds that are exactly what it is named… Massive. The low end hits that you can hear in their demos and tutorials are thick and full of energy that it is hard to stay away from it. The tutorials on the developers website goes in depth on how to control this beast and manipulate it to get the sounds you are looking for.
Free Synths on Splice
Now I know not everyone has the money to afford a great synth patch right off the bat or even with monthly installments. It will take time to put away the money sometimes so in the meantime, Splice has 2 free synthesizers for you to test drive and start getting a feel for how synths work.
When I listened to how some of the demos utilized this plug in, I was shocked. For this being a free synth it absolutely blew my mind. I also thought this would be like a limited access plug in to try to get you to buy the full version, but you get the entire thing for free. If you are looking for some great sounds with no budget, definitely give this a try.
This is definitely the more technical of the 2 free synth plugins, but that just means that you get more hands on time with it. It sounds sort of how it looks, a little on the biting side with some edge to it. I will say that once you get the hang of it, you can really create some great sounds.