Here I’ll cover some of the most impressive free VST instruments (“standalone”) I could find.
SF2 and sfz will be discussed separately. I’m not sure yet, if I’m going to cover Kontakt because they are not actually “free” (you either have to get the payed version or the free “player” patch must be licensed by NI)..
I’ll not cover synthesizers because of two reasons: There are so many of them and because they are synthetic it is hard to evaluate. It depends on your needs and you’re probably best of by asking someone you know and who’s in the same genre.
(And one might argue the point of “real instrument”)
Some of these are used in my demos.
Safwan Matni. I’ve not decided yet, if a actually like these plugins. Some of them are weird, the GUI is not good and many do not sound good or real. The “general piano” and the “clavi” do also have their own sound, but might be actually usable.
Bigcat instruments Pianos
As far as I know, most of the pianos there come from some type of cc or public domain libraries. Most of them are credited, though not linked. Bigcat has made them to (or linked to) VSTis, some are only available as Kontakt, some you get as sfz.
City Piano. Feels like a bar piano. (tested as sfz)
Iowa Piano. This one is just great. (Tested as sfz and VSTi)
Skerratt London Upright Piano (as sfz, KungKrill sampled it originally and provided a soundfont. Bigcat offers a VSTi).
The Whisper Piano: Sadly has some “input lag”.
This is made of the samples the Versilian Studios provide for free. You can get the whole thing in one or each instrument separately. A whole orchestra!
I tested the VSCO VSTs for a small project (sadly cannot upload demos of this), and I’m really thrilled by the quality and possibilities they offer.
Many different articulations (like vibrato, tremolo, pizzicato, spiccato,…) and they even react to midi controls for expression (midi 11 – this one I found out by accident. Maybe there is still more, didn’t see a documentation yet).
And there is even more, just browse the site.
And there is a dedicated site for VST Instruments only: here.
I’ve not tested these yet but considering most of them are based on really good sample collections like the enormous library made by the University of Iowa they probably won’t suck.
Yes, the guys from above! They provide a free sfz of the whole thing too.
But they have made some free VSTis on their own:
I have had some problems to get the Piano to work, but the Zither and the Celtic Harp are very nice!
Again, not quite sure. I’ve got some good results with the Overture (deactivate the Reverb!!! Use another!), the World Strings and the Indian Dreamz.
Just check them out and decide yourself.
I’d say, these are a good point to start, see if something works and some of the instruments sound quite good.
MT Powerdrumkit 2
This is, what is says. Complete drumkit, ready to use. Not versatile though. It is best for “modern” music, I’d say mostly Rock, Metal and maybe Pop.
Definitively unsuitable for stuff like Jazz or as classical orchestra kit.