Top Freeware VST Instruments and Effect Plugins List 2016-2017
What is a VST Plugin ?
VST is kinda framework for integrating software Instruments or effects into a Digital Audio Workstation, it was developed by Steinberg in 1996 for their DAW Cubase, Steinberg released the framework for other developers and these days, most DAW's support VST format, btw, VST is not the only plugin format, there's also Audio Units (AU) for Logic Pro, Real Time AudioSuite (RTAS)for Pro tools etc.. in simple terms, these virtual instruments created using these frameworks mimics the real world musical instruments including synthesizers by using different technologies like mathematical modelling, or with pure recorded samples, so what you get is, a realistic Piano, or a Violin or Synthesizers, an entire Orchestra or any Instruments along with software counterparts of studio effects like compressors, reverbs, delays etc... can be used for creating music. some plugins are free, some costs less while some costs a fortune, good thing is there's thousands of plug ins out there in all categories
Simplifying again ...
Imagine you are learning Piano with a budget Keyboard like Casio or Yamaha, so you choose the Grandpiano mode on your particular Keyboard and the sound you get ain't gonna be anywhere near to a real grand piano, it's down to the methods used to reproduce it digitally, the sample sizes might be very tiny, the mathematical modelling won't be at top notch, then the speakers you hear it from etc. now am imagining you are not that rich like me to buy a real Grandpiano for say 10 lakhs, but you really need some kinda real sound, so what we can do is to buy a Software piano, they comes with varying sizes, some may cost over 20,000 INR and yes ofcourse some are completely free, most of these software uses above said plugin format such as VST, so you need a DAW for it to work(some of them can be also played without any DAW as standalone mode) as the price goes up, we get closer and closer to the sound of a grandpiano :)
Now the story doesn't ends there, one can record all the playing into a DAW (connecting keyboard to you computer via USB port), then Render our piano playing with the piano plugin of our choice and storing or sharing our work as mp3 or flac or wav files
Simplifying more :)
You are a piano player in this example too :) so you record your piano/keyboard playing with free or paid piano plugin into the DAW, but suddenly you realize if you could add an orchestral strings or even a simple violin or cello, things will be very different and richer, so what you do is just create another track, load it up with free or paid strings/violin VST, give a couple of test play using the same connected keyboard and then record, there it is! a multiple track recording, does some lyrics just got generated into your brain ? then don't wait, connect your mic to your computer and create another track on your DAW, record, viola you've got a song :) (now tweaking this tracks with different volumes for each tracks, cleaning up vocal tracks, bringing it all closer to studio quality recording is the music production process, and there's nothing to be scared when you hear about adding compressors, saturation, delays etc. everyone can learn the techniques of using different effects and do their own little but quality mixing and mastering, and then you just click the repeat icon in VLC or your fav audio player, and listen and appreciate the music you just made, yes next part is to share it with you friends and family, and be proud that you just did something which very few people do in the whole world, and erase that 'make a complete song' from your 'things to do before you die' list :)
Now getting to the production part
Electronic Music nowadays is almost fully made using a DAW with different plugins, there are 3 main categories, Instruments ( which creates sounds ), Effects ( which processes/changes those sounds ) and Meters ( which provides visual feedback )
The most Abundant of all software virtual instrument is the synthesizer, mainly because a synthesizer unlike an acoustic instrument is all electronics and it's easy to model electronic instruments in computer, for Electronic music production learning the nuts and bolts of a synthesizer is a must, so the basic of all sound synthesis, the subtractive synthesis is taught on basic course, and additive, frequency modulation and granular synthesis are taught in advanced course, you will get introduced to all the popular and latest virtual synthesizers (in their uncracked/demo form) but the practical part of the production course will only use freely available plugins (ethical reasons)
The plugin worlds never ends with just Synthesizers, there are virtual plugin instrument for almost all musical instruments found in this planet
The 'mixing and mastering' part of the course focus on using effects like Equalizers, Compressors, Delays, Reverbs etc along with the things to be done in the DAW like automation, panning etc
Click here to listen to my Music Productions, almost all of them are created with freeware/magware VST plugins, some tracks are played via keyboard, while some tracks are entirely made by drawing musical notes into Reaper DAW with mouse :)
Enjoy making music ! :)