In this day and age of recording technology, producers can program instruments that sound strikingly realistic without ever learning how to play said instruments. Technology has come a long way since the Mellotron of decades past. One of the most coveted sounds is the wail of an electric guitar. Few instruments can rival the passion and tone of an electric guitar – those haunting melodies, that funky vibe, the speed and dexterity of a shredder. The electric guitar is a versatile instrument – from mysterious hooks to explosive flurries of well placed notes. But it takes many, many years to achieve the skill and dexterity required to nail the perfect guitar solo. So you want a crushing guitar solo on one of your tracks, but you don’t know how to play the guitar – what are some of the best guitar VST plugins to achieve a clutch guitar tone and style? And if you CAN play guitar, what are some of the best virtual instrument plugins to act as a digital amplifier? Read on for some of these guitar plugins!
Best Guitar VST Instruments
Let’s start with the guitar simulator VST’s. Lot’s of producers today compose music entirely through a MIDI controller, and others even still make music by programming on a piano roll. These are legit forms of composition, and are not to be shunned – not everyone can grab a six string and starting ripping funky blues like a descendant of Jimi Hendrix. That takes lots of time and practice, years of patience and a diligent schedule.
Fab Four Virtual Instrument by East West Quantum Leap
So I’m going out on a limb here with my first suggestion. This is a VERY specific sound you’re going to be getting. If the name hasn’t already clued you in, this great plugin was designed to achieve the tone of the ever famous and loved band, the Beatles. Arguably the most celebrated rock band in history, and with a highly diverse discography to boot, you can’t go wrong drawing inspiration from the magical notes and sound of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. (And don’t forget George Martin, either!) Fab Four is a very specific, quality instrument that’ll give you a wide variety of sampled instruments to capture that cherished Beatles sound. If you choose to purchase Fab Four, you’ll be receiving 45 instruments. Many guitars are available, recording on specific guitars through specific amps. Here are a few examples to mull over:
Come to Guitar Rhythm: 1965 Epiphone Casino Electric Guitar recorded through a 1967 Fender Deluxe Amp.
Come to Guitar Solo: 1957 Les Paul Goldtop Electric Guitar recorded through a 1963 Fender Bassman Amp.
Everybody’s Got Guitar: A 1965 Ephiphone Casino Electric Guitar recorded through a 1966 Vox Defiant Amp.
Fixing a Guitar Solo: 1956 Fender Strat Electric Guitar recorded through a 1966 Vox Defiant Amp
Getting A Better Guitar: 1951 Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar recorded through a 1967 Fender Showman Amp
Also available are finger picked acoustic guitar samples, bass tones, and other instruments such as B3 Hammond Organs, Sitars, Tablas, drum kits, and more. This article is about guitar, but make no mistake, these instruments would be a great bonus to add to your arsenal. Highly recommended for fans of the Beatles. Be weary, though – make sure your budget can expand to the $300 range, as this product will cost your $295(check here for the current price). Also be advised these are resource heavy plugins that require a lot of space, so be sure your computer specs can handle the instruments efficiently before spending your cash.
The DVS Guitar VST is an oldie, but it is also a freebie. With generous amounts of tweaking, and clever use of the pitch bend controller, you can achieve a fairly realistic sound to fool untrained ears. The VST features overdrive, reverb, and flange effects. And at absolutely no cost other than the time it takes to download and put into your VST folder, it’s definitely worth giving a shot!
DSK AkoustiK GuitarZ
Don’t let the rather absurd name fool you, this is a pretty awesome freeware virtual instrument you can use to achieve a realistic acoustic guitar tone. There are 4 different acoustic guitar types to choose from, along with amp envelope and fine tuning. Stereo spread and portamento are other features available with the DSK AkoustiK GuitarZ. The DSK AkoustiK GuitarZ also comes with 3 built in effects – flanger, delay, and chorus. The velocity responds lends a bit of credibility to the realistic tone.
Best Guitar Amp VSTs
Now that I’ve briefly covered three of the many options available for ‘fake’ or ‘sampled’ guitar virtual instruments, I figured I’d move on to virtual amp simulators for those producers out there who do know how to play guitar. If you know how to shred and want to record, a mic setup isn’t even necessary – you can use digital software to effectively recreate the sound of dozens of amps, distortions, and effects pedals. Many swear by the microphone to amp sound, but others still prefer to have everything easily done right at the stroke of a key or the click of a mouse button.
Native Instruments Guitar Rig
Native Instruments Guitar Rig is a long standing favorite of bedroom producers the worldwide. The newest version available is the Guitar Rig 5 Pro, but you really can’t go wrong with Guitar Rig 4 or even Guitar Rig 3, in all honesty. Guitar Rig 5 Pro comes with 17 amps, 27 cabinets, and 54 effects. Effects includes 11 different fuzz, distortion, and overdrive effects. A plethora of options also exist for reverb and delay, from psychedelay to quad delay to tape echo to spring reverb and so on. Guitar Rig also has great filters, modulation effects, and tools to alter the levels and dynamics. You’ll even get a loop machine, making live performance with a stable laptop possible for one man bands. What a bargain, all those things in one program!
It allows the player to craft sounds with in-depth tone shaping, and even mic position simulation, to get that roomy sound. Not only does Guitar Rig work killer for getting a crisp, crunchy lead, or a smooth acoustic touch, it also allows the players to create killer bass tones as well.
- Guitar rig is part of the Komplete package by native instruments. In although it is only one plug-in out of the many that you will receive from Komplete, It is one of my favorites for guitar VTS’s. I highly recommend you check out the current price for Komplete. In although it is expensive compared to other plug-ins, I have never once regretted all of the amazing things I can do at the tip of my fingers by owning the software. Check out all of the other amazing customer reviews to see what other people have to say.
IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 3
IK Multimedia is quite proud of their Amplitube 3 software. In fact, they claim it to be the world’s leading guitar and bass tone creation software, apparently with no competition in sight. They have good reason to brag, however, as they have put considerable effort into crafting this software to give guitarists a diverse set of effects, gear emulation, and more to achieve that perfect sound. Your Amplitube 3 rig can consist of up to 12 stomp pedals, 2 cabs, 2 amp heads, and 2x double mics. Feel free to add 8 rack effects to the sound, which can be configured in up to 8 serial or parallel configurations. Mic position is available, to give listeners the illusion of the space and acoustics of a room.
Maybe you aren’t looking to get into hours of sound design, maybe you just want to throw on a backing track and get shredding immediately. This is entirely understandable, and I know the feeling. Fear not, for Amplitube 3 comes stock with a massive database of awesome presets, carefully organized to help you achieve your dream tone in the minimal amount of time as possible. The program even comes with a 4-track multi-track recording. Quickly record ideas on the fly so you don’t lose them forever! And for those looking to get a bit of practice out of a program, there’s a built in speed trainer you can use to work on your dexterity and speed. Pretty rad, right?
- The software is pretty amazing. If you’re interested check out the current price on Amazon.com. Or see what other current users of the software have to say about it as well
Conclusion on the Best Guitar VST Plugins
There was an honorable mentions such as Vir2 ELECTRI6ITY that are definitely worth checking out as well. You can check it out here to find out more about it. Whatever option you decide to go with, be sure your budget is right and your research is thorough. Practice some demos, play around with some of the freeware options available, and ultimately take your time in picking the best guitar VST possible, be it an amp simulation program like Native Instruments Guitar Rig and IK Multimedia’s Amplitube, or if you’d rather try your hand on keys at recreating guitar using programs like East West Quantum Leap’s awesome Fab Four virtual instrument. Wall you can find the sound you are looking for with some of the cheaper options, I do believe that the high-end more expensive ones make it easier in the end result is slightly better overall. If you do have the money I recommend checking out Komplete because not only will you get a guitar VST but you’ll get so much more! As always, stay hungry and happy producing!