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Can I still make a good song with virtual instruments only?
Old 28th August 2018
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Can I still make a good song with virtual instruments only?

First time poster here so apologies if I have broken any rules!

I’m a singer songwriter who also plays piano. I’m lucky enough to own a Nord stage 2 ex and would use this to track piano. I would track vocals via my focusrite audio interface. My problem is with the rest of the instrumental... I’m worried that my song will sound rubbish if I use virtual instruments (drums, bass, synths, etc...)

Is this a legit concern or not? These fears are preventing me from getting anything productive done and I’m getting stressed out!

Cheers,

GH
Old 28th August 2018
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Owen L T's Avatar
It IS a legit concern. But it has more to do with the skill of the person using the VSTs than the VSTs themselves - so the less time you spend stressing out, and the sooner you start learning to use the tools that are available, the better.

A whole lot of commercial releases are almost entirely programmed - though it depends on the genre. Most EDM is virtually 100% in the box from top-to-bottom; chart pop is heavily programmed, but is augmented by live instruments (guitar, drums - depending on how "live" they want the drums to sound).

Chances are your first effort will sound a bit "rubbish" as you say - as it sounds like you've not done much (any?) MIDI programming, or worked with soft-synths (which no one could accuse of sounding rubbish in 2018), drum VSTs, etc. Embrace the suck, and get on with it!

If you want your programmed drums to sound live, then you'll want to pick up BFD, Superior Drummer, or some multi-sampled alternative. Learning to get good results from that is very much an audio engineering thing. Synths ... there are oodles. Depends on your genre, and whether you want a versatile Spire/Serum/Predator/Diva Swiss Army Knife of a synth, or something more retro. Bass, likewise, if you want a real-sounding bass, then Trillian, ModoBass or the Scarbee stuff is a good place to start.

If you don't own ANY of the above, then NI's Komplete bundle is fantastic value. But there's something to be said for having fewer tools, and getting to know them inside out, so an equally viable (and perhaps cheaper) route would be to pick ONE good drum VST, synth, and bass - if that's all you need for instrumentation.
Old 28th August 2018
  #3
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TS-12's Avatar
Absolutely yes
Old 28th August 2018
  #4
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bgood's Avatar
Done every single day!

But as mentioned here already, work on playing you Virtual instruments as you would play the actual instrument
Old 29th August 2018
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Thank you Owen L T for taking the time to help a brother out!

I will definitely look into the likes of superior drummer. I simply don’t have the resources to record a real drum kit at the moment and that was one of the things that was bugging me - like how badly would my mixes suffer without a real drummer playing a real kit, would my mixes ever stand up against “radio ready” chart music if I didn’t have a drummer playing live drums, etc...

As for the bass, I actually discovered yesterday that the trillian bass you mentioned was used for the song “attention” by Charlie Puth and it sounds amazing so that’s encouraging too!

Thanks again!
Old 29th August 2018
  #6
Deleted 4adc64a
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by guideheart View Post
like how badly would my mixes suffer without a real drummer playing a real kit, would my mixes ever stand up against “radio ready” chart music if I didn’t have a drummer playing live drums, etc...
IME a live drummer is really only indispensable if you're into jazz. Harder to fake all the dynamics and brushwork. Pop is more about being creative with whatever drum like noises you've got than anything else. Don't forget to check out the stock library/instruments of whatever DAW you're using, lots of good stuff in some of them! For example this song could be 90% copied with a stock copy of Logic Pro: (The drums were ripped from the loop library and the synths are nothing particularly special.)
Old 29th August 2018
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for replying man,

I think I needed this for some peace of mind!

But yeah I forgot just how big a hit umbrella was and the fact it seems as though the drums are just a loop from logic pretty much says it all!
Old 29th August 2018
  #8
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by guideheart View Post
First time poster here so apologies if I have broken any rules!

I’m a singer songwriter who also plays piano. I’m lucky enough to own a Nord stage 2 ex and would use this to track piano. I would track vocals via my focusrite audio interface. My problem is with the rest of the instrumental... I’m worried that my song will sound rubbish if I use virtual instruments (drums, bass, synths, etc...)

Is this a legit concern or not? These fears are preventing me from getting anything productive done and I’m getting stressed out!

Cheers,

GH
The devil's in the details, i.e. it depends what you're doing. For ex. it's harder to get a realistic-sounding guitar or sax from VSTi's than it is strings or drums (and even that is an oversimplification). And it depends how picky (anal?) you are...some people are happy to get an "in the ballpark" sound from this or that, while others will obsess to a ridiculous OCD-like extreme to get a sound 1% better that really no one will notice a diff in, in the end, and of course there are many in-betweens.

Basically it makes no sense to sit and stress, just get out there and try some and see how much you like or not. There are actually a lot of good free VSTi's out there to get you started, so you don't have to spend anything other than time to get familiar trying them and see what works, what doesn't. People will give you specific suggestions for specific ones all day long and disagree all over the place...someone will say X is the best one for this or that while someone else will say nah that sucks, Y is what you want etc. Take it all with a grain of salt, including the ones I'm about to point out lol (these can be obtained free at numerous sites...I suggest KVR audio to start, they have a HUGE selection of freebies as well as the pay stuff). For drums, try MT Power Drum Kit. Some good synths (for strings, bass, keyboards, and general electronic sounds), FB3300, Synth1, MinimogueVA. For a guitar, Ample Guitar Lite.

As Owen pointed out, it's how good you are at using them that matters most of course, but the quality/abilities of the VSTi's can make a real diff too.
Old 9th September 2018
  #9
Some free VSTis
Synth1
Minimogue VA
PG8X
Dexed
Full Bucket Music synths
MK Standard Drums (Musyng Kite GM soundfont Standard drums VST I like them a lot).
Anything by Brian Serrano, GTG, or Elektrostudio.
Model Mini and Model Pro.
Something for guitar, maybe DSK Acoustic and DSK Electric.
SQ8L.
Samsara stuff for stuff like ocarina, hang drum, and harmonium.
That should get you covered for anything. I use 1 specific plugin for sax if I want it to be realistic. Usually I use a synth lead though If I do sax. If you want horns, use analog style synth horns.
Here’s my stuff. I do the same thing you want to do.
Pigeon City | Free Listening on SoundCloud
Old 11th September 2018
  #10
Here for the gear
It all depends on what sound, style and quality you're going for. You could also have luck outsourcing parts on musician freelance sites, but results vary with quality and budget.
Old 11th September 2018
  #11
Lives for gear
Good song, sure, a good song works on any format. A mix that competes with the big boys. That can be difficult but can be done. Depends on the style.

What you will not get is the loudness vs level (with dynamics). have to blend in a few mic tracks.
Old 29th September 2018
  #12
goodness me, you should have heard how poor VST's sounded in the late 90s, they really did sound bad, we are lucky now, a hell of a lot of improvements have been made since then.
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