15 best virtual musical instruments software to use

By: George Finley
8 minute read

You’ve got all the gear you need, but do you also have the software to lay it all down with? People say that it’s all about the musician and the recording software doesn’t matter that much. Well, let’s agree to disagree, as our opinion is that you really do need the proper software to get the full capabilities of the songs you have been working so hard on building inside your mind.

You really need something to transfer those ideas into reality, and also to optimize your workflow by simplifying the process of making music.

The amount of music software available on the Internet is huge therefore it might leave you a bit confused. This is the exact reason for which we have created a decent collection of software compatible with modern systems that you also might find in the folders of various professional artists.

Choosing your production software

When you think about the best choices in production software, it’s crucial that you take into consideration all of your personal needs. Here are some essential aspects that you should keep in mind:

  • Budget

This is really an investment for the future so you’re going to want to get it right from the very beginning. You should really think long-term before emptying your pockets and it’s also recommended that before you drop the money, you also consider trying some free trials.

  • Experience level

If you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t get too crazy with spending lots of cash on highly professional software. Instead, you should start with something that you’d easily be able to understand and use in order to get your skills of making music going.

On the other hand, if you’re more experienced and you’re looking for a way to boost your skills and your creations, going higher on the cash level and getting some expert software is going to be worth it, as it will prove to be an investment if you take a minute a think about the future.

  • Are you planning on performing live?

Some software is more suited for live performances offering some easy integration with MIDI controllers, VST instruments, control surface and more live performance gear and features. On the other hand, eventually, any software is great for performing live, so don’t worry about this too much.

  • Stick with your choice

Your goal should be becoming more and more familiar with what you’ve chosen, because the quicker and the easier your workflow is, the more confident you’ll become and the better your music will sound.

  1. Image Line FL12 (recommended)

Image Line’s Fruity Loops is one (if not THE) of the best DAWs in case you’re looking to start out and get your feet wet in the whole music-making area. This one is out for quite a long time and it’s no wonder it has become so popular. If boasts the standard protocol with pitch shifting, correction, time-stretch, cut, paste and the works and its interface is perfect for beginners.

You can use MIDI keyboards, a mic to record into it, and you can also do all of your standard editing and mixing. Another great feature is the compatibility with a lot of plug-ins like Nexus1&2, FAB Filters, Zebra,etc. It’s more than best for the newcomers in the music industry. It comes with a demo/trial version, but for better service there’s always a price. However, the demo will help you decide after starting to get deeper into creation process.


  1. LMMS (developed by Tobias Doerffel, Paul Giblock, Danny McRae, Javier Serrano Polo)

This is a feature-packed workstation for making music from scratch, and it’s great for editing samples and tracks. This remains one of the most popular free music production and editing suites on PC and beyond. It’s also one of the most comprehensive DAWs ever and it doesn’t cut features and utilities.

  1. VirtualDJ (Atomix Productions Inc.)

This one is designed for professional musicians and DJs but don’t worry as it’s totally accessible for newcomers also. It’s one of the oldest open source music workstations on the market and there’s a pretty good reason for which it lasted for so long: it’s one of the best ways to start making music for free.

  1. Rosegarden (developed by Chris Cannam, Richard Brown, Guillaume Laurent)

Rosegarden is an amazing music-making tool, very powerful and easy to use. Even if VirtualDJ and LMMS are some of the longest running music editing series, this one right here makes them look like newborns. The original version of this software was released way back in the ancient times of 1993, and over the years, the program has evolved enormously. It works with most MIDI controllers and MIDI devices so you’ll have enough ways of creating and recording audio from scratch.

  1. Audacity (Audacity Team)

This is more than a tool for editing podcasts and it’s perfect for musicians and DJs of all levels. Audacity remains one of the most brilliant accessible DAWs and it’s the perfect choice for songwriters of all experience and skill levels. You can use it to rip tracks straight from CDs, and to import them in formats including WAV, AIF, and MP3.

  1. Hydrogen (by developer Alessandro Cominu)

This is a free drum machine that has become a favorite throughout the online music-making community. Sometimes all you need is a digital drum machine with all the trimmings for finding the right beat, the best track for your lyrics or for laying down the foundation for the best D&B song ever created on this planet. This is where Hydrogen comes in as a free Windows music production app that will sweep you off your feet.

  1. Ableton Live (Ableton)

Since its introduction in 1999, Ableton Live has been constantly growing as a popular DAW and this happened for a very good reason. It features the standard multi-track recording (with the unlimited number of audio/MIDI tracks), cut/paste/splice options but what’s the greatest thing about it is the seamless MIDI sequencing software and hardware. It’s also one of the best DAWs for performing live.

  1. Reaper (Cockos Incorporated)

All major DAWs (digital audio workstations) usually offer a free trial period, and one of the hidden treasures in the area is Reaper. You’ll be able to enjoy the free trial for 60 days as you can see on the website. With Reaper, you can get unlimited access to a very stable DAW that features similarities with the powerful Logic and Cubase.

  1. Noisemaker (Togu Audio Line)

If you’d like a simple and bold synth to get you started in the niche then Togu Audio Line’s Noisemaker is the thing for you. This is an analogue modeling synth featuring three oscillators, and this makes it one of the best free options for getting a vintage sound. Its controls are much easier to understand than the ones of Ableton, so it’s quite ideal if you’re a novice.

  1. Crystal (Green Oak)

Crystal is one of the classical synths and with its FM, and granular and wave sequencing synthesis capabilities, it can create some extremely complex and evolving sounds. Even if it looks a bit aged compared to other synths, trust us that if you want to create otherworldly timbres, this is the choice for you and it will keep you hooked for a long time.

  1. Dexed (Digital Suburban)

If you’re in a desperate need for creating lush pad sounds, Dexed is the best choice you have. This emulation of the Yamaha DX7 captures the synth’s classic FM sound just as well as any other alternative. It’s also perfect for creating bold plucked struck sounds and for making bright keys and it’s the perfect tool for your percussion.

  1. MFreeEffectsBundle (Melda Production)

 

If you’re after a selection of basic effects and utilities, MFreeEffectsBundle is worth checking out. Its 25 utilities range from a simple noise generator and phaser to a six-band equalizer. The software included in the package only offers limited functionality compared to its paid offer, but you’ll still find a lot of useful things in it.

  1. Pro Tools (Avid Technology)

If you’re looking for the industry standard, this is the software you should choose. Any professional producer or sound engineer will tell you the exact same thing. It would take hundreds of articles to describe all the features of this software, so it’s not quite suited for beginners. It offers the standard abilities of composing, recording, mixing, editing, mastering and more. It boasts a super fast processor, a 64-bit memory capacity, its own latency input buffer that will help with delays, and built-in metering.

  1. Reason (Propellerhead)

Reason by Propellerhead is less known in the music making software industry but it’s one of the most stable programs, as far as we have learned. You can drag and drop among its interface and it offers a fast system. The workflow is amazing especially for those of you who find themselves within the middle semi-pro range. It has a very powerful mixing console, and some say that it’s similar to Pro Tools and Logic.

  1. Cubase (Steinberg)

You would be quite surprised if you only knew how many people actually use the Cubase music software. Steinberg features its own signature key, and score and drum editor are included in this workstation. You can use the Key Editor to manually edit your MIDI track just in case you need to move a note. If offers you unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, incorporated VSTs, reverb effects and much more.

Cubase features one of the biggest sound libraries out there and also some of the most powerful plugins within a DAW, including the HALion Sonic SE 2 with synth sounds, Groove Agent SE 4 with 30 drum kits, EMD construction kits, LoopMash FX and more. Some say that it’s quite expensive and even harder to learn, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be good to go for a long period of time.

This is the digital age that we live in, so most of the production software out there is up-to-date and extremely popular. Go with the ones we’ve listed and you should be more than fine. Good luck!

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