Musicians now have a dazzling array of home recording technology from
which to choose, so it is important to know what you are looking for. Virtual
Studio Technology (VST) has established itself as one of the most popular ways
of putting down tracks in recent years.
Developed by Steinberg, the technology allows players to create an entire
studio out of software. The system was developed to allow real-time effect
modules to plug into Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) such as Cubase.
However, innovations by Steinberg later made it possible for MIDI data to
be sent to and from these effects. This was then used to run synth engines - or
So how do VST plug-ins work? Typically, they have their own GUI with
controls that resemble the physical switches seen on audio hardware. VST
plug-ins and instruments can then be added to the relevant tracks on your chosen
But musicians should be aware that there are slight differences between
VST instruments and effect plug-ins. For instance, the former uses notes via
MIDI to output audio, while the latter processes audio data, such as a
previously recorded wav file. It is also common for MIDI messages to be used to
control parameters of both instrument and effect plug-ins.
Effects can be linked within your DAW, giving musicians the option of
sending a VST instrument into an effect plug-in. In fact, players have a wide
range of options available to them at this stage, as there is no right or wrong
way of chaining together different VST instruments and effects.
This form of recording can have a number of advantages over alternative
methods, particularly with regards to the cost. VST instruments provide the look
and sound of original hardware but at a fraction of the financial outlay.
And musicians can take their pick from a huge array of virtual effects and
instruments that can give their tracks depth and character.
The final advantage is the fact that they take up no physical space,
giving users the chance to enjoy the features of bulky hardware without
overrunning their home with lots of equipment.
Musicians are spoiled for choice when it comes to VST instruments, so what
should you look for when choosing which one to use? Shop around for whatever
product suits your planned projects best and try out different options.
Companies tend to offer customers video tutorials and free demos for
download, giving users a chance to see whether it is suitable for them. This can
be a good way of checking firsthand whether the product you have your eye on
provides the tone and effects you want.
Also, make sure you have an appropriate host application and that your
computer is able to handle the system you are looking at.
VST instruments use a considerable amount of processing power so this is
vital to get them up and running and yielding the best possible results.
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