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 A Beginner's Guide to VST and Software Instruments by Jonathan Richard Meager

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 VST instruments.

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 DAW.

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.

I am the Communications Manager of I am committed to delivering the most informative and useful articles about musical instruments and equipment.

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