Best Free Drum VSTs (2019)
For many of us, everything begins with the drums.
We take a beat or a rhythm and use it as a launching pad into our creativity. It’s the bedrock on which we build our track. Your recording software probably has some half-decent drums and percussion built in, whether that’s in the form of loops or virtual drum kits. But they don’t always cut it, and sometimes we need some fresh sounds to spark our imaginations. There’s a massive range of additional software drum instruments out there for people with money to spend. But how can you expand on your drum sounds with a much more modest budget of around zero dollars?
In this article I’ve pulled together a bunch of drum and percussion focused VST instrument plug-ins that could give your beats the flavor and excitement that you’re after — and best of all, they are entirely free! We can often assume that something for free is going to be a bit poorly made and largely useless. Not so with these plug-ins. They may not look as polished as commercial instruments, but there are sounds and noises inside that’ll give you new ideas that could invigorate your track.
The best free Drum VSTs are:
- Drumatic 3
- MT Power Drumkit 2
- StudioLinked Drum Pro
- KVR Beat DRMR
- Synsonic Instruments BD-909 and BD-808
- Rayzoon Jamstix 4 Free
Let’s kick things off with a beautiful drum synthesizer that generates a range of drum sounds from algorithms rather than samples. It uses virtual analog synthesis to recreate the sorts of sounds you’d find on analog drum machines or that would be produced by modular and analog synthesizers.
Drumatic starts off with 7 sounds covering bass drum, snare, clap, 2 toms, hi-hats, and a rimshot or bell. And then each sound has a page of synthesis parameters to shape and craft your sound. You have a Tone that defines the sound and then a Noise section to add bite and flavor. The Tone has pitch control and an envelope and then you can feed it a modifier that you can design yourself. The Noise can also be shaped with an envelope before being fed into a filter. The two sources are then mixed before going through a shaper and final filter.
You have similar controls over every sound in this synthesized kit which enables you to create exactly the sort of sounds you’re after. There’s a lot of detail here and loads of scope for sound design. There’s a new version 4 available which takes things a whole lot further if you have $30 to spend. But for free, Drumatic 3 is a fantastic source of synthetic drum sounds.
E-Phonic Drumatic 3: VST plug-in for Windows.
MT Power Drumkit 2
This is all about providing you with a solid, usable and high-quality sampled acoustic drum kit that sits perfectly in the mix. With some sampled drum instruments, the level of editing and detail is so deep that it takes a lot of hard work to wrestle the sound into a usable state alongside your other instruments. With MT Power Drumkit 2, the samples have already been pre-processed to fit right together and so is much more likely to drop into any track and sound good. For some people, it doesn’t give them enough individual control over the sound but if you just want a great sounding acoustic kit then this is perfect.
It has a massive groove library of realistic sounding patterns and rhythms while some innovative functions create smooth and authentic fills and changes. Although you can, of course, play the drums yourself. There’s a mixer page to give you level control over the individual drum elements so you can adjust it to your tastes.
But the power in the MT Power Drumkit 2 is in the simplicity and the instant sense of satisfaction you get when you drop that drum kit in there.
Manda Audio MT Power Drumkit 2: VST/AU/AAX plug-in for Windows, MacOS and Linux.
MiniSpillage is another good-looking drum synthesizer but one which focuses on three sounds and forms of synthesis. It offers a Bass Drum, a Wood Drum, and closed and open Hi-Hats, all generated by algorithms. It has been around for almost a decade, but beautifully written plug-ins never go out of fashion.
The Bass Drum uses a single oscillator with a pitch sweep, internal frequency modulation (FM) and harmonic controls with a useful display that lets you know what’s going on. There’s modulation in the form of “Warp.” You have control over the amount of “Click” you want in the sound and “Emphasis” on that initial transient.
The Wood Drum synthesizes natural and synthetic timbres from log drums to toms. It has controls like Expand, Variation, and Detune to create the feel and you can mix in metallic, body and brightness elements to shape the tone.
The Hi-Hats combines 6 oscillators with a noise source and two resonant filters to give the bite and sizzle of classic open and closed hi-hats.
All three then have the same lower section of envelope and LFO before running in the Distortion circuit and Filter.
MiniSpillage is capable of a wide variety of sounds within the constraints of the 3 forms of synthesis. It looks great, sounds great and is powerfully synthetic. The only downside is that it’s only available for MacOS.
AudioSpillage MiniSpillage: AU plugin for MacOS.
KVR Beat DRMR
In a similar vein but not anywhere near as elegant looking as Drum Pro, Beat DRMR is a fantastic source of drum kits. It comes with 178 kits covering Electro, Techno, Detroit, Minimal, Acid and all sorts of electronic styles.
There are 2,136 sounds in total sampled from old and new drum machines and synthesizers. There are kits sampled from the Jomox Airbase, Arturia DrumBrute, and TR-909. They’ve taken samples from modular systems from Dreadbox and other manufacturers. They’ve sampled both hardware and software synthesizers and built up an impressive and pretty unique library.
Each kit comes with 12 sounds assigned to the 12 pads that you can play via your MIDI controller or program via your DAW. There’s a mixer, which also includes individual controls over Attack and Decay. At the end of the chain, there’s a reverb, pitch and modulation LFO and a filter.
Beat DRMR: VST/AU plugin for MacOS and Windows.
Synsonic Instruments BD-909 and BD-808
The TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines from Roland are timeless classics that never go out of style. You’ll find sampled versions in many other drum VSTs but Synsonic are connoisseurs of these vintage drum machines and have a pair of plug-ins that focus on just the one sound: the kick.
BD-909 and BD-808 focus on the bass drum of the original Roland rhythm composers. Each is made through a detailed analysis of the bass drum circuits. They’ve pulled out every nuance, every character trait and modeled every last detail.
The BD-808 has control over the tuning, the accent, level, decay, and tone — everything the original had but with additional features in the resolution of the tuning, the length of the decay and the MIDI implementation. In fact, with MIDI control over the tuning, you can turn it into a little bass synthesizer.
The BD-909 has a similar feature set but also includes an envelope over the tuning, Attack, Hold and Noise Decay along with a distortion circuit.
They are both wonderfully simple and completely authentic.
Synsonic BD-909 and BD-808: VST/AU for MacOS and Windows.
Rayzoon Jamstix 4 Free
Jamstix 4 aims to take drumming into virtual reality with its in-depth, real-time modeling of genres and human drummers with all the bad habits, terrible timing and authentic feel that implies. It doesn’t use MIDI grooves or patterns; instead, Jamstix models the arms and playing style of drummers to generate realistic performances depending on the parameters you set. If you don’t like drum programming, this is probably for you.
Jamstix comes with multilayered high-quality drum sounds and a ridiculous number of kits if you buy the full version. For the free version, there are only 200 samples for arrangement in a decent number of ready-to-use kits. It comes with 8 drummer models and 21 style models that you can mix and match to form your perfect drummer. Then you “Build” a song by creating a structure and giving it a few pointers on how you’d like it to be played. You can then sit back and watch the virtual 3D drum kit being played in realtime.
The interface is a bit complex and crowded but Jamstix is an easy way to get a human feel into your drum tracks.
Rayzoon Jamstix 4 Free: VST/AU/AAX for Windows and MacOS.
This is a crazy looking machine in an MPC style that comes with 20 kits ready to play. The makers DubTurbo don’t seem to exist anymore but the plugin is still available and offers a great bunch of sounds.
Each kit loads up 16 sounds across the 16 pads and each pad has controls for volume, panning, attack, and release. Further controls are available for pitch, glide and fine-tuning. You can apply some modulation of various sorts and tie it to various MIDI inputs. It has also got 16 audio outputs so you can run each pad through a separate channel in your DAW.
DrumTROOP is a bit rough around the edges but comes with enough kicking kits to give you a lot of fun.
DubTurbo DrumTroop: VST/AU plugin for MacOS and Windows.
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