The world of rock music has changed more since 2013 to now than I can ever remember before. In 2013, we saw a rise of the 80s synth-pop music and over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a huge push towards hip-hop and electronic production in rock.
With this push towards music production, we’re also seeing a rise of VSTs being used in indie rock music. I personally think this is an exciting time as there really is so much that you can do with VSTs. Today, you can find almost a VST effect or instrument for literally anything you need for music production.
In 2009, my band and I went into a well-established, local producer and our worlds changed. We learned about VSTs and we started instantly using them all over our music.
In fact, the song that launched us was actually written on a piano and was then taken to production land. With our producer, we were able to surf through thousands of different sounds until we found the part we wanted with our MIDI pre-recorded.
We ended up finding some amazing Sylenth presets and tweaking them to our liking.
You can hear the song below.
Now, what is the reason for me to be telling you this? I wanted to start this article with a brief background of why VSTs are important for music production and I also wanted to show you exactly how we use them.
VSTs lead to creativity.
Although primarily used by producers to produce electronic music,VSTs are quickly finding their place in the indie rock scene. In fact, a lot of the biggest indie bands in the world today are experimenting with them.
The reason is simple: They’re easy to use, allow you to explore thousands of sounds & effects at the tip of your fingers. And all these activities lead to an increase in creativity and possibilities over your music.
It’s undeniable that writing music is easier when using VSTs as they allow you to experiment easily. Sure, recording analog sounds can be fun too, but they take up more time.
4 Best VSTs For Indie Rock Music
Don’t know where to start? Here are some of the best VSTs in terms of sound you can start with to add to your rock music arrangement.
CS-80 V By Arturia – Best for vintage arpeggios
The CS-80 V by Arturia is modeled after the iconic Yamaha CS-80 from the 1970s. With the CS-80, a polyphonic synthesizer, the first thing that jumps out to me is the incredible interface. The plugin’s interface mimics that of the original, giving you a really fun nostalgic vibe.
The original synthesizer was huge in size and expensive as well. It quickly became the go-to synthesizer of the 1970s, and because of its sound being incorporate in many hit songs, it has become truly an icon.
Probably one of the most expressive synthesizers made, even bands such as ABBA uses it. To be honest, there aren’t really any bad things I can say about this plugin. And it’s never a bad idea to incorporate some iconic sounds into modern rock music, giving it that twist that you might just need to take your music to the next level.
My band wrote a few of our bigger songs using this arpeggiator and I can’t say enough good things about it. It really brings you back to the late 70s and early 80s.
A lot of modern Arps sound a little stale to my ear and there’s something very analog feeling and modern at the same time with this VST.
The presets are also very wide and full sounding, giving you a taste of what the synth is capable of. And from there, you could continue experimenting and tweaking.
The Low End
The low end on the CS-80 VST is incredible. It’s rich & fat when it needs to be and it’s one of my favorite things about this plugin as well.
Why do I recommend It?
It’s not overused. This is a big problem in modern productions today. For example, so many producers have taken to Splice for pretty much all of their productions and it’s has come to the point where sync companies are specifically saying, “no Splice.”
This is where a synth like the CS-80 can come in as a bit of an untapped goldmine. Sounds that are unique to many new fresh ears.
Jup-8 V By Arturia – Best for strings pads
The Jup-8 V is modeled after the iconic Roland Jupiter 8 and the pads on this plugin are absolutely stunning. In fact, it was this synth that placed the name, Arturia, as a serious Japanese manufacturer for synthesizers in the early 1980s.
If you’re a fan of bands such as Joywave, Passion Pit, Twenty One pilots, then you would definitely like this plugin. The synth is famously known for its lush pads, with its ability to layer sounds. With the VSTs version, the way you can tweak the sound has not only been expanded but you can even program really solid-sounding leads that will catch your listener’s attention.
The unique ‘colorful’ user interface and great sound, made the Jup 8 a hit among musicians and bands. And with the VST, this is an amazing tool to use for indie rock music. A great option to add to your arsenal of sounds.
There are over 500 different presets to pick from and each one of them sounds unique in its own way.
Why do I recommend It?
This is just a solid plugin that works incredibly well for rock bands that like to incorporate the use of pads and strings layers in their music. Download a demo of the Jup-8 V and try it for yourself. This one definitely beats the stock VST pads that come with your DAW.
Signal By Output
Signal is a popular and award-winning plugin that is used in a lot of music today. With this being said, I’ve really liked using it with rock music.
Packed with distinctive and modern sounding instruments, it brings this really fun vibe to rock music and my band has used this over and over.
Signal is an easy to use plugin that pretty much sounds incredible out of the gates. From fat-sounding Arps to ripping bass leads, Signal excels in most aspects of production, especially when it comes to rhythmic sounds. The library is insanely large with over 500 presets, each with their own unique sound.
However, take note that this plugin is that it is very CPU intensive. If you don’t have a capable music production laptop or PC, you may want to hold off on this one.
Why Do I Recommend It?
I recommend this mainly for its sounds. You’re not able to tweak the presets in the interface too much, but you really won’t need to. If you’re into bands like The Killers, this will become one of your favorites.
The downside to that is that its sound can distinguishable. I would recommend using Signal creatively as an additional track on your arrangement or use some effects with it, to create something uniquely yours.
Soundtoys 5 Plugin Bundle – For your mixing needs
It’s never just about instruments when it comes to looking for the best VSTs. You’ll need good sounding VST effects for mixing work as well.
For that, look no further than to get the Soundtoys 5 plugin bundle. They are hands down the most popular plugin bundle when it comes to effects, mixing and vocal processing. You’ll find a use for each plugin effect that comes with the bundle for your mix.
In total, you’ll get 21 plugins in this bundle, with effects for saturation, distortion, echo, delay, chorus and even modulation effects like tremolos and phasing. Some of my favorites are the “Little alterboy,” and the “Decapitator.” This plugin works extremely well for indie rock bands and it is all over the mixes of the band “Sir Sly.”
In my opinion, this is one of the most important plugins that you can have as a producer working with modern indie bands.
Soundtoys is really one of those plugins that you will find yourself going to for pretty much every song you work on.
Why Do I Recommend It?
I recommend this plugin because it’s something that you will use a ton with rock bands and mixing rock music. If you listen to anything on Altnation, you will notice the use of this plugin on pretty much 95 percent of the bands.
The best part, you don’t even need a hardware dongle to use them. Getting losing dongle scares can be the worst thing to happen as you’re touring with your band. With its computer-based authorization, this finally takes the stress away.
Using VSTs for indie rock was at one time looked down on, but I feel like we have moved on from those days. All 4 of these plugins are great for rock music and they also give you more as they will work for other genres as well.
What are other VST instrument or effect plugins that you use for your music? It could be something else other than for rock. Let us know in the comment section below.
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