These are all plugins that you can download for FREE and use to make your own music. We’ll go through some definitions of what a VST guitar is and what kinds of free guitar VSTs are out there.
What is a VST Guitar?
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. These are instruments or effects that you can use to make music on a computer, rather than using analogue hardware. VSTs have been around since 1995 and they allow musicians to use many different sounds while recording an album without having all of these things at their disposal.
A VST guitar is a plugin that is made to model an actual guitar, whether that be an acoustic guitar, electric guitar or bass guitar.
3 Types of Guitar VSTs
A guitar VST can have a number of different options. One option is a Virtual Instrument to model the sound after an electric, acoustic or bass guitar with some effects added on in order to make it more realistic. These are playable instruments that you can play through MIDI in your DAW. These are great if you are not a guitar player but would like some realistic-sounding guitar in your production.
Second, you can use amp and cabinet simulation plugins which will add another layer onto your instrument by emulating how a real amplifier would sound if you had plugged into it.
The third option is to use a guitar suite that has many combinations of amps, cabinets, and effects pedals to string together to get the sound that you want. Guitar Suites can be a bit more expensive but can offer an extensive amount of combinations to play with. Luckily for us, there are a few FREE versions that still provide tons of features.
Now you have the three different options for getting your guitar sound in your DAW! Let’s take a look at the best FREE options out there.
FREE Guitar VST Instruments
Ample Guitar M Lite II
This is definitely my favourite instrument on this list for getting a “near” perfect modelling of an actual acoustic guitar. For a free guitar VST, this plugin is amazing. It has such versatility with its sounds that you can get surprisingly realistic tones from it without much tweaking or experience needed.
The main user interface is set up like any other playable instrument. You have a keyboard display with markers for playable notes and for articulations. Ample Guitar has lots of realistic articulations like palm muting, string noise, harmonics, etc, that can be triggered by a keystroke. There are also controls for panning, width, mic volume, and ADSR (attack, decay, sustain, release). Also with one click you can double the guitar and get that really wide sound you want.
The second interface is the Strumming. In this one, you can choose strumming patterns or create your own and save them. You can switch between chords and patterns to create your song. This sounds so real but it is very tedious to create your own realistic strumming patterns.
The third interface that most users will use is the FX. This is set up like a pedalboard and has your regular fair of effects including, compressor, overdrive, EQ, drive, chorus, reverb and delay. It also has a wah pedal that you can assign to be a control pedal for various parameters.
All in all, this is a great plugin that is easy to use and has the most realistic results.
Download Ample Guitar M Lite II
Spitfire Audio Labs
Spitfire Audio is at the top for producing instruments that have been meticulously sampled for realism and playability. Well, their FREE instruments through the LABS products are no exception.
These instruments are all unique sounding guitars in some way. I downloaded 3 of them including, peel guitar, guitar harmonics, and moon guitar.
All LABS instruments are played through Spitfire Audio’s VST player. This is also a free player which can be used for a whole host of great instruments. The guitar harmonics have ADSR controls and reverb control, while the moon and peel guitars have reverb and tightness control. These are selected and then manipulated through the large control wheel. There are also 2 expression controls. One for Expression and one for Dynamics.
The guitars all are quite realistic but they are employing some unique techniques to get the sound they are producing. The Moon Guitar sounds like a real guitar with an Eastern quality to it. The Guitar Harmonics has some sounds that are highly processed to get an ethereal nature to them.
Overall these instruments are a great addition to any guitar library.
Download Spitfire Audio LABS
DSK Dynamic Guitars
This VST has a really ugly interface, but don’t let that fool you. It produces some realistic-sounding guitars.
Dynamic Guitars features a sample of three guitar types, acoustic, nylon and steel. ADSR controls and selecting between voice modes are included in the interface. DSK also has onboard effects for the guitars including reverb and panning.
This is the simplest of all the interfaces and this can be a great thing if you are looking to just jump on it and make some music.
Download DSK Dynamic Guitars
FREE Guitar VST Amp Simulators
A Guitar Amp Simulator is a plugin that is designed to model or imitate the sound from a real guitar amp and cabinet. No list of FREE guitar VSTs would be complete without some amp simulators.
Blue Cat Free Amp
Blue Cat’s Free Amp is great because it is completely free. There are no restrictions and there is no sign-up required. Just download and install. The amps are modelled using their own amp simulator tech. The same tech that they use in the paid version.
Here is the perfect bundle of amp models: a classic clean, a classic drive and a modern drive to complete any sound. Matching amp cabinets give these virtual amps plenty of potential sounds.
With all these different amp sims to choose from, you’ll be able to find the tone that’s right for you.
Download Blue Cat Amp
Based on a compelling amp featured in Kuassa Amplifikation One guitar software, Amplifikation Lite has three channels (clean, rhythm, and lead). It also includes a cabinet loader so you can pair it with a cabinet to get a more authentic sound.
The aspect that I like the most, other than the sound quality, is that it’s extremely easy to use and tweak thanks to a limited number of controls.
Additionally, there is a custom cabinet and you don’t have to load one externally.
Download Amplifikation Lite
Black Rooster Audio has made this amp simulator to be modelled after the Brit Rock amp the Orange TT15. This amp sim has a cabinet matched to the head and gives a full range of presets.
This VST has a very similar tone to what you’d hear from an Orange amp and is laid out identically.
Download Cypress TT-15
Ace by Shattered Glass Audio is a virtual Fender tube guitar amplifier.
The amp simulates classic fender circuits and tone shapes to reproduce the iconic sound of this popular instrument.
This is a true hipster amp, great for indie rock and pop. It also comes with an impulse response cabinet simulation.
The thing that makes Ignite software amazing, besides being FREE, is that they actually model their software after their own hardware amps. This is great because they know their amps intimately.
The 3 plugins to really grab are the Libra, the Emissary, and the NRR-1.
The Libra is an Impulse Response convolver. It is made to be used as a cabinet simulator for use with the amp simulators. There is a lot of control with this plugin so you shape your sound how you want it.
The Emissary is a model of a very popular amp and it is a very popular amp sim on its own. It is definitely geared towards the heavy styles but its clean channel is really nice and warm which could work in other styles.
The NRR-1 is another great modelling of an Ignite amp that uses a triode modelling engine. This amp has a huge sound that also easily cuts through any mix. Great for heavy guitars and screaming leads.
Download Ignite Amps
FREE Guitar VST Suites
Guitar Rig 6
Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 is the newest version of the popular guitar suite. The FREE version of the software features a single amp and cabinet and 13 effects that can be chained together.
The plugin can be used for a wide range of effects, from adding a bit of warmth to delay-filled ambiance or rage-induced distortion, and it sounds good on synths and can be used with vocals.
This FREE version is included when you download Komplete Start, which is a Native Instrument Suite that contains over 2000 sounds, 16 synths, and a bunch of effects.
Download Komplete Start
Amplitube 5 Custom Shop
Amplitube 5 CS is made by IK Multimedia. This free version of their guitar suite comes with 5 amps with matching cabinets, 10 stompbox effects, and 6 digital effects.
The user interface allows you to create a signal chain and so you can make a bunch of different combinations of these effects, amps and cabinets. You can also go into the room and change the room size and the mics, as well as their placement. With all of these options, you can really create an amazing guitar sound.
The great thing about this plugin is that if you want to expand your amps or cabinets, you can purchase credits to the custom shop and add what you like.
Download Amplitube 5 CS
It is a freeware set of plugins. SimulAnalog is a research firm that made this software to be used by musicians FREE of charge. That’s why it is given as-is, with its bad interface and lack of formal support.
The goal of the project was to make simulations that are as accurate as possible. SimulAnalog claims in their material that, “every component in the audio path of the original instrument has been modelled, except for the secondary effects of some active devices” and that “the response of each original device have been compared with the respective simulated response, obtaining less than -40dB of difference” (SimulAnalog Guitar Suite)
Translation, they make some really good sounds that are just like playing through the original hardware. When you download it, you get 5 stompboxes and 2 amplifiers to add to your DAW.
The Bottom Line
If you are a guitarist or just want to have some guitar on your tracks, then this list will be able to help you out in getting some great free guitar VSTs. With these programs, there is no reason not to get your hands dirty and try making something new! Go for it!
In my opinion, free guitar VST does not necessarily mean a bad one. Try these out and see for yourself. There are many ways to get into making music at home without spending a ton of money. If you are wanting to get started building a home studio then check out our guide for the 9 Essential Home Studio Equipment Every Beginner Needs