The Best Piano VSTs for Authentic Sound in Your DAW
Piano VSTs are a must have for any emerging producer.
The timeless sound of this classic instrument appears in nearly every genre of music.
But not all piano VSTs deliver realistic, expressive sound that can elevate your mixes.
Luckily for modern producers, there are plenty of excellent options available that cover the vast range of sounds associated with the piano.
In this article, I’ll list the top piano VSTs for every budget.
Let’s get started.
The piano is one the most commonly sampled instruments.
Since the early days of VSTs, there have been countless projects to capture the realism and expression of the concert grand.
But many of these super pianos focus on the detail required to meet the discerning standards of classical musicians—and they come at a high price.
Not only that, the traditional concert piano can sound sterile and austere in other genres of music.
If you’re looking for a warmer, more versatile grand piano that won’t break the bank, Spitfire Originals Intimate Grand Piano is now available in LANDR Studio.
On the other hand, if you need a realistic concert sound, Soniccouture’s Hammersmith Pro is an excellent choice that can sometimes fly under the radar.
Each of its 21 velocity layers per note were captured both with and without the sustain pedal depressed, offering true-to-life response from the sustain pedal.
On top of that, the feel of a great piano sound comes from the choice and placement of the microphones used to capture it.
Hammersmith Pro offers 6 blendable mic setups to create your ideal piano texture.
You’ll find classics like Neumann or Schoeps stereo pairs as well as more exotic options like a binaural head or Beatles-style single mic in the sound hole.
Spectrasonics is the developer behind the powerful Omnisphere plugin commonly recommended on best virtual instrument lists.
But if you’re looking for more traditional keyboard sounds, its Keyscape plugin is highly rated.
In addition to vintage electric pianos, harpsichords and toy pianos, you’ll find a selection of excellent traditional piano textures.
Keyscape includes everything from dusty old uprights and tack pianos to concert quality grands.
5. NI Unacorda
The sound of the piano is always evolving even though it seems like the basic design of the instrument has been fixed for centuries.
For example, you may have heard a melancholic film soundtrack with an ethereal soft piano that tugs at the heartstrings.
NI’s Unacorda samples a unique piano instrument created by master piano builder David Klavins.
Employing a new design with a single string per note, the Unacorda was created in collaboration with composer Nils Frahm.
With additional felts for the softest, most intimate sound possible, NI’s VST edition of the Unacorda is worth a try.
While we’re on the subject of soft piano, the traditional method for creating these hushed, haunting piano tones is by adding additional felt to the hammer mechanism.
That was the process behind Spitfire’s Soft Piano. The sampled instrument put their LABS platform on the map and inspired full albums of emotional piano music.
It’s still one of the most evocative sampled pianos out there, and best of all…it’s free!
Looking for more free music software?
Dive into our monthly series of the hottest new plugins on the freeware scene.
The Vienna Symphonic Library is the premiere sampled collection of orchestral instruments for many film and TV composers.
Along with its inspiring strings and horns, the company is equally respected for its Imperial concert grand.
If you’re looking for the piano sound of the old masters and modern virtuosos, Vienna Imperial should be high on your list.
UVI is another respected name in the world of realistic instrument sampling.
Their Model D Grand plugin pays tribute to one of the most famous pianos ever produced.
With meticulous sampling, advanced scripting and onboard effects, those who need an authentic, modern grand piano sound will find lots to love.
9. Garritan CFX
Garritan CFX is another ultra-realistic piano sampling project conducted at Abbey Road studios.
It focuses on the Yamaha CFX grand—the pinnacle of modern Japanese piano building.
Garritan CFX presents this fantastic instrument in all its glory. Consider it if you’re looking for the best the modern piano has to offer.
No VST instrument collection is complete without a great piano.
Whether you’re looking for stunning realism or cinematic ambience, there’s a virtual piano for you on this list.
If you’ve made it through this article you’ll have a great start when it comes to choosing the best piano VST.
Michael Hahn is an engineer and producer at Autoland and member of the swirling indie rock trio Slight.
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