These days, the term ‘drums’ is loosely defined as it could be referring to anything from an acoustic drummer mic’d up, a recreation of real drums using samples triggered by MIDI inputs, to something electronic or synthetic creating percussion using samples or synthesis.
For the majority of musicians, having access to an acoustic kit in a studio setting with access to quality mics, not to mention with a real drummer who can actually play, is simply not an option. This is where drum VSTs come in. They are a great option for musicians who want to be able to create and record beats of all kinds without the need for an actual drummer and all the equipment that comes with it. Drum machines are also an expensive investment, and may not be a possibility for artists just starting out on their music creation journey. Drum VST plugins come in all shapes and sizes to suit all kinds of artists, and what’s more, there are many great options that can be conveniently accessed for free!
What is a drum VST?
In simple terms, a drum VST is a form of “Virtual Studio Technology” software that enables users to play and record real drum or drum machine sounds without having to own any physical percussion equipment as a plugin in a digital audio workstation.
Drum VSTs are operated using MIDI controllers such as a keyboard or electronic drums, allowing the user to ‘trigger’ sounds and therefore play the drums virtually. The sounds that you receive as part of a VST are often referred to as samples. These samples usually come in a library bundle called the sample library where the user can modify and swap out various sounds to tailor their beat.
Types of drum plugin
Drum plugins can be divided into two types: ROMplers and drum machines. ROMplers are sample playing instruments that focus on authenticity, looking to accurately recreate the sound of real drums as closely as possible. Drum machines are much more similar to their hardware equivalents and tend to be more sequencer focused.
Both ROMplers and drum machine plugins are available as free VST software, however, ROMplers are less prevalent due to the costly process of recording and creating large, realistic sample libraries. Many are also available as free demos that encourage users to buy more sounds to expand on an initially limited library.
This isn’t to say you can’t get some great results from a range of free drum VST plugins, so without further ado, here are our picks for the best free drum VSTs to take your beat making to the next level!
10 best free drum VSTs
1. SampleScience 6o6 Koncept
Based on the iconic Roland TR-606 drum machine, the 6o6 Koncept is a sample-driven plugin that delivers that classic drum machine sound whilst giving the user more control over the sounds it produces.
SampleScience has added a few extra features to its 6o6 Koncept free drum VST including Tape, Vinyl, and Sub texture layers that allow the user to add extra character to the sounds and tailor them to their needs. The flexible LFO section also allows users to add plenty of sonic movement to their patterns. Each sound is individually customizable using the multi-pitch sum mixer, allowing for far more creativity than is possible using the original hardware the VST is based on.
Similar to the 606, the Linn LM-1 is a classic drum machine that has been used by some of the greatest names in music including Prince, Peter Gabriel, and Michael Jackson.
Due to its iconic status, prices for the hardware version have become somewhat exaggerated for the modest number of features you receive. Thankfully, the DJinnDrum VST by SimpleRecorder allows you to access all the classic sounds from the LM-1 for free!
3. MT Power Drum Kit 2
If you’re looking for the best in authentic, acoustic drum sounds from a VST, then look no further than the MT Power Drum Kit 2! This isn’t just any ordinary free drum plugin - the high-quality drum sounds and fully pre-programmed sample library are usually features exclusive to paid-for VST software downloads.
Ideal for use in pop, rock and metal songs, it’s a great drum plugin for putting together your own patterns or building a groove around a specific type of beat. Built-in compressors give you even more control over the sounds you can achieve with this fantastic programme!
Who doesn’t love the sound of a powerful kick drum? It’s the heartbeat of many songs, which is why KickMaker is a great free drum VST that is built for users to craft the perfect kick.
Using four independent oscillators and a wide range of effects, you can create quality kick drum sounds that are fully customizable.
5. Beat Factory Drums
If you’re looking for a free drum VST plugin that is easy to use and also sounds amazing, then look no further than Beat Factory Drums!
This drum VST comes with fully tweakable ADSR parameters which allow you to customize each kit in the sample library to your liking. A seriously impressive feature that most free drum plugins don’t offer.
6. Dub Turbo DrumTROOP
A free drum VST for the electronic music producers this one. The DrumTROOP drum machine is a powerful tool with a high-quality sample library and an array of features tailored towards everything electronic, from house music to EDM.
7. Single Cycle Vintage Drum Elements
Looking for that warm analogue sound that you get from a vintage drum machine? The free Vintage Drum Elements plugin consists of a 12 pad interface that is incredibly user-friendly allowing for easy customization on a range of quality sounding preloaded samples.
8. Sean Pandy Drums
If you love the sound of heavy metal drummer Sean Pandy and want to bring a similar heavier style of beat and drum sound to your music then the Sean Pandy Drums VST is the perfect free plugin for you!
9. Line of Legends
Despite its simplistic design, don’t let Line of Legends fool you into thinking it isn’t a force to be reckoned with in the free drum VST space. The plugin comes with 47 high-quality samples, with 8 individual output channels that can be seriously customized to achieve your desired sound.
10. Drum PRO
Last but not least, Drum Pro is a comprehensive drum machine plugin with 20 built-in kits, 12 pads and global effects. Great for making EDM, techno and virtually any style of electronic music, this free VST plugin has you covered for all your beat creation needs!
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