Software instrument

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A software instrument (also a virtual instrument or, depending on the interface used, a VST or AU instrument ) is used for software-based sound generation in real time on a digital audio workstation or in a sequencer . They are used more and more frequently in music notation programs, where previously simple MIDI sounds dominated.

With software instruments , real instruments can be imitated, and modern sounds can be created using new software synthesizers . They usually have a wide range of specific parameters that can be saved as a preset. Software instruments can be controlled via MIDI so that they can be played via a master keyboard . The sound is output via an audio interface ( sound card ).


Even if many software instruments can be played in a standalone mode without additional software, they are usually loaded into sequencer software via an interface (such as VST or AU ) , which acts as a host . The latter option has the advantage that the audio signal can be fed directly into the virtual mixer and processed with internal sequencer effects. In addition, a large number of instruments can be played at the same time, which is only limited by the computing power of the DAW hardware. Because the sound quality is now very close to the hardware models, complete music productions can only be realized with software instruments. They have proven themselves particularly in the area of preproduction , where a presentable result must be achieved quickly and inexpensively. In the final production - depending on the budget - they are often replaced or supplemented by hardware or studio musicians in order to achieve more authenticity, liveliness and sonority.

Advantages and disadvantages

Not only the low purchase price - compared to hardware - is appreciated, but also the quick availability and independence, because software instruments can also be used on a notebook on the go, even on stage, without causing transport problems. Since all settings are saved together ("Total Recall"), it is much easier to work on several projects at the same time.

The greatest challenge to a software instrument is the imitation of playing techniques and special sound-defining properties of real instruments. For example, strumming on the guitar is very difficult to imitate directly on a midi keyboard. A Fender Rhodes overdrives (desired) when hit hard and an old Moog synthesizer cannot keep its tuning exactly (so-called oscillator drift), which gave it a dirty sound that is appreciated today.


The first popular software instrument was ReBirth RB-338 from Propellerhead , a replica of hardware tools TB 303 , TR 808 and TR 909 from Roland . Another important pioneer was the Steinberg company with its Virtual Studio Technology (VST).


Since other companies have developed their own interfaces for their respective sequencers , the following standards have emerged:

See also


  • Alexander Weber: Freeware VST / VSTi Audio Plugins . GC Carstensen, 2006, ISBN 3-910098-31-2 .