#1
Yesterday, I had a conversation with my father about the topic of Virtual Studio Instruments (VSTs) vs. Physical Instruments when I invited him down to my studio. Here is a paraphrased version of that.

------

Me: "Hey, check out this drum track for a song I've been working on."

**Taps out a drum pattern on a Midi Drum Pad**

Dad: "That's nice, but they are not real drums."

Me: "Well, I suppose, but they are sampled recordings from a real drumkit."

Dad: "That doesn't make them real though."

Me: "How so? If I recorded these drums and put them in a song, you would never know the difference..."

------

Basically, when you play a sampled guitar on a midi keyboard (Such as Scarbee's Funk Guitarist), are you playing the guitar, or a keyboard?

or, When you play a Midi guitar controlling a synth, are you playing the synthesizer, or the guitar?

I mean, I've never heard someone use the term "I play the midi controller"...

If I play a sampled piano on a midi controller, Am I playing a midi controller, or a piano?

Another important aspect of it is size/money. Why should I carry around a Leslie/B3 combo or a Pearl Drumkit when I can download something of a equal/lesser equivalent?

I come from a rather poor background, so having the VST Instruments gives me a chance to use equipment that I could never physically buy.

Please, Discuss:
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Last edited by Joe-Floyd-lover at Jun 15, 2011,
#2
The instruments are real, but you will never get the same expressiveness out of them than an experienced performer of that instrument. On a keyboard you can't get the nuances that make each and every instrument unique, you just get what was recorded.

For example you can get full orchestra VSTi packages that sound real, but it is guaranteed that actually getting an orchestral to play what you have written will sound much more expressive, after all there's nothing like going to a concert and hearing a full orchestra in person.
Last edited by griffRG7321 at Jun 15, 2011,
#3
Quote by Joe-Floyd-lover


I come from a rather poor background.

-->

I invited him down to my studio.



haha sorry, that sounds odd.... there'll always be a snobbery towards that, although i think our generation growing up with so much of this will be less so than the past. i mean if they're sampled from a real kit and you can't tell the difference? hell a lot of real kits sound shitty. gimme a good sampled kit over a bad real kit any day.
#4
The biggest thing that gets me about sampled drums is that there are an infinite number of ways to hit each head/symbol/etc that produce an infinite number of tones. A good drummer knows how to take advantage of this, a programmed set has maybe 5.

Additionally, as other people have said the expression is all wrong. Playing keys on a keyboard can not replicate the feel of a bowed violin or a picked guitar.
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#5
Quote by Joe-Floyd-lover
so having the VST Instruments gives me a chance to use equipment that I could never physically buy.

Please, Discuss:


well, that's what they offer you. Pretty awesome IMO.

elitism, even from your own dad, is a detrimental thing. It gets you hung up on things that don't even matter, when you could be making music. I'd try to ignore that kind of mindset, and enjoy your craft.

Not that you shouldn't appreciate music played by live musicians.... you definitely SHOULD, but that shouldn't take away from your ability to see the value in using DAW's.
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Jun 15, 2011,
#6
but to what extent could you? i think with drums (drummers might disagree) it could be grand, and you look at a digital piano, i mean those things have sympathetic vibrations and all! but yeah for any string instruments you'll never match it.
#7
Quote by Artemis Entreri
The biggest thing that gets me about sampled drums is that there are an infinite number of ways to hit each head/symbol/etc that produce an infinite number of tones. A good drummer knows how to take advantage of this, a programmed set has maybe 5.

Additionally, as other people have said the expression is all wrong. Playing keys on a keyboard can not replicate the feel of a bowed violin or a picked guitar.

Listen to Chimp Spanner. The entire thing was recorded in his room. But he only played the guitar/bass parts. The drums are entirely programmed. Same with Animals As Leaders. It's also been said by Bulb (and I'll take his word on it) that many musicians that are signed will play the drum parts, and then put snare samples where the snare hits are, or a bass drum sample, etc. to make everything sound "studio".

I think drums are the only real "instrument" ( ) that can be recreated completely... having said that... listen to this... (the sound file)

http://www.zreomusic.com/

It's a full orchestra done with VST's (except the choir) and it sounds immaculate.

Real instruments will always outdo the virtual, but virtual instruments can sound real if in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. I wouldn't write them off. Ever.
#8
Quote by GuitarMunky
elitism [...] is a detrimental thing. It gets you hung up on things that don't even matter, when you could be making music.


'xactly!

I think the VST v. "real" debates comes down to your needs and means. If you just need a few lines of a string section for a hook in a hip-hop loop, or you just need something for background 'padding', there's no reason why VST shouldn't be acceptable. If you need an expressive flute or violin solo for an instrumental fantasia jazzy classical virtuosic odyssey...maybe consider the real thing... .
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#9
Well, as griff said, the problem isn't necessarily the quality of the sound, it's the expressiveness. Getting a somewhat "real" feeling from VSTi:s can take hours and hours of hand-editing notes in your DAW. Not that I think there's something inherently wrong with them not being "real" instruments, but it limits their use somewhat.

Also, just to be annoying, VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. The i in VSTi is for instrument.
#10
Quote by DiminishedFifth

Real instruments will always outdo the virtual, but virtual instruments can sound real if in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. I wouldn't write them off. Ever.

+1

while there are some vst drum kits that i don't think sound great out of the box (ezdrummer im looking at you) there are some that do (steven slate take a bow) and the ones that don't CAN sound about as good as real drums given you know how to work an eq, compressor and mixer well (omg just like real drums!) in addition to being able to edit midi velocities well.
#11
Quote by DiminishedFifth
Listen to Chimp Spanner. The entire thing was recorded in his room. But he only played the guitar/bass parts. The drums are entirely programmed. Same with Animals As Leaders. It's also been said by Bulb (and I'll take his word on it) that many musicians that are signed will play the drum parts, and then put snare samples where the snare hits are, or a bass drum sample, etc. to make everything sound "studio".

I think drums are the only real "instrument" ( ) that can be recreated completely... having said that... listen to this... (the sound file)

http://www.zreomusic.com/

It's a full orchestra done with VST's (except the choir) and it sounds immaculate.

Real instruments will always outdo the virtual, but virtual instruments can sound real if in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing. I wouldn't write them off. Ever.


Most drums in studio aren't even played by drummers anymore to be honest. A drum machine can keep better rhythm than even the best drummers unfortunately. They still don't have the feeling. I'm against it, but I have heard some fantastic programmed drums.

As for recreating them, a 4/4 beat can be recreated pretty easily but no virtual drum could replicate the work of Moon or Bonham or their touch on the instrument.

That being said, for the Orchestra, many movie soundtracks are entirely virtual now as it's much cheaper and easier than hiring an orchestra. I'll admit again, I've heard some incredible virtual orchestras but nothing will replace 50 to 100 trained and talented human beings playing in a space with each other. For someone in their basement, virtual instruments are a great utility but I would never consider them acceptable in the professional world. Not many people agree with me on this though.
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#12
Quote by soviet_ska
'xactly!

I think the VST v. "real" debates comes down to your needs and means. If you just need a few lines of a string section for a hook in a hip-hop loop, or you just need something for background 'padding', there's no reason why VST shouldn't be acceptable. If you need an expressive flute or violin solo for an instrumental fantasia jazzy classical virtuosic odyssey...maybe consider the real thing... .


yup, and how many of us are in a position to get "the real thing" ?

we're not all virtuosic violinists, and most of us don't know any.

So to be able use a software instrument and get a sound that is still pretty dang awesome...
is more than acceptable.

To debate one VS the other is pointless if only one of the choices is available to you.

and like some others are saying.... if you know what you're doing, you CAN make some very convincing tracks in a daw with all virtual instruments.
shred is gaudy music
Last edited by GuitarMunky at Jun 15, 2011,
#13
Quote by z4twenny
+1

while there are some vst drum kits that i don't think sound great out of the box (ezdrummer im looking at you) there are some that do (steven slate take a bow) and the ones that don't CAN sound about as good as real drums given you know how to work an eq, compressor and mixer well (omg just like real drums!) in addition to being able to edit midi velocities well.


Oh my, I do my drums with EZdrummer =(
That said, I've always been to lazy to try something else, and I'm happy with the drum sound, though I'm not an expert.
#14
Thanks for the replies! This is turning into a great discussion!

Quote by gavk
haha sorry, that sounds odd....


Well, it's not a "studio" as you would think of Abbey Road, it's just my basement with guitars/basses, amps, midi controllers, a computer, and mixers... What else do you need to call it a "studio"?


Quote by descara

Also, just to be annoying, VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. The i in VSTi is for instrument.


lol, I knew that, but I was rushing while typing

Quote by GuitarMunky
yup, and how many of us are in a position to get "the real thing" ?
we're not all virtuosic violinists, and most of us don't know any.

That's one of the other reasons I use VSTs. I know I will never become a Violinist, or a Brass player, but I know I love the sounds of those instruments.... It's like having your own backing band!

Quote by Keth
Oh my, I do my drums with EZdrummer =(
That said, I've always been to lazy to try something else, and I'm happy with the drum sound, though I'm not an expert.


I use Addictive Drums, they are great! Much better than EZ or Superior IMO.
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#15
Even sampled drums are compressed a bit, and you don't get the variation of each hit that you would get from a real drummer hitting the snare, or kick, or high hat, or cymbol. It's like the passive vs active pickup things, yeah, active pickups are great at metal, and are very punchy, but they just don't have the same overtones and organicness to them that passives do.

Computers are amazing, but they will never chalk it up to the real deal, no matter how advanced the computer is.

But, VSTi are pretty useful, especially in your situation.
#16
Having real or fake drums doesn't make your song any better or worse. Most people who don't play drums but compose will use loops or samples. You don't really need a real drummer on a track unless you plan on having tons of people here it. Vsts are amazing, how else do you expect one single guitar player to record bass guitar drum and vocals all on his on? Not many people have the money to buy "Secondary" instruments and especially not mics.
#17
I have heard many recording of VSTi's withing a song where the only played instrument is the guitar or drums, and the end result is phenomenal. As technology grows access to these will be made easier and more expressive and realistic. Nothing replaces the real thing, but whats wrong with a substitute that can invoke the same response and passion under skilled hands? Manipulating a virtual orchestra is tricky, but someone skilled in it can still make masterful compositions.
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#18
In my opinion, using MIDI instruments is nice, but it's hard to catch those small sound-differences (phrasing) that you could with a real instrument. Also, it could get troublesome in live situations.
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#19
I think you and your dad are talking past each other, to be honest.

Your dad's right; a MIDI controller is not a drum kit. On the other hand, you seem to think that he implied that, because you didn't use a real drum kit, that what you created isn't any good, or doesn't sound like real drums... which is obviously not true. In the literal sense, regardless of how awesome it may sound, you didn't actually play your drum part on a drum kit. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

To answer your question, though, VSTs are as good or bad as the person using them... but I would personally never dream of calling myself a violinist because I can create a violin part with a VST. I mean, let's face it; if you put an actual violin in my hands, I still wouldn't know what to do with it.

So, short answer; electronic drum kits kinda blur the line. You can call yourself a drummer, and technically be correct because you're picking up a pair of sticks and playing a drum part whether you're doing it on a Roland electric kit or a Pearl acoustic. But if you're calling yourself a violinist because you're tapping keys on a Casio MIDI keyboard, you're not.
#20
I don't really see the issue. If you're playing a keyboard, you're playing a keyboard, regardless of what sounds come out.

I agree the sounds that come out can be very impressive indeed. In Slash's autobiography he mentions that Axl Rose created the entire orchestra part for November Rain on a synthesiser, and that's what we hear on the record. Does that mean that Axl Rose is a master of every string instrument? No, but he's a pretty good pianist.
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