The piano has an unmistakable sound. As a solo instrument it can captivate, inspire, and enthrall. And as a supporting instrument it can fill in the cracks, add a percussive layer, inject texture and character, and more.
It’s fair to say it’s an essential for all types of composers and producers these days, and the good news is that there are more competent sounding premium virtual piano instruments than ever before.
In this guide, we look at the best piano VST plugins. Use these to soup up your mixes.
ASCEND: Modern Grand by Heavyocity – Best Overall
Heavyocity’s ASCEND: Modern Grand is a highly rated Kontakt instrument. Composer Paul Haslinger thought it was “instantly inspiring,” composer Kevin Riepl said it was “beautifully sampled,” and composer Jason Graves dubbed it “beautiful and emotional.”
ASCEND: Modern Grand, as you may have gathered, is a cinematic grand piano virtual instrument, taking after the Concert Model D grand. The instrument was recorded in New York City by Heavyocity, who opted to deep sample the stunning grand piano in detail.
Brushes, hammers, ebow, chains, and twine were all captured with the top-quality vintage and modern microphones with the help of film score mixer Satoshi Noguchi. These help you achieve added realism in your performances.
This Kontakt instrument, though, also comes with a library of rhythmic convolutions, dozens of layered sources, and of course, FX.
ASCEND: Modern Grand features a stunning 47.8 GB wroth of content, 110 snapshot presets, (25 Ascended, 10 Core Concert D, 25 Extended, 25 Rhythmic, 25 Rhythmic Melodic, 16 Sound Sources), sample browser, arpeggiator, and three-point mixer.
As the video below shows, ASCEND: Modern Grand is well-suited to composition right out of the box, especially the presets. That said, the instrument is versatile and beautiful sounding enough that it could be used for other purposes too.
All these factors make ASCEND: Modern Grand our best overall pick. If you want quality piano sounds you can use in practically any situation, this VST is sure to captivate and delight.
ASCEND: Modern Grand is compatible with Windows and Mac.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Piano V2 by Arturia – Best Premium Option
Arturia has quite the track record in developing amazing sounding virtual keyboard instruments. We think Piano V2 is also worth a look. More than a mere virtual piano, Arturia calls it a “modeled piano studio.” No surprise, really – this VST comes with a variety of piano sounds along with an array of tone shaping options that truly make it worthy of the title “piano studio.”
How many pianos, you ask? Piano V2 comes with 12 world-class pianos (grands and uprights) crafted using Arturia’s acclaimed modeling technology. And the sounds range from practical and highly usable all the way over to unconventional and distinct.
Using Piano V2, you can tweak the room as well as the recording setup to dial in your favorite timbres. Room type, mic positions, and the EQ can all be used to affect outcomes. And these settings can have a dramatic effect on tones, which is why Arturia felt to include them.
The piano sounds include concert grand, intimate grand, pop grand, jazz upright, piano-bar upright, pop upright, classical upright, glass grand, metal grand, Japanese grand, plucked grand, and tack upright.
Piano V2 also gives you customizable action settings, global string tension (tuning), unison detuning, stretch tuning, dynamic range, hammer hardness, hammer position, velocity curve editor, customizable mechanical noises (pedal, key, hammer), mechanics, lid position, soundboard resonance, multiple microphone positions and mixer, convolution room simulator (14 room types), output parametric EQ, 88 factory presets, and MIDI mapping.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a preset browser, and the GUI is resizable.
The sounds, unsurprisingly, are musically delicious, and should appeal even to purists. There are a good range of sounds here, and they should fit in nicely in a variety of productions. If you’re looking for a VST that offers compositional oriented ambience, soundscapes, pads, effects, and so forth, then you might look elsewhere. But for a variety of pure piano sounds, Piano V2 is quite stunning.
You won’t find another piano VST with this level of customization, and that easily makes it our best premium pick. But really, it sounds stunning too.
Piano V2 is compatible with Windows and Mac and can be found at Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Dione by Muze – Best Budget Option
Muze’s Dione is a Kontakt instrument that takes after the Steinway D-274 Concert Grand, an instrument favored by the likes of Vladimir Horowitz, Alfred Brendel, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and others.
Top end microphones (Neumann, DPA, and the like) and preamps were used to capture the sound of this piano at Eleon Media Studio in Italy. Each key was sampled chromatically in an amazing sounding room.
Dione includes 12,398 Steinway D and addon sounds, 10 dynamic chromatically sampled layers, 10 microphone positions (close, inside, outside, room, room wide, vintage inside, vintage room, under, vintage close, vintage close tape), and a 10-channel mixer.
Additionally, you get 12 effects (reverb, delays, compressor, limiter, cabinet, gainer, rotator, stereo panner, three-band equalizer, and others), 55 sources (horns, keys, guitars, mallets, bells, electric pianos, and more in addition to the Steinway D grand piano), layering engine with sound browser and FX, and more.
The piano is decent sounding. I’m not sure that it can compete with some of the best on this list, but it’s still quite impressive, especially given its price point. And the amount of customization available is quite astounding too. It’s a shoo-in for our best budget option. It might not do what ASCEND or Piano V2 does, but Dione still does a lot.
Dione is perfect if you’re on a budget, and it works on Windows and Mac.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Addictive Keys: Studio Grand by XLN Audio
Trying to achieve that classic studio grand piano sound? Then XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys: Studio Grand is certainly worth a look.
This VST is a versatile choice for both studio and live applications, as it will give you access to the much emulated and revered sounds of the Steinway Model D concert grand piano. XLN Audio, though, takes this a little further with their ExploreMaps presets, which lets you tap into natural and organic sounds all the way over to unique and obscure processed sounds.
Developer XLN Audio tried out 10 Model D pianos before settling on the perfect clear and wide-open tone for this VST. They also provide the option of mixing and matching microphones, so you aren’t strained trying to figure out how to fit a grand piano sound in your mix (this can be a challenge at times). Simply play with the settings until it’s just right.
The sound of the piano was captured at the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s largest recording studio, famous for its quiet, controlled recording environments. That means reverberation was kept tight. Vintage tube and ribbon microphones were used to record the sounds from different positions, whether closeup or far away.
Mics used include the Neumann M269, Coles 4038, RCA 6203, Neumann M250, and Sela T25.
Addictive Keys: Studio Grand is relatively minimal in terms of controllable parameters, but you’ve still got access to tone, soft / hard, timber, and FX for a bit of fine tuning.
Studio Grand puts bright highs and deep lows at your fingertips. The sound quality is superb, and quite authentic too. The presets are a lot of fun to work with, and they’re valuable in helping you find your perfect sounds without endless tweaking. And just as advertised, there are some unique pads, guitar, and synth like tones included too.
Addictive Keys: Studio Grand is a solid choice for the money.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Pianos & Keys by Waves
Waves’ Piano & Keys is a VST bundle featuring five piano, electric piano, and clavinet plugins:
- Grand Rhapsody Piano: for a more in-depth look, refer to the section in this guide titled “Grand Rhapsody Piano” by Waves.
- Electric 88 Piano: emulating vintage 88-key suitcase pianos (Fender Rhodes).
- Electric 200 Piano: Wurlitzer like tones emulating the 200A electric piano.
- Electric Grand 80 Piano: the classic Yamaha CP-80 hybrid electric-acoustic piano.
- Clavinet: sampling the famous D6-model clavinent.
The Grand Rhapsody Piano appears elsewhere on this list, so if you’re more interested in a standalone piano, you’d probably go with that. Otherwise, this is an attractive bundle of instruments for keyboard players.
These keys can help you cover a lot of stylistic ground – pop, rock, funk, soul, R&B, and more.
This collection includes every articulation, hammer-hitting tone, and even string-striking mechanic of the instruments. All plugins also come with global tune, velocity, and FX controls, and they are perfect for studio and live applications.
In terms of quality, these pianos and keys are all consistent and great sounding. Also check out the video below to hear all of them in action.
Learn more: Waves
4Front TruePianos by TruePianos
4Front TruePianos features three modules with presets for each. The Advanced screen comes with controllable parameters like keyboard sensitivity, dynamic response, release time, tuning, and volume. There’s also an Options screen which gives you control over polyphony, multi-CPU engine, sympathetic resonance, and keyboard dynamics.
4Front TruePianos has a classy, rich sound to it. I would not say that it’s the most authentic sound I’ve ever heard, but then again, it’s not the most expensive plugin on this list either. Honestly, it’s still quite capable for what it is, and it could easily fool ears in a full mix. You can check out the video below to determine whether it’s your jam.
Learn more: TruePianos
Mini Grand by AIR Music Technology
AIR Music Technology’s Mini Grand is another promising entry with a high rating on this list. This is a simple virtual piano with seven acoustic piano sounds built in. This makes it accommodating for a variety of musical genres and styles. Nice.
In addition, it comes with re-pedaling technology (for realistic string resonance behavior), built-in room simulation, as well as equal and stretched tuning.
The simple, slick, and golden interface features controls for piano models (real, bright, hard, dance, atmo, soft, and ballad), dynamic response (from min to max), room (chamber, hall, ambient, soft, bright, studio), mix (for room effect – 0 to 100%), level (min to max), and of course equal and stretched timing.
There were some users who thought the piano could use a few more features and presets. But there’s no denying that the sounds are just awesome (also check out the video below) – they’re dynamic, realistic, musical, and expressive.
If you want to extend its functionality, you might need to set up your own effects chain. But rest assured you’re starting with solid source material with AIR Music Technology’s Mini Grand.
Mini Grand is available for Mac and Windows at Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Montclarion Hall Grand Piano by Soundiron
Soundiron’s Montclarion Hall Grand Piano is a Kontakt instrument that takes after the Steinway 1926 parlour grand. The developers wanted to capture its sound, especially given that the piano was in one of their favorite recording halls. So far as they’re concerned, the piano and hall are perfectly matched to each other, and one is inseparable from the other. The two together make one instrument.
The piano was captured in wide stereo from three microphone distances (internal, external / mid, far / hall), which allows you to blend and mix the sounds any way you please. The instrument is ideally matched to classical composing, but is versatile enough to handle pop, rock, jazz, and soul too.
The 7+ GB library, though, includes prepared piano sounds as well as creative FX articulations (percussive sounds, string scrapes, rumbles, slams, steel guitar slides, mallet and pick glisses, plucks, sweeps, and more).
Montclarion Hall Grand Piano also includes 20 sustain and release samples, natural pedal FX at multiple velocities, effects section, three experimental prepared piano sets, 10 ambient room tones, 20 custom FX presets, 34 custom convolution reverb impulses, and a multi-effects rack with EQ, filter, phaser, flanger, delay, distortion, amp speaker simulation, and more.
The Montclarion Hall Grand Piano, so far as we’re concerned, is another winner. It has a rich, dynamic, musical tone well suited to a variety of purposes. Of course, there are a lot of interesting sounds built into it too, which should work nicely in compositional situations.
For the price, Montclarion Hall Grand Piano is basically a steal. It’s an excellent virtual instrument.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Grand Rhapsody Piano by Waves
Waves sampled the rather unique Fazioli F228 grand piano at Metropolis Studios in London to create this VST plugin – Grand Rhapsody Piano.
The F228 features Italian parts and craftsmanship, taking advantage of the same red spruce forest Atonio Stradivari was said to have accessed to create his infamous violins.
Waves used eight mics, and premium preamps and converters to capture the sound of the Fazioli F228 at Metropolis, while adding unique features only a plugin can offer. The B&K 4007, Shure SM57, Neumann U87, Royer R121, SE RN17, Neumann KM84, Coles 4038, and AKG C451 microphones were all used during the recording process to give as many options as possible.
Grand Rhapsody can handle just about anything you throw at it, including classical, pop and rock, electronic, or jazz. You’re given insane control over the sound with the ability to blend up to three pairs of microphones (of your choice) at different positions, as well as pedal, key up, and sympathetic resonance.
Multiple Waves effects were added in to make the deal even sweeter – EQ, compressor, limiter, reverb (based on the H-Reverb), and delay.
Producer / composer / guitarist Bernard Butler found Grand Rhapsody inspiring. DJ / Producer / Remixer Morgan Page thought it was stunning. And producer / studio and mixing engineer Billy Bush said he thought it was “incredible.”
Grand Rhapsody sounds quite nice. And it’s great that Waves has built in so many parameters that allow you to adjust the settings until you’re happy with how the piano sounds in a mix. It only sounds five to 10% “inauthentic” to my ears (in the decay), and that’s minimal, especially considering the price of the VST plugin.
Grand Rhapsody is a very capable VST plugin and a solid choice for a variety of applications.
Learn more: Waves
Acoustic Pianos by Muze
Muze’s Acoustic Pianos is an affordable Kontakt instrument with a solid reputation, bringing the sounds of the Yamaha C7 Concert Grand to your computer. The C7 has a recognizable sound with a clear low end.
Muze created Acoustic Pianos for soundtrack scoring, songwriting, and orchestration. And thanks to the extensive user interface, you can take control of the sound, with sound-shaping parameters and an effects rack.
All in, there are main and release piano samples with 12 velocity layers, nine layers per preset with the ability to mix from two to 144 sounds simultaneously, 144 sources (including the C7, electric pianos, processed pianos, horns, keys, guitars, mallets, bells, effects, and more).
You also get 30 built-in effects (compressor, reverb, delays, limiter, gainer, chorus, phaser, flanger, distortion, four-band EQ, and others), a nine-channel mixer, and a total of 4,687 samples (at 8.57 GB).
The piano sounds quite good given the low price point. And the extra functionality is nice, especially for those who have gaps in their virtual instrument library. To figure out whether it’s what you need, check out the video below.
Acoustic Pianos is available for Windows and Mac on Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Old Tape Piano by Wavesfactory
Here’s something a little different. Wavesfactory’s Old Tape Piano is a Kontakt instrument that serves up lo-fi goodness on a platter.
Although a tuned, great sounding grand piano was used in its creation, Old Tape Piano was recorded using a lo-fi cassette recorder to give it character. That’s the rub.
Old Tape Piano features 88 keys, eight velocity layers, all notes sampled. There are no loops and no pitch shifting. Parameters include background noise control with volume and color, tape speed and tune, all with transport controls.
The advanced effect script lets you insert effects into eight available slots. There’s EQ, various compressors, chorus, flanger, phaser, distortion / saturation / tape, algorithmic and convolutional reverb (with 40+ custom impulse responses), and amp simulators.
There are various controllable parameters on the Settings page, including round robin with up to three repetitions using the neighbor borrowing technique, dynamic range, velocity curve, and envelope.
If you’re looking for a pristine, clean sounding piano, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for. But if you’d like a piano virtual instrument with an instant lo-fi vibe, you will enjoy this.
The piano is delightfully lo-fi, with plenty of character. It’s exceptional for recording situations where your project would be complemented by an “old timey” piano sound. Hip-hop producers may also like the semi-out of tune nature of the piano, along with its decidedly aged vibe.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Deconstructed Piano by Cinematique Instruments
Now here’s another fascinating oddity we dug up. Cinematique Instruments’ Deconstructed Piano is a Kontakt instrument featuring the sound of a piano being tortured… I mean, deconstructed. Included are textures, strikes, hits, sustained sounds (screws), and more.
Having disassembled a piano to its soundboard, the developer played, hit, stroke, and destructed the piano with piano hammers, mallets, screws, plecs, sticks, thumbs, and straws. They captured a total of 24 percussion sounds (in multi round robin variations) which you can use as is or mix with the entire piano sound.
Cinematique Instruments even went ahead and created various noises, textures, and soundscapes, all created with a piano. So, if you’re looking for a versatile solution that gives you a bit of everything, there’s nothing quite like Deconstructed Piano out there. We love the concept too.
There are three patches onboard – piano, strikes, and textures. The piano patch comes with three sound categories with 11 piano sounds. Every sound’s volume can be controlled, so you can combine and create your own settings.
In addition to an attack and decay slider, there’s a randomizer that affects the 11 sounds and their volume, which always gives you fresh sound combinations. The effects section gives you control over EQ, reverb, delay, and distortion too.
Whether it’s gentle, beautiful piano sounds or tension filled sound effects, Deconstructed Piano offers plenty of sounds well suited to composition and sound design.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
FOUNDATIONS | Piano by Heavyocity
Our best-of guides don’t often include free instruments, but in this case, there are a few that stand out from the rest. The first is this:
Heavyocity’s FOUNDATIONS | Piano is a free Kontakt instrument focused on a modern hybrid sound with a grand piano, sound design layer, and a customizable interface.
FOUNDATIONS features a deeply sampled grand piano, creative synthetic elements, and a dynamic textural layer.
Ideal for composers, artists, and producers, FOUNDATIONS comes with ARP, gate, space, ADSR controls, as well as 528 samples, two sound sources (soft grand piano and ambient piano texture), 10 custom presets, two-channel mixer real-time source blending, envelope control, and master FX (reverb, delay, and punch).
As you can probably tell from the simple user interface, FOUNDATIONS | Piano isn’t anything fancy. You’ve still got a decent number of controllable parameters, and a few presets to have fun with. But what it doesn’t have in terms of features, it tends to make up for in sound quality. This is a capable piano, and the soundscape textures would be great for composing too.
A little limited, maybe, but we still thought it was worth highlighting.
FOUNDATIONS | Piano is available for Windows and Mac at Plugin Boutique.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
LABS – Glass Piano by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire Audio has done something great with their LAB series instruments – they’ve brought high quality VSTs into the production environments of artists, composers, and producers everywhere, for free.
Now, with the LABS series plugins, versatility takes a big backseat to sound quality. Typically, with a LABS plugin, you’re only given the option of controlling a couple of articulations (if that), reverb, volume, panning, and perhaps some other basic parameters. But their instruments always sound good out of the box. So, that’s the tradeoff.
LABS – Glass Piano isn’t literally a piano made of glass. Rather it’s composer Philip Glass’ favorite baby grand piano recorded at his home in New York City. His work over the course of the last 30 years was all written on this piano. As result, it has a lot of age-worn character and warmth to it. No wonder Spitfire Audio jumped at the chance to record it.
If you want to be able to do more with it, or affect its tone, you’d obviously need to set up your own effects chain, but this is a great sounding piano as is. Some even call it the best free VST available.
Learn more: Spitfire Audio
LABS – Soft Piano by Spitfire Audio
Spitfire Audio’s LABS – Soft Piano is exactly that. A soft piano sound that begs to be your compositional go-to.
This piano was recorded on a dry stage in London at Air Edel Studios, and the sound is created by placing a thin strip of felt between the hammers and strings. The result, of course, is a piano sound that retains its resonance and warmth but tames a lot of the attack and brashness of the high end.
In the grand scheme of things, LABS – Glass Piano is probably more usable in a variety of situations, but LABS – Soft Piano is going to have its niche as well.
Of course, there are relatively few parameters you can control here, but the sound out of the box is very competent.
There are a couple of things users should be aware of though. The first is that to download any LABS series plugin, you will need to download the Spitfire Audio app. The second is that each plugin takes up quite a bit of hard drive space, sometimes to the tune of 1 GB. The last is that the plugins seem error prone. It could be a matter of host, but if you frequently encounter issues with LABS plugins not working properly, you’re not alone.
Learn more: Spitfire Audio
What Should I Look For In A Piano VST Plugin?
We won’t lie – piano VSTs are a dime a dozen. There are just so many of them out there, and developers have a had a long time to perfect the tone of a piano, sampled or otherwise. Even some of the most affordable piano VSTs are now miles ahead of where we started.
That said, we have only featured the best of the best here. Sure, there are a couple of oddities, virtual instruments that would only work in specific situations, but most piano VST plugins highlighted here are very capable, nice sounding instruments. And if you don’t believe us, check out the accompanying videos.
But now comes the tough part – choosing a VST (or perhaps a couple of VSTs) that are matched to your intent. And that’s a big consideration – how you plan to use the piano VST. For instance, an electronic music producer might buy a little differently than a composer because their needs aren’t necessarily the same.
I say might be because this notion doesn’t always hold true. A VST like Deconstructed Piano might seem to fit best in the workflow of a composer, but if you don’t think electronic musicians also use a variety of bizarre sounds and samples, you’d better ask Brazilian musician Amon Tobin for his opinion.
You are in good hands, though, so there’s nothing to worry about. Like I said, only the best made the cut in this guide.
We do, nevertheless, consider the main factors you would look at while shopping for a piano virtual instrument below. In addition to plugin type, we’ll also be looking at several criteria you can use to decide which VST(s) are right for you. All in, they are as follows:
- Plugin type
- Sound quality
- Features / functionality
Let’s do a deep dive into each.
Okay, so what are we talking about here? What do I mean by plugin type?
What I mean is that there are basically a few different types of VST plugins we can divide into different categories. And by doing so, we can get a better handle on what we need for our projects. There is some overlap, to be sure, but that should be obvious from the product descriptions above.
So, here are the main types of plugins you need to be aware of:
- Piano. This is your “standard” piano plugin, like Waves’ Grand Rhapsody Piano. These days there really aren’t that many virtual pianos that are purely focused on a single piano sound anymore, as they tend to include other features – velocity layers, multiple sounds, microphone and room setups, and other controllable parameters. But the most basic and straightforward of piano VSTs belong to this category, like the LABS series plugins or Dione.
- Hybrid. The higher priced pianos are all basically hybrids, and they come with multiple sounds, microphone positions, effects, and oftentimes other instrument sounds and / or soundscape / compositional functionality that make them especially versatile. ASCEND: Modern Grand would be one such example, but there are several others featured in this guide. These VSTs do cost a little more but are often worth it if you’re looking for a piano with stunning sound quality.
- Compositional piano. Where a hybrid piano might feature sounds suited to both standard genres and soundtrack music, compositional pianos focus more on the effects, noise, ambience, atmosphere, and soundscape side of things. Deconstructed Piano is the prime example. Watch the video demos or reviews and you will see for yourself just how far you can take the sound of a piano.
- Specialized piano. We could also call this category “FX piano.” These were created for very specific use cases. They can still sound great, and they can be used in any situation where they fit, but you probably wouldn’t bust them out on every occasion. Old Tape Piano is just such an instrument. It might work for song intros, interludes, hip-hop loops, maybe even retro inspired music, but it would be a questionable decision to use it anywhere and everywhere in your musical projects.
Now, it may seem like an odd place to start things off with, but It should be addressed. Sound is kind of an odd thing. We all use rather elusive and arbitrary terms like rich, warm, soft, raunchy, spank, deep, bright, grinding, shrill, fuzzy, greasy, saturated, and a variety of others to describe what we’re hearing, but at the end of the day, these are all filtered and interpreted on an individual level.
More to the point, what sounds good to one may not sound good to another. What one may favor won’t necessarily be another’s cup of tea. Sound is individual, and so is what sounds “good.”
But we do live in a privileged time because we can hear all the above plugins in video demos and reviews before purchasing them. Most of them have audio clips too. So, in making purchasing decisions, we’re all well equipped with the information we need.
To be fair, there are many considerations when it comes to sound quality that aren’t always addressed. For starters, it’s always good to listen for unintended or unwanted noise and artifacts. With something like Old Tape Piano, that’s obviously the point, but you wouldn’t expect there to be any noticeable imperfections with an instrument like ASCEND: Modern Grand based on the developer’s intentions.
Then, of course, there’s the issue of authenticity or realism. When it comes to piano, this is quite important to a lot of players, and developers know this. So, they’ve gone to great lengths to capture great sounds before putting them out there. But it’s normal to have preferences, and that is a filter you can use to determine which VST to buy.
When it comes to piano, microphone and microphone placement, room, and other similar factors can also play a part in what you ultimately hear as a listener / user.
But the key is to listen to the multiple dimensions of the sound. That will give you more holistic criteria to base your buying decisions on.
Features & Functionality
On this list you’ll find everything from “kitchen sink” virtual pianos that do just about everything superbly, all the way over to more specialized piano VSTs that were designed to do one or two things well.
After you’ve considered sound quality, though, the next logical thing to look at is features.
There are a variety of questions you can use to get a better sense of what you might need, and while we can’t cover them all, here’s a good starting point:
- Do you need multiple piano sounds (as general as upright or grand, or a specific as piano model)?
- Do you need effects like EQ, compression, reverb, delay, and so on (you can always set up your own effects chain later)?
- Are you looking for a piano with more controllable parameters, such as microphone positions, microphone type, ADSR controls, and so on, or are your needs relatively minimal?
- Do you want soundscapes, textures, pads, noises, and the like (as a composer, these can save you a lot of time and hassle creating your own)?
- How many presets do you need (having a starting point for essential sounds can save you a lot of time during the production process)?
- What about an arpeggiator?
- And so on.
It’s fair to say plugins with more features will cost you more. If money isn’t an object, and you want the best of the best, there’s no need to hesitate – premium options should serve you well. But if there are extras you don’t anticipate needing, there’s no shame in choosing a more affordable plugin with a sound you like.
A lot of producers do like the self-contained nature of “kitchen sink” plugins, and it’s understandable. It prevents them from having to apply additional effects and tweaking endlessly to create the sounds they’re hearing in their heads. It’s easier on the CPU too. Experienced producers should have a good handle on how to get their favorite tones no matter what, mind you.
At the end of the day, though, I don’t want to muddle the issue. The only trick here is to anticipate what you might need in future productions and to work off the information available to you. Modern piano VSTs have a lot to offer, and while more affordable solutions can’t compete with the more expensive ones, they are still quite customizable overall.
In the grand scheme of things, piano VSTs aren’t too exorbitant in cost. You can easily get one in the $9 to $250 range, depending on your needs (unless you opt to buy more than one).
That said, shopping for plugins can be addictive. Your shopping list could be long, and by the time you’ve picked up an EQ, compressor, reverb, and a piano, for instance, your total expenditure could easily be $1,000+.
So, this is a friendly reminder to spend responsibly. We don’t advocate going into debt to buy musical gear of any kind. If the plugin you want costs more than you can realistically afford right now, then save up for the purchase. There’s no shame in waiting.
More generally, though, your budget is a good filter to put your purchase through, as it can help you eliminate more options faster.
So, as you consider which plugin(s) might be best suited to your needs, don’t forget to check everything against your budget to ensure it’s all good.
Top Piano VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
Piano VST plugins are vital to most types of productions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a film composer or an electronic music composer. There’s a good chance that, at some point, you will be using piano sounds in your projects.
So, be sure to pick up a piano VST (or two) that are well matched to the types of projects you know you’re going to be working on. It’s likely that they will become serious workhorses in short order.
But most importantly, I would encourage you to have fun. Find a piano VST you like, buy it, download it, install it, and experiment with it plenty. After all, music is supposed to be fun, and the best gear is the gear you know how to use well.