This post will discuss the best synth plugins and virtual instruments, both paid and free, for creating West Coast and G-Funk music in 2023.
Popularised in the late 80s and 90s, these genres represented street culture and empowered many artists due to their catchy and infectious sound. Even today, the genre is still a part of popular culture and has proven to be evergreen, especially due to the gaming and meme trends. However, West coast rappers like Buddy, Jay Worthy, Kendrick Lamar, and many more are keeping it alive, and many sub-genres and derivative genres have emerged.
While most of its sound arrived from the analog 80s synthesizers and sampling technology of that time, modern music tech has enabled producers and musicians to take this sound up a notch. Today, you can get the same sounds within the box in the comfort of your bedroom. So let’s jump right in and discuss the best tools to create these sounds.
Top 7 Synth Plugins For West Coast & G-Funk 2023
1. The Slapmaster
The Slapmaster is an all-in-one West Coast & G-Funk dedicated virtual instrument, combining all sounds from guitars, synths, drums, bass, and more.
You can find it all in the plugin, whether it’s the dirty bass line, the slapping drums, the laidback guitars, or the classic gangsta synth lead line. The sounds are of high quality and will inspire you to create the classic funky Bay area vibe in your beats that slaps in the clubs and tube amps of your car speakers. There are 230 multi-sampled instruments within the plugin, with dedicated ADSR, reverb effect, LFO, filter, gain, tune, and pan knobs to shape your sounds.
- Diverse Range of sounds
You will find everything you need to create a West Coast & G-Funk beat inspired by Dr. Dre, NWA, Warren G, 2Pac, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and more. For example, the pad sounds will give you that chill and deep atmospheric vibe, the chord sounds are relaxing & easy, catchy lead sounds, deep & clean piano, and the drum sounds include everything from the thumpy kick, tight snare with a good body, rap ad-libs for hype, crisp high hats, etc., are heavy and impactful.
Slapmaster is a Bay Area-based music producer credited for Mac Dre, Baby Bash, E-40, and more, and the plugin contains his collection of sounds.
- Detailed Interface
The interface gives you hands-on control over the sound source/oscillator waveform, allows you to select the filter types, adds interesting glide effects, selects the number of voices in unison, and gives you access to select the modulation source & destination.
- Easy on CPU
Despite sourcing plenty of multi-samples, the plugin is quite light on the processor, and you can easily load up to 4 or more instances of the plugin at once on a decent machine. On top of it, you get enough memory to load up external effects and plugins on the sounds.
The Slapmaster is available as a VST and AU and can work on both Mac and Windows PC.
The plugin is unique and offers great utility for its niche market, with a reasonable price of $59.99. It’s easy to use, with a simple and intuitive interface. As most of the sounds are pre-loaded and samples based, you can add modulations, change their envelopes on top of them, and create custom sounds per your song and its feel.
2. Image Line Sawer
Sawer is a software synthesizer based on the 80s analog sound engine, with a unique sonic character reminiscent of the Polivoks hardware.
You could use it to create old-school west coast synth leads that are famously found in the GTA San Andreas soundtrack, Nothing but a G-thang, Music and Me, and more 90s gangsta rap songs. You can also create funky bass lines and atmospheric pads & chords using the synth. All you need to do is to utilize the portamento and glide knobs on a simple sawtooth or a triangle to create that slow note transition when the note changes.
The virtual synth is a stock plugin on Image Line FL Studio and is an underrated and underutilized production tool, given its precise analog modeling, making it sound great. It has a main oscillator, a sub-oscillator, a filter, an LFO, and an ADSR.
- Ready-made sounds for the genre
A preset called “LD classic gangsta” in the porta and mono mode plugin will give you the signature synth lead. Other presets like FG Analog Funk, FG Classico Bass, FG Vintage, MC Ducky, and more will give you the classic saw-based bass sound, using which you can create funky basslines. Besides, its glide and detuning features will let you create the texture needed for the genre.
- Authentic analog sound
Sawer sounds so warm and organic; its sound engine is sophisticated and well-designed to create good quality sounds that are punchy and deep. It has a voltage-controlled filter and up to eight unison voices on the main oscillator.
You require FL Studio to run the plugin, which can be used on both Mac and Windows.
You need to know only the sound design basics to create West Coast & G-Funk sounds on Sawer, and even if you don’t know that, the presets have you covered. The synth has a straightforward, streamlined signal flow and an intuitive and responsive interface. Combined with external drum samples, you can easily create a kick-ass West Coast beat with this synth alone.
3. Native Instruments Monark (Requires Reaktor Player)
Monark is a virtual analog subtractive synthesizer with a glide time knob and other features that enable you to create old-school G-Funk sounds.
In the first look, its GUI looks inspired by the Minimoog and has a basic and easy-to-tweak layout, with fewer parameters to work with. That makes your workflow easier, smoother, faster, and simpler. There are three oscillators with six waveforms to choose from; that sound insane! They sound huge, in-your-face, punchy, and bright.
The sound demo on its website will give you an idea of the quality and diversity of sounds, as you can easily create the pure West Coast and G-Funk beats or the modern derivative sounds used by the likes of Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar, and more RnB & hip hop artists.
- Sound Design features
The glide time knob with adjustable switches on MM Silver and Legato will allow the creation of the pitch drifts and slides commonly found in the genre. You can also create lush RnBish pad and chord sounds often used in Westcoast-style beats, using fine-tuning, modulation, and unison.
- Well-modeled Oscillators
If you look into the signal flow in Reaktor or even listen to these oscillators, you’d be able to tell the detailing that went into creating them, as they sound big and beautiful. The sound quality is top-notch, and it sounds analog, which is very hard to achieve in virtual settings.
- Expansive Panel B
In the plugin, there’s another window, other than the main window, called Panel B. That gives you insight and control into further detailing on the plugin, on which you can change the pitch bend curves, which is especially helpful in designing sounds for the concerning genre.
Monark is a Komplete Instrument and runs on Reaktor or Reaktor player, which further demands macOS 10.14, 10.15, or 11 (latest update), i5, 4 GB RAM, or Windows 10 (latest Service Pack), Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, 4 GB RAM, and is available as a standalone instrument, and in VST, AAX, or AU versions.
I was surprised to listen to the virtual synthesizer and its great sound. Getting the right G-funk/West Coast synth lead can take time to build, but the quality is the best you’ll get. However, you can use the presets and get some modern-sounding beats that are high-grade yet reminiscent of the old school. In addition, the interface is eye-pleasing and easy to follow, with responsive knobs that give you good hands-on control over your sounds.
4. Vital Audio Vital
Vital is a free wavetable synthesizer with insane sound design capabilities and a simple drag-and-drop modulations-based sound engine.
With four windows, one for sound shaping, the second for adding effects, the third as a modulation matrix, and the fourth for advanced settings, the plugin is a comprehensive tool with complete sound control. Vital can have a learning curve if you’ve never worked with a wavetable x subtractive synth before, but there is no bound to it once you get the hang of it.
It’s a highly versatile synth and hence can create sounds of any genre, not just West coast hip-hop. Hence, you can trust it for every sonic need and can even create punchy, unique, and customizable drum sounds on it, like kick and snare. Moreover, since it’s a pretty common synth and free of cost, you can easily find presets for the G-Funk genre online.
- Limitless sound design capabilities
Almost any sound can be built on Vital using its wavetable engine or pre-loaded analog waveforms. For example, you can easily set the modulation curves and apply them on any knob, control its flow and mix in the modulation matric. Here’s an example of how you create that sound from scratch for the typical G-Funk synth lead.
[VITAL👾] - Sound Design #9 : HOW TO MAKE A "LEAD GTA San Andreas" in "VITAL" #SoundDesign #Vital
- Extensive Effects Window
The effects window allows you to add high-quality sound fx, including multi-band compression, equalizer, delay, chorus, flanger, and more. You can add modulators like LFOs and envelopes on effects parameters too, and create interesting movements in your sounds.
- MACRO controls
Vital gives you access to 4 MACRO controls, using which multiple parameters can be controlled using a single knob. That gives you complete control over the synth and makes your workflow easier.
The wavetable synth requires a minimum of 4 GB RAM, Windows 10 or higher, Ubuntu Linux 18.04 and above, or macOS 10.12 and higher operating system, and is available in 64-bit only.
Vital is the closest competitor of Serum, which had disrupted the synth market when it came out because of its versatility and scalability, and Vital is also no less. The plugin can surely meet all your sound design needs, creating a classy & lush pad sound, a high attack sawtooth-based bass sound, or a monophonic gangsta lead synth.
5. Native Instruments Massive
Massive is a wavetable synthesizer with a virtual analog architecture capable of creating almost any synth or digital sound.
It has three oscillators: wavetable position, amplitude, and intensity knobs, a modulation oscillator, a noise oscillator, a feedback knob, two filters, four envelopes, 4 step sequencer, and 8 MACRO controls, making it a high-functioning synthesizer with good capabilities. In addition, it has two effects and 1 EQ tab for advanced sonic shaping and sound control. The interface is simple and streamlined, with all controls easily accessible and tweakable.
- Comprehensive library
The factory library has 1300 presets, including all sounds ranging from lead, bass, synth, chords, plucks, and more. On top of that, you can also buy, or download presets online to expand your sonic library and have a huge range of sounds to choose from. It also has an efficient and intuitive navigation window by which you can filter and search your sounds.
Wavetable synthesizers are versatile because you can load up a complex wave that will form the basic wave structure of your sounds. Hence, it’s also possible to create real acoustic sounds with it, and Massive lets you combine the power of three wavetable oscillators.
The virtual synth plugin is available in VST, AAX, VST 3, and AU versions and is compatible with both Mac and Windows, but requires a minimum of macOS 10.15 (latest update) or Windows 10 as an operating system and Intel Core i5 or equivalent AMD CPU, and a 4 GB RAM.
Massive is a beast and gives you complete control over your sound. For example, you can assign glide to a macro control, which could, in turn, control the glide and envelope of different modulators on different controls. The signal flow is easily assignable, and you can create all the sounds you need for the West Coast & G-Funk hip-hop beats.
6. Auditory Labs Wave Leads
Auditory Labs Wave Leads is a powerful synth leads virtual instrument for genres like R&B, Neo Soul, Pop, Hip Hop, G-funk, Trap, EDM, Cinematic music, and more.
The synth has presets dedicated to the G-Funk & West Coast genres. You can use the plugin solely for the G-Funk synth lead preset. However, it has many more sounds, making it a great versatile instrument for programming synth leads.
- Hands-on control
The glide time can be changed, and the note transitions can also be set, with an LFO assignable to pitch, volume, and other parameters. Lastly, you can also control the envelope/ADSR of the sound.
There’s a dedicated knob for adding reverb to the sound, with a cutoff frequency control for applying a low-cut filter on the reverb effect. In addition, you can also EQ the sounds by tweaking the high and low-frequency knobs.
Available in 32-bit & 64-bit VST and AU format, Wave Leads are available in both Mac and VST.
The plugin does not give you much control over the sounds but is fairly easy to use. The G-Funk lead sounds great and can be used with other instruments and samples to make West coast beats. The plugin is light on the system and does not load the CPU, and its other lead sounds also are decent.
7. Xfer Serum
Serum is the ultimate sound design tool and is a virtual wavetable synthesizer capable of great things!
With two main oscillators that can load up wavetables and basic analog waveforms, one sub-oscillator, and one noise oscillator (which can also act like a sampler/granulizer), the sound generation aspect of the synth is fully covered. As modulators, you also get 4 LFOs, three envelopes, and 4 MACRO controls.
On top of it, there are separate windows for effects and modulations matrix, which gives you a hundred percent control over your sonics. With all these controls, it’s easy to create G-Funk sounds, and it’s easier to find tutorials or presets for it online, as Serum is the most popular software synthesizer. It’s also highly playable as the velocity mapping makes it more expressive and fun to perform.
- Customizable Modulations
You can apply the modulation controls simply by dragging and dropping them on any controls or parameters you want. You can also load LFO shapes from an external source, which gives you a huge range and variety of modulations that you can apply to your sounds. The LFO can also be linked to the BPM, and easily edited using its controls.
Serum lets you add cool effects and also lets you modulate different parameters of the effects. You can apply anything from a reverb, distortion, a multiband compressor, and more to your sound.
The plugin is available in 64-bit VST, AU, or AAX versions and requires a Windows 7 SP1 or later or macOS 10.11 or later operating systems.
Serum gets heavy on the CPU, but you can go to the Global controls and decrease its quality by a good fraction temporarily. The voicing, porta and glide curves are especially useful for creating West Coast sounds. The huge range of choices you get for wavetables lets you expand the horizon of your sounds and create nearly any kind of sound that you want.
Best Free Plugins For West Coast/G-Funk Music
1. Cherry Audio Surrealistic MG-1 Plus Synthesizer
Cherry Audio has virtually recreated the MG-1 synthesizer of the 80s.
The free synthesizer recreates the fat analog texture and the bell tonality of ring modulation. The plugin has a 24 dB/octave “ladder” filter with two monophonic oscillators, a polyphonic oscillator bank, a modulation section, a contour/envelope section, a filter, and a mixer, along with 130 presets to get started with. That gives it the right synth engine to create West coast/G-funk music.
- Note Priority Switch
The Note Priority Switch allows you to click through three options: high, low, and last. For example, when you select Low, no matter what chords you play, in any octave, it will always play the lowest note, an octave below, which gives your synth a deep and fat sound. Similarly, you can also set the note priority to high or last.
You can play the synth in retrigger mode or legato mode, depending on the type of expression you want. For example, you’d want to select the legato mode for a G-Funk lead synth. You also have an octave switch below that switch, which allows you to shift your synth to an octave above or below.
The plugin is available in AU, VST, VST3, AAX, and standalone formats and requires a minimum of macOS 10.9 or above (including macOS 12), 64-bit for Mac, and Windows 7 or above (including Windows 11), 64-bit for Windows.
The plugin is easy to use, owing to its simple interface and design and sounds too good for a free synthesizer. It sounds like a natural analog synth, is warm and thick, and can create sounds that can stick out and stand out. It’s great for creating funky bass lines, atmospheric pads, and upfront lead sounds.
2. u-he Podolski
Podolski is a free and simple virtual analog synthesizer by u-he.
It consists of one oscillator, one filter, one envelope, and an arpeggiator/sequencer, which contributes to its uncomplicated and streamlined workflow, makes it easy to use, and doesn’t load the system much. In addition, it has over 300 factory presets consisting of diverse and versatile sounds, from which you can select high-quality pre-made patches.
- Synth Engine
The envelope modes in the plugin include ADSR/HDSR, or linear/exponential, with sustain with a rise/fall control. In addition, oscillators can generate sawtooth, triangle, or pulse width modulation waves, with up to 16 voices of polyphony that you can play in mono, legato, or arpeggiator modes.
- Multi-mode Filters
The filters can be lowpass, bandpass, or highpass, with drive and FM controls that can thicken up the sound and create more movement. That can create the required G-Funk movements and textures.
Podolski is available only in AUv2, VST2, and VST3 versions and requires Windows 7 or newer, Mac OS X 10.9 or newer, or a Linux system.
The plugin is extremely light on CPU, and you could load up multiple instances of it without loading up the system. Its simplification is its beauty and can be easily tweaked to create West Coast chords, synth leads, and bass lines. The VCA-based envelope contributes to its warm analog sound. The editable arpeggiator gives you interesting ways to create new groovy sounds.
FL Studio 3x OSC (VID)
With 3x Osc, simplicity is the key.
As the name suggests, this synthesizer consists of three oscillators with adjustable waveforms that can be chosen from sine, saw, triangle, square, square-sine, and noise. For each oscillator, you can tweak the detune and phase offset sliders, select its course pitch in semi-tones, fine pitch in cents, and pan it left or right.
- Easy to use
The plugin has a simple interface and signal flow, making it very easy to understand. You have full control over your sounds. The phase and detune sliders can bring more width and depth to your sounds.
- No added color on the synth
The sound is raw and colorless, so you can add sonic spice to it as per your taste by choosing effects of your own choice. For example, distortion effects will thicken its sound and make it more upfront & punchy.
It requires FL Studio to run and demands the general FL Studio system requirements: Windows 7/8/10 (32-bit or 64-bit versions), macOS 10.13, or later versions of the operating system.
3x oscillator doesn’t load the system at all, as it’s a stock plugin, so it’s well optimized with FL studio, and also because it’s light. The plugin is best for creating monophonic bass and sub-bass sounds. The additional synth settings in FL Studio allow you to glide the sound and add interesting portamento effects to create the bouncy synth leads with pitch bends that the genre requires. In addition, you can use saturation, soundgoodizer, time-based effects, and other harmonic and dynamic effects to color your sounds further.
In the article, we have discussed all possible solutions to creating a song or beat of the West coast or G-Funk genres and have explored various synths that can help you get your sound right. Serum, Vital, and Massive are versatile virtual synths that can be used to create any sound but are complicated and may take a long time to learn, especially if you’re a beginner at sound design.
If you want direct sounds and don’t want to spend time tweaking any controls, The Slapmaster, Monark, or Wave Leads are the plugins. Monark can enable you to create some high-quality modern analog sounds. However, The Slapmaster is a multi-purpose instrument that will give you access to all kinds of drums, bass, leads, guitars, and synth sounds needed for the genre.
Hope this post was of help; thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.