Not happy with how your MIDI-composed guitars sound? Today, we’ll discuss how to make the VST guitar more realistic.
The odds are high that you don’t have access to a real-life orchestra when the track you’re working on calls for one. Software instruments have been an integral part of audio production for many years. They have evolved to the point where they can give a wide choice of realistic-sounding instruments to incorporate into your arrangements.
However, often further work is needed to make the software sound natural and human. Even though MIDI is a fantastic tool for making professional-quality music at home, the built-in instruments in your DAW probably need to be cutting it.
The following are some of the most widely used methods for enhancing the sound of a MIDI guitar that lacks depth, is unnatural, or is simply dull.
How To Make My VST Guitar Sound More Realistic?
Understanding a real player’s technique is essential for making your guitar part seem realistic and achievable. It doesn’t matter how good your VST is; knowing how to humanize your guitar recording will make it sound right. Therefore, quantize skills and guitar technique reproduction skills are required.
To achieve this, you must first accept that it will take a considerable amount of time to master the necessary skills; for example, learning to play the guitar requires mastery of several specific techniques for the instrument, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides.
If you are not a guitarist and are unfamiliar with these terms, there is no point in purchasing a pricey plugin; instead, you could practice using a free plugin provided by your DAW. After that, you need to educate yourself on mixing techniques, such as how to properly apply an equalizer, the guitar’s frequency range, the best way to utilize reverb and other effects, and the characteristics of the most accurate amp simulators.
Use Quality Plugins
Using high-quality virtual guitar plugins is the most critical thing you can do to make your MIDI guitar sound realistic. Of course, that only sometimes means forking over cash; plenty of excellent, no-cost alternatives exist.
However, the greatest ones, like the guitar plugins and much more found in Native Instruments Komplete 14, require money or come as part of a bundle. These virtual instruments use sophisticated sample processing, synthesizers, and effects to give you the feel and sound of real guitars.
You need to use articulations to play accents and other guitar-specific sounds into your MIDI guitar parts to give them the human touch of a real guitar performance. This sort of subtlety is what makes a performance unique and authentic sounding.
When playing rhythm or lead guitar, guitarists employ a wide variety of subtle techniques and articulations that contribute significantly to the performance’s energy and atmosphere. It’s important to note that you’ll need a solid plugin to put many of these methods into practice.
- Palm Mutes
This is particularly important when playing riffs with distorted sounds, such as those used in rock or metal music, but you can apply it to pretty much any lick or riff. One of the reasons you’ll probably need a better plugin is that those plugins will offer this feature.
- Pick Attack
An attack with a plucked instrument at the beginning of the sound. One of the essential components of a rhythm guitar is the attack made with the pick. Unfortunately, this sound is likely only available in a moderately inexpensive or free plugin.
- Left-Hand Techniques
Guitarists frequently use these techniques when traveling from note to note because they offer an unusual feel to the melody. When they want to achieve a more funky feel, guitarists occasionally generate string scraping noises by muting strings and picking at them.
This is an area in which the Ample Bass/Guitar series excels, making it an excellent choice. The majority of guitarists enjoy bending strings. This is different from the way the pitch bend function works on a piano, and it gives any lick more character. To achieve this effect, use the pitch bend function on your MIDI keyboard.
An effect known as an overtone is produced by playing specific notes without touching the frets. These are frequently utilized throughout solos and melodies. There are several other things you can do to improve the sound of your MIDI guitars, and some of these things involve the velocity wheel, the compression wheel, and the pitch bend wheel for vibrato.
- Pitch Curves
Vibrato can be used in any situation, but it is commonly heard on long notes, slides, and bends. Bends are used in nearly all genres except progressive metal of recent vintage. The trick to making your MIDI guitar performance feel authentic is using these realistic accents sparingly.
For this reason, investing in high-quality plugins that offer all the capabilities you need from your guitar program is crucial. For example, if your digital audio workstation or guitar plugin doesn’t support MIDI articulations, you may need to convert the MIDI to audio. In addition, there are subtle differences in the operation of each DAW and plugin.
The performance you recorded for your upcoming track stands on its own and is ready to be released. While it may sound great on its own, as you begin lining up more tracks alongside it and have the drums and bass ready, you may notice that they need to be synchronized. Quantization plays an essential role in this context.
When compared to quantizing audio, MIDI is significantly more straightforward and precise in quantization. However, if you don’t practice with a click-track or metronome, you’ll be in for a rude awakening when you add additional instruments later. Continue our discussion of quantization.
Notes that are slightly off the grid can be brought back into alignment with the help of quantization. This helps the music sound more organized and on time by bringing the notes closer to the grid. Quantizing is handled slightly differently by each DAW but is still typically straightforward.
If the tempo of your song is consistently slow, try adding some swing by making it more personable. Because of this, any quantizing tool you use must allow you to select a note value other than 1/4 or 1/8. Using this effect, you may subtly alter the pitch and timing of notes to make them sound more natural and human.
Even if you sketched the notes with a mouse, a quantization rate of 5-10% would give the piece a playful air. You can groove quantize the other tracks to your performance if your original take has a good groove that doesn’t strictly suit the tempo grid.
The quantize function of your digital audio workstation will create a grid or template of your beat. Once you have this basic structure, you may copy it and use it for any other instrument or track. Again, this can vary depending on your DAW, but it’s a relatively straightforward process, especially in Cubase.
Utilizing an inversion is the most straightforward technique to play a guitar chord with a different tone when you want to achieve this effect. Inversion is more than rearranging the notes in a different order while keeping the chord’s tonal center in the same place.
In jazz guitar playing, inversions are a common technique used by guitarists. You will achieve a much more relaxed and more distinctive sound if you do this, and it will also help you broaden your musical style.
Less Than Seven Notes Per Time
The challenge of playing multiple notes at once and constructing intricate chords on a piano is fascinating. However, playing the guitar is different from playing the piano because you only have five fingers (unless you use a capo or the tapping technique). On a piano, you have ten fingers to utilize.
Therefore, you should consider the technical capabilities and restrictions of playing certain chords and notes on a guitar. Since most guitars have six strings, strumming three to six notes simultaneously will produce a more organic sound. If, on the other hand, you are trying to emulate a 12-string guitar or another type of guitar, you need to keep in mind how the chords are sounded and use them correctly.
Learn Guitar On Midi Piano
Many music producers today opt to use digital pianos or MIDI keyboards instead of actual instruments. If you’re a good enough pianist, that’s an option. However, you’ll need to adopt a new approach to your playing. Even though you’re already moderately skilled at the piano, trying to imitate the guitar’s physical feel may be extremely challenging on a keyboard.
However, you can still mimic guitar playing in some ways, and it’s best to start with high-quality sound sources. Consequently, sample libraries and virtual instruments that offer a wide range of additional features are worth considering.
Learn How To Mix Guitars
Unprocessed guitars are generally too harsh or muddy to sound well, and they only complement other instruments well with being mixed and given the appropriate effects. Additionally, if they aren’t murky, they’re monotonous. The bulk of the work here adds effects like equalization, compression, delay, and reverb.
You can use other mixing effects if you know how, but these four are essential. Compression smooths out the guitar’s tone so that it doesn’t fluctuate in volume as much during the song. However, avoid excessive compression lest your solos and lead melodies become lost in the mix.
If you’ve already used compression on other instruments, you may also need help with over-compression (it has a multiplicative effect). Remove distracting frequencies and subtly amplify those that contribute to the mix with the help of an excellent EQ, such as the Fab Filter Pro-Q EQ.
The guitar track benefits from adding reverb and delay, making it seem fuller and broader. This is crucial for ensuring that it sits comfortably in a stereo field; moreover, you should stay moderate with both of them, lest the guitar overpowers the other instruments.
Use Reference Tracks
Studying how guitars sound by themselves and in ensembles is essential to make convincing MIDI guitar sounds. The only way to make a guitar recording sound real is to know what “real” does and doesn’t sound like. Hear how the guitar creates mood and provokes various responses.
Listen to how the guitar blends with the other instruments and how each note is performed. You’ll need to know how the chords are sounded for your MIDI guitar to sound convincing. Please take note of the guitar’s placement and volume in the mix and its function throughout musical styles.
It could be up and centre in metal, while you could reduce it to just a few strumming strings in pop music. The easiest way to achieve this is to listen to the guitar stems produced well, both on their own and as part of a mix. This will help you train your ears and mould your guitar tracks to sound like the ones you’ve been listening to.
To hone your listening skills, you should do this several times throughout the project, using music from various genres. Realistic-sounding MIDI guitars can be easily recognized and created if you know how things typically sound.
In conclusion, once you get the hang of using a VTS guitar, the sky’s the limit regarding what you can create in terms of the original composition. But is it worth the time and effort to learn so much to replicate something meant to be an analogue, with cosy sounds that originate from human engagement with the instrument?
As for that, it truly is a matter of perspective. Learning a guitar from scratch can take decades, and the cost of plugins like this is comparable to, if not higher, the price of a real instrument. However, even with digital tools, there is a limit to how much you can make the tracks more realistic; this may change in the future, but it’s still a good investment for basic arrangements.
Death metal enthusiast here. I am a Romanian musician and producer with over 13 years of experience in the music industry. I’ve experienced all types of Metal up until now, playing Melodic Death Metal, Brutal Death Metal, and Black Metal with different bands. Learning by doing is my base principle, which is why I’ve been drawn to sound design from an early age. Read more…