Top websites for free audio plugins and how to use them in Gig Performer

Top websites for free audio plugins and how to use them in Gig Performer

In this article I’ll present several websites where you can find and download free VST, VST3 or AU audio plugins, install them and use them in the audio plugin host Gig Performer, on Windows or Mac.  

Gig Performer doesn’t include any audio plugins, and three main reasons lie behind this very deliberate decision.

The purpose of this article is to serve as a quick start-up reference for those users who downloaded the Gig Performer trial version (or bought a licence) and are wondering what to do next with Gig Performer – where to find free audio plugins (but also commercial ones), how to import them, and how to use them in Gig Performer. I hope you find excellent free VST, VST3 and AU plugins and generate many ideas to experiment with, and then build a computer-based setup for your live gig!

If you’re wondering whether you can try this on your old computer or laptop, don’t worry, even a 10+ years old laptop will be more than enough, as can be read in this article.

I’ll break this article down in a few sections:

  • Where to find free VST, VST3, and AU plugins,
  • How to install audio plugins on the Windows operating system,
  • How to import audio plugins in Gig Performer and connect them.

 

Top websites for free audio plugins

 

I’ll compile a short list of some web sites that host free audio plugins, with no particular order and with screenshots. Many of these sites also offer commercial plugins. Afterwards, I’ll mention a few more websites and direct you to the Gig Performer Community to find more information about this topic.  

1. KVR Audio

KVRaudio free VST VST3 AU AAX plugins Windows and Mac, Gig Performer

KVR Audio contains free instrument VST Plugins, VST3 Plugins, Audio Units Plugins (AU), AAX Plugins and Rack Extension Plugins for Windows and Mac OS X. You can filter their database of more than 1300 available plugins by your operating system, plugin type, etc.

2. Looperman

Looperman, Free VST Plugins, Instruments and Software, Gig Performer

Looperman provides a curated collection of free software, VST plugins, VSTi instruments, audio utilities and DAWs for PC, Mac and Linux. I include it in this list because I downloaded my first free audio plugin on this website.

3. Plugin Boutique

Pluginboutique, free VST, VST3, AU plugins, Gig Performer

At Plugin Boutique, you can find also a Free section, where free effects, instruments and studio tools are showcased.  

4. VST4FREE

VST4FREE free VST VST3 AU plugins, Gig Performer

VST4FREE is a website that includes only free VST and AU audio plugins for  Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

5. Bedroomproducersblog

Bedroomproducersblog, free VST, VST3, AU, audio plugins, Gig Performer

BPB is an online magazine for music producers. It covers all topics related to music production, including audio plugins and other music-making software, digital workstations, audio hardware, and sound design tools. A detailed free VST plugin section is included and organized in categories.

There are lots of other places, where free audio plugins can be found, such as: VST Planet, AudioPluginsForFree, FLStudioMusic, DSK Music, Native Instruments free VST plugins, Splice, and many, many more. Visit this topic in our Community section, to read what websites and free plugins other Gig Performer users use, or to share your experience with other members.

Please note that when it comes to pricing, you usually get what you pay for. Don’t expect miracles with free audio plugins. They are typically used as promotional tools for other commercial more feature-rich plugins made by the same company. Still, read this blog post to discover some hidden gems that are absolutely free.

Read here a great write-up of which go-to plugin list a pro keyboard player is using.

 

How to install audio plugins on Windows

 

Please note that legacy 32-bit plugins are not supported by Gig Performer. Although there is a way to use 32-bit plugins in Gig Performer on Windows, that is not recommended; on Mac as of OS X 10.15 (Catalina), don’t even bother trying.

When it comes to selecting plugins, there is a myriad of choices and decisions to make. Everyone has their favorites and everyone is trying to find the right combination of plugins to create that great sound on stage.

OK, I downloaded a couple of audio plugins: OrilRiver, Nick Crow 7170 Lead, Metal Area MT-A and Klanghelm DC1A, and put them in new folder GP-Plugins. I haven’t use this combination of plugins before, you’ll see how it sounds at the end of this article.

Gig Performer Audio Plugins VST, VST3, AU Location, Windows OS

Free plugins are often distributed in compressed archive format, i.e. in ZIP or RAR archives, and the only thing you need to do to “install” a plugin is to extract the archive you downloaded:

Nick Crow Lab VST Plugin Gig Performer

Since these archives may contain both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the plugin, pay attention to use the 64-bit version: NC_7170_Lead_x64.dll. Basically, this DLL file is all you need to use a VST2 plugin in an audio plugin host – you can remove other files if you don’t need them.

Other audio plugins, such as Mercuriall Metal Area MT-A, are distributed as installers (EXE, or MSI setup files on the Windows operating system). Run them and install them as any setup file:

Mercuriall Metal Area MT-A Setup Wizard, Windows

Installers may ask you which plugin types to install; Gig Performer supports VST, VST3 and (on Mac only) AU plugins (AAX plugins are not supported):

Metal Area Setup Wizard plugin type VST VST3 AAX

To keep this guide simple, I selected only VST2 Plugin (.dll). When prompted to choose a destination path, I didn’t select the default one:

Default Location for Steinberg VST plugins

I selected my newly created folder: D:\GP-Plugins; afterwards, I completed installation of the other free VST plugins I previously had mentioned, so my plugins folder looks like this:

Free VST plugins Windows

You can also read a guest blog post by Jim Erwin (keyboard player with The Suburbans), about best practices for deploying VST plugins on Windows.

 

How to import audio plugins in Gig Performer and connect them

 

Easy combining, inserting and tweaking your plugins is essential for any serious musician. That’s why a great plugin host application is a must. Look here how Gig Performer compares to other audio plugin hosts.

To set a location of your audio plugins in Gig Performer, click on the Window menu, and select Plug-in manager

Gig Performer, Window Menu, Plugin Managerr

Click on the Manage button, and select Set VST folders for scanning…

Gig Perfrmer, Set VST folders for scanning, VST audio plugins

Choose your folder location where your VST plugins are installed (mine is: D:\GP-Plugins):

Gig Performer, Select VST plugin Folders to scan

Gig Performer will recognize plugins from the selected folder:

Available VST plugins in Gig Performer

OK, now it’s time to insert our plugins and connect them. Close this window, and click on the Back View in Gig Performer; you can see a hint to click right mouse button (on the empty space) or use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+P to insert a new plugin:

Gig Performer, Back View Add VST2 Plugins

Let’s add Metal Area MT-A (this free plugin is modeled after the legendary BOSS® Metal Zone MT-2™ pedal):

Gig Performer Heavy Metal Add distortion VST2 Plugin

You can see the plugin block MT-A, and its GUI display, which automatically appears when you add a new plugin. This block has two input ports and two output ports (click here to learn more about ports). The caption of every block can be changed, so it presents more meaningful name; click the block with the right mouse and select Caption to change it (I named this block “Metal Area”).

I added the remaining three plugins, and gave them names:

Gig Performer Free VST Plugins

You can’t hear anything, of course, because the plugins need to be connected with inputs and outputs. I quickly arranged the plugins and connected them as in the screenshot below:

Connected VST Plugins in Gig Performer

Let’s see how this setup sounds: I’ve plugged in my guitar and quickly recorded the first riff that came across my mind, by Gig Performer’s own record feature

 

The sound of your guitar can drastically be changed by modifying various parameters in connected plugins. For example, you can increase bass, decrease mids, add more distortion, change the reverb preset and tweak, or easily add other plugins in your chain (phazers, delays, flangers…). This visual approach has been praised by users of Gig Performer who perform live.

Also note: Gig Performer is not a plugin chainer. It is not a DAW, either. Gig Performer is an audio plugin host specially designed for performing live. There are many ways Gig Performer can interact with your DAW, e.g. you can leverage other DAWs’ proprietary plugins to Gig Performer, or you can record your live performance with a DAW

Enjoy Gig Performer, and happy experimenting!

Nemanja Pudar

 



Scaling curves allow you to control the shape of the output of a widget or convert an incoming note velocity to a new velocity. Various predefined curves are available and they can be tweaked as necessary. You can also just draw your own curve as well to achieve the effect you require.

 

MIDI File Player Plugin


You can load up to 128 MIDI song files in a single plugin instance. Switch from one song to another, mute tracks and/or change their channel numbers. Tempo can be controlled by individual songs or you can use the global tempo and tap tempo to control the BPM interactively.

 

Favorites and Presets


Create a sound by placing and interconnecting your desired plugins, such as a synth, some effects and perhaps a mixer. Select them all and then save the selection as a named favorite. The favorite will subsequently show up in all plugin insert menus, making it easy for you to recreate that configuration whenever you need it again. This feature is also very powerful for creating your needed sounds on your studio computer and then transferring them to your touring laptop.

 

Probabilistic Sound Designer


Parameters you select in an open plugin are captured into the Probabilistic Sound Designer dialog window. When you click Randomize, you're only adjusting those selected parameters. Each entry in the PSD dialog has a curve but unlike widgets where the curve controls scaling, in the PSD the curves are used to define the probability of particular values being selected. Make sure the filter cutoff never gets too slow so as to block all sound. Perhaps adjust the max range of the VCA attack parameter so that the sound doesn't have too much delay. Constrain the octave ranges of the oscillators, perhaps ensuring that 1/3rd of the time we select 8' and 2/3rds of the time we select 4'. The possibilities are endless.

 

More Widgets


Numerous new widgets are included in Gig Performer - a new sustain pedal, plastic knobs, drum pads and more colored sliders. Shapes can be colored with different borders and fill colors and morphed from rectangular to circular. Your creativity is now the limit to creating fabulous front panels in Gig Performer.

 

MIDI Message Helper


Select MIDI devices by name. Choose the MIDI message type and adjust the appropriate parameters for the specific type

 

  

Layout management


Gig Performer supports arbitrary resizing. Layout your widgets the way you want - resize the main window and the widgets will grow or shrink as necessary to maintain the same interrelationships. No matter what size screen you have, your front panels will still be neat and usable.

 

Undo Support


If you move your widgets around and/or resize them, or even delete them by mistake, the Undo facility will correct your mistake. Minor moves to a widget by mistake will no longer spoil your design

 

Plugin Channel Count


Some plugins support a large number of outputs and they depend on the traditional channel strip to control how many ports should be available.   When you only need a stereo pair, it is convenient not to have a large horizontal block. In Gig Performer, the number of available ports  is controlled by the channel count override, which can be applied to individual plugins and will be remembered when the gigfile is reloaded or if the plugin is saved as a favorite.

 

Input muting and output fading


Rather than a single audio length tail, Gig Performer 4 gives you the ability to control input muting and output fading separately. Input muting controls how much time it takes for audio input to be silenced when you leave the rackspace. Output fading controls how much time will be taken for audio to fade out when you leave the rackspace.

 

Faster Plugin Finder


Instead of searching through menus of perhaps hundreds of plugins (you know who you are!), the Quick Plugin Finder makes it easy to find the plugin you need by simply typing partial strings. For example, as shown here, to find the Modartt Pianoteq 7 plugins, it's enough to type pia mod 7 (in any order, by the way)  to restrict the list of available plugins to those matching your query. The Quick Plugin Finder also knows about manufacturers, presets and favorites.

 

  

Touch Friendly Input


Any entry field can be changed by either dragging your mouse (or finger) up or down, or by using the large popup touchpad where you can just tap on the squares to enter a value. The large popup keypad also does validation so you can't enter an invalid value. You can also just tap the BPM field to pop up a larger view where you can quickly change tempo, tranpose, trigger Tap Tempo and enable Ableton Link, the last allowing you to synchronize Gig Performer with any other application that also supports Ableton Link.

 

New Tuner Display


The tuner view makes it easy for guitarists to quickly check and adjust their tuning. You can toggle into the tuner view from any other view and toggle right back as soon as you're done. All output will be silenced automatically while you're in tuning mode. You can adjust the concert reference pitch from its default of 440 Hz to suit your own needs. The tuner view fills the entire screen so you can easily see it from a distance.

 

GP Script Enhancements


GP Script adds new language improvements such as multiple initialization sections, initialization with declarations and enhanced callbacks. The WidgetValueChanged callback now supports multiple widgets. Sysex messages are now built-in with numerous supporting functions. String array handling is much faster. Integer bit manipulation is now built-in. A new global GigScript allows incoming MIDI messages to be modified and redirected on the fly. It also allows you to define keyboard macros for your computer keyboard to control Gig Performer itself. For complete information, please review the GP Script Language Manual available through the Help menu.

 

Scriptlets


Scriptlets make creating custom MIDI processors easy. You don't have to be a programmer to use them - you can just download scriptlets from our ever-growing collection on our website and drop them right into your rackspaces to use them. Use scriptlets for simple operations such as turning your single notes into chords, modifying, duplicating or converting one kind of message into another, automatic chord latching (AutoSustain), threshold detection, sysex manipulation... imagination is the limit.

 

Other Improvements


  • System Actions plugin
  • MIDI Out to OSC converter
  • Comment plugin
  • New GUI dialog to define MIDI events to send on song part change
  • MIDI Out blocks can automatically send multiple MIDI events
  • Open/close a plugin editor from a widget
  • Choose default startup view
  • Quick find for plugin parameters
  • Large collection of startup hints
  • OSC Patchbay mode
  • Plugins now default to stereo I/O
  • Dragging presets into the wiring view will automatically create the required plugin
  • Numerous other minor (but nice) usability and workflow enhancements

Numerous other enhancements and optimizations serve to make Gig Performer 4 a superb platform for performing artists.

 

Songs and Setlists


You can organize your rackspaces into songs and your songs into setlists and then just select the setlist you need for a show. Then simply cycle down through the parts, or use your control surface or a MIDI Guitar pedal controller to select individual parts directly.

 

Predictive Loading


Predictive Loading™ is an advanced feature that reduces your RAM and CPU resources by only loading rackspaces (or songs) as needed.

 

 

The Global Rackspace


The Global Rackspace can receive audio from whatever rackspace is currently active. Instead of inserting effects in every rackspace, simply insert them once in the Global Rackspace and all your local rackspaces will have access to them. The Global Rackspace can also send audio to the currently active rackspace. So you can insert a looper that receives audio directly from your guitar (say) and then send the looped audio to different effects in different rackspaces. If a particular instrument such as a piano or organ is needed everywhere (or almost everywhere), put it in the Global Rackspace.

 

   

Zoomable Wiring View


Gig Performer 4 provides a virtual view allowing you to spread out your blocks and connections to make them easier to see and manage, even if you have a very small screen. You can zoom in or out and you can use the Auto-Fit option to position your blocks to fit in the available space.