Producing music is not only time consuming, but sometimes it can be downright expensive. In an effort to save both time and money, music producers will often turn to working with drum samples and synthesized instruments in their tracks.
Ironically, the digital route is not one without its own costs, however.
Before you can even begin, you need to download, install and set up a digital audio workstation (DAW) on your computer. There are some free DAWs floating around the internet, but the majority of them are not suitable for a professionally arranged track. For that, you need something a bit more robust, which usually means there is an initial cost right out the gate. Think of this as more of an investment, but it is still going to cost you.
And just when you think you are in the clear, and you are ready to start throwing together some of the hottest beats ever heard by human ears, you realize that you need to download some Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plugins to really do anything worthwhile.
VST plugins offer you a massive amount of versatility in terms of what type of music you can make, effects you can create and apply, and they are tremendously helpful when trying to get your tracks to sound exactly as you hear them in your head.
While a lot of the best VSTs on the market will cost a small fortune to get your hands on, there are a handful available that are absolutely free, and many of them perform just as well as more popular, paid VSTs.
Best of all, we have went ahead and done all the research for you!
So, get your DAW fired up, crank up your studio monitors, and let’s take a look at the best free drum VST plugins for 2021.
Best Free Drum VST Plugins
Kicking this list off, we have one of the most sleek and compact drum synthesizers to ever grace the internet; the MiniSpillage virtual drum machine.
This VST is extremely simple, extremely small, and extremely powerful. It comes loaded with three fully editable drum pads with three exclusive drum models; BassDrum, WoodDrum, and ElectroHiHat. The bass drum and wood drum are equipped with a single oscillator and a few useful tools like pitch sweeps and harmonic controls. Whereas, the hi-hat features a 6 oscillator hi-hat generator complete with dual resonant and noise source filters.
But of course, we saved the best part for last…
MiniSpillage is a drum machine VST that is fully capable of putting all your tracks through its high-resolution 64-bit DSP processing to ensure every sound and track comes out sounding professional and clean. This is by far one of my favorite free drum plugins for Mac users.
Every effect or track that I have run through this drum program always have a super-clean sound to them. The basses and kicks are always full and punchy, and the cymbals are crisp and ring out nice and loud.
2. Drumatic 3
Drumatic 3 features a GUI that is second only in beautiful simplicity to MiniSpillage. But don’t let its minimalist design fool you; it is jam-packed with all kinds of goodies.
This free drum software features a wide array of drum sounds from bass drums to rimshots, you can string together just about any sort of sound you are trying to achieve and with relatively little fuss. Seriously, this thing is a pleasure to use. If you were to pick up this VST right now and mess around with it a bit, you could easily get the hang of most of what it has to offer within probably a day or so.
Digging into the dashboard, you will find that it offers you Multi-Segment Graphical Envelopes (MSGE) to make tweaking every element just that much easier through an array of harmonic modifiers, knobs, and noise oscillators. Applying bitcrusher or distortion effects to your elements is ultra-simple.
There are a total of 6 stereo outputs which is not too shabby when compared to some of the best paid drum VST plugins.
The best part of it all is that Drumatic 3 uses subtractive synthesis, which is just a technical way of saying that this virtual drum machine is just that; virtual. It does not make use of any samples whatsoever.
The only thing that could make these VST drums any better would be the inclusion of a more robust library of presets. For that reason, it falls second on this list, only below the likes of MiniSpillage.
3. Drum Boxx Synth
Looking for a more feature-rich free drum machine? Look no further than the Drum Boxx Synth.
Featuring 12 individual signal channels, the Drum Boxx Synth allows for a large scope of tracks that can be assembled. Each one of these channels comes with its own drum synth that you can route into any one of the 3 stereo outputs.
This VST also boasts a whopping 128 user kits alongside 10 custom preset kits that you can use on your effects or across any of those individual channels. Change the pitch, equalization, and distortion to your heart’s content. Furthermore, you can also independently add distortion, noise, and velocity controls to each synth which opens up a much larger array of customization.
If you use MIDI keyboards or other MIDI-controlled instruments, good news for you; Drum Boxx Synth is all about full MIDI automation! Need an electronic drum set that can be routed into your DAW through a MIDI connection? Check out our guide on the best electronic drum sets right here.
Oh and if you are running Reaper as your main DAW to run your VSTs through, this is, in my opinion, the best VST for Reaper that you are likely to find for the low, low cost of free.
4. MT Power Drum Kit 2
The MT Power Drum Kit is the ideal drum VST for the musician who knows exactly what they are wanting to achieve and prefer something that feels more realistic and intuitive.
Massive sound libraries are always something I tend to look for in the best drum machine VST plugins, but sadly, I am usually let it down with lackluster drum packs. This is certainly not the case with the MT Power Kit! This drum programming software comes with a library that is absolutely filled to the brim and overflowing with pre-programmed drum loops, grooves, and a variety of other sounds to choose from.
And with all of those sound packs, effects, instruments and samples to choose from, you need enough tracks to hold them all. Thankfully, MT Power Drum Kit 2 has already thought of that and gives you full control of a total of 13 channels that can each be modified individually or as a set.
I have to say that this VST is what I would recommend to anyone who is hoping to achieve a realistic sound. The folks behind this drum software went to great lengths to make sure that they used only high-quality microphones and instruments while building it. Because of that, things like the ride, crash, and hi-hat cymbals have the crispest sound that I have been able to pull from a VST to date. And the kicks and snares… talk about powerful! This is one of the best free drum machine plugins out there and you really NEED to try out to really see for yourself.
Synth1 is one of the most downloaded VST plugins of all time, and it is no surprise as it has had quite a while to gain such a massive following.
Created by Ichiro Toda and Daichi Laboratory, Synth1 is a virtual analog synth that was inspired by a synthesizer that came before it by the name of Clavia Nord Lead 2. And if you have never had the pleasure of hearing what the Nord Lead 2 sounds like, which I think everyone should, check out the video below to see it in action!
Originally, Synth1 was built as a DXi plugin when it was first released back in late 2002. Within six days of its release it was updated to add support for the VSTi format, only adding to its growing user-base.
This is indeed an oldie but a goodie when it comes to free drum plugins that are more geared toward drum, bass, or ambient music. There are plenty of tools and presets onboard to give any traditional drummer or seasoned synth user to play around with for quite some time. And in the even that you do run out of things to do with Synth1, there are numerous free sound banks that you can find online.
Add to that the fact that it comes with a price tag of free, and I do believe we can call this one of the best free VSTs available. It isn’t solely for beat producers or drummers, rather, it sits somewhere firmly in-between.
When looking for the best drum VST, remember that it isn’t always about how pricey it is. Price does not dictate the ability to use, and quite honestly, some of the free drum VST plugins out there are actually fully capable of blowing their pricey cousins right out of the water with ease!
Likewise, just because something is free doesn’t mean you are going to be able to just immediately jump on it and hammer out the groove of your next big hit. A good VST is going to take a bit of technical knowledge, a good deal of learning what everything does, and then the vision to put it all together in a way that sounds professionally arranged.
I hope that in this list I have given you a few good suggestions to get you started off on the right path and well on your way to discovering the best free drum VST of your dreams!
Until next time - keep drumming, continue learning, and I’ll catch you on the flipside!