My recent blog post on SPL’s free 59€ Attacker plugin led me to this blog post linking you to some of the best free plugins avaliable. These are both effects and instruments, most of which I use frequently.
While some of the instruments might be ‘lite’ versions they are still great tools and may open your creative pallet to timbres outside your usual instrumentation. Give them all a shot, you really have nothing to lose!
Tonehammer - Phonautograms
Instrument: Kontakt, EXS24 and SFZ
“Its our pleasure to share a very special find with you all. The non-profit organization First Sounds has restored the earliest human audio recordings to a listenable state. Invented in the 1850s by French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, these “Phonautograms” actually predate Thomas Edisons earliest recordings by nearly two decades.
They were made by projecting sound into a cylindrical horn attached to a stylus, which in transferred the vibration into lines over the surface of soot-blackened rolls of paper. These captures were purely optical. No device existed which could translate the recorded acoustic information back into sound, until the First Sounds organization acquired the artifacts, with the help of the French Academy of Sciences. They worked with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other experts to devise a method of scanning and deciphering the images.
In the spirit of celebrating the past and present day sonic pioneers who brought this piece of history to us, we converted one of the sets into a playable instrument. We chose the D Major scale recording titled “Gamme de la Voix – Vocal Scale (May 17, 1860)”, since it made for the most direct and flexible instrument.
You’ll notice that the distorted fidelity, pitch and tone yields a smeared and crackling quality, sounding somehow between a frail and warbly voice and a washed out flute. We think it actually sounds beautiful and reminds us of the humble beginnings that modern audio-visual media has grown from. We’d like to thank David Giovannoni and everyone else who worked to restore and share this amazing little piece of history with us. If you happen to make any cool music with this little instrument, please do share it with the folks at First Sounds. They’re very interested in hearing how people use these sounds in creative ways.
We’ve included Kontakt, EXS24 and SFZ formats, as well as a set of synthetic drum sounds made from the same source material. In the Kontakt version, the modwheel controls subtle vibrato and tremolo effects.
The download is under 5MB and is absolutely free.”
Sonalksis - FreeG (Free Gain / Fader)
Effect - OSX (UB) VST/AU/RTAS
“The Sonalksis FreeG is an intuitive tool that can be used for a variety of applications to increase the control and flexibility of the signal flow in the insert chain of the host.
To make the workflow and the overview of the signal processing easier, FreeG provides extensive, customizable metering features and settings.
When working with digital audio, lack of fine metering and extended signal flow control in the host is a common issue. The intentions with FreeG is to improve the workflow in the host by providing these features in the insert chain.
By providing the possibilites of extended control of amplitude, phase and pan (stereo version) in the insert chain as well as fine metering, with user configurable industry standard parameter options, the range of applications for FreeG is almost only limited to the context of the actual usage and of course, the insert chain.”
Soniccouture - Speak & Spell
Instrument: Kontakt, EXS24 and Live
“A much-loved and ubiquitous toy from the 1970s and 80s, Texas Instruments Speak & Spell has found a new lease of life in electronica in the last few years. People discovered that if you tinker with its circuits and voice chips, glitching, looping, and other interesting effects can be achieved. ‘Circuit Bending’, as this is known, is said to have begun in the late 1960s, and its invention is attributed to one Reed Ghazala, after a fortuitous accident with a toy ampliﬁer.
Today Circuit Bending has reached the levels of an Art-form, with its leading practitioners going ever further with increasingly unlikely toys and devices, in search of sonic chaos. In addition to toys, Digital musical instruments such as synths and drum machines make excellent circuit bending subjects for musicians, as a visit to Circuitbenders.co.uk website shows.
The SC Speak & Spell was created by Andy Wheddon, a keen bender from Brighton, UK. It has various trigger and loop controls, as well as a pitch control knob and the all-important jack-output. In use, the results of a circuit bent S&S are far from predictable. The best technique tends to be to let the machine go into a random pattern of words and glitches which can then be looped or manipulated, albeit barely, with the modiﬁed controls.”
Download: Speak & Spell (Registration Needed)
Soniccouture - Music Boxes
Instrument: Kontakt, EXS24 and Live
“A really nice, surprisingly useful set of of 2 childrens music boxes in the usual sampler formats. use with the Scriptorium ‘Tape Wow’ KSP script for a woozy, lullaby feel.”
This has to be my favourite of all the free virtual instruments out there.
Download: Music Boxes (Registration Needed)
I’m confident these will keep you busy for now. I’ll update the blog every month with some new free plugins. If you have any recommendations, please send me an email.