July 03, 2019
First disclaimer — I should preface this post by saying that the Jamstik midi controllers will work with any VST of your choosing! These soft synths are simply a few of my favorites for my personal production style.
Second disclaimer: I’m going to stay away from some of the more commonly blogged about synths—like Serum & Omnisphere (even though we <3 them!). They're both incredibly powerful tools and work wonderfully with the Jamstik, but there are tons of impressive VST plugins out there, so let's highlight a few options you might not have heard about yet!
OK—Let's get after it!
LABS by Spitfire Audio: FREE
Let's start with one of the most organic sounding VSTs on the market today—and the best part—it’s completely free. That’s right, $FREE.99! LABS is a collection of pristine samples meticulously recorded by world-class engineers. Marketed to composers, but useful to all—I'd call it a must have for every budding producer. These sounds pair beautifully with the unique note layout of the guitar, so the Jamstik really shines. The stringed guitar format helps inspire and unlock fresh voicings for your string arrangements and synth pads that you couldn't organically achieve with a keyboard controller.
Retro Synth: Included in Apple's Logic Pro X
I must confess, I am a guitar player through and through. So naturally that comes with a bias, but I’m rarely satisfied with the bass lines I write on the piano. I usually write the bass part on my guitar and then reconstruct it on a midi keyboard so I’m neither committed to or limited by the electric bass sound. The Jamstik cuts that process in half, allowing me to focus more on sound selection. The ability to switch through sounds while simultaneously writing the part will help you explore the intricacies of your VST. Enter Logic's Retro Synth - with its astounding emulations of classic analog bass sounds (among a variety of other classic analog synth sounds) it’s easy to get carried away and start groovin’ on some Stranger Things style jams.
EXS24 (sampler): Included in Apple's Logic Pro X
If there was any doubt about it before, it should be clear now that I’m a dedicated Logic user and the EXS24 appears all over my sessions. It’s my go-to for a natural sounding electric bass when I’m on the move and don’t have analog stringed instruments handy. Due to my aforementioned frustration with writing bass lines on the piano or programming them, you see where this is going! I’ll whip the Jamstik out of my backpack (the perks of 5 frets) and find the part that’s in my head without sacrificing precious time.
Trophies by Bryan Michael Cox—StudioLinked: $90
I had never heard of this plug-in until I purchased a Presonus Studio Interface. The interface came bundled with a variety of different software synths and mixing plug-ins—Trophies included. At the time this post was written, the standalone version of the software will run you around $90 - which is totally reasonable for the value you're getting! As far as VSTs under $100 are concerned, this one might take the…. trophy (sorry). When I’m working on a pop track and need a catchy pluck lead, you bet I’m headed to Trophies first. Here’s where the Jamstik comes in. Anyone that’s ever used a Jamstik will tell you there’s some serious magic in physically plucking a plucked sound (opposed to pressing a key). Endless fun — and at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?
Tyrell N6 by U-He: FREE
We’ll round off the list with another piece of great freeware. Tyrell N6 is a “compact & sporty synth” as defined by the U-He website. While this is true, I’d call it an undersell (good thing it’s free I guess). This thing is powerful. With an impressive and balanced collection of usable and obscure presets, Tyrell N6 will inspire you for a long time - and if you’re running out of inspiration or missing the thrill of experimentation, maybe a Jamstik is just what you need to shake up your workflow. If you’re an experienced guitar player, you get home court advantage, immediately unique voicings (due to the layout of the guitar itself), and, of course, convenience—which, let’s be real, is sometimes the difference between doing and thinking.
Here's what they sound like all together!
It gets even more interesting when I think about the Jamstik in the hands of an experienced piano player. We know that some of the best ideas come when you step out of your comfort zone and when you’re stripped of the limitations that come with comfort. You’re not confined by the ‘rules’ you may have established on your instrument of choice; you’re simply following your gut and experimenting with what sounds good. And who knows, maybe you find yourself so inspired that you decide to learn the fundamentals of the guitar—in which case, you already have the perfect EDU tool in your backpack.
Do you have any favorite VSTs that work well with the Jamstik? Let us know in the comments!
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