Looking to add some indelible magic to your productions that nothing but a piano can provide? Well, we compiled a “best piano VST” shortlist that’s still ten entries strong. Take your pick of the best free and paid piano VST plugins the world has to offer!
Top 8 Best Free Piano Plugins
We’ve sung the praises of LABS time and time again. Without waxing poetic once more, we’ll just say that LABS is one of the coolest free series of virtual instruments around. You’ll need to download the Spitfire Audio app to launch the instruments, which is also free, and once you do, you can take your pick from an extensive (and constantly growing) collection of beautifully sampled software instruments.
Soft Piano is gorgeous—really great for lo-fi or other styles benefitting from an airy and ethereal touch. The sound comes from running a piece of felt between the hammer and the strings!
Actually somewhat comparable to Soft Piano above is Room Piano by Sample Science. This free piano plugin is light in both sound and CPU usage. The software instrument is based on an upright acoustic piano, sampled in two velocities every three semitones. That helps keep it CPU friendly while you’re getting your piano jams on.
Piano in 162 by Ivy Audio is a lovely sample of a Steinway Model B grand piano. It’s downloadable in Kontakt, SFZ, and Korg Kronos formats; unfortunately, it does require the full version of Kontakt to run. That means to open this instrument up as a total freebie, you’d need to download a free SFZ sampler like Plogue Sforzando. Not the end of the world to have an awesome free piano VST.
Here’s a nice recreation of the workhorse Yamaha C7 concert grand piano. Internally, it utilizes Soundmagic’s hybrid modeling engine, which offers realistic sound sampling with the playability of modeling. The idea is to create a natural feeling playing experience through the software instrument. An excellent value, certainly, though perhaps not the best free piano VST on the list by itself.
The name sort of gives it away, but this free piano VST is designed for creating a cinematic bed or intimate ambience. It’s funny that three out of five plugins here are of the “soft” variety, but hey, it’s a gorgeous sound that’s fun to play! The full plugin weighs in at 2.4GB in 341 samples with two mic positions.
The Grand by DSK is a straightforward sampled piano with four velocity layers and four to six samples per note. It features full customization of the ADSR envelope, and also has a built-in reverb for a bit of concert hall ambience to help put the piano in a space.
4Front is a stripped-down virtual instrument recreating the sound of a classic upright piano commonly found in people’s homes. Even though it has no customizable settings, it sounds good enough to play around with. It’s also really low on CPU usage, so it’s efficient and easy to use.
Iowa Piano is a Steinway grand using free samples from the University of Iowa. It has three velocity layers and samples almost every note of the grand piano; Iowa Piano provides ADSR control in addition to a master volume and pan control.
Top 8 Best Paid Piano Plugins
Keyscape is a massive compilation of collector keyboards. It’s ideal for piano, keyboard, and synth enthusiasts, or anyone who wants to add a ton of variety to their software instrument collection. Amongst the pianos included are a custom-modified Yamaha C7 grand, a Wing upright, as well as a Wing tack piano. There are even a number of toy piano models and a digital piano.
Addictive Keys features a studio grand piano and a modern upright. If you opt for the complete package, you’ll also get an electric grand and a Rhodes-style keyboard. The grand piano is a sampled Steinway Model D with six selectable mic placements to really fine-tune your sound. The Addictive Keys bundle is an expertly sampled collection of some of the finest instruments in the world.
Developed in collaboration with Alicia Keys herself, this piano VST features 17GB of samples in 12 velocity layers per key. The sounds come from Keys’s own Yamaha C3 Neo grand piano, and from her own playing. This is a very unique instrument in that it can almost be thought of as a “signature” virtual instrument. In that sense, it’s going to give you a specific piano sound like Alicia’s.
The talented people at Vienna Symphonic Library meticulously sampled a Bösendorfer Imperial 290-755 for this instrument. The piano stayed on their soundstage for two months while the team collected a mind-boggling 1200 samples per key. This level of detail was almost unthinkable before this project, but the result is undoubtedly worth it. If you’re looking for the single best piano plugin, this is it.
Pianoteq 7 includes a variety of instruments by iconic names such as Steinway & Sons, Steingraeber, Bechstein, Blüthner, Grotrian, and Petrof. The instrument is available for purchase in three different versions, which include a certain number of sample packs each. You can buy more sample packs at any time, making Pianoteq the perfect instrument for users who want it to grow with them.
EastWest’s virtual instrument libraries are among the best of the best. Quantum Leap Pianos includes four beautifully sampled pianos with dozens of velocities per note, multiple mic positions, and more. The whole package contains 263GB of content, so you can imagine the detail gone into recreating these instruments for the DAW.
Arturia Piano V contains 12 meticulously crafted acoustic pianos, including a concert grand, jazz upright, Japanese grand, and many others. Piano V is unique in that it is not a sample instrument but rather a modeler using Arturia’s proprietary algorithms and modeling technology. This actually gives you more control over the sound than you’d have with samples, as well as access to far more instruments given the price.
Spitfire’s fourth collaboration with Hans Zimmer introduced the ultimate piano library. It’s a sample library of the in-house grand piano at Lyndhurst Hall in AIR Studios — one of the best and most famous scoring stages in the world. At around 460GB of content, you’ll get multiple mics and positions, painstakingly detailed sampling at numerous velocities, and, overall, one of the finest piano instruments available.
Want to take your piano VST production chops to the next level? Check out the Pro Mix Academy course Music Production with Mimi Page!