Many guitar VSTs and amp simulators are expensive, and some commercial libraries can cost up to $200. Luckily there are free options available that pack a punch. Today we take a look at some of the best free guitar VST plugins that will give you authentic, professional guitar sounds without you ever reaching for your wallet.
More Free VSTs:
Using guitar VST plugins is the most simple way of adding guitars into your tracks. Instead of worrying about mic placements, you can just load your VST into your DAW and hit notes on your MIDI controller or plug your guitar into your sound card.
I’ve been producing music for over 10 years and I’ve realized that guitars are an extremely difficult instrument to translate into the form of a plugin. The depth, humanization, and real-life articulation of a guitar are often lost when sampled and played on a MIDI controller. For this review, I scoured the internet for every free guitar VST that I could find. My mission? To find the most realistic and best free guitar VSTs on the market.
I was surprised by the number of quality freebies that I found. All guitar plugins on this list are powerful and versatile tools and can help you add realistic guitar riffs into your music productions.
At a Glance: The Best Free Guitar VST Plugins
- Ample Guitar M Lite II
- DSK Dynamic Guitars
- Haunted Guitar Lite
- CLASSIC GTr LITE
- Spicy Guitars
- Spitfire Peel Guitar (Spitfire LABS)
- Cute Emily Guitar
- Shreddage 3 Stratus FREE
- Guitar Rig 6 Player
- Amplitube 5 CS
- Amped Roots Free
Free Acoustic Guitar VST Plugins
Ample Guitar M Lite II
Ample Guitar M Lite II is one of the best free acoustic guitar plugins available. It aims to bring a Martin D-41 acoustic guitar sound to your studio and it does a pretty good job.
You can switch between standard mode and keyboard mode which determines how many strings can be played at the same time. Standard mode will play like a guitar so if you try to play two notes on the same string, the plugin will only play the last note of the two. With keyboard mode, all notes will be heard which can sound unrealistic.
Another cool feature is the Tab mode that lets you import any guitar tabs, which you can download on a site like guitarprotabs.org. There is also an extensive FX library with stompboxes that you can control using a MIDI keyboard or controller. You can also tweak the guitar with a push of a button, adding more body or width to the sound.
Overall this is one of the best free acoustic guitar VSTs available.
DSK Dynamic Guitars
DSK has spoiled us with tons of great free virtual instruments and Dynamic Guitars is one of their most popular VSTs. Don’t be fooled by the somewhat amateurish-looking interface, this free guitar VST contains high-quality samples.
The plugin lets you choose between three different guitar types: Acoustic, Nylon, and Steel. I really like the Steel-mode for aggressive and fast riffs, while the nylon and acoustic samples are more chill and laidback.
This guitar VST sounds very realistic and every note contains several layers of samples. Depending on how hard you hit your key, different samples with different velocities will be triggered. While gently pressing down the key you hear a smooth guitar sound and if you press harder the guitar sound will be stronger with vibrato.
You can tweak how Dynamic Guitars handles velocity using the ‘Range’-knob. The interface also features ADSR controls, a voice mode selector, and a reverb.
Haunted Guitar Lite
Imagine that you’re composing a track for a horror film and you want a creepy melody on top of a paranormal soundscape. Haunted Guitar Lite would be my go-to place.
Rather than pure realistic sound, this VST is more aimed towards spooky, dark, and scary sounds. The instrument is created with a multi-sampled Fender Stratocaster that’s been heavily processed with high-quality effects.
If you want the kind of hissing background noise you hear in horror movies, you can create that with Haunted Guitar. The free version includes 8 presets that mix 28 samples together which you can tweak with ADSR, HP/LP-filters, and LFO modulation. Note that Haunted Guitar doesn’t work if you have a music production computer that runs macOS Big Sur.
CLASSIC GTr LITE
CLASSIC GTr LITE is a free multi-sampled Spanish guitar VST featuring samples of a classic guitar. The free version includes 7 presets with various effects and tone-shaping controls.
The ‘Original’ preset is the sampled sound of the classical guitar, without any effects on it. You can change the attack, decay, sustain and release of any sample with the ADSR envelope generator. If you want to modulate the tone you can map the Mod-rate or Mod depth to any of the four predefined parameters.
The interface is user-friendly without a learning curve. The FX-controls and tonal-shaping options are limited but they are what you expect from a free VST. The plugin lacks pattern and chord libraries but that’s not what you would expect from a classic guitar VST. If you want a simple yet beautiful nylon string fingerpicking sound, make sure to grab this freebie.
Spicy Guitars by Keolab
Spicy Guitars differs from the other free guitar VSTs on this list. Instead of having sounds from a real guitar, it’s based on a modeled guitar. Think of it more as a synthesizer rather than a sampled guitar. Don’t worry, it still offers a rich and realistic acoustic guitar sound.
One of the coolest things about Spicy Guitars is the chord detection system, which kicks in when you play three or more notes on your MIDI keyboard. The piano chords are automatically detected and converted into a full guitar chord that has this realistic strumming sound that you hear from a real acoustic guitar. You can switch between 9 different guitars and 2 different string types.
The user interface features multiple controls that let you tweak the sound in real-time. When you switch on the sustain, the notes will last longer which is preferred when the chord detection system is turned off and you play arpeggios. You can also switch between legato and sustain, adjust palm mutes, harmonics, and vibrato.
Free Electric Guitar VST
Spitfire Peel Guitar (Spitfire LABS)
Peel Guitar from Spitfire’s LABS series is one of the best free electric guitar VSTs available. This VST was created by Christan Henson back in 2006 and is being used all over his scores.
The instrument is created using samples from a Fender Telecaster, fed through a 15w vintage tweed amp. Peel Guitar is extremely user-friendly with a simple three control interface. The sound design and customization capabilities are rather limited, although you can do some customization with the volume, velocity, reverb, and tightness controls. Think of it as a tweaked-out sound ready to go, offering a classic fender sound straight out of the box.
Peel Guitar is my go-to guitar VST when I’m working on ambient tracks or film scores. You can get some interesting drone sounds by hitting the low keys. Choose between three predefined presets that have been tweaked differently.
Cute Emily Guitar
Cute Emily Guitar by Karoryfer is a Guitar VST made of dry samples of an Epiphone SG equipped with thick flatwound strings.
This free virtual instrument offers a clean tone, suitable for jazz and blues music. The user interface is simple with ADSR, volume, and pan controls. The texture of the low notes in particular is great. The high notes feel a bit plonky and piano-like but I managed to give them more depth with some additional external effects.
Since the interface lacks reverb controls and the original samples are dry, you’re going to need some additional processing in your DAW. Cute Emily Guitar combined with a guitar amp simulator completely skyrockets the value of this free VST. It just brings the dry signal to life and makes the instrument more playable.
Overall, I feel like this guitar plugin can add a lot of value to your production if you have some additional tools at your disposal.
Shreddage 3 Stratus FREE
Shreddage 3 Stratus Free by Impact Soundworks is built upon ultra-realistic sounds from a sampled Fender Stratocaster. There are tons of options available in the UI and a lot of different parameters you can tweak. It has a steeper learning curve compared to other free Guitar VSTs, but once you get a hang of it, it’s a powerful tool.
Thanks to its distorted sound, Shreddage 3 is best suited when producing rock music. Every fret has deep sampling, meaning that every note you play consists of up to 24 dynamic layers of samples.
With the ‘Multi-Tracking’ controls you can duplicate the guitar riff, and enhance the stereo width. The tone-shaping capabilities let you customize the sound as you like, and you can switch between different Picking Modes and Fretting Modes. You can even deemphasize the picking sound while playing arpeggios or sweeps, to make it even more realistic.
Shreddage 3 Stratus is one of the best and most versatile guitar VSTs on the market. However, the free version doesn’t offer middle and bridge pickups and only features 12 playable frets, compared to 24 frets on the full version.
Shreddage 3 is a Kontakt library so you’ll need a full version of Kontakt 5.7 or higher.
Free Guitar Amp VST Plugins
Guitar Rig 6 Player
Guitar Rig 6 Player is the free version of Native Instruments amp simulator Guitar Rig Pro. There are no compromises in sound quality, just fewer options of cabinets and pedals.
The free version includes a British-style tube preamp and 13 modular components. The user interface is simple and you add new effects to the effect chain with seamless drag and drop.
Guitar Rig Player 6 is a great option for beginners exploring the world of amp simulators and digital guitar effects. However, I found the selection of presets rather limited compared to other free guitar amp VST plugins. When you’ve outgrown the free version I recommend upgrading to Pro, which to be honest is fairly priced.
Guitar Rig 6 Player is bundled with the free KOMPLETE START which you can download here
Amplitube 5 CS
Amplitube is one of the most popular software for recording guitar and bass. It’s a stripped-down version of the software and it’s completely free to download.
What’s cool about Amplitube is that it allows you to buy separate effects and amps individually. Let’s say you love the sound of the Fender Deluxe Reverb Amp. Then you can solely buy that amp without having to purchase the entire bundle of effects.
This guitar VST comes with 4 amps for guitars and 1 amp for bass, with matching cabinets and microphone combinations. You’ll also get a few stompboxes for further processing and customization.
I’m very impressed by the realistic guitar tone of the presets. Guitar amp VSTs can have a steep learning curve for beginners, having to scratch their heads to be able to dial in the desired tone. However, all amps and effects featured in Amplitube 5 CS are super user-friendly and a great starting point for customization.
I’ve used it multiple times when I’m too lazy to plug my pedalboard and my tube amp, and the recordings are convincing from the get-go.
Amped Roots Free
Amped Roots Free is a great free option when it comes to guitar amp VSTs. This amp simulator is a stripped version of Amped Roots – FULL LICENSE and it gives you an ultra-realistic heavy guitar sound.
Compared to Amplitube 5 CS and Guitar Rig 6 player, this plugin is more focused on metal guitar sounds (rather than pure rock). With the free version, you’ll get a fully functional modulation of an EVH 5150 III EL34 50 head.
The user interface is not overly complicated and it features basic controls such as Gain, Low, Mid High, Presence, and Volume. Amped Roots also included a pedalboard for free with standard stompboxes like Noise Gate, Drive, Delay, and Reverb.
Another cool feature is the built-in impulse response loader. This means that you can upload your impulse responses from other recordings and retain your preferred tone down to the details. Pretty dope for a free guitar VST amp simulator if you ask me!
What Is A Guitar VST Plugin?
A plugin is a separate piece of software that allows you to access different effects and sounds. A guitar VST is specifically designed to emulate guitar sounds without having to use a guitar or amplifier. There are two kinds of guitar VST plugins:
- VST Instruments such as sampled instruments that can be played on a MIDI controller
- VST Effects such as amp simulators that can emulate the sound of your connected guitar
Guitar Plugin Formats
There are four types of plugin formats and depending on what DAW you use, you should choose one over the other. The available formats are:
- VST: used in most DAWs
- AU: Ableton Live, Logic Pro
- AAX: Pro Tools 10 and later
- RTAS: Pro Tools 10 and earlier
VST is the most commonly used format but it’s always a good idea to check if the plugin comes in a format compatible with your DAW of choice. When downloading free guitar VSTs, they will usually download in multiple formats for you to choose from.
Plugins also come in different bit rates: 32-bit or 64-bit. If you use a 32-bit DAW, you’re not able to use 64-bit plugins.
Can I Use A MIDI Keyboard With A Free Guitar VST?
Yes, you can use any kind of MIDI controller for sampled guitar VST plugins.
Is Free Guitar VSTs Realistic?
All free guitar VSTs featured on this list are based on real recordings, except ‘Spicy Guitars’. However, don’t expect the height of realism from all of them. They should rather be used for arrangement and building up your tracks.
Creating an ultra-realistic guitar sound on a MIDI keyboard can be tricky because a keyboard can’t produce the same rhythmic nuances as a real guitar.
Playing a real guitar won’t allow you to play two notes on the same string in one go. Since you usually play piano chords on a MIDI keyboard, you don’t have that limitation. if you play too many keys at the same time, the guitar VST will sound unrealistic. This issue has been solved by Spicy Guitars chord detection system, which converts piano chords to guitar chords.
How Do I Make My Guitar Plugin Sound Realistic?
Many subtle interactions are going on when you play a real guitar, and to be able to capture this sound on a MIDI controller you’ll need to work with automation.
A lot of the realistic-sounding guitar parts contain a lot of MIDI changes, such as changing articulations and adding variety to things like velocity, vibrato, and anything else.
Vibrato is important when it comes to adding organic variations to the guitar sound. Also, some notes will have less sustain, and some will ring out a bit more, depending on how hard you press the string against the fretboard. Discreet automation on the release envelope will make the notes less mechanical.
Even the smallest adjustments may have a significant impact. Anything that appears too mechanical will give it away.
How Do I Use Guitar VSTs?
There are a couple of ways to use guitar plugins. The first one is having them hosted in your DAW, and the second option is to have them as standalone plugins. Guitar VST instruments use the protocol MIDI and are loaded on a MIDI track inside your DAW. VST effects such as guitar amp simulators are loaded into an audio track and process the audio input.
VST effects don’t produce any sound on their own and you’ll need a guitar to generate an audio signal. As the name suggests, VST instruments are instruments on their own and you can produce notes with MIDI.
Standalone Plugins Vs Plugins in A DAW
Some plugins can only be loaded into your DAW, and some can act as standalone programs. This means you don’t need a DAW to use them.
Standalone plugins come in handy if you want to jam or try different guitar effects in your amp simulator. Just plug your guitar into your audio interface, open up your guitar amp simulator and start playing. Amplitube 5 CS is in my opinion the best free standalone guitar amp simulator available today!
Plugins In Your DAW
To be able to load your guitar VST plugin on your DAW, you need to install your plugin into a folder recognized by your DAW. Most guitar plugins automatically find the folder that your DAW scans for plugins. Your DAW will add that plugin to your library and you can load the plugin to a track.