Learn which virtual instruments and audio effects will help you write the most brutal, aggressive, and raw metal music.
The instability of a band can drive many people to pursue music production. When a band member isn’t taking things as seriously as the others, or tension builds within the band, it can be frustrating. Producing music is something that you can do on your own, allowing you to work at a level that you’re comfortable with.
Your lack of playing ability doesn’t need to hold you back when producing music either. There are virtual drums, basses, and guitars that you can use to write songs in a digital audio workstation (DAW) using MIDI notes. With the current state of audio technology, virtual instruments and effects are often impossible to distinguish from their hardware counterparts by ear — and they’re cheaper!
Based on the genre of music you produce, some virtual instruments and effects will be more suitable than others. In this article, we’re taking a look at 4 of the best plugins for producing metal.
4. XLN Audio’s Addictive Drums 2
Addictive Drums 2 is one of my favorite drum production studios. It’s an ultra-fancy sampler that allows you to program realistic drum arrangements using MIDI. Addictive Drums 2 features professionally recorded acoustic drums, live rhythm performances, and high-quality built-in effects.
The Presets tab allows you to cycle through and audition the presets included within XLN Audio’s drum libraries. XLN Audio refers to their drum libraries as “ADpaks”; these can be purchased separately or together as collections. For metal production, I recommend the Metal Collection which includes the Studio Prog ADpak and Metal ADpak.
There’s an Edit view that lets you modify the sound of each kit piece included in the library you’ve selected. You can also swap out the drums a part of your kit within the Kit view. The FX allows you to modify your sound with EQ, reverb, tape compression, and vinyl noise.
One of the most useful aspects of Addictive Drums 2 is that it includes MIDI arrangements that you can drag and drop onto MIDI tracks in your DAW. You don’t need to know anything about playing the drums to add jaw-clenching percussion to your songs.
MIDIpaks expand the rhythms available to you within Addictive Drums 2. The MIDIpaks included with XLN Audio’s Metal Collection are the Diabolic MIDIpak and Metal Songs MIDIpak, both of which contain some sinister beats and blood-curdling fills.
The great thing about Addictive Drums 2 is that it’s scalable. You can start small with one collection and then purchase additional ADpaks, MIDIpaks, and Kitpiece Paks over time, as your needs grow.
3. IK Multimedia’s MODO BASS 2
MODO BASS 2 is a physically modeled virtual bass instrument that includes real-time modal synthesis technology, up to 22 basses, and advanced performance algorithms for incredible realism. You can adjust the physical attributes of each bass including the strings, neck, body, and electronics. It’s even possible to go fretless.
This unique virtual bass recreates each string’s response to the action of the “player” on certain areas of the string surface, and the interaction of the strings with the fretboard, body, and pickups. After this process occurs, the sound of an electric bass rig’s amp and effects are added to the signal path.
You don’t need to be familiar with physical modeling synthesis to appreciate the power of MODO BASS 2. The easy-to-use controls let you completely customize the sound of your basses and the results sound indistinguishable from a live bass recording. If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution, simply load up a bass model and use its default settings — customization is optional.
There’s also a PATTERNS section that provides different grooves, meaning you don’t need to program MIDI basslines yourself. You can filter patterns by genre, section (intro, verse, etc.), playstyle (pick, finger, etc.), length, key, and signature. The PATTERNS section is one of MODO BASS 2’s most powerful features and you should definitely take advantage of it.
2. Impact Soundworks’ Shreddage 3
Finding the perfect metal guitar sound can be a challenge but Impact Soundworks has gone above and beyond expectations with Shreddage 3. This is a series of virtual guitar and bass instruments powered by a custom KONTAKT PLAYER engine with full NKS compatibility.
The issue with a lot of virtual guitars is that they’re difficult to play and program but that’s not the case with Shreddage 3. The user interface and set of available features has been drastically improved since Shreddage 1 and 2. Visually, Shreddage 3 is easy to navigate and learn how to use.
You can play with sustains, power chords, palm mutes, staccatos, grace note slides, harmonics, pinch harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, fingered vibrato, and more. There’s a POLY INPUT that delivers realistic chords, multiple fret and string voicing algorithms, and a STRUMMING tab for custom rhythm parts.
CONSOLE is Impact Soundworks’ modular rack, pedal board, and mixer with 30+ FX that’s built into Shreddage 3. It includes multiple EQs (digital and analog), compressors, spatial FX, modulation FX, amps, distortion pedals, reverbs, and a selection of over 30 custom cabinet IRs. You can save effect chain presets and load them within different Shreddage 3 products.
The Shreddage 3 virtual guitar library that’s best for you will depend on personal preference. You’ll want to take a listen to Hydra, Legacy, Abyss, Serpent, Rogue, and Jupiter. When you inevitably can’t decide, there’s a Shreddage 3 Bundle that includes every Shreddage 3 guitar and bass instrument at 60% off.
1. Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig
If you play electric guitar/bass or produce music that contains electric guitar/bass, Guitar Rig is a must-have plugin. It’s a multi-effects rack and amp simulator for creating and experimenting with audio in a way that’s fast and direct. Guitar Rig lets you design unique processing chains to customize your tones and reinvent sounds.
Guitar Rig allows you to frequency shift, bit crush, distort, chorus, phase, and flange your sounds. You can also use Guitar Rig to create space with reverb, tame dynamics using compression, remove noise, shape tone, and sculpt transients.
There are plenty of effect plugins that attempt to do what Guitar Rig does but there’s some interesting technology powering Guitar Rig that gives it an edge. Intelligent circuit modeling (ICM) is a machine learning technology that reproduces the behavior of hardware devices from the ground up, providing incredible depth and realism to Native Instruments’ amp emulations.
Guitar Rig has applications beyond the studio. You can manipulate this plugin using a MIDI footer controller and swap between presets while performing on stage. To do this, you’ll need to route your guitar signal through a DAW like Ableton Live and apply Guitar Rig to the channel that you want to affect.
These four plugins should ensure you have all your basses covered (pun intended) when it comes to producing metal. If you’re still new to producing music, consider checking out my Music Production for Beginners course. It teaches you how to produce your first song in under and hour, along with everything else you need to know to produce radio-quality songs. I also show you how to capture professional acoustic and electric guitar recordings at home on a budget. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee so you’ve got nothing to lose. Give it a try!