This tutorial teaches you how to install VST plugins on your DAW, irrespective of which one you use. So if you are a greenhorn in music production and you keep hearing the knowledgeable ones in the field talking about VST plugins. You may start wondering what that means and how to utilize it. Do not worry, just read on.
What is a plugin?
Plugins are utility tools made by third party software companies that integrate into a major program (in music production case, a DAW) to enhance optimum performance. Such tools that come pre-loaded in a DAW are referred to as stock plugins. In music production, the most popular cross platform format compatible across all DAWs is the VST (virtual studio technology).
What is VST?
As implied by the name, VSTs are software substitutes for music production hardware effects processors such as compressors, equalizers, reverbs, delays, etc. We also have the VSTi (Virtual Studio Technology instrument) format which is the same as the VST. The only difference being that VSTi rather than being effects, are virtual musical instruments like a virtual piano, guitar, drums, trumpets, etc.
How to Install VST Plugins on Windows
As said earlier, this guide will successfully help you install VST plugins irrespective of whichever DAW you use. VST plugins can be installed in two ways; automatically or manually, depending on how it is bundled by the maker.
For the automatic method, the plugin must have been bundled as .exe executable file. To follow this tutorial practically, download Rough Rider 2. Audio damage’s amazing free compressor plugin.
Step 1: Run the program exe file and grant it permission if requested.
Step 2: There is often likely to be a welcome screen. Click next to continue.
Step 3: Terms and conditions. The most ignored thing on earth. I doubt people ever read these things, but they keep popping up in our faces anyways. Accept by clicking OK or I agree.
Step 3: The next prompt is to select where to install the program folder and to select which plugin format or type to install. Select according to your system compatible type. As for the program folder installation, directory is often like- C:/program files/plugin maker . If this is how it is displayed by default, it is good to leave as it is. Unless it redirects to another irrelevant subfolder, in this case you will have to browse to program files folder. ( N.B : some plugins may skip program folder prompt and combine file type selection with the plugin installation prompt)
Step 4: There is another prompt to choose which folder to install the plugin (.dll file). This is the file type your DAWs will read in order to detect the plugins. Most DAWs by default always search the VstPlugins folder inside your local disc’s Program Files folder. The directory should be like this- C:/program files/VstPlugins/ . Note that if you are installing a VST plugin for the first time, the /VstPlugins folder might not be available by default in your program files folder. Though some plugins tend to create this folder by themselves, if not you might have to create it by yourself.
Step 5: Click next or install. Whichever dialogue the plugin uses out of the two. The installation runs till completed. Click finish. Done!
Some plugins, often the ones that have a standalone version may ask to create a desktop shortcut. You decide whether you want them to do so or not.
For the manual method, it means the plugin was not bundled as a runnable .exe file. So you will have to move the plugin file into the VST plugins folder by yourself manually. To follow this tutorial, download Tokyo Dawn Records’ awesome free EQ plugin TDR VOS SlickEQ. Download the Windows(no installer) version. This comes as a file with a .dll file extension. Just copy the file or files to the appropriate folder, often– C:/Program Files/VstPlugins . You can create a folder for the plugins inside the VST plugins folder if instructed to do so by the maker.
VST3 manual installation
The installation directory of VST type 3 is different. The file extension for VST3 plugin files is .vst3. To manually install a VST3 format plugin; copy the .vst3 file to C:/Program Files/Common Files/VST3
After installing the plugins by either running the .exe file or copying a .dll or .vst3 to the appropriate folders, next step is to go into your DAW to locate the newly installed plugin. Different DAWs have different methods of doing this. In most DAWs the plugins are automatically scanned upon opening the program. In others like FL studio, you’ll have to go into the Plugin database folder in the browser section.Right click on installed plugins folder and click refresh plugins list to scan for new plugins.
While in others like Cockos REAPER, you can add multiple installation parts besides the aforementioned folder paths. All you have to do is point the DAW in what folder directory to scan. To do this; go to Options-Preferences-Plugins-VST. You can use the auto detect button to automatically detect installed plugins. To add paths, just type in directories as seen in the picture below. Separate each part by adding a semi colon.
That’s it people! Now you can have various options of great third party processors to work with besides your DAW’s default ones. There are many unbelievably very good free vst plugins if you cannot afford the best commercial ones for now. Happy music making.