You’ve downloaded your DAW or tracker of choice. You have an idea for a tune that you want to create. You go to pull up your string library and…oh. You don’t have one. That’s okay, you can just get KOMPLETE 13 which costs…$600. Or you can use some of the resources below and get going right away.
As a sidenote, I will say that for me, one of the easiest ways to find sounds is to use a program that has them included. LMMS, Cakewalk, and tracker sample editors all provide quick ways to generate some standard sounds. Your computer most likely has some standard instrument sounds that it uses to play MIDI files, but I don’t think folks will find them quite up to snuff to use in a game. When I eventually upgraded to FL Studio, I did so knowing that it came bundled with more VSTs than I could learn in a lifetime, and I wouldn’t have to worry about too many outside purchases.
A homebase of many, many free VSTs. Most are pretty meh from what I can tell, however there are quite a few gems on there that I’ve used before. I recommend Synth1 (although I could never figure it out fully, it’s insanely powerful), TyrellN6, and PianoOne.
William Kage SNES SoundFonts
These are SoundFont files containing the raw samples used in SNES soundtracks. The website and the samples themselves are sorted by game.
Spitfire Audio LABS
A variety of free instruments “made by musicians, for musicians.” You’ll need to create an account to download them, but that’s it. They run through Spitfire’s own “wrapper” called LABS, which you open as a VST in your DAW. It’s somewhat equivalent to having multiple sample libraries within your commercial sampler.
Matt Montag’s NES VST
Why mess around with silly chiptrackers when you could just boot up this bad boi in your DAW? Provides a wealth of options for emulating a NES sound channel and all of its quirks (so use five and you have a whole NES!). If I recall correctly, Toby Fox used this VST in creating his Undertale soundtrack.
YMCK Magical 8bit Plug
Another classic chiptune plugin.
Not for music, but a small program for creating custom 8-bit style sound effects. Hit the randomize button and go wild. It exports to WAV.
Previous: Free Trackers