Not everyone can afford an expensive piano or expensive VST plugins, which is why we have compiled for you an ultimate list of the best free VST piano plugins that sound like the real deal.
We understand your enthusiasm for pianos, so to help you find it, we’ve listed out 10 of the best piano VSTs for 2020.
BONUS: At the end of this article reviews a few paid plugins.
You ready? Let’s jump right in like Elton John on the piano.
1. Ivy Audio’s Piano in 162
Ivy Audio has created not only a plugin but an entire sample library of 162 different sounds of Steinway Model B grand piano’s notes. Through its comprehensive sampling approach, it is perhaps one of the biggest libraries of high-quality audio notes.
Here are some of its features:
- Comes with two round robins. Round robins are the number of different samples per note. This means that you will get 162*2 = 304 different samples, and the plugin will randomly select one of the two samples every time a key is pressed: resulting in an authentic piano tone experience.
- Comes with dynamic levels and separate pedal samples. The use of pedals has been missing in many piano tools but Ivy Audio’s Piano in 162 makes sure that the user knows about this feature.
- The plugin’s audio notes are recorded at 96,000 Hz and are compatible with Kontakt, or Plogue Sforzando – whatever you prefer.
2. Sweetcase Vintage Electric Piano
Sweetcase is a virtual instrument plug-in that uses 3D user interface to emulate a real piano experience. Even though 3D sounds like something from mid-2010, the interface is very clean and user-friendly – essentially making for a beginner-friendly plugin that anyone can enjoy. You can get it from here.
Here are some of the features:
- A vintage sounding keyboard is used, which records warm sounds that sound as real as they come.
- Is easy to remix and makes for good EDM music through the use of bass boost, bell, modulation and other built-in reverb controls.
- Is compatible with both VST tools and AU instruments that are either 32 bit or 64-bit.
- Is free, and all features can be accessed without a paywall.
3. Bigcat Instruments Iowa Grand Piano
If you want absolute realism, you will love Bigcat’s Iowa Grand Piano. It is a Steinway & Sons Grand Piano that has been recorded with a pair of Neuman KM 84 microphones – meaning that the sound is cleaner than most plugins on the internet. You can grab the plugin from the BigCat Instruments website, alongside their other free piano instrument, Sherratt London Piano, again available in VST, AU and Kontakt formats.
Here are the features we liked the best:
- Completely free, and the individual samples are available in the public domain to download for anyone.
- Includes every note of the Steinway & Sons Grand Piano, layered with 3 velocity layers.
- Comes with an interface that has all the standard volume adjustments as well as attack, decay, pan and sustenance controls.
4. 4Front R-Piano
4Front R-Piano is consistently inspired by RPS72 pianos – a popular electronic piano plugin that was long discontinued in the late 2000s. Here are some of the 4Front R-Piano features that help make this piano enter our list:
- Comes with a clean interface with enough options that you won’t need another plugin for piano synthesis.
- Is powerful yet compact enough that it can run on a relatively weak modern computer without causing your CPU to burst into flames.
- Can generate about 127 different layers of notes consistently without getting stuck.
Grab it from http://www.yohng.com/software/piano.html
5. Spectrasonics Keyscape (Paid)
Though one of the more premium plugins on this list, Spectrasonics’ Keyscape is one of the most versatile plugins that any professional composer can ever use in their lifetime.
Here are some of the features that justify its price:
- Comes pre-packaged with over 500 high-quality sounds and over 36 instrument models that are not only limited to pianos, but also keyboards and more.
- Is made after ten years of careful tinkering and recording of renowned keyboards which are then multi-sampled.
- Works well on macOS and Windows, as well as various other operating systems.
Here are some of the features of Pianoteq from Modart – which seems like a lazy way to spell Mozart:
- A powerful tool that can provide synthesized piano audio without any loss.
- Is highly customizable and provides enough features that you could use only it without any hitch.
- Its notes can be adjusted through more than 30 parameters and you won’t need any sort of extra software.
- Comes with a relatively high cost, though is justified by its free updates that almost always pack in great features.
7. Prism Audio Atmos Piano
Though many people might confuse this with Dolby Atmos, Prism Audio Atmos is a great plugin if you are looking for an authentic euphoric experience in your music. Here are some of its features:
- 341 different samples at a high 44,100 Hz uncompressed format for authentic piano experience.
- Can place microphone between two positions: main or hall.
- Relatively small size: only 1.31 GB on Windows and 1.02 GB on macOS.
- Compatible with all versions of Windows and macOS until macOS 10.14.
8. Keyzone Classic
Keyzone Classic is a very versatile all-rounder piano plugin that can be used to produce any kind of piano music. It includes presets from both Yamaha and Steinway grand pianos. Here are some features that you will love:
- Includes all the common settings that you will find on an actual synthesizer.
- Comes at a great price: free and provides a lot of value.
- You can change the pitch and expression of the audio through attack, decay, saturation and release buttons available on the cluttered interface.
- Can be used to independently produce complete piano music.
9. DSK AkoustiK KeyZ
DSK is the second last plugin in our last, but it has some features that you should know:
- Comes with a simple interface that provides all the basic settings any beginner would need.
- Replicates the sounds of three piano types: Grand Piano, Concert Piano P & Concert Piano F.
- Does not eat away at the CPU and can be used on any modern computer system.
10. Salamander Piano
The audio from Salamander Piano comes from a Yamaha C5 grand piano and provides the following features:
- Clear audio that is sampled thoroughly.
- Is a free plugin with a clean interface that is useful for both beginners and veterans alike.
- Keeps the CPU cool and does not eat away at resources like other plugins on this list.
Bonus: Paid Piano Plugins
Here are some paid plugins that can help you become a professional faster:
Native Instruments: Alicia’s Keys
Alicia’s Keys is a relatively lesser-known VST plugin. It is aimed at a budget market, and you can see that in its design. Here are some features that you will like:
- The sounds are recorded from Alicia’s Yamaha C3 Neo piano and feature almost 3000 individual samples on 12 discrete velocity layers.
- Comes with a pedal that can be turned on or off depending on the requirement.
- Audio is in an uncompressed WAV format, helping users make high-quality content.
- Works best with an 88-key keyboard, which is what most people have.
Native Instruments: “The Grandeur”
The Grandeur is also another plugin made by Native Instruments, though it is not bad in any way. Here are some features:
- Sampled from the most popular Grandeur classic concert piano.
- Has state-of-the-art sample quality which provides dynamic performance.
- Can be adjusted with a lot of options related to pedals, damper, string, hammer, lid control and so on.
We hope that you were able to find the best VST for your authentic piano experience from this list. We chose to list 10 so if you had any problems with one plugin, you could choose another one.