Top tool for metalheads

In the short time since its release, one of our plugins has decidedly made an impression: Virtual Guitarist IRON 2! Many of its most avid customers are actually people who already have the original IRON plugin, which is no surprise given the overhaul it’s received, including entirely new recorded guitar samples. Let’s see what else IRON 2 has in store:

One of the most significant additions is the new Instrument mode, allowing you to manually choose which articulations, strums, and plucks play, at exactly which times. If one of your gripes with most virtual guitars is that their phrases and rhythms are too ‘locked,’ you never have to worry about that problem again — with IRON 2, you can even select individual notes of the chord to play in the exact order you choose, giving a realistic impression of picking in any order you choose. This is the closest you’re going to get to the flexibility and realism of a live guitar!

For anything rock- or metal-related, you need a solid guitarist; if that’s not you (or anyone on hand), a virtual guitarist is the only way to go. Still, many guitar plugins are just collections of samples that are nearly impossible to string together in a realistic manner. We designed IRON 2 not only with the goal of capturing a deep collection of articulations and chords, but also on playability — you don’t have to know how to play the guitar to get the most out of the plugin. Leave that to IRON 2!

It also pairs perfectly with Virtual Drummer BRUTE, creating the perfect combo of guitar and drums (plus Virtual Bassist ROWDY 2 if you want a full rhythm section!).

Easy percussion sweeteners

Say you have the perfect kick and snare pattern — now it’s time to spice it up with some percussion. Do you rummage through a huge library of loops, eventually find a couple you like, and layer them together and try to get them to play nicely? That can definitely work ... but you can also save yourself the trouble by avoiding audio loops entirely. Groovemate ONE makes it so that you never have to spend time looking through loops, nor do you have to program your own percussion any time you want a nice layer on top of your kick and snare. This means no more using the same patterns over and over again out of ease, since you can start with a built-in loop from ONE and morph it into something new in no time with MIDI Drag and Drop!

Think of ONE as a sweetener for your drums — drop it in, pick a starting loop and change it into something totally different in no time at all. You can totally bypass the dreaded phase of thinking up a rhythm on the spot, without being locked into a single pattern which at best you can cut up and hit with some effects. This flexibility means you can keep moving no matter what, never slowing down to iron out new missing areas in your percussion group, and it’s another area of your arrangement you don’t have to think about beyond a couple of buttons and knobs if you choose. You get to keep working on the aspects of your production that need your creative input by simplifying the necessary pieces that stay in the background.

ONE is perfect for backing percussion in acoustic and electronic genres alike, anywhere from drum & bass with Beatmaker VOID to trap music with Beatmaker GLORY. Plus, if you’re creating orchestral or hybrid music, ONE also layers nicely with Symphonic Elements DRUMS, allowing you to quickly create more depth in your mix by adding in light percussion behind a bombastic drum ensemble. Speaking of, this brings us to number 3:

Cinematic drum hits and loops

DRUMS contains tons of different samples and drum loops carefully curated from Hans Zimmer’s private collection. If you love his famous percussion sound, this is hands-down the fastest, most accessible way to bring it to your own productions. You’ll find countless ways to include this cinematic ensemble in different songs, between drops, builds, and everything in between — and this is especially true if you want to break into hybrid EDM and combine orchestral sounds with your favorite styles of electronic music (which Hans, of course, is uniquely qualified to help you with!). Even more so if you use Beatmaker NEMESIS to add in the fully electronic, futuristic percussion experience!

If cultivating a unique sound is important to you as an artist, DRUMS contains performances on rare instruments that have been mastered by precious few performers, giving you large-scale percussion options you won’t find in other plugins. With its select suite of real-time processing options in the UI, you can tweak and mangle drum loops on the fly and cement a huge symphonic drum sound into your music.

It goes without saying that one of the most powerful applications of DRUMS is in film and video game scoring, Hans’ home turf. Do you want to get into the field, or simply love creating songs with a powerful hybrid electronic and orchestral sound? All the distortion and compression adjustments you’d normally have to make with long effects chains are at your disposal in a single interface, placing you as close to your desired end sound as possible. You’ll be amazed at how little time and effort it takes to get to a professional cinematic drum sound with DRUMS, even if you choose to create an entirely new pattern from the new MIDI loops you have available!

Don’t feel limited to “cinematic” genres, either — for example, K-Pop often includes big drum fills during transitions, so you can use Beatmaker IDOL to get the beat down and fill in the spaces with DRUMS!

Vintage sound on demand

Vintage distortion is one of the easiest ways to recolor the sound of an entire song without sounding forced or sloppy, whether you’re going for the saturation of a vinyl record or the warmth of a chill lofi tune. Sometimes things just fall flat and you need to inject some analog life to bring ‘em back up; you can also go to the extreme, of course, and slam your audio until it crumbles apart. Whichever your preference, Finisher RETRO has you covered!

Pick any decade you like from the 60s to the 90s, and the recordings from that era have a distinct sound that’s normally difficult to recreate in a DAW. However, our sound designers were up for the challenge, giving you a distinct mode for each decade — with RETRO, you get an authentic snapshot of the sound of the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s that you can apply to all audio you run through it. 90s dance track? No problem. 80s new wave? Easy. 70s rock, 60s blues, you name it; making it sound authentic is easier than ever!

Some of the modes have as many as 20 micro-effects, simulating a huge analog processing chain of saturation, compression, delay and more. Instead of a high shelf filter with a gentle roll-off and a tiny bit of distortion (which is nearly impossible to make sound like the real thing), you can tweak a couple of knobs and have different effects behave in harmony with each other. Try combining it with a powerful motion tool like Finisher DYNAMO, and you can shape your sound however you choose in an instant!

Classic drum kit vibes

If you want to dive even deeper into the grooves of decades gone by, take a look at Virtual Drummer DEEP. While it functions very well as a modern drumming tool, there’s an unmistakable 60s / 70s sound to it that makes it perfect for classic genres like soul and funk.

It’s easy to overdo it with complex fills and sweeteners, and many drum sample libraries go over the top to show off how much they can do; with DEEP, however, we took the opposite approach: cutting everything down to the rhythm that matters, with fewer embellishments to allow each hit to ring out more. Rather than taking up every possible space, DEEP embraces the void between notes and makes it shine — just like the drummers who inspired it. That said, if you do want to crank things up a notch and go crazy, be our guest! With MIDI Drag and Drop, you have full control over the entire ensemble and can shape it to your will.

RETRO is a great compliment to DEEP, but even if you purposely want to keep things plainer, you can still take advantage of DEEP’s vintage and modern microphone settings for a rich analog sound you’ll love. Layer in a gentle bassline with Virtual Bassist DANDY, and you can capture the sound of any era you choose without any period-specific hardware!

Wrapping up

Ultimately, you know what your plugin collection needs better than anyone; let your style and the missing pieces in your current setup be your guide. If there’s anything in this article that speaks to you in particular, you know where to start!

Your tools shouldn’t be your bottleneck — if something’s slowing you down, whether it’s a complicated tool or anything that takes a lot of work to set up, see if you can replace it with a simpler, more convenient one. All 5 of the plugins above were engineered to get you to your desired sound as quickly as possible, and we believe that no one should have to put up with plugins that take ages to learn. Spend that time working on the craft of music production, and leave the odds and ends to the tools designed to do the heavy lifting for you.

Our Black Friday sale starts tomorrow, so head over to and check out the deals — you’ll find a massive sale on all the plugins mentioned above and more. Happy producing!


About the Author

Harry Lodes is a copywriter, marketing consultant and content writer for audio and ecommerce brands. He lives in the Philadelphia area, releasing Eastern/Western hybrid EDM under the artist name KAIRI hearkening back to his roots in Berklee College of Music.