Over the years we've written about a lot of free software for guitarists. Here we present some of our favourites that we think will make a great addition to your next production.
1. Native Instruments Guitar Rig 6 Player
We're starting with one of the most popular all-in-one free softwares for guitarists. The newest iteration, Guitar Rig 6 Player is the free version of Guitar Rig 6 Pro. While you're not getting the same level of features, you'll still find the 'Jump' amp and cabinet sim, modelled after that classic British-style tube amp. 'Jump' is complimented by 13 effects ranging from reverbs, delays, distortion, EQ, filters and dynamics.
Want to get a little deeper in customising your sound? You can tweak parameters such as LFO, envelope, step sequencer, analogue sequencer and input level modifier to create bespoke rhythmic patterns, filter sweeps and more. You can go ever further with parallel effects and sidechaining. Guitar Rig 6 Player's modular components and drag-and-drop controls makes customising your effect chain super easy, too.
Guitar Rig 6 Player forms part of Native Instruments' free Komplete Start bundle, which features an excellent mix of instruments, effects and tools to support your productions, and is compatible with Windows (10/11) and macOS (10.15, 11, 12).
2. Mercuriall MT-A
Modelled on the iconic Boss Metal Zone stompbox, which many fans will know received equal parts love and hatred, this soft emulation is really something to behold. The MT-A features Level, Distortion, High, Low, Middle, MidFreq controls on the main interface along with Input Gain, Mono/Stereo and Quality switch that toggles between Lo and Hi.
Much of the original Metal Zone's poor reputation seems to have come from it being incorrectly placed in the signal path, but here the sound is exactly what you'd want.
3. Blue Cat Audio Free Amp
Blue Cat's Free Amp is, you guessed it, a free guitar amp simulation plug-in offering three models taken from the company's Destructor amp simulation modelling software.
The models included are "classic clean", "classic drive" and "modern drive", allowing you to create clean vintage tones one day, and high gain metal tones the next. Simply load the plugin in your DAW and play! You can also load your own cabinet, microphones and room setup to tailor it further to your desired sound.
4. IK Multimedia Amplitube 5 CS
Akin to Native's Guitar Rig, Amplitube comes with an impressive selection to aid your guitar-based productions. 42 individual pieces of 'gear' are split between the following:
- 10 Stompbox Models
- 6 Amplifiers
- 7 Cabinets
- 4 Speakers
- 3 Microphones
- 6 Rack Effects Units
- 6 Rooms
While Amplitube offers a similar package to Guitar Rig 6 Player, the variation of what's included is hard to ignore. Multiple amplifiers, including a Solid State Bass pre-amp, a range of speaker cabinets and greater microphone placement functionality make this is a must-have for any guitarists turning towards computer-based production or digital amp and effect sims.
IK's Custom Shop is hard-baked into Amplitube, which means that you can browse and access their vast range of other amps, cabinets, effects etc. for 72 hours before purchasing. Amplitube is compatible with Windows and macOS and can be used as a standalone plugin or as part of your DAW.
5. Ample Bass P Lite / Guitar M Lite
Freeware music production becomes a slightly trickier proposition when dealing with real instrument sounds, but Ample Sounds' Ample Bass P Lite / Guitar M Lite are some of the best available.
Ample Bass P Lite is modelled on the iconic Fender Precision Bass, and is a feature-limited version of the paid version. While it possesses fewer samples, articulations and note range, it's still an excellent bass emulation. The same goes for Guitar M Lite, which is a software acoustic guitar. Play style is limited to fingers, and there are fewer articulations, but this remains a great free tool.
6. Schrammel OJD
Developed by Janos Schrammel, the OJD is an open-source modern overdrive pedal recreated as software. Featuring a sleek UI that mimics both the look and controls of its inspiration, you can create some solid overdrive tones in a matter of seconds.
If you're experienced with software development or want to have a crack at building this plugin yourself then all the necessary files can be found on GitHub.
As of now, Schrammel OJD is available for both Windows (VST3, 32 or 64-bit) and macOS (VST3, AU, 32 or 64-bit) and is compatible with Logic Pro, Cubase, Reaper, Ableton Live and Magix Music Maker.
7. ML Sound Labs Amped Stevie T
Our final recommendation on this list is on the more extreme end of the guitar spectrum. ML Sound Labs' DjentGod is an amp sim taken from their Stevie T collection. For those of you not accustomed with the myriad of sub-genres in metal, Djent is all about high-gain and low tunings - really low. DjentGod is made of four different cabinet models (ML Mega Djent, ML Mega OS, ML Mars PR-M75, and ML Bgnr Uber) which offer a nice variation of tones to tweak to your preference.
You can also load custom cabinet impulse responses, or do away with the cabinet presets and use an external cabinet sim instead. Despite its focus on the heavier spectrum of tones, the amp also comes with a pretty great sounding clean channel.