What is a Virtual Instrument? Everything You Need to Know [2023]

is a virtual instrument?

If you're interested in learning about music production, you've probably come across the term "virtual instrument" at some point. In this article, our team at Uniphonic™ will provide you with a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about virtual instruments.

Working Principle of Virtual Instruments

A virtual instrument is a software-based music synthesizer that emulates the sound of an acoustic instrument or other sound-generating hardware. It uses computer algorithms to process and manipulate sound. Depending on the type and capabilities of the virtual instrument, it can either generate sounds through synthesis or sampling.


Virtual instruments that use synthesis generate sounds through digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms that manipulate sound waves according to a set of predefined parameters. The two most common types of synthesis used in virtual instruments are:

  • Subtractive Synthesis
  • Additive Synthesis

Subtractive synthesis involves starting with a complex signal and then filtering out unwanted elements using an oscillator and a filter. This process leads to the creation of more complicated sounds.

Additive synthesis, on the other hand, involves adding individual sine waves with different frequencies and amplitudes to form complex sounds. The combination of these sounds produces a final sound output.


Sampling involves recording real-life sounds and then using software algorithms to manipulate those recordings to create a virtual instrument. Sampling is the more common technique for creating virtual instruments.

Why Use a Virtual Instrument Instead of an Acoustic Instrument?

While there's no substitute for the rich, organic sound of an acoustic instrument, virtual instruments have several advantages over their traditional counterparts:

  • Portability: Virtual instruments are much smaller and more portable than their acoustic counterparts.
  • Affordability: Virtual instruments are more affordable than traditional instruments. You can also enjoy a vast array of virtual instrument sounds with one single computer.
  • Flexibility: Virtual instruments offer more flexibility with the ability to manipulate sounds and create a vast range of unusual sounds.

Types of Virtual Instruments

Virtual instruments are not limited to the emulation of acoustic instruments. Today's virtual instruments run the gamut, from guitar amps to orchestral brass and everything in between. Some of the most common types of virtual instruments are:

  • Virtual Sampler
  • Virtual Synthesizer
  • Virtual Drum Kit
  • Virtual Guitar Amp

Virtual Instrument Libraries

A virtual instrument library is a collection of sampled sound recordings stored in a software package. It can contain a large number of real instrument sounds, captured in different ways. These libraries are commonly employed by composers, music producers, and sound designers to speed up their workflow, and access a greater variety of sound in their music production.

Virtual instrument libraries are the backbone of virtual software instruments today. They are a combination of samples and creative programming, that give the user a complete palette of sounds to produce almost any genre of music.

Advantages of Virtual Instrument Libraries

Virtual instruments are much more than just a convenient software-based solution to creating music. Here are a few benefits that come with using virtual instrument libraries:

  • Variety: With virtual instrument libraries, you can have access to a vast range of sampled real-life sounds and synthesized sounds.
  • Flexibility: You can play the virtual instrument at any time, in any place, without the need for physical space or tuning, etc.
  • Cost: Virtual instruments offer more cost-effective alternatives to traditional instruments.

What is the Difference Between a Virtual Instrument and a Traditional Instrument?

A beautiful idol of Maa Durga at a workshop in Mumbai during Navratri 2019

A virtual instrument is a software-based emulation of an acoustic instrument. A traditional instrument is a physical instrument that makes noise when played. One of the main differences is the portability of the two. A virtual instrument can be played on a computer or a mobile device anywhere, whereas traditional instruments may be limited by their size and the need for space, tuning, and extra equipment.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Virtual instruments have gained popularity due to their afford-ability, convenience, and flexibility.
  • Virtual instruments allow you to manipulate sounds in ways not possible with traditional instruments, giving users a more comprehensive creative armory.
  • Users can learn basic music theory by using virtual instruments as there are numerous training resources, tutorials, and courses available all over the web.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a virtual instrument?

A virtual instrument is a software-based music synthesizer that emulates the sound of an acoustic instrument or other sound-generating hardware.

What is a virtual instrument library?

A virtual instrument library is a collection of sampled sound recordings stored in a software package. It can contain a large number of real instrument sounds captured in different ways.

What are the benefits of using a virtual instrument library?

Some of the most significant benefits of using virtual instrument libraries are having access to a wide range of sounds, flexibility, and cost effectiveness.


Virtual instruments are an essential part of modern-day music production. They offer a cost-effective, portable solution to traditional instrumentalists. They’re also convenient and provide an easy learning curve for new musicians to get started. Our team highly recommends users explore the many online resources and online educational platforms to continue to improve their music production skills.

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