Percussive instruments have had a significant presence throughout ancient music history in many cultures. They are an essential element of music production and are used as a form of emotive expression to invoke spirit, passion, joy, or grief.
You may have your fill of drum kit sounds, but are you looking to branch out to adding more percussive elements to your tracks? We take you through the best options in this article.
If you’re looking for drum kit plugins, then check out our article on the best drum VST plugins.
Many instruments belong to the expansive percussive family categorized into pitched and unpitched instruments such as drums, cymbals, gongs, snare, marimba, conga, tambourine, and xylophone.
Before we get into the list of percussion VSTs, if you’re just on the lookout for some great percussion samples, then check out the Ultimate Percussion Jungle Bundle from Jay at RealDrumSamples.
In this bundle, you get more than 400 great-quality percussion sounds. “Half a decade of exotic percussion recordings, collected in one giant package.”
Jay over at Real Drum Samples is offering a 20% discount to our readers for any premium pack. Just use the following discount code: “DRUMADVISOR20”
You can also get plenty of free drum samples on his website, so it’s certainly worth checking out.
1. Orchestral Percussions SDX
Orchestral Percussions SDX is a perfect expansion plugin by Toontrack that has developed an excellent reputation as an orchestral VST in the market. This VST is more than just a sound library since it is recorded at a professional sound studio, resulting in epic larger-than-life orchestral percussive sounds.
The plugin includes up to 120 percussion instruments such as timpani, tubular bells, cymbals, gongs, tambourines, and congas, only to list a few. What’s impressive is the fact that the VST also includes MIDI-controlled performances for the orchestral samples, allowing a greater length of customizability.
The plugin includes a great set of features, from pitch range adjustment to echo effects, and various other effects, adding a whole new dimension to your tracks. Therefore, Orchestral Percussion SDX is considered a great percussion plugin. Still, it lacks the inclusion of pitched percussion instruments, for instance, the xylophone.
- A vast range of instruments and high sound quality
- Compatible with both Windows and Mac OS
Check it out: Orchestral Percussions SDX
2. Saga Acoustic Trailer Percussion
Saga Acoustic Trailer Percussion is the ultimate professional music and cinematic production VST that can add the perfect magnificent and fierce touch to your compositions. From warlike earth-shattering arrangements or realistic orchestral percussions to adding rich-sounding textures and larger-than-life percussive elements to the tracks, this VST does it all.
It features up to 110 percussion instruments that include world ensembles, orchestral percussions, gongs, oil drums, anvils, and other simulated percussive sounds. The Saga Acoustic is an all-rounder percussion VST for all sorts of cinematic and musical compositions with a great set of inclusive features to add a touch of the artist’s personalized signature.
- Requires Kontakt player
- Includes various articulations for instruments
- The learning curve is relatively easy
- Offered at a competitive price of $149
Check it out: Saga – Acoustic Trailer Percussion
3. Atsia Percussion (Paid)
Atsia Percussion is a predominantly tribal-esque and African-inspired well-rounded VST. The plugin includes a wide range of bass drums, bells, hand and foot drums, as well as some shakers and snaps.
From the tribal inspiration of Ghana to the exotic flavor of Brazil, the plugin adds terrific brilliance to the composition. Atsia Percussion is an excellent option for adding significant tribal influences to your tracks. This affordable VST includes four different velocities for all the percussive instruments, adding a moderate level of creative freedom.
- Easy interactive GUI
- Great for beginners
- Affordable price point
- Requires 2 GB space for installation
Check it out: Atsia Percussion
4. Silk Road Percussions
If you are looking for a VST that could add the exotic and luxurious flavorful percussions of the silk road route that spans from the Middle East to the subcontinent and China, then Silk Route Percussion is the right plugin for you. The world’s finest percussions from The Far East are capable of adding a distinct character to your tracks.
This plugin, with its rich palette, will ensure that your composition does not sound run-of-the-mill. Silk Road Percussion features two categories of percussive instruments, i.e., stick drums (including nagada and tombek) and frame drums (including riqq, daff, and bandir drums), respectively.
- Extremely affordable plugin for $15
- Compatible with both Windows OS and Apple
Check it out: Silk Road Percussion
5. Samba Drums
The flamboyant persona of Brazil is effortlessly encapsulated in this VST, which adds the ultimate vibrancy to your tracks. Samba Drums is a Kontakt-player-compatible VST, which can be considered a drawback in itself; therefore, a Kontakt player is a necessary requirement.
The plugin includes various Brazilian folk percussive instruments such as surdo, timba, tambourine, repinique, and whistles. Samba Drums is an ultimate percussion VST that includes features such as convulsion reverb, panning control, and a volume mixer for fast-paced audio samples.
- Amazing sound quality
- 16 audio samples
- Requires Kontakt player
- Close and far binaural mic position
- Suitable for beginners
Check it out: Samba Drums
6. Latino Bundle
This VST plugin available in a bundle offers a distinct and spicy palette of Latin percussions. The Latino bundle includes the following subsets: AudioThing Latin Percussions, Organic Loops World Percussion Carnival, and Loopmasters Latin Horn.
AudioThing Latin VST is true to its core plugin, featuring an authentic Latin sound such as claves, bonga, and maracas. Whereas, World Percussion Carnival includes 52 percussion ensemble loops that add punch and thumping beats to your compositions. The Latino bundle is just what your monotonous track requires to give it a celebratory feel.
- Authentic Latin sound library and instruments
- Compatible with Windows and Mac OS
- Wide range of available presets
- Up to 280 loops and 146 percussion hit samples
Check it out: Latino Bundle
7. Symphony Series – Percussion
Symphony Series – Percussion is another great orchestral percussion VST that offers a very sleek and streamlined graphic user interface. The clean and extremely systematic user interface makes this VST plugin a fantastic choice for novice and advanced music producers alike.
The VST features an instrument selection that includes both rhythmic percussions (gongs, triangles, drums, and snare) as well as pitched percussions (celeste, timpani, xylophone, etc.). However, some of the major drawbacks associated with Symphony Series—Percussion are the lack of a dry recording environment and the default mic position that results in a less-than-epic sound.
- Intuitive user interface
- Emulates the perfect sounds of a traditional orchestra
- An impressive set of effects and features
Check it out: Symphony Series – Percussion
8. Drumwavy Orchestral and Ethnic Percussion
This next VST plugin on the list can undoubtedly be the most versatile percussion VST of the whole lot. Drumwavy boasts a mighty offering of ethnic and orchestral percussion elements found worldwide. Be it classic European percussions, Latin American, the ethnic flavor of Africa and the Middle East, Asian Tibetan selection, or Turkish percussive element—this particular VST offers you all.
In addition to such an expansive instrument selection, the VST plugin allows MIDI automation and various other features such as pitch adjustment, reverb, and ADSR parameter (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) functionality.
The plugin is a great addition to any music producer’s arsenal, considering the expansive range of world-ensemble percussive instruments but also due to the customizability of features.
- Compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems
- Both demo and paid versions available
- Easy-to-understand user interface
Check it out: Drumwavy Orchestral and Ethnic Percussion
9. FlyingHand Percussion
FlyingHand Percussion is a versatile hand-percussion sample library with over 30,000 samples. It includes everything from bongos and congas, to cowbells, triangles, timbales, and more. This plugin library offers realistic sounds with character and depth. It even features Legato Drumming, which adds that real-factor like movement, sustain, and resonance.
The FHP sample library comes with wide-ranging articulations and each instrument is sampled to left and right-hand hits. You get a truly expressive feel and sound when you play them on a keyboard. It requires Native Instruments Kontakt 5 or later versions.
- Compatible with Mac and PC
- Comes in VST, AU, AAX, and standalone formats
- Wide variety of percussive sound
Check it out: FlyingHand Percussion
10. Third Harmonic Studios – EXD-80
The EXD-80 is a free VST analog drum and percussion synthesizer plugin with a wide range of drum and percussion sounds. You get everything from classic drum sounds like kicks, snares, and hi-hats, to electro, glitch, and ambient percussive sounds.
It features 8 modules, each with detailed parameters for tweaking, 128 user drum kit patches, 4 stereo output pairs, and FM/AM features. This plugin is ideal for EDM styles electro, dubstep, and drum & bass.
The EXD-80 interface is packed with a multitude of effects and knobs, EQs, and filters to get the right sound. And the best part about it – it’s completely FREE!
- Free plugin
- Windows-compatible, VST2 format
- Simple, effective design
Check it out: Third Harmonic Studios – EXD-80
Why Use a Percussion VST?
Percussion instruments have retained their significance in the modern and classic music eras alike. Whether it’s a true rock, electronic music genre, or jazz, the presence of percussive instruments sets the foundation of any musical composition.
Percussion is considered the soul or heartbeat of the compositions as they maintain the rhythm of the track while essentially adding a tone, color, and substance to the track.
All in all, percussion instruments wonderfully serve as a foundational backdrop to musical compositions. With the changing musical horizon, you have all the options to access from modern percussive instruments, such as drum kits, to ethnic and cultural percussion elements from the Mid-East to Africa in the form of VST plugins.
This article offers a great round-up of the best percussion VSTs available that aren’t solely drum-set-based. We have provided you with a variety of percussive plugins that don’t only add character and rhythm to your music compositions.
In fact, the selection of VSTs can also enhance the exoticness and richness of your sound palette, effectively utilizing the world ensemble percussive instruments that are distinct to various ethnic backgrounds and cultures.
If you prefer working with percussion samples, check out our post on the best websites for drum and percussion samples.
All you have to do is select and download the best VST that suits your budget and requirements of compositions to unleash the rhythm of percussive instruments in your productions.