If you can't afford professional plugins, there are lots of high-quality free plugins.
Notice however:

  • If you are running a 64-bit DAW you may have to use a bridge as many/most free instruments are 32-bit only. Most professional plugins support both 32- and 64-bit.
  • Some DAW's e.g. Reaper have build-in support for both 32 and 64 bit plugins. 
  • Some free plugins may support only VST or AU format - most professional plugins support several plugin formats. Check which formats your DAW support.

Here are some tips on how to find free VST instruments and effects:

  • Most obvious is to use Google but it may take some time finding the real good ones. 
  • If you are planning to buy a new MIDI keyboard or audio interface you will often get a software bundle with some high quality plugins.
  • If you have already bought some hardware from Focusrite or Novation, remember to login to your account each month - both companies run campaigns with free giveaways of high quality plugins each month. Thank you Focusrite and Novation! 🙂
  • If you buy the Computer Music magazine, you will get access to the Vault where you can download lots of high quality plugins. Some are full featured plugins, others are scaled down versions specially made for Computer Music magazine, but all are very good and well worth the price of the magazine! I can recommend subscribing to this magazine not only to get the free stuff but also to get lots of tips and tricks, tutorials and news of course.
  • Other music magazines may also have an attached DVD with free plugins.
  • Make sure to visit Plugin Boutique often and sign up for mail list - they sometimes have some crazy offers like 1$ for a high quality plugin! That is almost as good as free (or in some cases even better)!
  • Make sure to visit Bedroom Producers Blog often - they will tell you of free offers. In most cases these are time limited so make sure to visit often.