Kontakt opens up worlds of sound. This flagship sample platform from Native Instruments is probably best known for its use in scoring. But it’s not just good for epic soundtracks. Kontakt is a powerful tool for electronic music production too, whether you’re adding lifelike instruments to your beat, looking to shake up your synth collection, or give your leads and bass parts a vintage flavor.
Faced with the countless sample instruments available for Kontakt, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we’ll explore five free Kontakt instruments that are great for electronic music production. These instruments all run on the free Kontakt Player, meaning they’re completely free to use. Give them a try, and discover what sampling can add to your music-making.
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Follow along with this tutorial using the free Kontakt Player.
Are Kontakt instruments free?
The Kontakt instruments listed in this article are completely free to use, but many Kontakt instruments are not.
To understand the options, it’s important to understand that Kontakt is available in two forms.
Kontakt 7 is Native Instruments’ flagship sample player. It’s a platform for world-quality sample instruments used by top composers and many others. Kontakt 7 must be paid for, and most sample instruments that are available for it also cost money. But there are also many free Kontakt instruments available for Kontakt 7 – probably more than you could ever use. This means that Kontakt 7 can be an inexhaustible source of inspiring, authentic sounds.
If your budget is more limited, you can download the Kontakt Player. This free sampler supports many – but not all – Kontakt instruments from Native Instruments and third-party instrument creators. A limited number of free Kontakt instruments also work with the Kontakt Player, meaning you can use these instruments without spending anything at all. If you’re just beginning to explore the power of sample instruments, the Kontakt Player is a great place to start.
1. EMP Mark II
Any digital studio will benefit from a Kontakt instrument like EMP Mark II. This free instrument from Sonokinetic captures the iconic sound of an electro-mechanical piano: soft but crunchy, with tons of character. This sound has countless uses in electronic music production, from soulful chords in hip-hop and pop to more abstract textures for electronic productions.
EMP Mark II samples a model of e-piano that has been overlooked by similar sample libraries, giving it a distinctive flavor. There’s also plenty of scope for tweaking: use the side arrows on the interface to access a full complement of effects, including juicy overdrive, modulation such as chorus and flange, and 6 authentic spatial effects. From lush keys to adventurous sound design, EMP gets great results—and it’s completely free.
2. Emotive Choir
This free Kontakt instrument is part of the Foundations series, a collection of free, pro-quality libraries from Heavyocity. It’s worth exploring the whole set, including brass, strings, piano, and more. Emotive Choir is our pick of the bunch. This lush collection of wordless vocal textures is perfect for adding human feeling to a track – and it’s surprisingly versatile, too.
Emotive Choir is primarily designed for scoring, and it lends itself well to epic chords and soaring melodies. Smart sound-shaping options, including an arpeggiator, gate, and ADSR envelope, mean it’s just as handy for electronic music production. Explore the presets or get tweaking yourself – and you’ll soon be coming up with unconventional pads, arps, leads, and even bass parts. We had great fun using Emotive Choir as the basis for a soaring trance track. Just add drums.
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3. Thunder Drum
Thunder Drum, the free Kontakt instrument from Soniccouture could be the final touch needed for your dark techno or industrial track. It captures the sound of a thunder drum, which has a spring attached to the drumskin to create rumbling sounds when shaken. A variety of rumbles, strikes, and special effects have been captured using contact mics for playback and further manipulation. The result is an extensive library of ominous booms, industrial clanks, and dark, brooding textures.
Thunder Drum gets a lot of range out of a single instrument. Dozens of samples have been captured at 96 kHz to offer greater sound design options. Throw in a full complement of sound sculpting features and you can quickly enter strange new dimensions. Reshape a sample’s contour with the Envelope, create movement with two LFOs, or mangle your sounds with a full set of effects. However you use it, Thunder Drum will add convincing depth and darkness to your electronic music productions.
4. Shreddage 3 Precision Free
Sometimes synthetic bass gets boring: you want something with a bit more grit and character. How about layering a real bass guitar on top? Shreddage 3 Precision Free is a great-sounding bass guitar Kontakt instrument – and it’s completely free. It captures the sound of an electric p-bass with 5 flatwound strings, in a pristine DI tone with plenty of warmth. The bass action is extremely lifelike, and some neat extra features add a nice twist. For example: Try multi-tracking up to four basses at once for a thick sound.
You don’t quite get all the features from the paid-for version of Shreddage 3 Precision, but there’s plenty here to work with. Once you’re done, check out the free version of Shreddage 3 Stratus, an electric guitar Kontakt instrument from the same manufacturer.
5. Mister Rogers’ Celeste
Use the Mister Rogers’ Celeste free Kontakt instrument to add a potent dose of nostalgia to your tracks. It captures the celeste used for the sound of the “Trolley” character in beloved US TV show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Even to those unfamiliar with the show, the twinkling, bell-like sound of this charming old keyboard instrument will conjure comforting images of the past.
There’s nothing too complicated in this instrument from Cinesamples. The interface allows you to balance the levels of a few different mic recordings and add some simple effects. However you tweak it, the instrument oozes old-time character. Use it to add gentle chords to a lo-fi hip-hop beat, or the twinkling backing to a comforting ballad.
Start using Kontakt instruments in your electronic music productions
In this article, we’ve looked at five free Kontakt instruments that are great for electronic music production, from rich keys and bass to epic choirs and bold sound design. Now it’s time for you to start exploring the world of sample instruments.
If you’re ready to step up from the free Kontakt Player, Kontakt 7 is the only sampling platform you’ll ever need. Featuring an extensive Factory Library of luscious sounds—plus the capability to run any Kontakt instrument you can imagine—the inspiration will never run dry.