Browsing the web in search for the best software tools for your music making setup is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it will ultimately help you make better music by refining your arsenal of virtual instruments and effects. On the other hand, it a very time-consuming process that can actually consume the time that you’d otherwise spend making music. To help you speed up the process, here’s a quick roundup of the best music production tools every music producer should be using in their studio.
Digital Audio Workstations
Digital audio workstations (DAW’s) are the backbone of any music production studio. Since it’s the main software that most producers create music in, choosing the right one is very much a personal preference. Each DAW has its own unique features, but for the most part, they all do the same thing.
Four of the most popular commercial DAW’s out there right now are Ableton Live, FL Studio, Studio One, and Pro Tools. Logic is also a very popular choice for Mac-based music producers. FL Studio has a very user-friendly interface and is easy to learn. At the end of the day, though, it is up to the producer to find a DAW they feel most comfortable using. I would recommend checking out some videos of each one to get a feel for the program. Search YouTube for the term “DAW tutorial” and take a look at some of the most popular videos.
Recommended (commercial): FL Studio
Recommended (free): Tracktion 5
Just like Digital Audio Workstations, virtual instruments come in all shapes and sizes. There are tons of free options out there, as well as a lot of paid options. The current situation is that there are, in a way, too many choices available, especially for beginner producers.
A lot of factors can determine which virtual instruments to choose for your setup. It all depends on what style of music you’re going for and the requirements for the track being produced.
Three of the most popular commercial VST synthesizers are Massive, Serum, and Sylenth1. The most popular sampler on the market is Kontakt. These are just a few of the options available to producers. Selecting the right VST instrument is up to the music producer and the style of music he or she makes. Sylenth1 is a fantastic choice for music that focuses on big pads and supersaws, whereas Massive and Serum are ideal for bass-oriented music.
If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with freeware synthesizers like TyrellN6, PG8X, and Dexed. If you need a freeware sampler, look no further than Grace and Grooove BPB. Also, make sure to check out our free VST plugin lists and the recently published best free VST plugins of 2016.
Recommended (commercial): Sylenth1
Recommended (free): TyrellN6
There are thousands of virtual effects out there to choose from. That being said, the ones that come default with your DAW are usually pretty good. For example, FL Studio comes with Harmor and Sytrus, both of which are very powerful. Some of the other effects that come standard with FL Studio are perfect for things like simple delay, distortion and reverb effects. Studio One also comes with a selection of professional quality effects. If you want to purchase additional effects, a good place to start is Pluginboutique.
There are also free third-party plugins available if you’re looking to add to the default ones that come with your DAW. Some great options are Over The Top (OTT) and CamelCrusher. OTT is a multiband compressor and CamelCrusher is a distortion plugin that’s great for basses, supersaws, and leads.
Recommended: whatever comes with your DAW
Recommended (free): OTT
Like plugins, you can find free and paid samples everywhere. Tons of companies make great sample packs. These four offer some of the best sample packs: Loopmasters, Squadpack, Samplified, and NODUSK. Each of these companies offers some of the best samples out there.
Another popular thing is for well-known producers to release sample packs themselves. These sample packs can be a great addition if you’re looking to replicate a similar sound as some of the big shots. In addition to the options listed above and “celebrity” producer packs, there are also great sample websites like 99Sounds and Looperman. These sites are great if you’re looking for some free foley, ambiance, or loops.
Recommended (paid): Loopmasters
Recommended (free): 99Sounds
Putting your music out there is one of the best things you can do. It might be scary at first, but getting feedback from other producers and the general public is a great way to improve. Clyp is the best place to share tracks you’re working on, including WIPs and your current projects. The interface is super simple and very easy to use. Clyp also has a neat voting page where you can submit a track to get featured. This is cool if you want to get additional exposure for something you’re working on.
Of course, everyone knows about SoundCloud so I won’t go into detail on them. But make sure you’re sharing your work to as many places as possible: YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. The more places you share, the better.
Recommended: all of them!