Music is one of those subjects in development that are often not wanted as much as things like GFX, UI, etc. Music theory takes a lot of practice and patience to learn. I’ve seen a lot of people, both on discord and the forum, who have asked about a good software to make music.
In this tutorial, I’ll be going over some VSTs on the market that are worth checking out, different software, and the basics of plugins.
DAW - The abbreviation for digital audio workstation. A software made for musicians and producers to make music on.
VST - The file format for extra plugins for your DAW. These can be effects, or virtual instruments.
You may be saying “I don’t want to spend money on something of this nature.” There are very few DAWs you can use that are free.
For Mac users, use GarageBand. I myself started on GarageBand back in 2015-2016. Some things to be aware of:
The quality of their virtual instruments isn’t amazing.
When exporting, it will sound very quiet, depending on your volume levels.
GarageBand is more for songwriting, putting together a basic idea of a song, or to learn more about production. I wouldn’t recommend it for professional work (such as commissions) due to its bad quality.
Don’t get me wrong, GarageBand is an amazing DAW to get started on. Looking back on when I used GarageBand to now, my music’s quality is 100x better. I don’t mean in the sense of me learning stuff. I’m talking about how nice the sound’s actually are.
Another free software for all operating systems is Audacity. Some stuff you should be aware of:
This is not for composing a song like GarageBand. Audacity is made simply for audio work. You can try to make a full song using it, but is very hard to.
Audacity features some pretty nifty effects. They feature a wah-wah effect which is basically a digital crybaby guitar pedal.
Now, companies like Ableton or Image Line offer trial versions of their programs.
Ableton is my go-to program. I use it for everything. EDM music, acoustic music, editing samples, etc. The Ableton trial is access to their Suite version for 30 days. They do have something in the program that doesn’t allow you to use the trial after it runs out. Basically, use your 30 days wisely because you don’t get another trial.
FL Studios is a very popular software for the rap musicians out there. Image Line offers access to FL Studio for as long as you want, but you cannot save your file, or export the song. Sort of a raw deal.
There are programs that are better for making one genre over another.
GarageBand is very good for singer songwriter type stuff. This program is also free if you have a Mac.
Logic Pro X is very good for more pop sounding stuff. This software is only available for Macs. It costs $200.
Ableton is very good for anything in the electronic area. EDM, dubstep, drum and bass, house, etc. The starting license costs $100.
As mentioned, FL Studio is the heart and soul of the rap related genres. The starting license is $100.
A not-so-expensive-yet-still-fairly-reasonable option is Reaper. Now, I personally haven’t used Reaper. I’ve heard good things about it though.
Since I haven’t used it myself, I’m not able to give a full in-depth opinion on it. I don’t know what sort of music it’s best used for. The starting price is $50.
After Finding a DAW
Once you get access to a DAW, you’ll notice there’s an option to add plugins. These are known as VSTs. VSTs are vital for making music. Most cost money, though there are a few that are free.
My main VSTs are Melodyne (for audio control), and Serum (probably the most complex synth on the market, can make almost any sound). These cost money.
Melodyne has 3 different licenses. It’s sort of funny actually. I’m in this program called the Class of 808 run by Producer Dojo. I said I was thinking of buying it but some dude said “I have like 3 different copies of the intro version. Here, have one.” Yeah, I’m still shocked to this day. The starting price is $100. It basically records the audio within your selected track, and renders the notes played in semitones. You’re able to edit the semitones so it’s the exact pitch of a natural note.
Now Serum is a one time purchase. It’s a good investment if you’re sure music is something you want to pick up. The cost is $140. The company who made this have also made other amazing plugins. I can’t really give you an in-depth analysis of this plugin since there’s so much it can do. It takes a little practice to learn, but once you do you’re good.
Here are some plugins I’d recommend buying, or taking a look into.
- Serum (of course)
- If you use Ableton, buy their Sampler add-on
Massive, serum, and spire are synths. Melodyne, and izotope are for audio work.
Your Built-In Plugins
Every single saw known to existence has some sort of built in VSTs. You should probably get to know the basics of each plugin.
EQ: This is basically another type of filter. You’re able to control the low, mid, and high frequencies.
Compressor: This turns up the volume without it sounding too distorted. (It can sound distorted if you crank it too high)
Reverb: Not really sure how to describe this. So you know when you’re in a empty room and whenever you speak it sort of sounds like spacey? That’s what you can do with reverb. It’s very nice to add on snares and vocals.
Delay: Basically whenever you go in an empty room and shout “ECHOOO” and you hear it come back to you is what delay does.
Now I’m not going over any type of music theory or whatever. That’s a story for another day. I hope this has solved some questions that are always stuck in the back of your mind. If there’s anything you’d like to know, shoot me a message here on the forums.
If you have an idea of something else I should cover that’s similar to this, once again, shoot me a message.
I hope this has been a very educational 5-15 minutes of reading.