Plugins are great. What are plugins you ask? They’re effects units or instruments that you can download from the interwebs, and PLUG them IN to your music software. The only problem is, there are at least 5million plugins out there and most of them suck. I’m going to highlight 6 plugins that I find are really kiff and use on a continual basis.
Let me start with the plugins that you can download for FREE 🙂 If you click on the heading, it’ll even take you to the place where you can download it so you don’t have to Google it. I’m nice hey?
1. YMCK’s Magical 8bit plugin
This baby is what I use to make all my 8bit sounds. It’s a really easy interface to use and it’s actually amazing how many sounds you can make with this one plugin. All the 8bit remixes that I’ve made for Goldfish have been made almost entirely with this plugin.
Some examples of tunes I did with heavy magical8bitPlug influence…
2. QuikQuak’s UpStereo
This is a really cool little plugin that will give your mixes a really nice stereo image. I ALWAYS turn off the ‘LOUD’ button – dunno why it’s there, it just makes everything sound kak. I turn up the air knob a bit and turn the bass down. I set the bottom slider to around 56%. You’ll find your mixes will have more shine and sound much wider.
3. Massey’s MEDIUM-TAPEHEAD
This has to be the simplest plugin in the world, but also one of the most awesome. Unlike regular digital compressors, this compressor mimics tape compression which has more warmth and makes stuff sound PHAT and old school. You know the drum beat at the beginning of that ‘New York’ song by Alicia Keys and Jay Z – “EMPIRE STATE OF MIND“? I’m pretty sure they used Massey Tape Head compression on those drums. I use this compressor on pretty much everything – vocals, synths, percussion. It gives my music an old school sound to it which I love.
NOW time for the plugins that you have to pay $$$ for, unless you crack it. But face it, cracks never work as well – and shame, these guys spent so long making this awesome software. The least you can do is buy it to say thank you!
4. Celemony’s Melodyne Assistant
Melodyne, put simply – is the much much MUCH more pleasant version of autotune. If you want your vocals or horn lines etc to be nicely on pitch, Melodyne will allow you to do that without sounding like T-Pain. Note that this shouldn’t be used as an ‘auto-tune’ effect, but more as a way of polishing your sound. You will hear a massive difference – even if the person singing sings pretty much in key.
It does come with a price though. I got the ‘Assistant’ version for $250 and it does everything I’d want a good pitch corrector to do. On my latest track I even used the melody recording of Raiven and ‘Melodyned’ the same recording to make a harmony. Sounds great (listen from 1min)
For an extra $150 ($400), you can upgrade from assistant to editor which is MINDBLOWING. Say you’re strumming a guitar chord, but one of the notes in the chord is flat. You can single out that individual note and correct the pitch without affecting the pitch of any of the other notes. Crazy technology. I don’t need editor though coz its a bit too expensive for me and I’d rather just play my chords right.
5. Native Instrument’s MASSIVE
I use Massive to create a lot of my basslines. The name of this plugin speaks for itself. If you want massive, powerful bass lines – Massive is a good place to start. For $200, it’s really worth it. It looks quite scary to start with, but surprisingly the presets are really good and they’re a good starting point. Once you start getting more comfortable with the program, you’ll find you can model your own bass lines and get a sound that you want. I normally start with a preset that sounds close to what I want and then I’ll tweak a few knobs to make it sound how I want. I’m starting to learn how to make my own bass lines from scratch now but it takes time! Here’s a song that I made using a preset called ‘ROBOT BASS’. The description fits it perfectly.
6. Ozone’s IZOTOPE
Izotope is definitely one of the best mastering plugins out there. I only got it a few months ago it has made a world of difference to my productions. The best thing about it is that everything you need for mastering is in one plugin – EQ, mastering reverb, limiter, harmonic exciter, multiband compression and stereo imager – ALL IN ONE. Nice and tidy I say. If you have any dreams of having your song on radio one day, you have to compete with the loudness of David Guetta. The limiter on Izotope is one of the best out there – you can get your stuff sounding pretty loud without much distortion. The plugins are really user friendly and give you a great visual representation of what’s going on with the sound. Well worth the $250 that it costs.
So there you go! I certainly would be sucking at making music if it weren’t for these amazing plugins. Thank you to the people who made them – you guys are the best. But remember, you should never have to rely on amazing technology to be a good musician. The sponge in the cake should taste nice before you put the icing on. If you have crappy sponge and nice icing, the cake will still taste crap. Same goes for music – if the music sucks but the plugins make it sound ‘nice’, it’s still a crap song!
Which plugins do you use? How have they been helpful to you? Leave comments in section below. Cheers.