There is no denying that your initial entry into the world of production can be intimidating. For a beginner, trying to understand the basics of a DAW can be very, very difficult. Pile on the fundamentals of mixing, and formulating the “idea” behind a track, and it can be enough to make your head spin. But, it would be silly to deny that plenty of plug-ins exist that can help to ease the hurdles you will face when first starting off. Today, we’re discussing the four best VST plugins that do just this.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What it’s great for: turning DJ headphones into an accurate monitoring environment.
Imagine being able to achieve a quality mix using nothing but your headphones, a soundcard, and your laptop. While this may have been a pipe dream in the past, a new piece of software has made this a reality.
While a professionally treated room and with a high-end set of monitors is ideal for achieving the best possible mix, this is not an option for many producers today. Let’s face it: a lack of space, budget constraints, and pesky neighbors stand in your way. Luckily, we’ve discovered a solution!
Sonarworks has created a paradigm-shifting piece of software that allows you to attain a studio-quality mixdown using headphones you probably already own.
Reference 4 is a plug-in that goes on a session’s master channel. The software allows you to select a calibration profile that removes unwanted coloration from dozens of different models of headphones. Reference 4 takes some of the guesswork out of mixing, ensuring that you hear the most accurate representation of your work. Best of all, this can be done in an entry-level set of cans like the trusty Sennheiser HD-25.
Couple Reference with a higher-end pair such as the Audeze LCD-X, and you’ve got yourself a monitoring environment that is unmatched.
For those who already have a proper studio setup, Reference 4 can be used with a custom microphone system (sold separately) to create a calibration profile for even the most oddly shaped studio spaces. This eliminates a significant portion of the mystery from acoustic treatment. Best of all, it makes it easier to get professional-grade audio from the most basic of studio setups.
You can get Sonarworks Reference here.
What it’s great for: immediately injecting melody into your work.
2019 has marked a year in which melody has returned to House and Techno. For those trained in music composition, this is great news! Unfortunately, this is another story for less theory-oriented producers.
Captain Plugins, however, can change that for you.
Having one of the most user-friendly, seamless interfaces we have ever seen, Captain Plugins allows users to write chords, melodies, and even bass lines with ease.
You select which key (i.e., C#) and which scale (Major Pentatonic, for example) you wish to work, and can immediately begin plugging away on a computer keyboard without ever hitting an incorrect note.
Don’t be fooled: Captain Plugins will not write music for you. Instead, this ingenious software opens up your compositional horizons in a way that no other plug-in has done before.
Get your copy of Captain Plugins here.
What it’s great for: quickly creating top-notch reverbs, especially those used in Techno production.
When Funkagenda goes on record saying that a plug-in is “f****** amazing,” you’d be wise to listen.
Repeatedly winning praise from engineers, and making cameos in countless Toolroom Academy tutorials, Valhalla Vintage Verb is the easiest to use reverb on the market today.
While the concept of putting a particular sound “in a space” may be easy enough to understand, some of our more entry-level students find understanding the parameters on many reverb plug-ins difficult.
Unlike many of its competitors, Valhalla Vintage Verb’s layout is purely intuitive. Few other plug-ins have allowed for the creation of so many of those cherished “light bulb moments” among our rising artists.
It is for this reason that we genuinely cannot recommend this plug-in enough.
Download a copy of Valhalla Vintage Verb here.
What it’s great for: an easy sidechain effect.
We know, we know. How could Toolroom recommend an “EDM” plug-in?!
While our artists might not be playing many Big Room records in their sets (in other words: they never do, ever), you can’t help but marvel at the simplicity of Kickstart.
Kickstart allows even the most novice of producers to immediately achieve that patented rhythmic ducking effect known as the sidechain. Even for experienced studio veterans, fiddling with a compressor is an unnecessary step in a process that should take seconds.
Word on the street is that D. Ramirez himself recommends his students to pick this up as one of their first investments. At the small cost of $15, it also may be the most inexpensive plug-in you will ever purchase.
For those who wish for a plug-in that is a bit more powerful, Steve Duda’s LFOTool is the obvious pick.
Download a copy of Kickstart here.
While Splice Sounds is definitely not a plug-in, the service has revolutionized the way that producers dig for samples. If you haven’t noticed already, buying every sample pack you’re digging will quickly break the bank. While it is essential to have a few, tried and true packs on deck, Splice Sounds has made it so it is no longer necessary to invest hundreds of dollars into samples,
Splice Sounds is a web-based application that allows users to handpick which samples they like best. Their collection is a massive catalog of 2 million sounds, loops, and FX. Let’s just say you’ll never run out of ideas.
Grab a twisted vocal from one pack, a wicked percussive loop from another, and spacey synth stabs from one more, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a hot record. For $8 a month, there is really no excuse not to have a subscription to Splice Sounds.
On top of that, Splice Sounds has recently ventured into offering presets, a welcome addition to an already outstanding service.
Sign up for Splice Sounds here.
We’re glad you asked.
At Toolroom Academy, we know that making a process as involved as production more complicated than it has to be can be a recipe for getting nowhere.
We get it: learning production, especially when trying to do it on your own, is hard!
If you’re looking for help on how to work industry-standard software, look no further than Toolroom Academy’s 12-week Production Certificate Program.
As courses that have been pioneered by the senior music team at Toolroom and Mark Knight himself, Toolroom Academy aims to help you fully understand music production, and take your career to the next level.
Get in touch with us today to chat about our current course offerings, and learn how Toolroom Academy can help you achieve your goals.
What are you waiting for? Make it happen.