If you want to make great sounding music on your computer, you do not have to spend hundreds of dollars. Infact you don’t have to spend anything at all. All the tools you need are available for free (or dirt cheap) on the internet. All the software I use to produce music is either free, or very affordable.
This post will be the first in a series where I present some of the great free (or dirt cheap) tools I’ve stumbled across in my travels, with the hope that it can help some people who are starting out and also promote the fantastic work of some independent software developers. It will focus on VSTs that I consider to be exceptional; the free plugins so good that I use them in nearly every project. But to host these VSTs you are going to need a DAW, and for value for money you can’t go past Reaper.
Mastering my live EP
Reaper is awesome. Whether you’re just starting out and wondering which DAW to drop your money on, or if you’ve been using Cubase/Logic/whatever for years, Reaper is worth a try. I think Reaper actually suffers because its so good; no one believes that a program that’s a 4mb download with $60 license fee can be as good as a hundreds of dollars program that comes on 7 DVDs. But the truth is, its better. It is uncrippled and unexpiring, so you can try it out for as long as you want until you realise how good it is and decide to support the developer with your $60.
For me, the work flow is its strong point. Watch to time stretch? Just hold tab and drag it. Fade in/out? grab it, drag it. Accurately find transients? Just press tab, then ‘s’ for slice, drag drop loop, beautiful. You can mix file types, differing bit-rates etc. all within the one project without converting. Tabbed projects! Copy and paste whole FX chains between tracks, or projects just with “ctrl + c”. Undo anything and everything, VST parameter changes, inserts send. Unlimited routing possibilites, route any track to any other track, sends to any track etc. Everything is customisable so tailor it to your needs. The list goes on and on, that’s just some stuff I can think of off the top of my head. I swapped from my cracked copy of Cubase SX3 in for Reaper about 3 years ago and have never looked back. Its easy to learn, but after all this time I’m still finding new features and shortcuts.
If you’re still not convinced: the developer updates it regularly, its light on resources, can run off a thumb drive, heaps of great inbuilt FX, runs on OSX and Windows, can run on Linux (with a little effort)… Just download it and give it a go.