Synthesis for Guitarists: How to go from playing guitar to sound design with synths

Synthesis for guitarists

If you choose to go from playing guitar to using synths in your music, you may think at first that it is a big step. Nevertheless, some similarities between guitar playing and synthesis make synthesis for guitarists much easier. Read on to find out more about these and how you can use them in your own work. This is especially true if you are investigating using synthesis in sound design for the first time.

Synthesis for guitarists is different to synthesis for other musicians. It is a lot easier to go to synthesis from programming beats than it is from playing guitar.. The reason why? When playing guitar, the musician affects tone and timbre with their fingers. Whilst guitar still involves adjusting knobs, there is much more control over tone simply by the guitarist handling the strings. However, guitarists can adapt to synthesis more easily by following a few simple tips. With these, you can easily create the same kind of feeling as your favourite Fender or Gibson.

Synthesis for guitarists: Find Your Tone

As a guitarist, it is likely you pay attention to tone. Tone is that hard to pin down quality which can make the difference between good and bad guitar playing. It is as much about the guitarist themselves as it is about the instrument. Many factors affect tone, from temperature, to air pressure, and the age of the guitar itself. With both analogue and digital synthesis, the musician will gain more control over tone and can remove this random variability.

With synthesis, musicians truly sculpt the exact tone they like, allowing for precision control. This includes variables such as timbre, richness, and depth. However, guitarists who are used to having tone come naturally can find it difficult to adjust. You might find it frustrating to get into the building blocks of sound – especially when you aren’t able to pin down those random, ephemeral moments you get when playing guitar.. Nevertheless, if you find a tone you like and memorise how to achieve it on your synth, everything will go much more smoothly.

Synthesis for guitarists: Choose Your Synth Wisely

For a guitarist, some of the best synths to start off with are analogue synths. This is because they mimic the rich tone you would find on a guitar. Small, portable, and easy-to-use classic analogue synths such as one of the ones by Korg are a good choice for a guitarist who is new to synthesis.

Four brilliant beginner analogue synths for guitarists (and one FM synthesizer)

  • Korg Monologue – The monologue is easy to use, does what it says on the tin, and focusses on lead lines. This monophonic synth is an easy transition to synthesis for guitarists.
  • Moog Minitaur – As one of the cheaper synths from a classic band, this is a bass synth but uses transferrable skills. The Moog Minitaur will give you the opportunity to play with big fat sounds which you can’t achieve on guitar as well. It this plus it’s other features which make it it a welcome addition to what you may be doing already.
  • Korg Microkorg – The Microkorg is another fantastic, small, and portable synth from Korg. The hands on nature and simplicity of this synth makes it ideal for transitioning guitarists. It also doubles as a vocoder.
  • Arturia Microfreak Hybrid Synth – As a hybrid synth, this uses a cross between analogue and digital technologies. The Microfreak is a perfect easy way to get used to the basics of synthesis for either of them.
  • Elektron Model:Cycles 6-track FM Synth and Groovebox – a small, easy to use synth which creates sounds which are fantastic for solos or riffs. These have much more space-age, ethereal possibilities than analogue synthesis.

Learn How Synthesis Works from Scratch

If you learn how sound works from the bottom up, you will be able to truly understand your synth. This means you will not only learn how it works, but how music works as a whole. As a result, the learning process will come quicker. You will be able to sculpt sounds to your liking whilst understanding where, how, and why they differ from the guitar.

Try getting technical with your guitar too. Learn exactly how to affect it’s sound with the subtlest things you do, and you will find that you can craft noise more easily. If you understand the roots of music as a whole, you can transfer these skills to almost any instrument. In addition, by specifically learning the details of your exact model of synth, you will become more in tune with it. Synths can have staggering differences between models and each of these inevitably has it’s own characteristics.

Synthesis for guitarists: Find your Flow

Every musician has to find their flow. Neuroscientists identify as the state in which you are playing and time appears to speed up or stand still. This happens as a result of the way music slightly alters the brainwaves. Guitarists who prefer to hold an instrument in their hands might struggle at first to achieve flow with a synth. However, when they learn how synthesis works can quickly program sounds without having to stop and get technical. Then, it is as easy to reach a creative state of mind with your synth as it is with your guitar. The only difference is that your flow state when playing synth may be a little bit different.

Make it Apply to Your Guitar Playing

Synthesis not only creates new sounds but mimics those which already exist. Lead lines and guitar solos are exactly the types of playing which translate really well to synthesis. As a result, an easy way to master a synth is to transfer some of your favourite riffs or soloing patterns to it. Therefore you will see the similarities, differences, and connections between the two instruments. Once you master this, you will be able to move more easily between them.

Synthesis for guitarists: Final Thoughts

Making the transition from guitar to synthesis is as simple as learning their similarities and differences. This means you can avoid too much technical detail, while still understanding how to make sound. At a deeper level, synthesis for guitarists allows you to design textures and timbres beyond those of the guitar. Knowing what sounds you want first is also very important. Once you do, you will find that synthisers can produce sounds which are strikingly similar yet give you have the freedom to craft your own forms of noise. This is a popular and creative way of producing riffs for both instruments. Therefore, knowing where you’re starting and where you want to end up before you move on to anything more synth-specific means you will have the best of both worlds.

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1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop Review – All About this Portable Polyphonic Granular Synthesizer

What is 1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop mini synth?

The Lemondrop is one in a series of nanobox synths released by 1010 Music where the company has combined awesome colours in a compact little box which really is unbelievable in terms of both its intuitive nature and it’s portability.

With the other synth in their series being the Fireball, it really doesn’t have much difference except for one thing – the fact it is a granular as opposed to wavetable  – but what a difference this makes. For those unfamiliar with granular synthesis, this little synth allows you to take almost any sample you like – whether running water, a snatch of music from your favourite song, or something else entirely – and it’s efficient processing will chop your sound up into tiny pieces, each of which is called a grain. When these grains are put together, it creates an otherworldly sound which is perfect for soundtracks or even for more experimental music projects, where it’s lushness can create atmosphere and add some depth to other elements of a track.

What features does the 1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop mini synth have?

By using such a unique type of synthesis you could assume that the designers at 1010 music have already done all their work, but no – they’ve ensured that the Lemondrop has all the features which are available with the fireball as well.

In keeping with the way it is designed for musicians on the go, the Lemondrop has an extremely intuitive interface which involves a touchscreen which allows the user to shape the waveform directly giving the ultimate amount of flexibility and control over the shape of the wave and the way it interacts with other features such as distortion, compression, and so on. The only thing which has been noted by users is the fact that with the Lemondrop’s small size there can come a significant amount of menu diving which means that if you are not an organised musician or producer finding the things you need and the pre-sets you have created can sometimes come with some difficulty and annoyance. However, it is a small price to pay for such a portable synth which otherwise has an incredibly wide range of effects which are easily accessible and extremely creative.

The Lemondrop includes:

  • 153 presets and 311 wave files
  • 16 grains per oscillator for a total of 128
  • Sample memory per oscillator 30 seconds
  • 24-bit DAC and ADC resolution and 32-bit internal resolution
  • A 49kHz sample rate
  • Included USB-C connection
  • 3.5mm audio input and output
  • MIDI support for the following – note on/off, mod wheel, sustain, pitch bend, mono & poly aftertouch, assignable CCs, and clock

How does the 1010 Music Nanobox Lemondrop mini synth compare to others on the market?

What really stands out about the Lemondrop mini synth is the way 1010 music have taken a relatively uncommon type of synthesis – granular synthesis – and completely streamlined it. One of the ways they have done this is by taking into account that the target audience for granular may be slightly wider than for classic wavetable synthesis such as with the fireball – instead attracting artists and sound designers who are looking for something different to experiment with but as a result may not be fully versed in all the basics of using synths. As a result, it is the small size and simplicity of user interface which works so well with granular synthesis. This is how the Lemondrop – in comparison to the Fireball – provides something completely different as a result of the same smart hardware design – with the Lemondrop really making an unusual type of synthesis accessible and opening the learning possibilities for sound designers due to its hands on nature and the fact a visual waveform can be manipulated by touch.

If, to get the best of its granular capabilities, you want to involve as many of your own samples, the menu diving could become cumbersome. However, it isn’t much of a price to pay for a synth which can be easily slung into a back pocket. As an introduction to granular synthesis and at a much lower price than the rare few other granular specific synths on the market, it can’t be beaten. And with this encouragement to sample, the Lemondrop could easily become part of a portable kit bag which also includes a sampler for a sound designer who is looking for something to complete a fluid, on the go workflow.

Pricing and availability

Like the Fireball, the Lemondrop is a mid-range synth at 399 USD although if bought together the two end up coming to a pricier 798 dollars. It’s generally always available from the 1010 music website, although as a high quality and relatively specialised synth it isn’t produced in bulk.

Should you buy the two alongside each other? The 1010 music website demonstrates how they can work alongside each other as tabletop synthesizers. The Lemondrop’s sister synth the Fireball provides a wavetable synthesiser which, due to being more common, is potentially better at slotting into a roll with the rest of your equipment and established sound. Nevertheless, the uncommon nature of granular synthesis really gives the Lemondrop an edge on many other synths on the market. You can see the current price on the website by clicking here.

Final thoughts

Overall, the Lemondrop mini synth is really one of a kind. As a granular synthesizer, it doesn’t have many other competitors anyway, and as a mini, pocket sized, technologically smart and extremely efficient and compact little synth, it really steals the show in terms of the way it’s been designed for the needs of the creative. With portability as one of its greatest assets, it combines the rarity of finding it’s unique granular engine with the technology which helps it fit into the lifestyle of today’s modern music producer or sound designer – very often a digital nomad, one who goes from gig to gig or studio to studio and needs a compact synth to take with them. In this way, 1010’s Lemondrop is truly something special.

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1010 Music Nanobox Fireball Review – All About this Portable Polyphonic Wavetable Synthesizer

What is the 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball?

The 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball is one of two Nanobox synths designed by the team at 1010 audio and as a result, it follows much the same outline as its sister synth the Lemondrop, bar a few key differences and the fact that it is red instead of yellow. The trend for small, portable synths has been a relatively small but significant part of the synth market since the launch of the Volca by Korg in 2013. Nevertheless, with the Lemondrop and Fireball, what 1010 music has done so well is taken every feature you would want in a smaller piece of kit and streamlined them into an updated, cutting edge little polyphonic synth which grabs both the ear and the eye.  

How does the 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball differ from other synths on the market?

One of the most stand-out features of the Fireball’s design is an overall pattern as opposed to a single piece of kit or specification. 1010 music have gone out of their way to create a synth which takes all the features needed to craft fantastic sound and executed their assembly with outstanding efficiency. The result is a synth which is really geared towards the modern musician in the sense that it is easy to learn from, portable, but also follows the natural process of sound designers in the way it facilitates ease and flow of work. Are there any cons?

The Fireball is not as stand out as its sister synth simply due to the fact it is competing against a much larger market due to wavetable synthesis being generally more common than granular. Therefore, if you already have a solid synth collection there may not be as much incentive to buy the Fireball; however, there is something to be said for its portability which sets it apart from other wavetable synths.

Specs and features

For all intents and purposes, the Fireball is much the same as the Lemondrop . The team behind 1010 music does actually market the two synths together, especially in the tutorial videos they have on their website. What’s more, the synths have the same interface and features – right down to details such as the number of inputs and outputs, compatibility, design, and layout of software. Off course, another thing they share is the extremely useful and intuitive touchscreen which allows users to mold the waveform to their liking, enabling them to get hands on experimenting with sound so as to control the custom synth patches they create.

However, there is one very big difference between the Fireball and the Lemondrop, which is that the fireball is a wavetable synthesizer in comparison to the Lemondrop, which is a granular synthesizer. This means they are capable of creating extremely different sounds and as a result it can be helpful to buy them alongside each other. You might not be getting two for the price of one, but the transferrable skills which are gained from learning the ins and outs of one mean that you can easily double the amount of creative possibilities open to you.

What is it like when getting your hands on the Fireball? One thing this synth does very well – like it’s companion – is using simplicity to get a lot of results. With two dials which control multiple parameters it is easy on the eyes and doesn’t require a lot of complicated hardware to create great sound. By simplifying things it leaves a lot more up to the musician’s own capabilities as opposed to spelling out every single possible way that sound can be shifted and altered. Nevertheless, it does have a good selection of default patches all of which share a characteristically creative way of looking at wavetable synthesis from the minds behind 1010 music. And for wavetable as opposed to granular synthesis like the Lemondrop, this means you are taking a type of synth which is more frequently seen on the market and with its bright hardware, easy to use software, and most of all the extreme control which can be had over the waveform, it gives any user a new spin on a form of synthesis which is more frequently seen. The combination of polyphony and visualisation of the wave in particular means that musicians are shaken out of their normal working patterns – this is really a synth which facilitates creativity.

The 1010 Music Nanobox Fireball has:

  • 123 presets and 103 wavetables
  • A USB-C cable and 3.5mm audio input and output
  • 24-bit DAC and ADC resolution and 32 bit internal resolution
  • A 96kHz oscillator sample rate
  • MIDI support for all the following: note on/off, modulation wheel, sustain, pitch bend, mono & poly aftertouch, assignable CCs, and clock

Price and availability

At 399 USD, the Fireball is a mid-range wavetable synth and due to its high quality it isn’t necessarily made in bulk, though nevertheless is generally always available from the 1010 music website. Check out for a price update.

Final thoughts

Overall, the Fireball is essentially the wavetable edition of 1010’s attractive little nanobox synth series and because of this that it really depends on your priorities as a musician. Whilst wavetable synths are much more common than granular synths such as the Lemondrop and therefore the fireball is up against some stiffer competition, if your priority is portability, design, aesthetics, and simplicity – whilst all the while being an intuitive synth – then the Fireball is as worthy a synth for your collection as the Lemondrop despite having more features in common with other products. In fact, perhaps due to it doing similar things but more simply and cleanly than other synths on the market, it is a synth to really push you to use your maximum possible creativity.

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Teenage Engineering TX-6 – Portable Audio Interface, Tabletop Mixer, and Synthesizer

What is the Teenage Engineering TX-6?

The TX-6 is marketed primarily as a tabletop mixer and audio interface, but also includes a synthesizer and drum machine, and it is it’s clever design and portability which make it so appealing to the musician on the go. The technologists at Teenage Engineering have left nothing unthought of when it comes to making a product which both suits the needs of musicians who may need to travel – as well as one which is technically well put together and doesn’t sacrifice it’s software or hardware just for being easy to manage. If anything, the TX-6 has so many features that its size and design is deceptive, this could, at first, be slightly overwhelming to a beginner sound designer and thus it may not necessarily be an ideal first mixer; then again, the ability to hook it up to your iOS device does make it an extremely attractive prospect for those who have not yet built a full studio of gear.

Ultimately the Teenage Engineering TX-6 is incredibly useful to have as a well-balanced middle ground between audio and digital. It’s unobtrusive enough that you can continue working mostly with your DAW if so desired – but the fact that it is a fully functional mixer as well as including the synthesizer and drum machine elements means that it is in some ways a stepping stone to the lush, hands on world of an analogue studio. In keeping with this happy medium between different ways of working, it’s design and aesthetics sit somewhere between modern and retro, with a pixelated LED display and sleek yet incredibly durable shell.

How does the Teenage Engineering TX-6 compare to other tabletop mixers?

Is there really anything comparable to the TX-6 on the market? It doesn’t fall cleanly into any particular category of gear as in addition to being a mixer, it also acts as a synthesizer with its own low frequency oscillator and envelope. How does this work? The TX-6 may be a little counter intuitive to work at first due to having to dig through it’s different parts to discover all that it can do, and this is one of the few cons of it as a piece of hardware. It takes a bit of getting into before you can really figure out all its features, plus how they interact with each other – and as a result it holds hidden surprises for you as you go along. That being said, this also means that after purchasing one you may not be able to fully predict how it will fit into your pre-existing workflow. Ultimately the TX-6 is part of a trend of synthesizers and tabletop mixers which are all about packing the best possible options into a small space – not necessarily from the perspective that more is more but instead, this is a synth which has really been designed to bring freedom and give you the most creative possibilities.

Features and specs

One thing which sets the Teenage Engineering TX-6 apart is what it is capable of when hooked up to an iOS device. It allows you to mix multiple tracks onscreen using GarageBand or the DAW of your choice, which works perfectly in keeping with the portability which is a huge selling point – Teenage Engineering have really taken into account the increasing number of high quality apps such as samplers or other pieces of music gear which musicians now carry with them on their phones – and despite the TX-6 being a high quality and pricy bit of hardware, the designers have chosen to work with these trends as opposed to against them. In this way, they have carved themselves a niche in the market which allows them to sit in a comfortable place at the crossroads of some sort of new evolution of music technology. In fact, the tech behind this synth means that it is actually – as boasted by the website – the smallest of its kind, and the kind of craftsmanship which has gone into creating it is evident in the fact that it is high quality and by all accounts hard waring. In some ways, the TX-6 is unprecedented in the combination of effects it has – one of the things Teenage Engineering has really thought about is usability.

The Teenage Engineering TX-6 has:

  • An included USB-C cable so it can be used as a classic 12 channel audio interface, as well as MFi which allow you to attach it to any iOS device.
  • An 8 hour rechargeable battery, user-sensitive display and customisable LED.
  • 4 oscillator waveforms, 4 drum sounds, and tempo sync mode to stay on the beat.
  • 8 built in FX – reverb, filter, delay, freeze, tape, distortion, and chorus
  • Wireless connectivity as well as specialist made slimline cables and a field bag so you can take the TX-6 wherever you go
  • In addition, the innovative DJ mode means that the TX-6 can be turned on its side with three of the 12 channels able to be used to crossfade.
  • 6 3.5mm audio inputs

Price and availability

With all of this, the TX-6 really does not come cheap. But is it worth it? This is a truly unique piece of kit, the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else on the internet- and one which certainly hasn’t really been seen before in the evolution of synthesis. However, at 1199 USD, it is on the pricier end. Nevertheless, it can be bought directly from Teenage Engineering’s website.


Final thoughts on the Teenage Engineering TX-6

Does the TX six have too many things in one small machine? When reading it’s list of specifications, it could be easy to conclude that there is simply too much going on. However, the real test is whether a musician needs anything else. It is not necessarily the amount but how the features of the TX-6 fit into a musician’s lifestyle – instead, they have judiciously chosen features that offer the most based on what they are, and combined these into a small package to fit with the flow of a wide variety of kinds of sound designers. Therefore while it may take some investigation to discover everything that the TX-6 has to offer, it nevertheless is an extremely useful piece of kit and well worth the investment for those who want a more flexible way of working with sound design – or those who are really looking for something bold and parameter changing for a turning point in their work.

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EQ for Guitar – Four Tips to Understand How to Get Started

Equalisation is one of the most important parts of the mixing and mastering process, but what if you’re a guitarist trying to mix and master a track by yourself? By understanding what sounds make up a guitar strum or picked note, it becomes easier to learn the basic principles of EQ which can be applied to all parts of a track – whether a heavy riff, a lead line, or some acoustic fingerpicking for an indie ballad.

Know the ins and outs of what makes up sound

A note on any instrument is made of the pure tone itself as well as undertones and overtones. You may know these from guitar techniques such as natural and artificial harmonics. However, beyond this, knowledge of the frequencies which make up sound in general is the first stage to understanding how EQ works, as well as its purpose in a mix, and therefore how it is applied specifically to guitar.

The spectrum of sound which is audible to the human ear can be divided up into different sections called bandwidths. You may have heard mix engineers talk about sub bass, bass, or use terms like ‘mids’ or ‘high mids’. These all refer to different frequencies of sound, whereas bandwidths are the groups themselves, often as they show up on an EQ plugin – a range of frequencies between two different set points on the spectrum of sound. Below is a rough guide to how audible sound can be divided up and how this shows up on a typical EQ plugin such as the default which comes with Logic X Pro.

Below 50 Hz – sub bass

50–150 Hz – bass

150–200 Hz – low mids

200-800 Hz – mids

800-2k Hz – mids to high mids

2k-5k Hz – high frequency, verging into noise and overtones (think a hi hat or cymbal crash)

5k-20k Hz – noise

Understand how EQ affects guitar in your track

Electric guitars – specifically rhythm guitars – are going to hover around the 200-500 Hz mark in terms of the main note – low enough in the mix to bulk it out and support a soaring vocal or guitar solo. Knowing this means that you can focus on these bandwidths while understanding that anything significant which is much lower or much higher could potentially be room noise, noise from outside the studio, or other unwanted sound.

Things can get confusing when you realise with any given instrument, a note can span the whole range of frequencies, including those at the extreme high and low ends of the spectrum, which often give it it’s fullness and richness. Another example would be sound at 2-5 KHz, which is often called ‘presence’ and adds brightness to the sound. These extra frequencies are the ones you are generally removing when EQing. For example, removing the lower frequencies from your lead guitar can prevent them clashing with other instruments which sit lower in the mix and giving the track overall a muddy sound where nothing stands out clearly. Essentially, EQ is all about understanding where instruments naturally sit, and altering other frequencies to carve out space for them in these places in relation to other instruments.

For guitar solos and harmonies, you may be going into the range of anything from 500-800 Hz +. However, the most important thing to remember is that when EQing, you are separating instruments, so they stand out cleanly in the mix, and these bandwidths and the way they are commonly divided are a useful guide as opposed to hard and fast rules. The main point of EQ is to clean up unwanted frequencies surrounding the main tones, meaning that each instrument is more distinct on its own – as well as boosting frequencies which you want more of, such as if a guitar low in the mix is lacking impact, at which stage it can be given more presence to make the sound brighter. 

Learn how EQ works with multiple guitars

Separating your rhythm and lead lines can be relatively straightforward, but what if you wanted to double track a guitar or add some subtle harmonies over your main riff? The same principle as above follows – find where your instrument sits naturally in the mix and see where some of the frequencies which make up the spectrum of its sound may be clashing with other instruments. By removing the lower frequencies from your high guitar harmony, you will not only prevent muddiness but also give more space to your lower riff.

When EQing, rhythm and lead guitars much be treated separately not only due to generally occupying different bandwidths but also due to having different purposes within an overall track. Higher sounds tend to pop out of the mix more than lower sounds, meaning that your guitar solo may not need equalising as much as a groove or riff might do, as it stands out already, but could benefit from lower frequencies being removed so that the chord progression could be heard. On the other hand, rhythm guitars can benefit from being more aggressively equalised with the higher and lower frequencies around them being cut more dramatically so the sound sits cleanly, especially in relation to other instruments around the same bandwidth such as bass and drums.

Understand EQ with other instruments such as bass and drums

Another thing to bear in mind is that different instruments bring different things to the EQ spectrum. A bass isn’t going to bring as much to the high end of the spectrum, but a full set of drums generally adds noise in terms of echoes, overtones, and undertones to all parts of the EQ spectrum due to the different parts of the kit ranging from high cymbals to the low kick drum. Guitars tend to sit somewhere in the middle of these two extremes but can sometimes be particularly sensitive to room and outside noise.

Overall, EQ may use different skills than simply playing guitar, but it is nevertheless one of the most powerful tools you can have in your arsenal – not just in terms of creating a fantastic track but also in honing you’re playing and taking it to the next level. By getting a better idea of what your lead lines and riffs are like in the context of not only other instruments but also how they are affected by the mixing process, you can gain mastery over your sound when working both alone and with a professional producer simply by understanding some of these basic EQ principles.

All About Tone – Ten Lessons I’ve learnt in using Digital FX to find the perfect sound

Tone is the feeling, the “vibe” that your instrument reproduces, and from a technical point of view it is close to “timbre”. However, it is much more, is is what defines you as an artist and it is something that you never fully consider as finished or final, always improving and expressing your creative identity.

Less is more

It may sound obvious to seasoned professionals, but a common mistake of beginner sound designers is using too many FX and plugins layered on top of each other. Not only can this slow down the processing power of your computer, it can also make your music sound extremely muddy and difficult to distinguish between the different tones, sounds, and even, in extreme cases, instruments.

Separate different sounds

Separating different sounds in the mix means that each one can truly shine on their own. By keeping your distorted guitars at one frequency and your acoustic guitars at another, you ensure that they end up being appreciated for what they are. This may sound like an obvious piece of sound design and production advice; however, it goes deeper and means not just producing cleanly but also mentally separating the distinct qualities of sound within your mix so you can more easily decide what to do with them.

But also learn how they relate to each other

Separating sounds in only one part of this technique, however, by learning how different sounds relate when next to each other, you can decide what plugins to apply and how to position your different tracks. This means understanding that when placed immediately after that slow part, your epic guitar solo might sound completely different than if you put it at the end of the song after the climax.

Balance rich and thin tones

Just like a meal, every song needs balance – for example, those fat, bassy sounds of the analogue-modelled valve amp plugin you just picked up need to be counterbalanced with something to ensure your tone doesn’t get too muddy. Adding another plugin designed to work on the top end of the EQ spectrum such as a phaser or flanger could ensure your track doesn’t become monotonous or too overwhelming.

Ensure your plugins work with your guitar

This can be an easy one to overlook, but your guitar itself is responsible for a lot of your tone, as is how you play it. As sound designers, it is easy to get bogged down in the wealth of plugins and FX out there and easy to get extremely carried away with testing new ones, however, the relationship between your guitar, your interface, and your DAW is just as important to keep in mind. A guitar designed for metal such as an Ibanez will react differently to those fat, bluesy plugins you might be using for some of your slower tracks or guitar solos – especially if you sit somewhere in between genres- as a Les Paul would.

Make sure nothing gets lost in the mastering process

When mastering, it is important to remember that in the process of reaching for a polished song, it is vital not to let the quest for perfection get in the way of a real, human sounding recording. This is especially important for guitarists as whilst specialist production advice exists out there, a lot of the tutorials on how to use DAWs such as Logic X Pro are geared towards pop artists who may not necessarily be looking for a rough and ready sound in the same was as blues, rock, and metal artists might be. Therefore, whilst mastering any track, allow some of the imperfections to shine through, because they are what make each of them have a unique fingerprint.

Mix different instruments according to tone

Have you ever considered the tone of different instruments before you add plugins and FX? Your guitar might have a naturally really clean, bright sound, so adding a valve amp could be a good idea if you want it to sit a bit lower in the mix in order to bulk your track or leave room for other instruments on top. This is just one of the ways you can mix according to tone, and one of the best tricks is to consider your instruments as comparative and understand the before and after of each one – therefore, making heavy use of any mute switches for plugins can be a real-life saver.

Don’t forget to acknowledge the design and makeup of your plugins

This can be one for real lovers of sound design but acknowledging the design and creation process which went into your plugins means that you can understand them better and thus mix and master more cleanly and efficiently. Are you using true-to-life plugins modelled after real amps and FX pedals with all components inside just as exact? Or are you using strongly digitally inspired plugins such as some of the spacier sounds which have developed through plugins designed for the era of DAWs? It makes a difference it then you can know not only how these plugins interact with others technologically, but it will also inspire you to use them in more creative ways once you are more confident with them.

Know what you’re looking for as a result

Knowing your desired results can go a long way towards choosing plugins. Having an overall picture of the track complete with how you want it mixed and mastered as well as arrangement and how this will affect elements such as EQ means that this can enable you to understand how all your creative choices bounce off each other and interact. This can make the mixing and mastering process much easier because it makes you able to see how tracks are put together and taken apart again and how plugins, AUs, VSTs, and other FX come into this. Building a track from the results backwards can be a great exercise in experimenting with gear, and it also allows you to develop an identity for the track as a whole and thus yourself as a sound designer, guitarist, producer, and more.

But also, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. There’s a reason why tracks often have multiple versions including demos, bootlegs, remixes, and radio edits. It can sometimes be hard to identify what a track really needs to feel complete, but this doesn’t matter because with multiple possibilities, you can experiment with your gear to your heart’s content. It can become easy to get carried away with plugins, so why not harness this into something which becomes a creative bonus? You may thank yourself for it in the future when you have more material to draw on or are looking for inspiration for something entirely new.


These are just some ideas which can help on your creative journey as a sound designer – allowing you to think about your musical endeavours differently and not get hung up by the common mistakes and misconceptions which can plague a lot of beginners by using the same deep understanding of your gear which underpins any great piece of sound design.

TOP 5 BEST Guitar VST Plugin products [2022]

Hello and welcome to our run down of the best Guitar VST Plugins. We will go straight to the list, make sure you bookmark them and check our Deals category for a chance to get them at a better price. The order of this list is random and we do recommend you get them all as the overlap is very big.

BEST Guitar VST Plugins: Positive Grid Bias FX 2

Ok, so the praises of this pedalboard have been sung by just about every guitarist and magazine out there. But does it live up to the hype. Absolutely. Beyond the dizzying array of pedals, effects, and other features which it contains – which would take an entire article to fully do justice to – its main draw is its guitar match feature.

What does it do? Essentially it takes the guitar you are using at the time of playing and turns it’s tone and overall sound it into any model of guitar digitally – giving you the ultimate freedom, variety, and flexibility in how you sound. Playing a Fender but always wanted to try a Gibson SG or an Ibanez? For those who love tone – or even major audiophiles who are not guitarists but want to try out different models before buying – this can be one of the most freeing features of an already stellar piece of kit. In addition, it comes in three versions: standard, professional, and elite.

Specs: macOS Sierra 10.12 to Big Sur 11.6.1, Windows 8 or later


BEST Guitar VST Plugins: Baby Audio Crystalline Algorithmic Reverb

Baby Audio Crystalline Algorithmic Reverb can be calibrated to the very BPM of your track. How does this work – and why is it so fantastic for guitarists? It means that reverb can recreate almost exactly the echoes and rhythms of soundwaves in real spaces as they bounce off the surroundings in time with your music – or even with a bit of delay.

For genres which rely heavily on rhythm such as the chugging riffs of metal or djent, this can also add that extra oomph to your tracks in order to really make them groove. However, it’s not just for metalheads – this reverb is notably used by Stephen W Taylor, the mix engineer for 80s acts such as Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, and when applied to guitar, it can easily give those lush, far out sounds which were characteristic of the era and which can be achieved either by synths or by a carefully produced 6 string – as well as tackling the nuances of a lot more genres besides.

Specs: Mac OS 7 and up, Windows 7 and up


BEST Guitar Sounds/Loops: Perry Frank’s Ultimate Guitar Sounds Bundle

This one is a little different as it is aimed at producers as opposed to guitarists themselves. Designed for those who either don’t play guitar or don’t have access to a guitar, but who want proper rock, blues, and metal -inspired sounds to add interest and edginess to their tracks, it takes samples and loops from a wide collection of real guitars to provide you with the very best for your current project. What makes it stand out so much? Simply the breadth and depth of the samples, and the way they have been carefully selected so there is something for every piece of sound design which you may desire to add a bit more crunch to. There really isn’t anything else out there like it for those who want the sheer variety of different guitar sounds – as well as the realism and human feeling which comes from sampling real guitar as it is being played. This might be one of the most expensive plugins on the list, but is well worth investing in for those who love guitar beyond simply playing it – and who want to see how it can add to pieces of music far outside the typical genre conventions associated with the instrument.

Specs: As a bundle of samples as opposed to a plugin proper, this is available for practically all operating systems, including lesser-used DAWs such as Reaper. It’s versatility – and the fact that samples can be transferred without the constraints of software incompatibility -mean that in many ways, it is well worth the price.


BEST Guitar VST Plugins: UJAM Silk

So many plugins out there are designed for electric guitar as opposed to acoustic. Even in physical guitar shops, acoustic guitars are generally further towards the back of the store in comparison to the huge market, which is rock, metal, grunge, blues, indie, and all other genres which use classic Fenders, Gibsons and others. In this way, it’s very rare that you find plugins which are so good at replicating acoustic guitar – and which do so with such attention to the guitar itself.

This isn’t just any acoustic guitar being turned into a virtual instrument – the classic nylon-string sounds heard here come from a model made by a renowned luthier and add just the right amount of softness and feeling to your track – something which can only come from the campfire-ready tones of an acoustic six-string. If you’re looking to go off the beaten track in terms of bringing acoustic guitar to your electric-guitar based sound design, then there is nothing better.

Specs: Note – this plugin is 64 bit only and available for Windows 8 or later as well as MacOS X 10.11 or MacOS 10.12 or later


BEST Guitar VST Plugins: HY – MBMFX2 by HY Plugins

Although not as memorably named as some other plugins on the market, the HY – MBMFX2 is certainly a memorable plugin to use. As guitarists, we are often more oriented towards doing things physically and practically, and the purely digital sphere of DAW-based sound design can occasionally clash with the way we compose music.

That’s where plugins like the FX2 come in handy so much – by detailing every single variable feature in order to break down the process of how it’s sounds are formed, this multi-FX processor lets guitarists get hands on in shaping their sound digitally just the same as when they are using their instruments. Control over tone and sound processing is paramount in this plugin. It’s got seven kinds of FX, five FX per band, ten modulation options, and 22 other randomizable functions.

Specifications: MacOS 10.12 Sierra and up, 64 bit only as AU, VST2 and VST3; Windows 7 or higher as VST2 or VST3 as 32 or 64 bit.



These are just a handful of the plugins out there which can really make you reconsider how guitar works and how music can be put together, especially through the process of sound design. Though they are all very different from each other, what the designers have shared is a fresh approach in looking at the instrument and adapting it creatively for DAWs – so that the nuances and tone which have made it one of the world’s most popular instruments are properly translated to the digital sphere.

The Hippie era and the Californian Desert: A guide to the guitar sound which created a musical phenomenon

Note – this article is not necessarily intended as a guide to the specific pedals out there on the market or used by musicians. Instead, it gives a deeper look into the mechanics of each of these kinds of effects – how they work to create the sounds that they do, and how this in turn shaped the musical era when these became popular- both in the public imagination and in the way guitarists continue to use them today. Any of these kinds of pedal can be found in both digital and analogue form, with digital pedals for sound design altering the wave form in a very similar way to their analogue counterparts.

The two decades spanning the 1960s to the 1970s were a seminal and pioneering period of music. As society became less restrictive, all forms of new subcultures were born. Beginning with The Beatles, who took a strong influence from Indian ragas – and ending with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, in this period music technology saw exponential growth in response to changes in demand by the music industry. Luthiers, technicians, and electronics specialists were able to showcase their skills with the design of new sounds and repurposing of old sounds.

These new sounds led to musicians redefining what it meant to play guitar. Sound recordings became increasingly complex, and memorabilia from the era has become prized within the market. Conjuring up vistas of the desert areas of California, with their rocky outcrops, stunning saguaro cacti, and the backdrop to many a Hollywood movie, guitarists in the sixties were all about distorting the sound of the original note through effects which aimed as much for edgy rebellion as for a mellow, rich, soulful tone with plenty of harmonics and different layers. Jimi Hendrix is one of the most notable as he held the stage through the raw feeling of his distorted version of the Star-Spangled Banner. Below are some of the pedals which became popular within the era – and a guide to their internal mechanisms for anyone curious about the creation of its signature sounds.  


This pedal was most famously used by Hendrix – and is designed to make a crying sound come out of the guitar. Wah pedals work by adding a filter to the original sound which is controlled when the pedal is activated, as well as by controls which may vary from pedal to pedal. As a result, parts of the soundwave are chopped off, boosting the midrange, and excluding the extremities to make the guitar sound as if it has literally developed a voice of its own. This mid-range boost is a very characteristic part of its technology, mellowing out the sound- making it richer, fuller, and more human. On any DAW, the wah pedal is one of the most commonly included pedal in any FX library, due to its popularity and versatility.                                                      


The fuzz pedal – another characteristic sound of the sixties and seventies desert rock era – uses a phenomenon called clipping to create a very different kind of distortion from both wah pedals and the myriad overdrive pedals available on the market. This means that so much gain is applied to the signal that it distorts, hitting a threshold which essentially causes the soundwave to double back on itself and overlap, causing a very grainy, thick sounding wall of noise. Whilst clipping is undesirable in the mixing and mastering process, within a fuzz pedal, all runs smoothly based off a very simple circuit and the resulting sound is much softer than the process within the mechanics might suggest. In fact, this is one of the gentler forms of guitar distortion, used by pop rock bands all throughout the sixties and seventies but also perfect for the slower ballads of harder rock acts. Like the wah pedal, the fuzz pedal is a staple of pretty much all DAWs, and there are plenty of options.


Tremolo bars became a characteristic feature of classic American rock ‘n’ roll towards the end of the era as guitar effects moved on in their sophistication. As rock music became more complex and the solos contained higher and more intense riffs, tremolo bars were favoured to give a ‘wobbly’, distorted sound to high notes.

Tremolo can refer to both the tremolo or whammy bar – which is a feature on certain kinds of guitar – as well as to tremolo pedals, which use very small, frequent alterations in either pitch, volume, or both to create a vibrato effect. Both square and sine waves distort the original signal differently, with distortion in this case referring to a way of altering the notes, which is different to the emphasis of undertones, overtones, and overlapping waves in fuzz, wah, and overdrive pedals. Therefore, they are invaluable for cleaner solos and different sounds when rock or metal guitarists want to take a break and go clean again. A tremolo is easily found on many FX plugins on DAWs such as Logic and Ableton.


Classic distortion is one of the most recognisable sounds of the era, and music legend has it that it first became a significant part of rock history when the Rolling Stones stomped on their amps to record their now classic song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. As a result, millions of other artists craved the sound which set them apart and provided a sense of edgy rebellion against the puritanism, clean sounds and lyrics of the fifties as middle America really came into being. The distorted sound became synonymous with music which set its listeners apart a little bit. It’s not hard to find distortion/overdrive on any DAW – and the multitude of choices means there is something for everyone, though as a result careful consideration is needed to find the perfect sound for your track.


This pedal is most synonymous with the early seventies when Led Zeppelin began using it in their guitar solos to great effect. During this time, rock music began getting heavier. The phaser pedal is one which creates a sweeping sound by filtering the original signal via a sound processor. It has a series of peaks and troughs in its frequency attenuation graph, and thus when the positions of the peak’s changes, it makes the original note sound as if it is sweeping up and down due to the constantly changing frequencies within the pedal’s filter. As a result, this can be used to great dramatic effect. Phaser plugins range from state of the art to basic and can be found for all styles of guitar from psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll to heavy metal.

How have these sounds become associated with the Californian desert and how have they been repurposed for today?

Every era of music has its distinctive and characteristic sounds, but these sounds are some of the most evocative of a particular place and time because of the emotional and historical significance of the music which was created there. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix were pioneers of the music which shaped the minds and hearts of the youth at the time as well as bands such as Deep Purple, America, and earlier bands such as The Beatles and the Mamas and the Papas- and which for many who remember the era, this music still holds an extremely special place due to the memories of freedom and rebellion associated with it.

The Californian Desert was also the location of many historical festivals such as Woodstock – and saw the birth of musical get togethers which are still going on to this day. As a result, it is sometimes impossible to think of this era without also recalling the desert sounds and mesa outcrops which painted the backdrop to these festivals. Even to this day, the branding and decoration of some of these evokes the period with psychedelic lettering and bold colours, and the types of pedals in this article are perfect for bringing this era back to life or repurposing it’s sounds.  

Audio-Technica AT2035 Review

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a side-address cardioid condenser microphone that is perfect for both studio and live applications. It has a large diaphragm that provides natural sound reproduction, and its low-profile design makes it ideal for use in tight spaces.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a great microphone for anyone looking for an affordable alternative to some of the more expensive models on the market. This mic is perfect for home studios, project studios, and even live applications.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Build quality

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is very solid with a metal body casing and a durable metal grill protecting the microphone capsule. The mic is made of all-metal construction, and it feels very solid in your hand. This makes it less likely to suffer damage from accidental drops or impacts, which can be important if you’re using it in a live setting.

The shock mount on the Audio-Technica AT2035 is very well-designed, and you won’t have any issues with it. The mount will help to keep the mic stable and free from vibration, which can cause noise and degradation in your recordings.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Recording pattern

The AT2035 has a cardioid polar pattern, which is ideal for capturing vocals and instruments in a close-up setting. This ensures that the sound picked up by the mic is focused on the front while minimizing noise from the sides and rear. This makes it well-suited for recording solo artists or small groups in a studio setting.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Frequency response

The AT2035 has a frequency response of 20 Hz-20 kHz, which makes it suitable for a wide range of applications. It will provide accurate recording of vocals, guitars, and other instruments, making it a versatile option for studios of all sizes. 

However, if you need a mic with a greater frequency response, then you may want to consider looking at some of the other options on the market.

Looking to build a studio or just for a refresh in your gear? Be it digital or hardware, come on down to our Reviews category by clicking here!

Audio-Technica AT2035: Sensitivity

The AT2035 has a sensitivity of -33dB, meaning it is capable of capturing sounds at lower volumes. This is great for recording quieter sounds, like a singer’s voice or a piano.

This is great because it means your pre-amp won’t be overloaded. In other words, you can use a lower-powered microphone pre-amp to get the same or better results than you would with a higher-powered pre-amp. This is important if you’re using a portable audio recorder, which often doesn’t have a lot of power.

This low sensitivity makes it very difficult for the AT2035 to pick up background noise, making it ideal for situations where there are lots of things that could cause interference. This is why the AT2035 is such a great choice for home studios and professional studios, where capturing every detail is critical.

When used in a quiet recording environment, the AT2035 can produce very clear and rich sounds. This is due to its low sensitivity which allows it to capture quieter sounds without being overwhelmed by background noise. This makes it an ideal microphone for use in professional studios and home studios.

Audio-Technica AT2035: Sound quality

The Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone is designed to provide the best sound possible. This microphone has a cardioid polar pattern, which helps to isolate the sound source and reduce feedback. It also has a low-cut filter to remove any unwanted low-frequency noise.

The AT2035 microphone is also designed for durability. It has a die-cast metal housing that can withstand regular use, and the included stand mount helps to keep it in place. This microphone is also compatible with most standard audio interfaces, making it easy to use with any recording software.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 produces very clear and natural sound. This is due to its large diaphragm, which helps to capture all the nuances of your recordings. The mic is also very sensitive, allowing you to capture sounds at lower volumes without having to worry about background noise.

This mic is known for its clear, crisp sound. It’s perfect for both home and studio recording, as well as live performances. Additionally, the AT2035 is very versatile, and can be used with a variety of sound sources.

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is an excellent microphone for the price. It produces sound quality that is comparable to much more expensive microphones. I have tried several other microphones in this price range, and the AT2035 is the only one that comes close to matching the sound quality of the NT1-A.

Microphone Setup

The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a condenser microphone that connects through an XLR interface. It requires phantom power, which is pretty much standard for condenser microphones. This microphone is also back electret, meaning it is forgiving about voltage (Rated 11-52V DC).

If you are interested in a bundle for setting the microphone in the studio (alongside a microphone arm and the associated cables), Amazon has you covered, click here to see the bundle at a very good price point!


The Audio-Technica AT2035 is a great all-around microphone that is well-built and has some great features. The mic is perfect for recording vocals, acoustic instruments, and other sources.

If you are looking to spend under $300 on a microphone, the Audio-Technica AT2035 is one of your best choices. This microphone has great sound quality, and it is built to last. It also comes with a variety of accessories that make it easy to get started recording right away.

DIGITAL and ANALOG – How you can use ANALOG effects with DIGITAL MUSIC production

While analog seems like a pretty much forgotten domain, digital music production using DAWs such as Logic, Reason, and Ableton, has become the norm in the modern music industry. With so many instruments, FX, and VSTs in one place, they seemingly have everything a modern musician needs. Yet to expand the sound of your music you may want to combine digital and analogue sounds. 

Choose your DAW

All round BEST DAW: Logic

Logic is by no means the only DAW on the market yet is the first option which many musicians jump to. Nevertheless, to combine digital with analogue it isn’t always the best option. Logic has such as wide range of different VSTs, plugins, FX, and ways to mix and master your music – but producing everything similarly can starve your creativity. There is no true BEST when checking out DAW options, but Logic is a great all-rounder that can do everything you need.

Check out these other DAWs for alternative options, if you are on a budget or if you are still learning digital music production: 

Budget friendly DAW: Reaper  

Reaper is basic, but this can be exploited by the savvy musician to further creativity. Due to not using much power, it can be modified with many of your own plugins or external equipment like external FX plugins for a low cost and streamlined way of working.

Great for beginners: Ableton

Meanwhile, Ableton live is a great way of bringing analogue gear into digital music production. By pushing the buttons on the live pads, even with entirely digital sounds, layering them can free up your creativity and create thicker, richer, and more nuanced sound. Loading both digital and analogue sounds, which can be run through FX pedals for a richer warmer sound or combined with digital instruments like synths.

Digital and Analog Music Gear: What’s on the Market? 

Using electric guitar and pedals, or stomp boxes, may not be immediately obvious in electronic music but can be done to great effect with low key guitar and heavy usage of FX making the humble Fender Strat or Telecaster sound otherworldly and unique, generating sounds which could not be achieved with digital FX or production but which you would not necessarily know were analog. For the rest of the article, we will only focus on pedals, leaving analog synthesisers and other instruments to a separate one.

Of course, if you want some more in-depth information you can check the Music Hardware section here on idesignsound and also the “ANALOG” tag.

Guitar Pedals

I have experimented with combining analogue stompboxes and other FX pedals with digital production, especially with digital drum patterns. They work together very well when combined with electric guitar as this can be produced in such a way that its rich, raw analogue sounds are modulated and toned down to combine with slick electronic synths and drumbeats.

They can also change the sound of your guitar. So that it is less obviously a six-stringed electric or acoustic, making it ambiguous and therefore creating all sorts of fantastic and ethereal sounds. This can open up more options than may even have been on your DAW in the first place. It’s a reminder that sounds do not just come from our computers and online but that the world around us can be a constant source of inspiration.

Music producers usually group the pedals into different circuits on a Pedalboard

Best analog stompboxes for combining with digital music production:

Naturally there are loads of different stompboxes to choose from on the market, even within any one category such as fuzz or wah pedals. These are only a few of the possible options out there and are simply a good place to start.


Behringer pedals are relatively cheap and are great pedals for beginners. There are many different kinds and they can easily be combined with your existing digital gear due to the fact that their controls are very similar to those which exist on DAWs such as logic. A basic Behringer distortion pedal can be used with Logic to bring some authentic, raw sounding distortion to low key electric guitars for bedroom pop or indie music.

EVH Phase 90

Phaser pedals are a great way of introducing weird sounds to your electronic music. Synths and other forms of sound modulation are great for creating tense and exciting electronic beats but missing out on the variety of other sounds out in the analogue world would be a mistake.

Phaser pedals are generally used with electric guitar for classic rock and roll sounds, especially in the 80s. With the current focus on retro and the vinyl revival, why not bring them to the present era by recording phased guitar and using it as a sample or synth patch for high-powered electropop.

Wah Pedals

Like the phaser, it may not occur to you to use retro sounding pedals in modern electronic music. Nevertheless, with enough production, a fuzz pedal or wah pedal can be used to add layers of depth to your electronic music.

With digital, bedroom-based production one thing which is lost is the warmth and depth of tone of analogue production. There is always a fine balance between creating depth or interesting sounds and keeping the crispness which makes electronic music so listenable.

A wah pedal can be used to create a wall of sound effect which is great for combining with mixed vocals and synth sounds for big choruses. Dunlop pedals are a great middle of the road brand for this as for a pedal you may use quite a lot but which needs to stand up to the wear and tear of production, they are not too expensive but still provide great sound. Try the cry baby pedal for big noises to mix down and combine with synths and electronic drums.

We also recommend you check out our article on the BEST DELAY pedals by clicking here.

Ways to Combine ANALOG and DIGITAL MUSIC workflows

Dry Recording

It isn’t every guitarist’s first preference to record guitars dry into their interface and DAW, but for electronic musicians who are not bound by the conventions of rock history, it is a way to get subtle and low-key electric guitar sounds into otherwise electronic songs and have them still work, without sounding overpowering or like two completely disparate genres have been mashed together.

Try it and then layer FX to your choice over the top of them. The dry base can give you more options for creativity as you add different musical textures and ingredients.

Recording and then adding FX

Recording wet sounds such as by miking up amps can result in a rich sound which is not always desirable in electronic music as it can drown out the other elements. However, if you choose to record this way, good, pro level EQ plugins can allow you to mix to your liking and have the best of both worlds – the multiple tones and the appeal of real instruments, as well as the cleanness of electronic sound and the ability to manipulate sound to your liking to create bigger, punchier dynamics like pulsing EDM drums for a danceable pop song or the hazy atmosphere of dreamy bedroom pop by adding reverb and delay.

Digital and Analog Music – Conclusions

Combining analogue and digital sounds is as simple as using your gear creatively and making sure that you understand the contexts in which different sounds are used.

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