Best Underrated Budget DAW: A Guide to Reaper by Cockos

Looking for an underrated budget DAW? Your best bet is Reaper, one of the best DAWs which is still relatively underground. We briefly mentioned this DAW in our budget sound design guide here, but it honestly deserves a full feature. Reaper is a simple but effective DAW, perfect both for seasoned producers and those starting out. Read on for a proper, in-depth look at what makes it so great.

Best Underrated Budget DAW: What Makes Reaper Stand Out

All of Reaper’s best points are actually highly dependent on personal preference. Ultimately, this is a breakdown of what makes it unique – yet its tight-knit following proves these quirks are part of its appeal

  • Simplicity

Reaper’s simplicity is also its biggest potential downside, but in its own way, it’s actually a real selling point. The clean interface allows you to project your own way of doing things onto a basic format. Options to organise and colour code tracks may at first appear limited, but actually provide everything you need and customisable packs can be downloaded from the official site.

  • Value for Money

Another bonus is Reaper’s value for money. The DAW costs 225 USD for the commercial listen or 60 USD for the basic licence.  At such a great price for personal use, this really makes it stand out compared to Logic and others.

  • 60-Day Trial Period

Speaking of the trial period, Reaper gives you the option to ‘purchase now’ or click ‘still evaluating’. What this shows is that Reaper is good enough that legions of musicians have chosen to pay for this bit of kit. The developers, Cockos, brand it as ‘audio production without limits’. Ultimately there are no downsides to taking the plunge with the trial period – especially when other DAWs require payment upfront.

  • Freedom of Organisation

Reaper is really minimalist in its interface, and as a result, it doesn’t use as much processing power as more complex daws. It also has next to no extraneous content, going by the rule of thumb that more doesn’t necessarily equal better. For example, the built-in drummers and loops found on a DAW like Logic are omitted, meaning it takes up minimal space, with the flip side being that it’s relatively bland in terms of visuals. As mentioned above, you can buy customisable user interfaces from Cockos, However, if cleanly organised and stripped-back daws are your thing, you might not need it, and ultimately Reaper raises the question as to how many extra features on other DAWs actually get used by the average, serious producer.

An Underrated Budget DAW: Are There Any Pitfalls?

The one thing which makes it a bit different is the fact you have to sift through files to find the FX you need. Some people have found that as a result, on a surface level it is not as intuitive as other DAWs. It’s sort of like Linux – an operating system which differs considerably from other options on the market but which has users who swear by these differences. 

What Other Good Points Does Reaper Have?

The most potentially polarising thing about Reaper is how stripped back it is. Although we’ve mentioned earlier how this can be a plus, looking deeper into its usefulness reveals Reaper to be even more of a worthy candidate for your favourite value DAW.

  • easily adaptable to any genre 

The bare-bones layout of Reaper is another potential downside which can actually be a bonus. unlike, say, Ableton or FL Studio, Reaper really does work for any genre. Ultimately, you are getting an absolute breakdown of the signal chain and recording studio, digitally and in miniature – without being steered one way or another by the developers’ creative preferences.

  •  lack of presets stimulates creative innovation 

So, as Reaper doesn’t have any built-in loops or software instruments. it’s geared more towards those who are already confident recording. It’s not as easy to quickly make a track which sounds good as with something like Apple Loops. However, a pro is that this total freedom can actually stimulate creativity. It can seem scary at first, but this is the kind of thing which can really challenge you as a producer. Ultimately, Reaper is a bold experiment as to what happens if you give musicians just the basics.

Tech Specs: Everything You Need to Know About Reaper

Don’t let its basic appearance fool you! Like any DAW worth its salt, Reaper allows you to:

  • side-chain
  • glue, resize, loop, and overdub tracks
  • create busses
  • colour code tracks
  • add the full expanse of necessary FX and plugins

Beyond the quirks about having to dig through files, Reaper’s interface is easily understandable if you’ve used Logic or even other DAWs such as Ableton Live. In addition, its built-in FX, sampler, and synth are very high quality, if slightly generic in terms of style. However, like most things to do with Reaper, this can be a bonus because it makes them very adaptable.

Reaper- A Basic Plugin Rundown:

  • ReaEQ – EQ plugin
  • ReaVerb – high-quality neutral-sounding reverb
  • JS Saturation – saturation plugin
  • ReaComp – compressor
  • ReaGate – high-quality gate with sidechain options
  • ReaTune – manual and automatic pitch correction plugin
  • ReaSynth – high-quality basic synth
  • ReaSample – Reaper’s own sampler

… and lots more! What’s great is these can actually be downloaded as a package to use with other hosts. Yes, that’s how much some users like the sound of them. And, like everything Reaper, they’re all really low CPU.

What Does Reaper NOT Have?

  • built-in software instruments.
  • the personalisation of daws like logic
  • real recorded session musicians on their virtual instruments. however, as said before, this can be a bonus in that it promotes more creativity. 

Final Thoughts: Is Reaper Worth It?

Ultimately, the answer is a resounding YES. For such an underrated, basic-looking DAW, Reaper has very few flaws. If you’re confident with mixing and mastering, it’s easy to get to grips with. Even if you’re not, it’s an ideal place to learn the ropes due to its simplicity. If in doubt, Reaper is 100% worth trialling for the free 60 days it gives you. Regardless of your preferences, you never know which bits of it might grow on you. 

Best Pedals For Punk, Pop-Punk, and Post-Punk: A Rundown For 2023

The best pedals for punk aren’t easy to choose. Since the inception of the genre in the 1970s, its underground values meant that musicians prized inventiveness, and this remained true in their use of pedals and other FX. For the end of this year, here are both old classics and new innovations which will inspire you to continue this independent spirit.

Best Pedals for Punk: MXR Billie Joe Armstrong Dookie Drive for Classic 90s Pop-Punk

Although this pedal has been discontinued, it remains extremely popular and deserves a spot here. This is a signature pedal which MXR created for Billie Joe Armstrong of Greenday, and it is based on the sounds he used for the pop-punk band’s classic album Dookie. Now, with the Dookie Drive, you can give the sounds of this seminal album your own spin.

The 90s were a golden age for guitar-driven, power-chord-based rock. The sound of this pedal is a tribute to its heyday, and it is even covered with Greenday’s album art. To achieve what it does, it combines the sounds of both the amps Billie Joe Armstrong used on the album in one pedal. Ultimately, this is a classic, pop-punk drive pedal you cannot go wrong with and deserves it’s legacy continued this year.

Dookie Drive Contains:

  • Output, blend, gain, and tone knobs for mixing the perfect sound
  • Scoop option to sculpt your sound even more

Price and availability: The Dookie Drive was limited edition and had multiple variants, but can still be bought online from Reverb. Click here to check the price and offers!

Best Pedals for Punk – Distortion and Best Outside the Box Pedal – JHS3 Series Compression and JHS Series Distortion

The new JHS3 series is so exciting it deserves to include two pedals. To kick off, the JHS3 distortion pedal is a warm, gritty distortion. It sounds deliciously heavy down at the low end of the neck. Simultaneously, it adds messy noise when played higher up the fretboard. As a result, this slick little pedal is perfect both for punchy, post-punk riffs and for giving your tracks a more tangled, DIY flair. 

What about compression? Distortion and overdrive both involve a bit of compression. Yet, if you want to add solos or high harmonies, a compression pedal can be indispensable to prevent your lower parts drowning others out. This can especially be a risk when playing punk and related genres live. The JHS3 series Compressor is a great compressor which doesn’t sound too polished or neat. At the same time, it ensures all parts are audible- perfect for performing in even the most acoustically challenging venues. 

JHS3 Distortion Contains:

  • Volume, filter, and distortion knobs
  • Gain switch

JHS3 Compressor Contains:

  • volume, attack, and sustain knobs
  • bright switch

Price and Availability: Both pedals can be purchased new or used on Reverb by following these links: compressor and distortion. Plus, you will be supporting our website if you buy using our links (we get a small kickback).

Best Pedals for Punk and Post-Punk FX – Fender Hammertone Fuzz Pedal

Fuzz pedals can be polarising. Nevertheless, although it brands itself as 60s and 70s-focused, the Fender Hammertone series fuzz pedal has made this list because of its heavy, wild sound. It’s a great way to add some really dirty tones to different parts of your tracks. Especially for pop-punk, post-punk, and emo, which have sometimes taken inspiration from rock ‘n’ roll, it’s worth trying out pedals like this to shake things up. To help this, the Hammertone fuzz pedal is versatile enough that it is capable of adding noise yet also adapting to quieter moments.

Fender Hammertone Fuzz Pedal Contains:

  • Treble, bass, level, and gain knobs
  • top mounted in and out jacks to ensure it fits easily into your pedalboard
  • octave switch

Price and Availability: Check Reverb.com by clicking here.

Wampler Moxie Mini Pedal: Best Innovation of This Year

Wampler released the Moxie this year, yet it takes inspiration from the classic Ibanez Tubescreamer. In fact, after it hit the market, this pedal stood out for attracting even those who disliked the original Tubscreamer. How? For starters, this pedal is a bit warmer, more punk, and less metal oriented than the original Tubescreamer. Tone switches for voice and fatness allow greater mastery of different subgenres. In addition, its sound is more rough and ready, which it does through a modified EQ curve. This is not an easy sweet spot to hit, and, as a result, the Moxie really deserves a place on this list.

The Wampler Moxie Mini Pedal Includes:

  • volume, gain, and tone knobs
  • two switches for voice and fatness
  • design based off the Ibanez TS10 with a modified EQ for a richer, more transparent tone

Pricing and availability: It is on Reverb new or second hand, click here to check the deals.

Best All Round Drive Pedal – OCD Drive Pedal 

And to round up this list, we have a classic drive pedal which holds up year after year. This is for when you don’t want super heavy distortion but still need some edge. The sound blends well into many variants of the punk, post-punk and pop-punk spectrum. However, this can be a plus, as it gives your sound something distinctive that you can then repurpose.

Another big selling point is that the AmpliTube set of FX includes it as a digital VST. As a result, you can have the same sounds as both software and hardware, keeping your sonic signature consistent. 

OCD Drive includes:

  • Internal switch to choose between enhanced bypass and true bypass. True to its name, this pedal allows guitarists to choose the specifics of their sound at a level of perfection close to obsessiveness
  • output buffer which prevents pedals which come after it in the signal chain from affecting its sound

Pricing and availability: Can be purchased from Reverb.com, in all the versions. Click here to get the price.

Final Thoughts

This roundup focuses more on certain FX than others to get you that classic, heavy punk sound. However, these cover everything from gritty, classic underground 70s punk to the best modern-day pop-punk. From old favourites to new innovations, these pedals have proven to be the most inspiring this year.

Liked this article? We have way more on pedals in our hardware section, where we cover classics, new innovations, and creative alternatives. Find them here

Master the Guitar Fretboard: A Rundown of the Best Software to Learn to Solo

To master the guitar fretboard, you need more than just rote memorisation. This common beginner mistake often leads to boredom. Learning interactively can turbocharge your playing. Whether through mini-games or by slowing down your favourite solos, the fretboard is yours for the taking. Read on for some great software to help with just this.

Master the Guitar Fretboard: FA Chords

The developer of this software is actually a guitar tutor, so you know this app has real thought behind it. FA chords includes games which give you the same note from multiple angles. Whether as part of an interval, scale, or by itself, contextual learning means unexpected notes don’t surprise you or slow you down.

FA chords also introduces the circle of fifths. This bit of music theory shows how parts of the scale fit together. As a result, it’s an ultra-fast shortcut to playing your own solos. By building in theory to memorisation games, FA chords makes this topic accessible. Even if you just set out to master some basic scales, you’ll come out a lot more skilled.

Specs/availability: All parts of the software are available for separate download on the website’s software page. They are available for all operating systems including Windows, Linux, iOS, or Android.

Price: Free, on their website (click here to access it).

Master the Guitar Fretboard With guitarLayers

Guitar layers are really one of the slickest options on this list. Its sleek black interface and colour-coded notes and chords make learning the fretboard a breeze. In addition, its unique learning pattern uses colour coding to let you neatly sort notes, e.g. by octave.

Guitar Layers gets its name from its layered system of learning. This makes abstract concepts visual, like harmonising. As a result, you’re able to see how scales and notes relate to each other and where they are in context. This goes a bit deeper than the theory of FA Chords, too. Guitar Layers actually shows you notes relatively. It also lets you make custom scales, and change the notes of any pre-existing scale.  It’s on the expensive side, but it’s worth it due to how comprehensive and high quality is it.

Specs/availability: Available for macOS from the app store. Not available as an app, although it’s aimed at education where most will have desktop access.

Price: 9.99 GBP or 12 USD (click here to access it)

Fretboard Warrior: Simple But Effective

Whilst the previous two options are complete packages, Fretboard Warrior does one thing but does it well. In a similar vein to some of the games included with other apps here, it tests your knowledge of the notes on the fretboard by asking you to tap the correct place. However, what sets it apart is that it’s very quick and convenient for focussing on just one thing. It’s speedy and without distractions, so it keeps your thinking flexible and fast. This is a really great transferrable skill for playing guitar solos, where it’s necessary to think on your feet. 

Specs/availability: Can be downloaded online from the developer

Price: Free (click here to access it)

Master the Guitar Freboard with Fretonomy: 18 Mini Games

Fretonomy is big both on the aesthetics, and on the games. If you learn best by playing games, this is by far the best app on the list. It has up to 18 different mini-games. The interface is smart and eye-catching with both an overview of a fretboard plus chord names and a musical stave so you can see music in different forms. Bonus points to this app for including this last part – many guitarists rely on tab – but it never hurts to learn to read music.

Like most of the software on this list, Fretonomy also teaches chords, scales, and intervals. However, it also offers a nice selection of chord progressions for help with songwriting. 

Specs/availability: Available on both the app store and for Android

Price: Free, but offers in-app purchases (click here to access it)

Bonus: The Amazing Slow Downer

To really master the guitar fretboard, learning solos is a must. This app is expensive, but worth it to adjust the audio of any piece of music. In this way, you can slow things down to your ideal tempo. This lets you break down a solo so it’s easier to learn. This is arguably the most appealing feature of the app. 

Although it’s not strictly educational, this app deserves inclusion. By slowing down songs you can break guitar solos into their constituent parts and patterns, getting to grips with the real building blocks of constructing your own. As a result, working your way from the first fret to the twelfth has never been easier.

Specs/availability: Available on the app store. Also available for Microsoft Windows – but it’s considerably more expensive at 39.99 USD.

Price: 14.99 USD (click here to access the Mac version)

Honourable Mention: FretPro App

Fretpro is a really neat little app. It’s basic, but it’s not pretending to be anything more. It’s purpose is just to help you learn the notes of the fretboard. However, its learning style is high tech and it uses something called spaced repetition, where the same questions come at irregular intervals. Science has proven that this keeps your thinking sharp and flexible – a must for independently moving up and down the fretboard. Plus, keeping you approaching guitar this way means it’s easier to handle novelty. This is one thing several apps on this list have in common. It’s a vital skill. – for example when you’re sight reading or at a jam session. This method also helps learn large amounts of information by keeping all parts interconnected. 

FretPro is made by a single guy in California on a mission to help guitarists. It has a smart interface and bonus points for this high-tech method of learning, and so it wraps up the list.

Specs/availability: Available for iPhone on the App Store

Price: Free

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Whilst some of these apps have similar games, each guitarist is different and there are ways which work for some which don’t work for others. It’s all about finding your learning style and how best to unlock it for total fretboard mastery. Plus, a deeper knowledge and understanding of how the notes and patterns connect to each other means you too can begin to construct soon from the ground up. 

Want to improve your guitar playing? Check out both our software section for more helpful programmes, plus our archive of tutorials.

Guide to Using Plate Reverb for Guitarists

Any guide to using plate reverb needs to show you how sound works. Ever looked at the different reverbs on your DAW and wanted to understand them better? In this article, we go into plate reverb, why it is one of the most interesting kinds of reverb, and how to use it on guitar. Read on to find out more.

What Is Plate Reverb?

Plate reverb, like any reverb, is an effect which you add to a dry track. This is designed to give the dry recording a more natural sound, However, plate reverbs themselves don’t attempt to be true to nature. Unlike other kinds of reverb, no plate reverb ever tries to copy real-life reverb in a specific kind of space. Instead, plate reverb plugins are modelled off physical plate reverbs, where sound passes through a metal plate made of one of any different metals, often steel. The vibrations are picked up by a microphone, and they travel down the rest of the signal chain.

Guide to Plate Reverb: How Does It Work?

To understand more about plate reverb, it helps to know why mix engineers add reverb in the first place. When engineers mix sounds, the soundproofing of the studio ensures the sound is very dry. At this stage, it lacks both reverb, and delay.

However, listeners need reverb. It’s everywhere, regardless of whether you’re in a concert hall or a church. As a result, tracks sound strange without it. Therefore, in the first analogue recording studios. producers and engineers found ways to add reverb artificially, and one of the best-loved of these is plate reverb. This works by suspending a metal plate within a container via springs, which vibrates as sound hits it, and a microphone amplifies the resulting soundwaves. These then go back down the signal chain. Due to the way sound interacts with the plate, plate reverb at first very bright. It only becomes much dimmer and darker towards the tail end of the sound wave. 

You can hear plate reverb on many ’60s and ’70s recordings. In fact, Abbey Road studies actually contributed to their popularity. Their brightness adds an ethereal sound. Meanwhile, their character comes from the darker frequencies they carry. 

What Options Are On the Market?

Physical plate reverbs are incredibly expensive to own in real life. On their Dark Side of the Moon album, Pink Floyd actually used a version of the world’s first plate reverb, created by German company EMT, who called it the EMT 140.

However, like other parts of the analogue studio, they are now easy to mimic digitally. Below is a quick guide to plate reverb plugins which are affordable for the average musician:

Reverbs:

  • Soundtoys Little Plate – 99 USD
  • Arturia Rev Plate-140 – 100 USD
  • Valhalla Plate – 50 USD
  • Black Rooster Audio RO-140 – 29 USD
  • Variety of Sound epicPlate – FREE

Plugins which contain plate reverb:

  • Relab Development LX 480 – 99 USD
  • IK Multimedia T-RackS Sunset Sound Studios Reverb – 61 USD
Soundtoys Little Plate

Most plugins can be bought on Pluginboutique.com and if you use this link to make a purchase you are helping us a lot because we get a small kickback.

Plate Reverb in Recording: An Introduction

You may have most commonly heard of plate reverb used for vocals or drums. This is because of the high frequency of sonic vibrations in metal. In fact, this is where their smoothness and brightness come from. Another place you might hear them used is on strings. But what about for guitar? Plate reverb is best known for adding a spooky or ethereal tone. It’s great for psychedelic guitar, as well as for guitar solos. It is also very useful for creating a sense of atmosphere. Your guitar by itself might not sound hugely atmospheric, but if you’re working without much other gear or software, a good plate reverb plugin can do a lot can boost the levels of sonic interest infinitely.

Classic Psychedelic Sounds: Plate Reverb Ideas and How-To

When using plate reverb in recording, keep in mind its ethereal sound and its brightness. It is great if you want to add some shine to mid-frequency heavy guitar and riffs – perfect if you want your guitar to pop out in contrast to your bass frequencies to prevent things from sounding muddy.

However, plate reverb can really come into its own on softer lead guitar lines. Solos in slow tracks can benefit from it, and Dark Side of the Moon is a great example. It’s good for rock, pop, indie, and any experimental guitar. It’s not as great for metal, hard rock or punk, although it can be used. Its tendency to blur all reverberations together does give it a rather alien sound. Therefore, if you really want to get more out of it, the trick is to combine it with something else. Some good combinations are: 

  • plate reverb blended in at a low level with a chamber reverb. A chamber reverb has as much of an unusual vibe, but is a bit more natural.
  • plate reverb combined with hall reverb. To amplify the dramatic effect of the plate reverb’s otherworldliness, combine it with a big hall reverb.
  • plate reverb with room reverb. For a classic sound, especially on a more low key track, mix plate reverb with a room reverb. Blend the plate reverb in at a low level so as not to be overpowering. 

Guide to Plate Reverb: What Else Is Good to Know?

If you are more used to sound in the real world, think of plate reverb in general as an effect like you would get in your pedals. Don’t try to think of it as mimicking physical echoes and reverberations. Without getting into how it works, remember it’s the darkest, spaciest reverb. As it’s less natural, it’s best to use it when you want to modify your guitar for something more atmospheric. Alternatively use it in tandem with any of the reverbs which mimic a natural space (room, hall, chamber). However, plate reverb is a great gateway to using your plugins and DAW as an instrument in itself. This can be one of the most challenging things for guitarists, who sometimes feel more comfortable with a physical instrument. However, this is a great place to start.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it – a quick introduction to plate reverb. This is how it works, and the best contexts in which to use it. With more understanding and time, it can become a staple tool for your production. In fact, different reverbs really expand the range of sounds you can apply to your guitar during the mixing process. Just keep in mind their unique qualities. This means that you’ll be able to judge where this reverb, like any, adds to your guitar – or when to leave it. When used correctly, it is a very intense and interesting effect. As a result, even exploring it a little can totally alter the way you think about your sound. 

Liked this article? We have more in our tutorials section here.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Amp

To get the most out of your amp, it’s good to understand it as a whole. Knowing how to think about music and about your sound is the most important part of working fluidly with your gear. While many musicians want better gear, here are a few hacks, fresh perspectives, and tips which will help you think about your amp differently – meaning you can make do with whatever you have and still have it sound amazing.

Get the Most From Your Amp: Know Your Tone

Every amp is unique. In fact, even with two different models, the condition in which the amp is kept plus other factors such as its age will affect the sound. Therefore, working out what the average tone of your amp is can be a lifesaver. Is it a rich valve amp? Does it tend to be heavy on the top end? If you get your knowledge of these parts worked out, knowing what to change when you dislike a sound becomes really easy.

Things to try: List five things you don’t like about your tone. Then, spend an afternoon or so playing around with your amp to see how and when these quirks vanish. It might be that you hit on the perfect combinations of settings to get rid of that annoying top end which has always bothered you.

Phase 2: Know the Rest of Your Gear

You might just be jamming, but things get complicated when you start adding pedals. Get to know all your gear inside and out. This isn’t just about being good with your gear. It’s about really knowing the ins and outs of everything plus how it connects. That way, you can separate what piece of kit is affecting which aspects of your sound. Ultimately, it also takes into account parts of your guitar such as the pickup switch and tone knobs. These can really affect the sound coming out of your amp. There’s actually a lot the guitarist needs to take into account to influence the ultimate sound. Being able to separate each piece of kit is key in order to craft the sound you want. 

Things to try: Think of every aspect of your gear, from your pickups to any pedals you have. Then, try improvising a guitar solo while varying each aspect and notice how the sound changes. This can help you tune your ear to all the nuances.

Understand Your Options – And How they Effect Each Other

This gets more into the nitty gritty of your amp itself. Most amps have a couple of tone knobs and a dial for distortion. Some brands such as Marshall geared more towards certain genres of music. Realise that distortion on one amp will sound very different to distortion on another. This might sound obvious, but this is one mistake beginners tend to make before they have found their sound. This fallacy is to treat every amp like an average fender or orange amp. Some amps also have delay and reverb. These can come in handy depending on the room you’re in. A room with a lot of soft furnishings won’t have the natural echoes you might desire when recording.

No option on an amp works in isolation. Cranking up both the distortion and the reverb at the same time can be overwhelming. However, another common first-time habit is to simply keep adding more effects when your sound doesn’t satisfy you. Instead, learning how all dials on your amp affect each other means you can achieve the desired sound with precision.

Things to try: In the same way your DAW allows you to save presets, once you find the perfect combination of settings on your amp, take a photo for future reference. You might be surprised how much of a lifesaver knowing your sweet spot on your amp can be in the stress before a gig!

Get the Most From Your Amp in the Studio: Know How to Record

It goes without saying that recording as opposed to playing live or just jamming takes some specialist know-how. However, the settings you need will be very different to those you want live. As a result, the options you use will change if you’re going from a recording session to a live gig. Keeping track of this means eventually you will spot patterns. Therefore, transitioning from one to the other will be very easy. It also gives you the subconscious know-how to create news settings for certain sounds and places. 

Things to try: The studio can be daunting. Research some of the gear you’re using beforehand. Does it favour rich, analogue amps? Taking this into account, mess around with your amp to see how you could adapt your typical settings to the quirks of recording.

When Things Seem Tough: Work With What You’ve Got

You may dream of having a huge Marshall stack, but with your setup, it’s probably not realistic. However, it can be very satisfying to work with what you’ve got in terms of recreating sounds. You may not sound like Dave Grohl, but if you really get to know your amp, you can fake it. Copy your favourite artists, listen to their interviews, and learn what settings they use. Then, find the closest approximation on your own amp. This will also help show you the difference between your gear and other people’s. And with this kind of experimentation in context, you will develop a broad, holistic overview of how sound works. In the end, this is much more useful than a narrow set of skills for your studio only. 

Things to try: Try restricting yourself. After all, tone is in the fingers. If you only allowed yourself to use the gain knob without touching the rest of your amp, what creative possibilities might you be forced to unlock?

Final Thoughts

Whilst these aren’t hard and fast rules, these hacks can help you understand how to work with your gear as opposed to simply getting it to work for you. It sometimes can sound a bit unusual, but the best musicians treat their music like a parallel world where they can really get into creative flow. Understanding how every aspect affects the overall result is the first step to getting that world to really fit together. As a result, these tips are the first step to thinking differently about your playing.

Like tutorials? You can find more here.

Soundtrap – Spotify’s Collaborative DAW: A Quick Rundown of Pros and Cons

Soundtrap pros and cons tend to include much of the conversation around Spotify as a whole. While some in the music industry are really happy with its ease of use, other musicians feel it doesn’t quite cut it and oversimplifies the creative process. Read on for a look at both sides.

Soundtrap Pros and Cons: How it Works

Soundtrap is essentially an online DAW. You can make music and bring in collaborators from all over the world, in groups. It makes things easy for long-distance projects, which are now a staple of the digital music era. However, the first impression is it’s geared towards a particular type of producer. It also takes this model and expands it to other areas of sound design.

Soundtrap operates on a subscription basis and starts with Soundtrap Free. After this, it advertises four tiers: Soundtrap for Music Makers premium and supreme, as well as Soundtrap for Storytellers, designed for podcasters, and Soundtrap Complete, which has the most features. All that’s needed after this is a simple login. Then you can begin sharing your projects with friends and collaborators. There are chat features and you can tune into projects and make adjustments, too.

Successes and Failures so Far:

It’s important to remember that Spotify started in advertising, not in music. Soundtrap’s taglines are a bit unusual for a serious producer or musician. The names of the tiers and how it’s targeting the education sector, too, mean Soundtrap feels like a very simplified DAW. However, these points make Soundtrap relatively unappealing to a large proportion of the music industry. For starters, musicians tend to work in certain ways and as a large company, Spotify isn’t familiar with this.

Essentially Soundtrap is the recording process democratised. The mystery which previously went on only in famous recording studios is now openly available to anyone. However, mainstream DAWs such as logic still sometimes prove to be too complex for the complete novice to work with. This is especially true if your goal is not necessarily to become a producer, but you need a DAW as part of a side project such as for a film score. This is where Soundtrap comes in. It is really good at combining lots of pre-existing ideas. As a result, is perfect for this sector of the market. It also removes a lot of the steep learning curve which comes with DAWS.

Main Competitors:

Obviously, Soundtrap’s competitors include other popular DAWs. However, Soundtrap differentiates itself from these by generalising as opposed to specialising. DAWs such as FLStudio and Ableton market themselves towards particular types of musicians. Even Logic, with its heritage instruments and aesthetics, is the go-to DAW for a specific industry subculture. In this case – the pro songwriting, Nashville, California, and pop/rock audience. Yet who is Soundtrap best for? Spotify’s size is also one of its greatest flaws. The company is so large that it becomes a jack of all trades. This same principle is at play with Soundtrap. As a result, it works for those who look at things from a general perspective. This tends to include educational institutions and beginner sound designers.

One major competitor for the social collaboration aspect is Audiomovers ListenTo, which we reviewed last month. Nevertheless, ListenTo is actually far more in line with the writing process at an industry level. It also offers a slicker and more streamlined service, prioritising high quality. This includes control over specific aspects of the transmission process such as latency. 

Soundtrap Pros and Cons: The Good Points

Soundtrap has many of the same pros and cons as Spotify itself. Spotify is primarily an expert in music consumers. These are people who have music on in the background but who don’t really deep dive. As a result, this audience excludes the vast majority of sound designers and producers and even a significant percentage of guitarists and other instrumentalists. Soundtrap is therefore a unique product of this – a DAW geared towards not geeks but casual creators. This makes it less than exciting for serious music lovers – but a real lifesaver for the increased number of those now interested in music creation.

It’s also collaborative, which means that it is perfect for teaching. This is in line with how Soundtrap is a social endeavour. It follows the same pattern as how Spotify allows users to share playlists and listen together. It’s clear Spotify targets Soundtrap for a certain kind of creator. 

Soundtrap’s Flip-Side: The Bad Points

However, this has its downside. Many of the things found only on Soundtrap are best for novices. Its preset beats make it really easy to create music quickly which is perfect for a school or university project, but on an industry level doesn’t quite hold up. As a result, some of the platform’s marketing, which seems aimed towards serious musicians, falls short. There is the air of a large company trying and failing to keep up with the times. This is not to say Soundtrap is bad, per se. It’s just that its target audience isn’t what you might expect and it’s prone to false advertising.

Soundtrap Pros and Cons: Overall Assessment

Soundtrap tries to do a lot in one go. Its values and the kind of musical interaction it promotes are similar to Spotify as a whole. It prioritises sharing and socialising similar to a social media platform as opposed to the serious studio work promised by potential competitor ListenTo by Audiomovers. Again, this doesn’t mean Soundtrap is bad. It just means it’s niche seems more within education or casual music creation.

Therefore, Soundtrap is fun if you’re a diehard Spotify user and you need a usable DAW with a small learning curve. It’s fantastic if you need shortcuts and you don’t want to teach yourself full music production. The designers gave it some really good software development, so you can push it to quite high levels for independent artists. However, it’s just not the kind of challenging, stimulating software which really pro gear fanatics would use – but Spotify didn’t intend it this way.

Final Thoughts:

Soundtrap pros and cons are very dependent on whether you like Spotify’s overall way of doing things. Some people love it. Some hate it. It focuses on big business and is another wing of the Spotify behemoth. Therefore, it’s a bit one size fits all. Producers can use it for their own purposes as a result of this sort of blank slate. Yet, it’s also lacking some of the things which really draw music lovers to gear. Yet if you need something easy to understand and want to start producing quickly, it’s worth a shot.

If you liked this article, check out more on software here, as well as our review of ListenTo by Audiomovers here.

Moogerfooger VST Effects Bundle – huge 40% discount

Holy guacamole the Moogerfooger line of pedals has made it into the VST world! These pedals are all the rage right now, as it was back when they were actually launched. There is something truly special about Moog gear, that goes beyond the build quality..

The digital bundle is a very faithful recreation of the pedals, with all the benefits of digital: low price, zero breakdowns, presets and recalls, easy setup, etc.

The Moogerfooger VST bundle includes:

MF-101 Lowpass Filter

MF-102 Ring Modulator

MF-103 12-Stage Phaser

MF-104 Analog Delay

MF-105 MuRF

MF-107 Freqbox

MF-108 Cluster Flux

System Requirements

  • MacOS 10.13 or newer
  • Windows 10 or newer
  • VST3/AU/AAX formats supported

They are quirky, they are fun to play and they give you instant gratification. But now, you get even more: a HUGE 40% discount on the Moogerfooger VST bundle on Pluginboutique.com. The offer ends on the 31st of December and can be accessed by clicking here (and we also get a small kickback if you buy using this link, so thank you!).

We encourage you to keep an eye out for our DEALS category, you can reach it by clicking here.

Amp by Ableton Live: An Honest Look at What it Has to Offer

Amp by Ableton Live is a divisive topic. Some fans have in fact been extremely disappointed with it. However, what exactly are its good and bad points? Read on for a balanced breakdown of what this plugin does.

What is Good About Amp by Ableton Live?

Ableton’s Amp has gained a bit of notoriety on the internet. However, most critics have tended to be seasoned guitarists. For others, Amp provides good variety, and it’s intuitive and easy to use. The cabinet feature, while possibly unnecessary, is actually quite a nice way to fine-tune your sound. As a result, Amp is a great plugin for those who wish to make the transition from synthesis to guitar. In light of the overwhelming amount of choice out there, something familiar for an Ableton user is very welcome. For example, a time-pressed musician who wants to use guitar in otherwise electronic tracks might make good use of it. And Amp contains 8 models apart from its cabinet feature – Clean, Boost, Blues, Rock, Lead, Heavy, and Bass. Together, they provide a varied foundation of sounds to play with.

Taken as it is, Ableton’s amp plugin is an easy way to get guitar into otherwise synthesis heavy songs. It could work for modern electropop work, and it’s also useful for those who don’t want to go to the trouble of figuring out new software. Don’t expect it to have thought of all the features you might need as a proper guitarist. However, if you’re unwilling to switch from Live, Amp could cover you. This might be until you’ve figured out your preferences in terms of other gear on the market. Ableton’s Amp can in this way work like a training ground – but at 69 GBP, many musicians are wondering if it’s worth it.

What is Bad About Amp by Ableton Live?

There is a strong case that Amp is a bit more trouble than it’s worth. Some of the complaints aimed at Ableton’s built-in Amp are to do with its functionality. It’s not a complete plugin like the ones Logic provides. Instead, it is made up of both the Amp and the Cabinet plugin which follows it – which, while potentially appealing, also complicates it. Together, these two plugins aim to faithfully recreate the sound of an analogue tube amplifier – but this is where Amp really falls short.

So, if Amp doesn’t live up to its claims, then maybe its marketing is misleading. Some fans have criticised it for not accurately representing the models it is based off. Its clear tones are undeniably bright and cheerful. It also creates some cool sounds when Live Effects are added. However, its emphasis on rich, analogue tones seems more like false advertising than reality. Most of the models are decisively thin and tinny. As a result, Amp isn’t even that useful as a cheap and cheerful tool to start off with. In fact, one disgruntled YouTuber billed it as ‘The Worst Amp Ever’.

An Honest Look at the Pros and Cons of Amp by Ableton Live

Was Amp a leap too great for Ableton? Ableton has previously focussed on synthesis and the tools needed for electronic music and beatmaking. It’s come from a totally different mindset and when you examine it, it shows. Resultantly, Amp is a sort of a bold attempt at paying homage to something beyond Ableton’s speciality. Perhaps it was trying to please everyone – catering to electronic musicians and beatmakers, but also hoping to snag new fans. It’s an indicator that they didn’t really do enough investigation into their target market.

The overall conclusion is that Amp isn’t really worth it. It’s not very well designed, and somewhat clunkily built without the preferences of guitarists in mind. To some extent this is inevitable. Ableton never originally intended Live as a form of software for guitarists – instead they aimed it more at looping and synthesis. Yet the claims Amp makes about its sound and tonality are only believable if you’re coming from a background in synthesis and electronic music alone, without any experience with guitar.

Is There Anything Unique About Amp?

So, Amp is billed on Ableton’s website as “a physically modelled audio effect that emulates the models of seven classic amps”. One unique feature could be the amp/cabinet split, but as mentioned above, this has both its pros and cons. Amp’s minimalist interface is another point which stands out, but in comparison with its sound quality, it’s not really unique enough to make it a redeeming feature. The way Amp is advertised makes it sound like a multi-effects rack. Nevertheless, many users would prefer one model which works very well as opposed to seven imperfect ones.

In fact, these amps seem to have served as launchpads for SoftTube to take inspiration from. Ableton claim they have focussed on ‘the essentials’ – tone, vibe, and character’. This is clearly a plugin which has been designed as a homage to the golden age of analogue gear. The fact that the separate cabinet effect is available shows the creators at SoftTube had this in mind. In a way, it’s like they tried to bring to life the recording process of an analogue studio. However, there is an air of style over substance, and Amp doesn’t quite have the sparkle needed for those who are familiar with the reality of analogue sound.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, Ableton Live’s Amp feature isn’t popular. It goes for design, but even in terms of this, there are some obvious errors. To the keen ear, Ableton Live’s amp feature isn’t really worth the time. In addition, there are many other plugins which do the exact same thing. However, if you are a die-heard Ableton Live fan, and don’t have the time to find options – it is usable. Nevertheless, it works best in genres which don’t focus on guitar. In this way, musicians can make it work despite its flaws.

Amp is available from Ableton’s website at 69 GBP or 84 USD at the time of writing.

Liked this article? Find other articles on music software. plugins, and amp simulators in our software category.

The Best Software for Jazz Guitar: What Options are on the Market?

Finding the best software for jazz guitar is often difficult. Due to the genre’s distinctive characteristics, mainstream software doesn’t always suit the tone jazz guitarists are going for. However, these five picks, which range from amps to bass VSTs, are all carefully chosen. By picking out the best software for jazz, your sound design process can flow much more smoothly. Read on to find out more. 

Top Accompanying Drum Plugin for Jazz Guitar – Toontrack Jazz EZX

Why do you need a drum plugin when you’re a jazz guitarist? Every genre has a unique set of sounds which makes it special. Jazz is no exception. Indeed, the best software for jazz guitar goes with the style of your playing. Therefore, why settle for built-in drums which might not necessarily be geared for your playing? 

This is where Jazz EZX comes in. At only 80 EUR, it’s actually extremely worth it for what it is. Like all gear by Toontrack – and especially as part of the EZ series – it has a very real-life interface. Jazz EZX actually shows a full kit. You can then click on each drum for parameters to really design your tone. These drums were recorded in the real-life Blackbird studios, Nashville. In addition, Jazz EZX includes brushes, a feature not found on many drum plugins which aren’t geared especially for jazz. As a result, Jazz EZX is definitely worth including in your list of gear.

Requirements: A previous installation of EZ Drummer (minimum v. 1.4) If serious about jazz, Jazz EZX is a worthwhile upgrade. Otherwise, Mac 10.2.8 or higher for EZ Drummer, or Windows XP. Available in AU and VST formats.

Price: 80.24 USD/80 EUR, check our their official website by clicking here.

Best Software for Jazz Guitar Jamming and Improvisation – iReal Pro

What is iReal Pro? This nifty bit of software bills itself as ‘the world’s most versatile virtual band’. What this means is you can create fantastic backing tracks to jam along to. Although it includes options for other instruments such as piano, this app is really one jazz guitarists shouldn’t miss. Musicians applaud its online community for helping find lesser-known jazz songs. Its chord library, which can be used to create backing tracks, is truly extensive. It features, sevenths, inversions, and augmented chords, as well as even more complex ones ideal for playing jazz.

This app is also essential for practising techniques for jamming in real time. It is endorsed worldwide by institutions as different as America’s Tufts University and the University of Hokkaido to help with these musical skills.

Requirements: MacOS 10.13 (High Sierra) upwards although legacy versions are available for 10.12 or before. Also available for iPhone and iPad as well as Android. Not available for Windows, but can be run on Windows with a third-party Android Emulator.

Price: 14.99 USD, you can access their official website by clicking here.

Amps for Jazz Guitar 1 – Bias Amp 2 Pro

The Bias Amp 2 Pro has a few features which make it really special for jazz guitarists. The first of these is how great its clean tones are. Bias Amp 2 Pro is modelled on real tube amplifiers. As a result, there is richness and depth even with the most basic settings. Its ToneCloud feature allows artists to connect online to get custom tones and amps from real recording studios worldwide.   

What is especially good for Jazz guitarists is the dynamic tone engine feature. This is built so that the Bias Amp 2 can respond exactly to the musician’s playing. However, it is features like this which make the Bias Amp 2 worth it. In addition, 9 reverbs allow for maximum control over tone so you can sculpt your sound to your heart’s content.   

Requirements: Windows 7-10 or MacOS 10.12 – 11.6.1

Price: 199 USD, but also available in standard (cheaper) and elite (pricier) versions. You can buy it from Pluginboutique by clicking here (and you will be supporting this website by using this link as we will get a small kickback upon purchase).

Top Bass Simulator for Jazz Guitar – VSL Synchron Upright Bass

Along with a good jazz drum plugin, any jazz guitarist also needs a bass. There are a variety on the market, but none apart from the Synchron Upright bass has such attention to detail. It is marketed with Jazz Articulations from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and this bass VST really is a dream come true. It’s largely based around plucked notes and played by Austrian jazz bassist Bernd Konzett. As a result, it contains slides, tremolos, and many more delicate articulations often forgotten.

What really makes the VSL Synchron Upright bass stand out is the fact it’s fun. It contains snaps and ghost notes and you can easily change tempo. For guitarists who aren’t necessarily bassists themselves, this plugin faithfully recreates everything great jazz bass can do. It’s not just a basic product – it has options for creative playing without requiring too much programming. Instead, it’s practically ready-made. 

Requirements: Windows minimum 8.1-10 64-bit with 10-11 recommended, MacOS minimum 10.13 with 11 recommended

Price: Comes as part of the Synchron Plucked Instruments package. 214 USD/220 EUR. Official website can be accessed by clicking here.

Kuassa Amplifikation Vermillion – Another Fantastic Amp

To finish up this list is another amp- finding your tone is a huge part of choosing the best software for jazz guitar. The Kuassa Amplifikation vermillion is billed on its website specifically as the best amp for more rootsy guitarists. However, these qualities make it fantastic for jazz guitar as well. 

This plugin is a nostalgic piece which looks back to vintage amps for inspiration. On top of this, it offers tremolo spring reverb to complete the retro tone. This amp doesn’t go all out for crazy amounts of features, but it certainly recreates what it seeks to. For jazz guitarists, the problem all too often is finding software which fits the atmosphere you are creating. However, the Kuassa Amplifikation Vermillion is a rare one of these. 

Requirements: really flexible plugin which supports AU, AAX, VST/VST3 and rack extensions, and functions on over 11 DAWs. Windows Vista (64-bit) or later, macOS 10.11 (64-bit) or later.

Price: 39 USD plus VAT – a real hidden gem. You can check the price on Pluginboutique by clicking here (and if you buy following this link, you are supporting the channel)

Final Thoughts:

So there you have it – the best software for jazz guitar in multiple categories. While jazz guitarists aren’t often catered for as much, the products which do exists out there are often carefully made. Additionally, there are plenty of hidden gems amongst more mainstream plugins which just happen to work brilliantly for jazz. If you liked this article, check out our article here on 8 Effective Hacks That Will Help You Learn Jazz.

Audiomovers ListenTo: An Honest Review of this Musical Collaboration Software

ListenTo by Audiomovers was immediately intriguing, although when setting out to review I didn’t know what to expect. ListenTo is billed as a collaboration tool to allow musicians around the globe to listen in on a single session. However, its simple formula also allows it to solve so many more problems. Read on for an honest take on ListenTo and what makes it so great.

Audiomovers ListenTo: The Basics

The ListenTo plugin allows you to stream high-quality audio to collaborators around the world. You can easily download it from the Audiomovers website, and it’s simple to install. It works on a variety of DAWs, including Logic, Cubase, Ableton Live, Protools, and even Reaper.

The plugin is priced at 8.33 USD for a standard yearly subscription or 16.67 USD for the Standard Plus Yearly (recommended). Both can also be billed annually. It’s available in VST, AU, and AAX formats. Those listening receive audio by app, via the plugin, or even on a free internet link which requires no downloads. Listeners can even record this audio for future reference.

I was impressed by the fact that Audiomovers have clearly left no stone unturned. It’s as if someone examined every step of a typical co-working process and seriously considered how to streamline it. This is also without any compromises on quality – ListenTo offers streaming quality up to 32-bit or 96 kHz.

Best Things About Audiomovers ListenTo

So to break it down, ListenTo stands out because it fills two niches, both of which aren’t really served by any other software. Firstly, its quality and efficiency are second to none. I found it extremely impressive in this regard, especially in terms of options to fine-tune audio quality (more on this later). Secondly, ListenTo works with how projects develop in reality.

Simplifies the process of collaboration

The way ListenTo keeps things simple works in line with the production process. It’s easiest to stream by putting the plugin on the mix or master bus of your track. In this way, it shares huge amounts of musical data quickly and easily. However, it can be applied to any channel strip – for example, if you wanted to work only on drums.

Built for real workflow

So, Audiomovers achieves this connection via a centralised format where one producer with a link can share large numbers of tracks with relatively large numbers of people across the globe. This smooths things over for both producers and their coworkers. Resultantly, this frees up real creative flow, uninterrupted.

Privacy, Accessibility, and Pricing

ListenTo’s built with the industry in mind – it even has the option for password/pin-protected sessions. Audiomovers site says it is used on over 85% of sessions at London’s famous Abbey Road Studios. When using it, I actually became more aware of every aspect of the track.

Its low subscription cost also stands out. By making this kind of industry-standard technology affordable to average musicians, ListenTo facilitates grassroots projects. This allows greater channels for collaboration for bedroom producers and independent artists.

Options at the time of writing this review

Additional Things That Stand Out About Audiomovers ListenTo

Really built for musicians

Similar to how LIstenTo simplifies things, what it does include is indispensable. Aside from increasing efficiency, every single feature is chosen carefully to slot in with the average producer’s workflow. This was extremely refreshing. Many bits of software come with unnecessary details, while simultaneously leaving out the small additions which make the process easier. ListenTo, on the other hand, avoids all this.

Does one thing very well

ListenTo is great at what it’s intended for and doesn’t try to be anything more. Users can freely set audio quality and can adjust latency to as low as 0.1s. ListenTo also keeps count of connected clients. By prioritising features like these, Audiomovers have created a really efficient little plugin. This lets musicians focus on getting high-quality, crystal-clear audio to large numbers of collaborators worldwide.

Is There Anything Bad About Audiomovers ListenTo?

In all honesty, there really isn’t much I would change about ListenTo. For moments when you’re in the groove, the fact that it’s audio-only has unexpected side effects. With its capacity for streamlining, ListenTo makes the production process easy on the eye and eliminates any potential distractions. I also found it made me focus more purely on the music.

If you’re looking for social networking, this isn’t it, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Its great strength lies in simplifying complexity in general. It’s equally useful for a one-on-one project with a large number of tracks on the go. The sheer audio quality and the fact this is such an efficient plugin mean that even if you don’t think you need it, you might want it.

The Only Product of it’s Kind? What Makes ListenTo Stand Out

So, is ListenTo worthy of the hype? I would have to say the answer is a resounding yes. ListenTo really does fill a real gap in the market. There is plenty of co-working software out there and plenty of options for high-quality audio streaming. However, there really isn’t anything which combines them so seamlessly – nor which can handle large numbers of tracks in one go with such clarity.

Additionally, users can send and receive audio both ways means those on the receiving end can record additions in real time. I haven’t come across anything else which does all this combined whilst simultaneously being so intuitive and unobtrusive. You might want to check their website for more information by clicking here.

Final Thoughts

ListenTo enables real creative flow without distraction. Audiomovers have designed a central hub around which musicians can work and an easy way for them to access it. As a result, this is a plugin which works like musicians do. It manages to solve many problems with very little effort. I feel I haven’t even begun to discover all its possibilities – without a doubt, it will remain with me in future.

ListenTo is compatible with MacOs 10.15 – 11 and Windows 10 (64-bit only) and 11.

Love gear reviews? We have a whole category of them, which you can check out here.