Top 10 Music Software Plugins For Songwriters
A modern computer system is an invaluable tool for songwriting. Here are some recommended software plugins to enhance your experience and not blow the budget.
The Internet can be an excellent source for advice on software plugins. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the information, especially where there are differing opinions.
As a product reviewer for Music Nation, I have the opportunity to work with many popular software plugins. All have benefits for specific applications, but this is often not apparent to novice songwriters.
The following are my recommendations for software plugins for a songwriter with a modest budget. All are products you can benefit from straight away and heading forwards as your skills grow.
Native Instruments have a total solution bundle called Komplete (currently at version 11). A comprehensive package, but at $1600 often beyond the budgets of average songwriters. The overwhelming number of included products might cause you to spend more time learning the software than actually making music.
I believe fewer choices leads to higher productivity. So with that in mind, I present my recommended selection of the top 10 music software plugins for songwriters.
Your digital audio workstation (DAW) is your central productivity hub. There are many to choose from which often comes down to personal taste. Modern DAW’s are all fully featured and operate in a similar way to each other. Some factors I have taken into account include:
- Comfortable workflow and environment
- Ease of use
Propellerhead Reason 10 ($572)
A complete production suite. Perfect for songwriters and easy to learn. It favours electronica music due to the number of synths and drum machines included. Reason features a real-world recording studio environment interface.
Ableton Live 10 ($142 – $1075). A popular DAW thanks to its live performance capabilities. It has a simple block building design with minimalistic styling. It is better suited to EDM and loop-based songwriting rather than free-flowing organic music creation.
PreSonus Studio One ($147 – $649). With a traditional layout with good songwriting tools, Studio One features a handy CD mastering suite and an integrated online community interface.
Cockos Reaper is another strong contender and the DAW I use most. However, I’m reluctant to recommend it due to its high learning curve. Reaper is powerful and very well priced at $85, is a definite advantage.
I can highly recommend Reaper in conjunction with Storyteller OTR for orchestral composers and media producers. This orchestral template combination software is the best available and well worth the time you need to invest in learning it.
All DAWs include a selection of plugins. Two extra plugins I would recommend;
1 – IK Multimedia’s Amplitube (From $141). Amplitube is a fully featured guitar amp and cabinet simulator. Flexible enough for all song style genres. Amplitube is part of IK Multimedia’s Custom Shop system which allows easy previewing and purchasing of new expansions.
2 – UVI Spark Verb ($213). Spark Verb is my go-to reverb. The easy to use visual interface is perfect for drawing the effect as compared with dials and faders that can be quite complicated.
3 – Toontrack EZDrummer 2 (From $232). EzDrummer comes with a good selection of kits and MIDI groove for creating songs. A large selection of genre-specific expansion packs is available.
4 – Toontrack EzKeys (From $232) is a perfect companion to EZDrummer. EzKeys is an arranging tool for creating chords and rhythms to expand your song ideas. EZKeys features style overlays, a clever way to transform your arrangement with grooves.
5 – Native Instruments Strummed Acoustic 1 or 2 ($141 each). These are perfect for songwriting featuring acoustic guitar. You might like to also look at the new Electric Sunburst if you are writing rock songs.
6 – IK Multimedia Modo Bass ($330) is an electric bass instrument with a large array of instruments and effects. It is excellent for creating realistic bass lines.
7 – UVI Falcon ($500 with $150 voucher). Falcon is a deep and complex sample player. I adore the ability to layer expansion libraries with the beautiful effects and synthesiser controls.
UVI also has an extensive range of expansion products available for Falcon. You might like to investigate Vintage Vault 2 for synth-based songwriting.
Falcon distinct advantage over the competition is that expansion libraries share similar workflow. You do not need to relearn the interface each time you add a new product. In my view, this is a significant benefit for songwriters.
8 – Spitfire Albion One 10th Anniversary Edition ($645). Spitfire Audio are among the best in the industry for orchestral libraries. Composers should consider both this and Spitfire Chamber Strings ($995).
Chamber Strings is a smaller and modern sounding ensemble that is better for pop arrangments. Albion One is a cinematic toolkit for creating those vast “Hollywood” soundtrack scores.
9 – SampleLogic Cinematic Keys ($500). I love Cinematic Keys for esoteric type pads and atmospheres. There are limitless possibilities with this instrument. Being a core piano instrument, this lends itself well towards songwriting.
10 – Rob Papen Blue 2 ($213) is one of my favourite software synthesisers. Though Blue 2 has a steep learning curve, the large presets collection provided means finding a great sound is no problem.
Since virtual instruments require a MIDI keyboard to play, I have not recommended a piano library. Owning a quality electronic keyboard with a good piano tone and feel is essential and something that cannot be emulated easily with software. I encourage you to research a few quality keyboards to see which fit your style and budget.