Making Music in the 21st Century- VST, plug-in, DAW Software, iDevice or DIE!

OK, so you have to understand by now that the world has moved on from the 4-Track recorder/tape machine you have sitting in your house collecting dust. But if you don’t know, then here are some terms and products you should learn, and FAST. Believe me, it will make your music making life a whole lot FASTER and EASIER. You don’t have to go to an expensive recording or production school just to learn how to use virtual instruments and audio interfaces; you just have to be patient, and find posts/articles like this to help you along. YouTube is also your friend, there are thousands of tutorials on there to help you get the know-how to make your next big hit!!!

Question number 1: What is a DAW? (How do I produce music?)

Ableton LIVE DAW

A DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation. Several companies out there make ’em, and here are a few examples: Ableton Live, Pro Tools, Reason >Record, Logic, FL Studio, Cubase, Cakewalk/SONAR and GarageBand. There are more out there, but these are the more popular ones. Basically, you need a COMPUTER to start out with, because these DAWs are software programs that will help you record your music, sequence your composition, and mix down the final song. And instead of 4-tracks to record on, you’ll have a LOT more tracks, some of these programs have unlimited tracks…and you will be able to EDIT the waveform.

Some DAWs are more expensive than others, but if you want good karma – basically any music you make with these to ever go platinum- then you should buy the software you use (plus that way- you’ll get tech support if you need it direct from the manufacturer). Cracked versions of software, or “bootleg versions” of software from torrent sites always screw up your computer in the end, and are not recommended for building a personal/home recording studio. Seriously- do you want a mix that you worked on for 10 hours suddenly crash and disappear, along with the rest of your hard drive? Believe me- the “blue screen of death” is always over your shoulder hanging around like the GRIM REAPER with a cracked version of software existing on your computer-based studio hardware.

In the 21st century, we have music making computers sitting in our pockets, they are called iPhones, iPod Touches and even bigger ones, like the iPad (which won’t fit in your pocket but you could strap that beeyotch to your ass if you needed to, lol). So, there are even DAWs for these devices. Why is this cool? Because they are a LOT cheaper- some are free, like GrooveMaker FREE, and easier to use if you are a beginner, or maybe even tone-deaf to begin with, having no music acuity whatsoever.

Question #2: What is a Plug-in, VST or Virtual Instrument, and how do I use them for making music?

SampleTank FREE virtual instrument

a. What is a Virtual Instrument? A virtual instrument is just like a real instrument, except it is software, and exists only on your computer screen and hard drive. Virtual instruments come in both standalone versions, and plug-in versions. Imagine a hardware keyboard piano in all of its glory, costing $2000, or more. Take the same thing with its 1000 gorgeous sounds, drop the 15-100 Lbs of weight, and learn to control it with your computer keyboard or piano-like keyboard MIDI Controller.

Virtual instruments (VI) are commonly referred to as “plug-ins” or “VST” instruments. But really, any instrument you replace your real sounds of guitar, drums or keyboards with on your computer is a VI.

Also- if you click on the graphic above- you are welcome to download a FREE Virtual Instrument from IK Multimedia, called SampleTank FREE, which comes with 500 megabytes of sounds already, and you may load sounds into it as well (Like vocals or drum loops) and keep expanding it forever…

Why is a virtual instrument better or cooler? Because you can have 1000’s of them if you want, without spending 100’s of 1000’s of dollars, plus- no more dragging your 100 lb keyboard to the next gig just to use 3 or 4 of your favorite sounds from it. Not only that, but a lot of virtual instruments have WAY more sounds than their hardware keyboard counterparts, or sound exactly like the real thing anway – with audio sampled from each key from the real thing, like Miroslav Philharmonik, Sonik Synth 2, SampleMoog or SampleTron (which have 1000’s of sounds from real hardware keyboards like Moogs and Trons, etc).

Question # 3: How do I get the audio from my instrument or vocals into my computer? The Answer: a hardware Audio Interface

StealthPlug audio interface for guitarists and bassists

Yes, in the end you still need some hardware to make your software computer studio of your dreams come true. Why? Because you need to record your audio and turn it into computer language – in other words- turn an analog signal into a digital signal. Wait- don’t get confus ed here with jargon- its simple: Plug guitar into interface, record audio into DAW, use virtual instrument or audio plug-in to replace hardware amplifier signal. Done. There are even audio interfaces for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, like the AmpliTube iRig. Easy ones to start out with for your MAC or PC? How do you plug your guitar into your computer? StealthPlug.

Hope this helps a little, I will write more about MIDI Controllers in another post on my blog.


Starr Ackerman’s Music Production Blog

~ by Starr Ackerman on October 20, 2010.

8 Responses to “Making Music in the 21st Century- VST, plug-in, DAW Software, iDevice or DIE!”

  1. The DAW’s for linux include Ardour2, Muse and LMMS. I’m just saying linux never crashes 😉


  2. […] Making Music in the 21st Century- VST, plug-in, DAW Software, iDevice or DIE! […]


  3. […] 4 GB of ram and 320 GB of storage (and I bought a terabyte hard drive as back-up). I still use this computer to make music with, in addition to my MacBook Pro laptop. The audio sings out of these two computers with their […]


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