In this article, I’m going to run through some fantastic plug-ins that I recently discovered. Each plug-in listed here is a personal favorite of mine and has the ability to significantly increase your production quality, although, since I first wrote this piece, I’ve moved on to other plugins (and I’ve explained that in different points of the article).
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Before we dive into them, make sure to check out this link here for a tutorial on how to install plug-ins into Garageband. I really did my best to show you how to go about doing it in the simplest manner possible, so make sure to check that out.
Without further ado, let’s dive into each one.
1) 808 Bass Module 2 Lite from Beatmaker
Right off the bat, I have to go ahead and praise the 808 Bass Module 2 Lite’s ability to introduce glides to us Garageband users.
From what I understand, FL Studio and other DAWs come with the ability to set up glides between 808 notes in the work-space.
Thankfully, the BM2 Lite Boutique 808 plug-in from Plugins4Free has the ability to increase or decrease the glides between each note, that way you can make those dope-sounding glides you often hear in trap, hip-hop, and other styles of production.
In the image you can see below, I’ve screenshotted the BM2 Lite interface and you can see some of the available settings, including the glide, attack and release, gain, including the LFO depth and rate.
Glide – Controls the degree of which the notes slide or transition into each other.
Attack – The time it takes for the sound to reach maximum volume.
Release – How long it takes for the sound to ring out after letting off the keys.
Gain – How much output signal/volume there is.
LFO Depth – Refers to the Low-Frequency Oscillation, in this case, the depth, which means how much the low frequencies dip.
LFO Rate – The speed of the low-frequency oscillation. Think of the way an EQ sweep sounds. Now think of an EQ sweep that’s only affecting the low-frequencies. That’s what the two aforementioned LFO parameters determine.
If you’re anything like me, making boutique 808s and bass-lines are the hardest part of producing, however, this 808 plug-in is so good that it inspires you to start using it as much as possible and crafting your own bass-lines using my guide as a reference.
The BM2 Lite plug-in also comes with 10 different styles of boutique 808s, so if you’re getting sick of the Boutique 808 plug-in that comes with Garageband, you now have at your disposal a fresh batch of boutique 808 sounds that sound sick, although, these days I prefer Initial Audio’s 808 Studio II Synth from Plugin Boutique.
Another great thing I noticed about this plug-in is the fact it’s on-key!
From what I’ve noticed about other Boutique 808 plug-ins, the notes are often off-key, so even if you play the right notes on your MIDI keyboard or Musical Typing, you end up with something that doesn’t sound quite right.
This was one of the biggest hindrances for me in terms of creating bass-lines, and one of the primary reasons I wasn’t able to create better bass-lines. However, thanks to this plug-in, I no longer have to worry about that, and neither do you.
Go ahead and download this plug-in from VST4Free and start messing around with it. You’ll see why I rave about it so much.
2) Drumart SLD from Electronik Sound Lab
This is a drumkit from the same plug-in developer, Beatmaker (although these days they go by Electronik Sound Lab), and the more I use their products, the more I realize what a great company they are. Their plug-ins thus far are pretty fantastic. I’m a big fan of them.
There are approximately 74 drum kits that come with this plug-in which can be found on Plugins4free.
Each one comes with 8 different sounds, including two melodic samples.
You can check out what this looks like in the image shown below:
The titles of the drum-kits are confusing and kind of ambiguous, however, which is my only gripe with it.
Instead of having titles indicating or hinting at the sub-genre it’s used for, they’ve used a bunch of random names like “space,” and while they sound super cool, they’re not helpful in terms of actually figuring out how they sound.
Considering it comes with 75 drumkits, it’d be nice to know what each drum kit sounds like before you click on it. Additionally, it takes a few seconds for each drumkit to load, however, this isn’t that big of a deal.
Regardless of these two very small problems, this is a great plug-in to use and I highly recommend it, however, these days I like to use Steven Slate Drums 5 from Plugin Fox.
The parameters of each portion of the kit are quite simple, including the volume level, distortion, panning, and reverb.
3) YOJO Banjo from Reflekt Audio
Garageband doesn’t actually come with a banjo sound, however, thanks to Reflekt Audio and their site, Garageband users now have a plug-in for banjo and it actually sounds pretty good.
Moreover, it comes with around 19 different controls, so it’s a very detailed VST with a lot of options, including attack, decay, sustain, release, filter, reverb, and pitch.
The attack is the amount of time it takes for the sound to reach its maximum volume after playing the note. In other words, increase your attack, and you’ll get a fade-in type effect.
On the other hand, if there is no attack at all, the note will be played at maximum volume the moment you play the note.
Decay is the stage between Attack and Sustain. It’s the moment right after the sound reaches its full volume. Set your decay to zero, and the note will reach the sustain stage shortly after you’ve made the sound.
Sustain is different from the others, in the sense that it is the term describing how much of the sound is present while you continue to hold down the note.
For instance, if you’ve played a note on the guitar or on the MIDI-keyboard, and continue to hold, the time it takes to finally stop reverberating while holding the note refers to the sustain.
The release stage refers to after you’ve stopped holding the note in the sustain stage, and it’s the time it takes for the note to finally disappear.
The filter has two options, the low-pass, and high-pass filter. The low-pass lets low frequencies pass, and the high-pass filter lets high frequencies pass.
This one is self-explanatory. It’s the actual note itself, and how high or low it is.
Reverb is the intensity of the echo sound.
Another great feature of the Yojo Banjo is its adaptability to a MIDI-keyboard.
In other words, if you have a 49-key MIDI controller, the Banjo plug-in is responsive to every single key on it, and it’s not just 8-10 keys like other VSTs.
It’s worth mentioning that if you want to download this plug-in, you have to sign up with your name and email, which means that essentially, you’re trading your personal information with the producer of the product, which is then sold off to advertisers.
This is a common thing in nearly all industries lately, so it’s not completely abnormal. This is the same thing that happens when you download “free” applications from the App Store on your iPhone. Regardless, it’s worth checking out, however, I hardly ever use this anymore because I find there are much better instruments as part of Native Instruments’ Komplete 13.
4) CamelCrusher Distortion/Compression
This plug-in from Audio Plugins For Free is fairly unique in the sense that it comes with a set of convenient pre-sets that offer two different things: compression and distortion, primarily.
While it does come with a filter and mastering knob, it’s the compression and distortion which make this plug-in fun to use. While there is no end to what you can use this for, I would say it’s best for vocals, bass, boutique 808s, guitar, and certain aspects of a drum kit, for instance, the kick or the snare.
The CamelCrusher plug-in comes with 19 different presets that you can try it, including Ultraphat, or American Hi-Gain, and so on and so forth.
The distortion setting on this has two different knobs, including “Tube” and “Mech.”
Go ahead and experiment with the sounds that come from this side of the plug-in. You also have the ability to go through the pre-sets and either turn certain aspects of it off or turn them down or increase them. It’s really up to you.
For the most part, the distortion aspect of the plug-in is quite self-explanatory. In other words, you either increase the strength of it or increase it.
Obviously, the compression side of the plug-in addresses how much compression there is, and you have two different options, including the main knob that adjusts the “Amount” of compression, as well as the “phat” setting, which I imagine kicks it into overdrive.
The “master” knob comes with two different options, including the “Volume” and “Mix,” which are self-explanatory.
The volume is increasing or decreasing the strength of the signal, whereas the “mix” is adjusting how much of the signal is bleeding into the main output. In other words, the “mix” is how much of the CamelCrusher signal is actually part of the total sound of the track.
The filter, on the other hand, is a high-pass filter, simply put.
There are two options, “cut-off,” and “res.” For instance, if you crank the “cut-off, ” you’ll notice that you eliminate all of the higher frequencies.
This is useful because you can adjust the strength of the frequencies both in the plug-in itself, as well as the Channel EQ plug-in and then the final Channel EQ plug-in on the final buss, or in other words, during the final “mastering” stage.
In terms of the “res,” knob in this plug-in, I can’t say entirely what this is for, but I noticed that if you turn the “cut-off” all the way back to zero, and then crank the “res,” you end up creating more of a boomy low-end.
So it might be the gain adjustment on the high-pass filter, so you can end a bit of thunder to the sound.
5) T-Chain Multi-Dynamics Plug-in
You can grab this plug-in on their website, and this thing has a lot more options than the CamelCrusher.
It comes with a plethora of different pre-sets for each type of instrument, including bass, a kick, snare, guitars, hi-hats, and so on and so forth. It would take you all day to go through each one.
Additionally, this plug-in comes with a variety of pre-sets, including Equalizers, Gates, Compressors, and processors for vocals. As I just mentioned, I would recommend actually going through each preset respective to the software instrument track you’re using it for.
It comes with a spectrum analyzer and waveform display, which you can see in the image below:
What this means, is that you can actually see where the waveform is in dB and in terms of frequency. In other words, it provides a visual representation of what you’re actually doing to the audio with the plug-in settings.
Compare this to the stock Garageband compressor, where everything is done with your ears.
Now, obviously, you want to be measuring differences with your ears, rather than through a visual representation, however, it’s useful to have an additional way of measuring what you’re actually doing.
Also, the plug-in comes with a PDF file explaining all of its features, including how to navigate each part of the interface as effectively as possible. For that reason, I won’t be going through it all here.
It’s worth giving it a once-over, just to ensure you’re not missing anything. Even though this is a great plugin to use, FabFilter’s Mastering Suite from Plugin Boutique is going to serve you much better.
6) Audio Damage Inc’s Fuzz Plus 3
This is a fuzz plug-in from Audio Damage Inc at KVRAudio that introduces a very thick, or soft fuzz sound to your instruments.
The default setting on this plug-in won’t do much to change your sound, so you have to raise the output level option. A lot of people recommend loading up a pre-set into it, however, from what I can tell, it doesn’t actually have any pre-sets.
The “frequency” knob is a low-pass filter, often abbreviated as LPF, which means you’re canceling the higher frequencies and letting the low frequencies pass through, instead. Hence the name, Low-Pass.
The “Res” knob is to control the resonance of the cut. Resonance is a fancy word for the length and intensity of the sound, typically used in terms of music production and musical terminology, in general.
It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t crank the resonance up too much, because it’s going to adjust the sound a little bit too much and end up creating somewhat of an unnatural sound.
In other words, the lower the RES setting, the more natural it ends up sounding. You can use the Freq and Res knobs, in conjunction with each other, to create an EQ sweep to discover which frequencies sound best when adding fuzz.
The main option of the plug-in, which is dead-center in the interface, is the Distort setting, which determines how much of the signal is sent to the part of the plug-in responsible for creating distortion and clipping.
The Feedback knob will change how the clipping and distortion actually sounds. It determines how much of the signal is sent back to the part of the plug-in that creates clipping and distortion.
The output level, is fairly straight forward, however, and it determines how loud the signal is going to be.
In other words, it’s the master volume knob that controls how much of the FuzzPlus 3 signal is influencing the instrument track.
Pay close attention to the waveform analysis which shows you how each knob is affecting the sound wave. For instance, when you crank the distortion and feedback settings, you’ll notice that part of the waveform will start to look rectangular at the top, which means it’s reaching its maximum fuzz.
Now that we’ve run through each plug-in, its settings, and where to find them for download, check out the YouTube video below to hear more information, including other tidbits of information I missed in the article.
YouTube Video Tutorial
That’s all for this tutorial today. I hope you managed to squeeze some value out of this plug-in list. As I mentioned, I love all of the plug-ins on this last and really enjoy using them. I hope you do.
Do me a favor and share this on your social media with your producer friends.