~somasis/notes

music making tools

an overview of the software and hardware I use for making music

I make music. I think that even makes me a musician™. So, I thought I'd make a post about the tools I use to make music. Occasionally I'm asked, and usually it means I have to go retracing the steps I took to get a hold of the things I use, so it might be worth it to write down these things for the future.

Just for the record: there's obviously no sponsorship here, this is my genuine thoughts on the things I use. I'm not trying to shill for any company, and if I were, there'd be a disclaimer. That said… I'd always be down for free hardware and software in exchange for an honest review. But this isn't that.

First off, as of writing this I produce music on Arch Linux. People find tend to find this surprising when I tell them I don't produce on Windows or macOS, so I figure it's the first thing I should get out the way.

I don't actually use Linux-specific tools, though it'd be nice if audio producing on Linux could catch up to the standards of software that's on Windows and macOS. I almost exclusively use tools made for Windows, running under WINE. It works surprisingly well, though sometimes tools can be a bit more unstable than they might be on Windows. Sometimes, things even run faster than on Windows.

digital audio workstations

I exclusively use FL Studio. I've been producing with it since 2013. I only really have felt proficient in it since 2018, though. Always learning something new (this is a sign it does too much).

There's probably more efficient software I could be using, or some DAW that matches up more with the kind of music I make, but over the years I've grown to enjoy using FL quite a lot, and despite how bloated it is, it gets the job done and doesn't try to be too overbearing, or end up confusing me.

Prior to FL Studio (so, 2012-2013), I played around Renoise some, as I had heard some of my favorite breakcore artists at the time (namely Venetian Snares) were heavy users of it and trackers like it. However, I found the interface too confusing and haven't ever bothered to go back and reevaluate it. Apparently it is quite good for music that can use a lot of manual sequencing though, like breakcore.

hardware

I don't use hardware unless it's really necessary (no money). Most of the hardware I do have was gifted to me.

Lastly, and don't get grossed out by this, but almost all of my songs as of the past two years have used my phone's sound recorder app for vocals in some way. Sometimes I have ideas when I'm in the shower and I have to get them out or I'll die.

software

I use lots of software. For plugins, I tend to prefer ones that do one thing well, which is usually how I like my software in general. One thing well, and not particularly heavy in resource usage, which means that I can chain them pretty heavily and without much trouble. I enjoy chaining plugins to get the sounds I want, rather than just plugins that have a magic knob on them that makes the sound, as it allows for more fine-grained and particular control of what's actually done to the audio.

I have a tendency to call my music shoegaze at times; this workflow is part of why I call it that. It somewhat resembles the way that shoegaze artists use lots and lots of guitar pedals.

Generally, I use lots of freeware plugins for getting the job done. There are a few tools which are not free, but mainly because they're so good that the free stuff doesn't really compare, yet.

Assume everything is free unless I say otherwise.

general purpose

audio editing

I use audio editing tools quite a lot, and there's only really two things I use to do it.

mixing, mastering

The line between distortion and mixing can be pretty fuzzy at times, so these go for both.

vocal manipulation

distortion, pitch and time manipulation, glitching, degradation

synthesizers

sampling

My music is very sample-heavy. Manipulating samples is much more fun than synthesizing, to me. Something that surprises some people is that I generally do not use sample packs. For the most part, everything I sample is something that I got myself in some form.


That's basically everything I can think to mention right now. Hopefully, this provides some insight into how I work on things without giving the secret sauce away… :)


edit 2020-12-07: Added the headphones I use and a note signifying that this isn't a sponsorship of any sort, just in case it comes off like that.