Apple Logic Pro, Reaper, and other free and inexpensive tools mean there’s no reason to stare at the walls in self=isolation. Even if your budget is hurting, you can make some music. Here’s an overview.
Plus, bonus – because all these are free for the next 90s days, they’re perfect for collaborating with friends, since you can make sure you’re running the same software. And even if you don’t collaborate in real-time (yeah, I get nervous when people watch me stream messing around with knobs), this is a way for us to feel a little less like we’re on our own.
Arturia have a complete stay-home guide: The Pigments software synth is free through July 3, iSpark drum machine is free on the iPad, plus just as importantly, you can catch a whole series devoted to learning tools, improving skills, checking out livestreams and Q&A, and even sharing your work. It looks like it makes loads of sense – Arturia’s folks are also stuck at home, so we all get to interact:
Note – that deal on Pigments starts on Thursday 2 April. (Thanks, Lindon!) So will check in again on that later this week, hopefully with some tips to share!
Apple have made a full 90-day license for both Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X, so you can get to work editing video and making music. (Hey, you could probably spend 90 days just playing around with the Sculpture and Alchemy synths alone!)
REAPER is a great low-cost DAW to begin with and allows free evaluation, but they’ve even created a temporary free license you can use through the 1st of July. Download Reaper if you don’t have it already, then install the license file by copy-pasting text. So they’re even more generous than normally, and their DAW runs on 32-bit and 64-bit macOS and Windows, plus macOS Catalina – just about any machine old or new works. (There’s even an experimental Linux build, or try running in WINE.)
Updated – Ableton Live now also offers an unlimited 90-day license. That includes Max for Live as part of the Live Suite evaluation – meaning this is also a way to check out the various Max for Live offers listed here:
Focusrite / Novation goodies: This actually a normal deal, not pandemic related, but Novation and Focusrite hardware owners can get a free plug-in emulating the rare Sound Master SR-88 analog drum machine, among other goodies. If you missed signing up/registering, and you own some of this gear, head to – https://novationmusic.com/en/sound-collective or https://focusrite.com/en/plugin-collective
Updated – Novation also have these free guides that both look useful as sources of stuff to do:
There are more resources – including artist support for those in need in the US and UK – on the Novation blog.
Tracktion Waveform Free is the always-free version of this DAW, which runs on Mac, Windows, Linux (tested on Ubuntu), and even Raspberry Pi . Even the free version has unlimited track count and a simple drum sampler and 4-oscillator subtractive synth. That makes it another ideal choice for collaboration – and you can always bounce down your particular set of plug-ins or output from other software, then use Waveform Free to work on the mix.
Cherry Audio are giving away their starter kit Voltage Nucleus so you can try out modular synthesis for free – with a very capable set of modules already. Get patching and take your mind off the news:
Also, this is just free. It’s not like, free because of pandemic, it’s just part of the usual free goodies we always get because we’re blessed to be using music software, apparently! But Filterstep looks like a really cool sequenced filter effect for iOS, macOS, and Windows, with a gorgeous interface. Please go use it. I’m afraid to add another filtered effect to my own setup. I rely on you. Thanks to Synthtopia for catching this one.
Native Instruments came out with their free Analog Dreams instrument, which despite the vaporwave graphic actually covers the full range of analog synth sounds. They’re not new, but while you’re on NI’s site, check out the free Mikro Prism, superb Blocks Base modular synth. and other free stuff.
Hainbach has taken his gorgeous aesthetics with tape and analog equipment and made a free sample pack dubbed Isolation Loops. I hear people are already making music with them, so one lovely side effect of this project is people sharing music and not being isolated.
Plus some deals!
Humble Bundle may be best known for gaming and other bundles, but they have a unique Music Producer bundle now. There’s some great Applied Acoustics Software (AAS) starting at just one $USD/EUR. But the really important story here is that they’re supporting Musicians On Call, an organization that sends live and recorded music to people in hospitals. And even if you don’t support this software, I recommend checking out that organization.
Air Music Tech Ignite is US$9.99 (normally 70 bucks) with a whole bunch of instruments and simple recording facility. There are tons of options here that make this ideal for keyboardists and songwriters, or beginners looking to get some ideas going. And you can use it as a sketchpad for other software – so even if this seems basic for you, it might be a place to start songs before you get lost in more advanced environments like Pro Tools.
Got Ableton Live and ready to finally learn how to use it? Well even with Ableton Loop canceled in Berlin next month, you can get a full 4-week course for free from Berklee on Live Fundamentals. It comes from Erin Barra and Loudon Stearns as instructors, so we’re talking some excellent fundamentals.
Visualists, I’ve got more for you coming shortly.
I’m sure there’s more I’ve missed here; if you’ve got something to share, let us know. I expect we’ll have some great music at the end of all this.
I know you don’t need reminders to stay home and stay safe at this point. So let me remind you instead that your music matters, there’s never too much music, and whether it’s good enough or not is never the question to ask. We all need that reminder now and then. But it’s good to know that even if we’re having some solitary time with music, other people are out there working, too. Look forward to chatting and hearing what you’re making.
And even more (thanks, readers!)
Firstreader submission already (that was in, like, seconds — )
Sasquatchfuzz has a bunch of percussion samples from the Nord Drum 2 – pay what you will, so free if you need it, but also a chance to give a couple bucks!
FACTORmini, a unique Max for Live-based synth with one-of-a-kind “decomposition” engine, gives you new ways of pulling apart and recombining sounds. Free through April 1, saving you about 40 bucks.
also on Isotonik: https://isotonikstudios.com/product/factormini/
AchtNullAcht Ableton Drum Kit, a deep recreation of the TR-808 intended to capture some of the variable character of the real hardware, is free now. That’s a gig and a half, 16 drum racks, over 5000 samples – normally 45EUR, free for the moment (with optional donation).
Analog equalizer SW34EQ MK2 from Hornet Plug-ins is free through April 3 with code.
Sweetie Pies includes a bunch of Ableton Live racks for sweetening and shimmering and EQing and drum racking and compressing and generally making good things happen. Free:
Thanks pottering for all of these!
Plus, don’t forget all these existing freebies this week, while there’s still time: