Everyone who just starts off making electronic music seem to feel they need every single 3rd party VST and sample available to make music like the pros do. This is not true at all though. Most beginners try to download every VSTs they can find on torrent sights. In most cases, the beginner doesn’t stick to learning one synth inside and out. This is when someone becomes a “plug-in” hoarder and doesn’t really know much about any of the plug-ins; it handicaps the person when they make music.
I know all about this type of strategy to making music because I used to do it all the time. At one point I had around 30-40 different 3rd party VSTs in my folder on Ableton. Most of them I had no clue how to use; each has it’s own unique function which split it a part from the built in plug ins in Ableton. Things changed though as I learned more, I began to use less and less of those VSTs and after losing my first computer I was forced to go to the bare minimum. This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be though.
Right now, I am currently using Ableton Live 9 Suite edition which comes with a ton of sample based synthesizers that I didn’t have originally. This is the sole reason I highly suggest that anyone trying to get Ableton Live should buy it. The benefits you get from the product are endless and you don’t have to worry about getting a new cracked copy if your computer crashes. I got everything from drum sounds to endless amount of orchestral sounds that make composing a breeze without even any outside samples or 3rd party VSTis. This version of Ableton also comes with all the effects and instruments possible to get with Live. The glue compressor and upgraded EQ Eight in the program are both amazingly good built-in plug-ins.
As for 3rd party plug-ins, I have a very slim selection. First I would like to point out Native Instruments offers a free VSTi called Kontakt which comes with a pack that contains a few different granular based synths for the plug-in. Another free VST that I have found to be useful is Flux’s ST Tool which is a stereo imaging tool that gives you a reading to tell whether a sound has a wide stereo spectrum or not. Another thing that Flux makes for free is a transient shaper which Ableton does not have as a built plug in. Flux Audio’s Bittersuite has an easy interface with only 4 different parameters to deal with and makes it easy for you to get drums sounding just as punchy as other transient shapers that cost around $150.
For a synth that I can build sounds from scratch, I use Native Instruments Massive. The reason I use this synth is because it’s super easy to use and I have watched so many damn YouTube tutorials that I understand the synth really well. It is a wavetable based synthesizer and can create some awesome synths for any type of electronic music.
Another type of synthesizer you can use in replace of this one is an FM based synthesizer. In my opinion this type of synthesizer is very hard to use but you can make absolutely any sound you can think of if you know how to use it.
Here is a list of different 3rd party synthesizers (Wavetable, Granular, and FM based) you can use that are just as powerful as Massive.
**This is the best synth on the market right now. You have the ability to take wavetables from massive and load them into the synth. Anything can be a possible wavetable in this, even a sample of a crumpled piece of paper.
A combination of all of these plug-ins is what I use to make music and have achieved to make good music. So if you’re just starting don’t worry about having that many plug-ins. If you have the ones I mentioned above you should be able to be fine with making music like the pros.
Also, another little tip, always read up on what your plug-ins or DAW do. When you know what everything you’re using does, then it becomes easier and faster to finish a song without getting lost on figuring things out while working on a project.