Now that you’re equipped with all your freeware tools it’s time to open up Tracktion 6 and start recording your track…
Free music making
In the next tutorial, we use our freeware plug-ins to produce our track, but Tracktion 6 also comes with a great set of plug-in effects – not so much instruments – so we might as well incorporate some of these during the mixing stage, too. There are a couple of quirks within Tracktion that we found as went along that we spent time sorting out – and hopefully learned enough so you won’t have to faff around as much as us!
Recording track-by-track, by triggering different freeware instruments, was a little hit and miss at first, as we couldn’t stop triggering the same plug-in despite setting up other ones on different tracks and then arming them to record. What we found was that we had to re-specify our MIDI input – in our case a Yamaha Reface keyboard – whenever we changed track.
This isn’t a chore, as it’s in the main drop-down menu of each track which you’ll be selecting anyway, but it’s worth pointing out and trying if you’re not triggering the right sound (or any sound). Similarly, we couldn’t trigger any sounds at first, but after saving and rebooting, it worked – so always bear that in mind, too.
What Tracktion did do very well was pick up all of our freeware that we’d installed, even putting it in different drop-down folders for when we came to load it in – all very neat and tidy. The track we have ended up with is quite electronic and this is down to two reasons.
The best guitar plug-in we found is Keolab’s Spicy Guitar (see below), which only works standalone on a Mac (which we used for the tutorials). There are also many, many more synthesisers than just about any other type of freeware category.
However, we did use Steinberg’s excellent virtual VB-1 bass for a very good backbone sound and Distocore’s Crazy Bazz::Murda for kicks and snares, discovering it has a whole range of bass sounds, too, along the way. Be careful with it, though, as it is capable of some speaker-damaging stuff!
We found a great piano sound on Dexed in the end, so we used that rather than our planned use of Versilian Upright 1 (which is excellent, too). We then created enough parts in the song, pretty quickly, showing just how easily an entire track is to put together with freeware on a free DAW.
Recording your freeware: Step-by-step
1. You will have specified your main MIDI controller earlier, but you may have to also set it up ‘per track’ – easy enough, as you just select it from the pull-down menu. Ours is a Yamaha reface…
2. Now you need to put a freeware instrument onto that Tracktion track. Select and drag the + icon as shown. Some handy text tells you what you’re doing!
3. Possibly our favourite free plug-in during this tutorial turned out to be U-He’s Triple Cheese. Full of very different sounds, we stumbled upon a great, unexpected dance lead for our main hook.
4. Before we start recording, click both the Loop and Click icons near the Transport controls in the bottom right of the screen.
5. You’ll need to set your loop points if you choose to loop record and there are several ways to do this. We found the easiest was to simply drag them into position, in our case across two bars.
6. Click on the BPM value just above the transport controls and this window opens at the bottom centre of the screen, so you can set your tempo. We went for a standard 120bpm but reduced it to 90…
7. …to record our bad playing. Now you hit record and play whatever you wish. We had a pretty solid lead melody recorded across the two bars (the project is on the DVD).
8. You can choose to drag your notes into place if you played them as badly as us, or click the Quantise tab for a pop-up menu to choose from. We used the 1/8th value.
9. For the second track, simply rinse and repeat. You might have to select your MIDI controller input again – easy enough from the drop-down menu. Then choose your freeware weapon.
10. We used Tracktion’s comping features for this track and there are some great options for your recordings revealed by hitting the ‘+’ bottom right.
11. Continue to build your tracks up, using all of that great freeware you now have. We found an excellent piano-like sound on Dexed that we used for a far-too-happy riff in the context of the song.
12. And Nusofting’s Sinnah is great for adding some dance/electronic texture, so we added in some subtle bassy movement with it.