The singer/songwriter category encompasses a huge range of approaches, from guitar-toting troubadours, to vocal powerhouses, ivory-tinkling composers and even those who stockpile top-line melodies for a rainy day.
But, if you’re seriously thinking about song construction as your lifelong vocation, then this ready-to-go toolkit will ably assist you in that quest. While our more genre-specific categories lean mainly towards improving the overall sonic picture of your tracks, here we’re keeping our eyes and ears on bolstering your arrangements – either by augmenting, creatively suggesting next steps or ramping up the sophistication of your works.
1. Tracktion Waveform Free
Waveform has been a respectable workstation for years, and this recent free version gifts you a staggering amount of abilities we’re still totally overawed at for a free product. With unlimited track counts, plugin support across the board and a singer/songwriter template, Waveform Free is a cool nerve centre.
2. iZotope Vocal Doubler
If you’re one of those people who is completely bursting with song ideas, but don’t have the vocal skill to lay down the demo you had in mind, then iZotope’s free vocal doubling package can quickly and tidily add some extra oomph. The slick UI is loaded with sculpting ability, and will save you that crucial time when you need to get ideas down quickly.
3. Spitfire Audio LABS Soft Piano
Spitfire’s gorgeous free LABS pack bottles the currently in-vogue soft, emotion-stirring sound that permeates modern singer/songwriter-type material. LABS Soft Piano adds a graceful touch of felted sophistication to your arrangement. It’s particularly useful if you’re new to writing piano, and want to inject a bit of class into your track.
4. TAL Audio TAL Reverb 4
One of the oldest tricks in the book with vocals and acoustic instruments is to add a touch of characterful reverb. While you may be recording your tracks in your bedroom, the free TAL Reverb 4 can make it sound like you’re performing in the very Royal Albert Hall itself. TAL Reverb’s vintage sound has been highly recommended for years.
Here’s a mightily useful little free app, that also features chord diagrams for guitar and piano and audio previews of your potential piece. After inputting a key or a basic chord progression, Autochords will throw up a musicologically solid main progression idea, which you can either follow or use as a template to experiment with. A fine spade for climbing out of a creative rut.
6. Output Arcade
While we’re cheating a little here, as the full suite is only accessible for a £9-per-month subscription, a trial month of access is absolutely free. As a self-described ‘inspiration machine’, we’d be letting you down by not mentioning that this vast range of sound-refining tools can be unlocked for free. First stop for composers should be the melody-generating Hooked.
Pro tip: lightbulb moments
Inspiration can strike anytime – while you’re doing your big shop, packed on a busy train or at a dentist check-up. It’s all too easy to let these flashes of potential awesomeness go if you’ve got no system of noting them down in place.
While most smartphones have some kind of onboard voice note program, free mobile DAWs such as BandLab (iOS and Android), GarageBand (iOS) or Music Maker Jam (Android) allow you to capture your melodies with clarity and also add a basic tempo and chordal foundation.
One of the key mindsets of any professional song or melody-writer is to be ready and waiting to capture these sudden flashes whenever they present themselves. So arm yourself now!