Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Back to Essentials, Cleaning Out Your VstPlugins Folder

In the previous article on Komplete 8 I brought up the problem of having too much software and the distractions it could pose. If you're like most producers, over the course of trying new plugins, downloading freeware, etc. you've amassed a large amount of software you never use. Not only is this taking up hard drive space, but it's slowing you down when making music. You have to pick the best and ditch the rest. You know what time it is; Let's clean out that Vst folder!

A lot of software manufacturers these days are touting their product as revolutionary and absolutely essential to the modern producer, but a in a good number of cases it's identical or very similar to the offerings of other developers. Sure it may be useful, but there's no point in having basically the same plugin with a different interface. If you have another plugin that does it better or that you're more comfortable with stick to that and ditch all the imitators.

If you've got a plugin that you just can't understand or get to work, it could be a good candidate for removal as well. If you've got some cool stuff that you just haven't got around to learning yet, make a list. During one of those times where you can't think of any musical ideas, instead sit down and read some manuals or watch some tutorial videos. This has the added benefit of giving you some new ideas or things to try; Nothing lights the spark like reading about a new way of doing something or a cool new tool. Now once you understand how the software works, you can decide whether it's really essential in your workflow.

While you're at it you can organize things into categories to make it even quicker when reaching for a tool. What DAW you use will determine how/if you're able to do this but in Reaper, I've set up favorites folders in the following categories:

Instruments- contains my soft synths and multisample instruments. Try to reduce redundancy by only having the synths that are unique and specialized in what they do. Have one that's good at basses, one for ambient effects, one fm synth, a good simple synth for things like sub bass, etc. Your sampler and drum plugin go here as well.

Frequency- One solid parametric eq, a linear phase eq for mastering, a good versatile filter (preferably with midi control if that's your thing) maybe a couple vintage modelled character eqs if you like. You don't need a bunch of eqs here, they all do the same thing!

Dynamics- One vanilla compressor, preferably with versatile attack/release times and ratios, a few character compressors, a limiter, a gate/expander, a transient shaper, and any other fancy dynamics tools if you have em, like multiband compressors/expanders, etc.

Reverb- pretty self explanatory, pick a good versatile one and you're good to go. Throw in a convolution reverb for good measure.

Delay- again pretty self explanatory, pick something versatile.

Distortion/Saturation- A good workhorse distortion, a waveshaper, and any tube saturation style plugs as well.

Modulation- Chorus, flanger, phaser, etc.

Special FX- All the weird unclassifiable ones go here. This is the folder to click on when doing sound design or when you want to fuck shit up.

Meters- finally, any plugs like oscilloscopes, spectrographs, peak/vu/stereo correlation meters.

That's pretty much the essentials. You can get any job done with this crew of plugins, and grouping them by task saves time instead of trying to remember what company makes that certain plugin. By not giving yourself too many choices you don't waste time deciding on what to use. Not to mention you save your scroll finger from a vigorous workout!

Maybe in a future post, I'll reveal what plugs I have in my folders and describe how they are useful to me. Cheers!


  1. Am demoing Reaper right now. I had 5 pages of vst's with the window maximized on a HD display. Can you even imagine how many that is. I've been collecting vst's for years. And they really stack up. I'm going to have to figure out Reaper's options to manage that information. I know you can type the first few letters of the plugins name, and it will filter your results which is proving to be very helpful.

    I also know that Maschine probably has THE worst system for handling plugins. It just lists them all, but it does so kind of by a folder structure, but as you likely know, installers often goof up and create new folders for their install, like a vst plugins folder within your vst plugins folder. Maschine just lists everything by folder, but without demarcation between them, so you don't even have the benefit of an alphabetical listing, as it is alphabetical by folder. It is a total f@cking cluster f@ck.

    With that said, FL studio's plugin picker is the best means of managing plugin info I've seen to date. It runs off of a small database. You can create all the categories you want, and populate each category with the plugins you want, you can have the same plugin in multiple categories, like if your plugin is a compressor and a limiter, etc. Also, the plugins pop up with one click of the mouse and you get a visual grid of all the plugin icons. From there you can drag and drop them into the appropriate location. This is by far the quickest means of choosing plugins I've seen between Reason (roll with me,) Cubase, Logic, Live, and Reaper. By far.

  2. Boy am I glad all I have is a gutair!

  3. I always appreciate saving some room. Thanks for this rundown.

  4. Yeah I got to get on clearing my folder soon. So lazy tho

  5. very informative, thanks!

  6. I'm with Bersercules. I play the guitar and all I need is guitar pro, even that I use scarcely.

  7. Just did a clean of my folder, was liberating to get rid of some of the free stuff I've never even touched!

  8. Very informative. Followed.

  9. Just what I need-- tips on organizing my musical assets. I get so caught up in all the possibilities and different combinations of sounds and effects that everything quickly turns into the proverbial monkey f**king a football. +follow

  10. Okay, have started setting up folders in Reaper... f'ing bags under my eyes, I was up all night doing it, and only got about a third of the way done. Think maybe I'm not following your advice.

    But my mixing plugs are sorted, one limiter, a couple of eq's and a couple of compressors. A transient shaper, a stereo tool. Set. But my sound design plugins... it's like if all the people in China mud wrestled with all the people of India, total f'ing mess.

  11. thanks for the compliments about my lil ol' blog. I'll be sure to stick around and check this place out as well.