If you’re making House music, whether its Deep, Acid, Bass or Future, you need the right tools for the job. In a world with millions of plugins to choose from, picking the perfect ones for you can be tricky. So we’ve compiled a collection of the best plugins for House producers – including 5 free plugins and 5 paid.
There are few plugins out there that have come to define modern electronic music as much as Xfer Records’ OTT. Essentially, it's a multiband compressor, but in reality, there's more to it than just that. As an up/down compressor, it actually applies compression to sounds below a certain threshold and adds expansion to raise the volume of sounds below a certain threshold. It’s become something a go-to tool for producers working in all sorts of modern electronic genres, from bedrooms to big studios.
House just wouldn’t be House without the Roland TR-909. As much as its older brother the TR-808 birthed a whole new palette of sounds for Hip-hop producers, the 909 had an immense impact on electronic dance music. A large part of its instantly recognisable sound is its big, punchy kick.
With this simple to use plugin, you get just control over this most important of elements, with the ability to shape the sound perfectly to fit your track. This can often be better than simply using a sample as it gives you far more scope to change how it sounds to make it just right. You can even turn on keyboard tuning so that each kick is tuned to the MIDI note you play on your keyboard to create an interesting sort of bass.
This free soft synth is closely modelled on the Clavia Nord Lead 2 Red Synth, at least functionally, with its visuals going for much more of a subdued beige vibe than its inspiration. Sound-wise however, it’s far from plain, with all of the controls you need to craft just about any classic analogue-style sound. If all the knobs and sliders are a bit much for you, there are 128 factory presets to help you navigate all the options and, even more powerfully, there's a whole community creating thousands of free-to-download presets perfect for whatever specific sub-genre of a sub-genre you happen to produce.
Getting a good delay can be crucial to giving your House tracks space and movement, especially if you lean more to the deep or ambient side of things. This isn’t just your average delay, however. Each delay repeat can be pitch-shifted up or down to give a completely different flavour to your delays.
You can use this to create weird sound effects or simply to give chords a subtly weird feel to their repeats. Considering the quality of Valhalla’s products and the versatility of this little delay, it’s an absolute must-download.
Another House staple from Roland, the TB-303 spectacularly failed at its original mission to emulate the sound of a bass guitar. What it did do, however, was create all manner of weird squelchy, sequenced basslines that helped define the sound of several Dance genres like Acid House. It became a key part of House and Techno music long after its short production run in the early 80s.
This plugin gives you a like-for-like copy of the original Roland model, with all of the controls and sounds faithfully reproduced as well as the famous sequencer. If you’ve ever been curious about adding some acidic goodness to your tracks but aren’t sure about shelling out for one of the premium 303 plugins from Roland or Audiorealism, this is well worth checking out.
If you’re after that classic sequenced filter sound found all over French Touch, look no further than this powerful multi-FX plugin. With the ability to control 14 separate effects with an easy-to-use sequencer, this can go far beyond the old-school 90’s sounds you’d imagine, giving all manner of movement to whatever track you want.
Giving your tracks a little bit of dirt and distortion can go a long way towards making them sound more alive and pop out of the mix. Get the old-school grit present in classic samplers and early digital hardware with this bit crusher plugin from D16. The colouration and grit from sample rates and encoding add a lot of character to all manner of tracks and this can be used to give your tunes a little taste of old hardware.
ABSOLUTE. uses this to add some extra texture and warmth his rave-tinged House and Techno tracks.
When it comes to mixing, giving every track its own space can be a tricky trial-and-error process. With Trackspacer, you can use a sidechain to analyse the incoming signal and carve out the reverse EQ from your track. It’s incredibly easy to use with one main knob for the amount and EQ controls to select which frequencies you’re targeting.
It can be very useful to create separation between the drums and bass as well as giving lead vocals and synths plenty of space to shine. To give his Latin-fused House tracks that final sheen, Melé uses Trackspacer to give his bass plenty of room to make sure it has maximum impact.
We’ve already covered how iconic the Roland TR-909 is when it comes to House music, so if you’re getting a plugin version, why not get it from the people who made the original unit? This plugin emulates the classic drum machine right down to the circuit level, aping all of the little quirks and crunchiness that came from hardware of the era.
Having a proper instrument that allows you to shape and control each element of the kit allows you to better fit them into your track and get the exact sound in your head. This is what minimal House producer Archie Hamilton uses it for as he finds the exact sound he wants before using it as a sample.
Yet another iconic piece of Dance music gear produced by Roland, the SH-101 became most famous for its big bass sounds which were heard on countless records. It’s simple to use, but capable of delivering earth-shatteringly deep tones with the help of a built-in sub-oscillator. This plugin is no different. Like the other Roland Cloud plugins, this emulates the exact circuitry of the original model from the same people who designed it, with every aspect of the filters’ and oscillators’ behaviour meticulously modelled.
Taking plenty of influences from the classic House records that this synth was heard all over, Archie Hamilton uses this to cook up a killer bassline.
Watch the [Archie Hamilton video course] (https://playvirtuoso.com/vod/hooks-grooves/8) if you’d like to learn more about how he builds his signature House tracks.