Kenny Beats’ 10 favorite plugins (stock and paid)

At the end of the day, music creation isn’t about the tools—it’s about what you do with them.

A great song can be created with nothing but free plugins, and the most expensive outboard gear won’t magically fix your mix for you. That said, everyone naturally develops a go-to collection of tools that best facilitate their own creative flow or help achieve the sounds that are in their head. Below, we share some of veteran producer Kenny Beats’ own favorites that might also inspire you, specifically focusing on Ableton stock plugins and third-party tools he likes to apply to guitars and basses.

Dive deeper into how Kenny Beats applies some of these tools with his lessons on engineering and production.

Ableton stock plugins

1. Drum Buss: One of the most popular devices in Ableton, Drum Buss is an analog-style drum processor that lets you to add body and character to your grooves. Featuring compression, distortion, transient shaping, and more, Drum Buss is great for addressing both simple and complex processing needs.

2. Glue Compressor: A device that was introduced in Live 9, the Glue Compressor is another tool that brings an analog color to your digital productions. Whether you’re applying it on just one section or the entire mix, the Glue Compressor excels in doing exactly what its name implies—gluing your disparate sounds into one cohesive whole.

3. Saturator: Saturator is a waveshaping effect that can bring that missing grit, warmth, or bite to your sounds. It can be used with restraint to apply a gentle saturation to your signal, or cranked up to generate many different flavors of distortion.

4. Utility: One of the most underused and overlooked devices in Ableton, Utility can perform a wide range of tasks including phase inversion, gain reduction, width control, and more, which are all particularly useful when it comes to mixing.

5. EQ Eight: Last but not least, EQ Eight is a device in Ableton that would be hard to ignore. Whether it’s being used for performing basic equalization or navigating more surgical tasks, EQ Eight is a device that beginners and pros alike instinctively reach for and adamantly swear by.

Plugins for guitars and basses

1. Waves’ CLA Bass: Made in partnership with celebrated mixing engineer Chris Lord-Alge, Waves’ bass and guitar amp simulators under the CLA series are popular for their simple design and modest price point. However, Kenny shows us that cheap doesn’t equate to bad with this pick—the streamlined UI is great for quickly arriving to solid tones and staying in the creative flow.

2. Neural DSP’s Archetype series: While CLA plugins are known for their time-tested legacy, Neural DSP’s Archetype series lies at the forefront and cutting edge of amp simulation technology. Working alongside everyone from Cory Wong to Polyphia’s Tim Henson, the Archetype series brings artist-modeled sounds that are bold, unique, and “algorithmically perfect.”

3. oeksound’s soothe2: Have you ever encountered problematic resonances, harsh timbres, or uneven tonal balances in your recordings? This plugin from oeksounds intelligently identifies all of these issues and applies the necessary reduction automatically, so that you can achieve a smoother sound without painstakingly notching out frequencies by hand.

4. FabFilter’s Pro-R: FabFilter is an absolute household name in the world of professional mixing and mastering, and with good reason: their UIs are incredibly clean, and their sounds are even cleaner. While you can’t go wrong with any of their plugins (and they certainly don’t need to solely be used on guitars and basses), Kenny calls out Pro-R as one of the best reverbs on the market.

5. iZotope’s RX 8: RX 8 is known as an industry standard for audio restoration, and the reality is that it can do that and so much more. Alongside new modules like Music Rebalance is Guitar De-Noise, which can be used to attenuate amp noise, fret squeaks, and pick attacks without removing the all-important element of human performance.

Have you used any of Kenny Beats’ favorite plugins? Do you have any go-to stock plugins or tools for guitars and basses of your own that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn more about engineering, tracking, session organization, and more with Kenny Beats. New Lessons dropping weekly.

October 27, 2021

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.