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10 Mighty Darn Fine Plugins for Dance Music You Should Absolutely Include in Your Production Toolbox Right Now!

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Plugins for Dance Music Production, Specifically:

The post below lists some excellent plugins for dance music production. We're talking most club styles. House, techno, trance, hip-hop and the never-ending list of sub-genres of this ilk.

Now, if you're a complete beginner then you should probably restrain from spending too much money on 3rd-party plugins and use the stock-plugins that come with your DAW.   Add some free plugins for a start and you're good to go.

I repeat: You don't need the plugins I list below to make good, professional-sounding electronic dance music.

Do your favorite producers use some of the plugins in this post, however?  Most likely.

Will you get certain things done in the studio faster and more effectively with these plugins?  Probably yes too.

So, if you've pushed your skills and abilities with your DAW's stock plugins and free plugins as far as humanly possible, or you just can and want to purchase some excellent plugins because, hey, why not (?!), then these are the ones to have a look at first.

1. Serum by Xfer Records

Plugin Type: Synth

Serum. Serum. Serum.  If you're into electronic music production you're probably well aware of Serum by now.

If you don't have it, I'm like... "why not?"

This synth, mostly the brainchild of Steve Duda, developed and made available by Deamau5's Xfer Records, is the one to have if you have only one.  Double that if you're just starting out with music production and need a workhorse soft synth that can get pretty much everything you need done,  and done well.

If you haven't obtained this little beast of an instrument,  you should just get on with it and grab it right now.

Sure, the music production forums may go into riot-mode about the above statement and yes, there are other fabulous synths available.  Very few fit the bill for one-and-only though.  I can think about two, max three,  soft synths in my top seven that would even qualify.

Want to make life easier, cheaper and more fun though? Want to make the informed choice on your first synth without the drudgery of endless feature comparisons and mountains of public opinion? Just get Serum. You'll be in quite decent company.

It's the only synth included in this list of must-have plugins for dance music production for a ton of reasons which I, for the sake of brevity,  won't elaborate on here.

Let's just say...

  1. It's clean.  I mean clean as a brand new razor clean. The oscillators of course. A lot of behind-the-scenes tech-geekery went into this not-so-easy feat. Look it up.  You'll see what I mean.
  2. It's easy. Intuitive and very visual layout. Drag-and-drop easy automation and modulation. Lots of fun possibilities to be had.
  3. It's able.  You can make pretty much any sound you can imagine with Serum. That's just a simple fact.
  4. It's full-featured. From wavetables right through to effects.  This is a synth designed by someone who knows music, music production and the needs and wants of producers at a high level.
  5. It's deep.  Do you want to dig in and geek-out? Serum has you covered.

There's no doubt that Serum has become one of the most popular plugins for dance music producers.  It's just that good! Grab it now here. (affiliate link)

2. LFO Tool by Xfer Records

Plugin Type: Modulator

Next on the list of great plugins for dance music production we stay with Xfer.  LFO Tool has become pretty much a staple in many a music producer's collection.

This handy studio tool makes LFO-modulation a breeze.  Whether you just want to duck out a bass like you would with side-chain compression or you want to modulate other parameters such as cutoff, pan or resonance, LFO Tool makes it all quick-and-easy.

LFO Tool can also send MIDI to other instruments so the control and possibilities are pretty endless.

This simple but powerful tool is one of those things that, once you've tried it,  becomes a no-brainer essential.

Learn more and get LFO Tool here right now. (affiliate link)

3. OTT by Xfer Records

Plugin Type: Multiband Compressor

Can you tell I'm a fan of Xfer Records plugins yet? ;-)

OTT is another simple but powerful tool that just does what it's made for very well.

What's it made for? Heavy upward/downward multi-band compression.

What can you use it on?  Pretty much anything. Individual instruments, busses or group tracks, parallel tracks.

The best way to get a feel for what it does is to get it and use it. The tool is very easy to use and you'll quickly hear after using it a bit why so many producers swear by it.

Oh, and have I mentioned it's free as in beer?

Well, it is.  So get it here.  While you're at it you may as well get all the other free plugins for dance music production that they offer on that same page.  DJM Filter, Delta Modulator and Dimension Expander are pretty sweet additions to your producer library.

4. Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter

Plugin Type: Equalizer

A good all-rounder workhorse EQ is a must and Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter has fast become just that for many top producers,  and for good reason.

For one, and most importantly, it sounds good.

Combine that with a very to easy-to-use interface that gives you access to 24 EQ bands, with wide range of filter-types and processing modes,  and you're off to a pretty decent start.

Now throw some handy features into the mix:

Need some mid-side EQ? All good.
Want a linear-phase EQ for that bass you say?  Sure thing.
What's that? Dynamic EQ you say? Covered.
Brickwall filter-slopes your thing hey? Go for it!

That barely scratches the surface. There's also spectrum grab and EQ match among a ton of other useful features.

Take Pro-Q 3 for a test run straight away if you haven't yet.  Chances are, once you try it,  you'll want it.

5. Valhalla Room by Valhalla DSP

Plugin Type: Algorithmic Reverb

It's hard not to include pretty much all Valhalla plugins on a "list of the best plugins for dance music production" like this one. 

You should definitely go ahead and grab the free ones they offer because it'll give you a good idea of what the quality you can expect from this developer:

Valhalla Freq Echo

Valhalla Space Modulator

Valhalla Super Massive

Yip. That's the level of stuff they give away.

You'll be glad to know however that the paid plugins they offer are a steal when you consider how useful they are. 

Of the paid plugins Valhalla Room is probably the best entry-point as a producer or beatmaker. That's if you wanted to start with just one.  It most definitely deserves it's spot in this list of the best plugins for dance music production.

The tight and simple little interface hides some powerful and flexible algorithmic reverb capabilities under the hood.

You get to easily access 12 different reverb algorithms which opens up a whole world of different reverb spaces you can layer into your mix.

TL;DR: It sounds lush. You can dial in your reverb in seconds, so it's workflow-friendly. It's versatile and easy-to-use.

Oh, and did I mention it's only fiddy bucks? ;-)

Check out Valhalla room right now.

6. Krush by Tritik

Plugin Type: Distortion

A bit of bitcrush never hurt anyone!

Well, that may not be completely true. What you know just as well as I know however is that distortion is real important in music production today. Good distortion plugins for dance music production are therefore a must-have.

Krush by Tritik is a great little crushy-mushy distortion plugin with added filters and modulation options that will get  some lovely dirt going in your tracks without a huge initial outlay of capital.

In fact, you don't need even a tiny outlay here. This little beast is available for absolutely free!

7. BigKick by Plugin Boutique

Plugin Type: Generator

Do you tune your kick to fit your track?  If not, you should try it.  It's a not-so-secret little secret many top producers know and use.

Now,  you could try pitching up or down a kick sample a few cents and as long as it's only a few cents it might work better in your track.  Any more and the pitch shift might introduce unwanted artifacts and weaken your kick sound instead of improving it.

A much better strategy is to use a kick generator that allows you to create a synthesized kick at the exact fundamental frequency where you want it to be.

BigKick by Plugin Boutique gives you the above ability.  You can also layer in 2 samples to add character to your kick sound. The plugin comes with 300 samples included but you can also use your own kick samples.

Add some filtering, overdrive and hard clipping, should that tickle your fancy,  and you've got yourself a powerful tool to create and shape the perfect kick sound every time.

Once you have created the kick you want in the plugin you can then easily just drag and drop the audio sample into your DAW for further processing.

So, if you want to get serious about your kicks then get BigKick straight away.

8. Soothe2 by oeksound

Plugin Type: Resonance Suppressor

Ever spent some time trying to resolve multiple moving resonance issues on a vocal? In that case you'll be glad to discover Soothe2.

Sure, you can use a de-esser or dynamic EQ to sort out or lessen the harshness, but if you've done this before you know how finicky it can be,  how much time it takes and just how easy it is to destroy a vocal sound by overdoing it.

Soothe2 makes this process much, much faster by identifying resonance issues on-the-fly and then reacts dynamically to compensate automatically.

Don't think for one minute it's only useful for harshness on vocals though.  You can remove muddiness or remove boomy frequencies on pretty much anything including individual instruments, group channels and even on your entire mix.

Try Soothe2 today and you'll very quickly realize how much time and effort it'll save you over time.

9. Gullfoss by Soundtheory

Plugin Type: Equalizer

I almost didn't want to reveal this secret weapon on this list of plugins for dance music production just because it's so good.

What does Gullfoss do?  It's an intelligent EQ that allows you to quickly make tonal adjustments on your group tracks or on an entire mix.

How does it do it? Gullfoss uses Soundtheory’s unique computational auditory perception model to identify frequencies that may be competing for your attention.  The EQ can change it's frequency response more than 300 times a second without introducing any unwanted artifacts or messing up your tone.

Now, you may not need Gullfoss if you don't mix and master your own tracks.  If you do then it's however a no-brainer.

Improve your balance, get precise, clear and detailed mixes that translate better to other playback systems and do it it faster and easier than you would with other plugins or techniques.

So, now you know about Gullfoss.  Don't tell anyone else! ;-)

10. Ozone by iZotope

Plugin Type: Mastering

You can get away with not having this mixing and mastering tool if you don't mix or master your own tracks.

It's however a go-to all-in-one mastering plugin you'll find extremely powerful if you do finish your own tracks, either for release or just to play out.

The basic modules in Ozone 9 Standard include:

  • EQ
  • Dynamic EQ
  • Dynamics
  • Imager
  • Exciter
  • Maximizer
  • Vintage Tape
  • Vintage Limiter
  • Vintage EQ
  • Vintage Compressor

It also gives you AI-powered mastering right in your DAW and Match EQ that allows you to copy the frequency balance of other tracks with just a few clicks.

It comes in 3 versions: Elements, Standard and Advanced.

Standard has a good balance of features for most producers' needs but Elements is fine if you're just starting out with mastering your own tracks.

Conclusion:

There are of course so many great audio plugins for dance music available and this list doesn't even come close to all of them.

I hope the specific plugins for dance music production you discovered above will however highlight some plugins that will make your own production work faster, better and stronger.

Remember,  you can get far with the stock plugins in your DAW.  So, at first you may be fine using what you already have so you can learn the basics without paying for 3rd-party tools.

In time you'll want to explore new studio toys and expand your sonic possibilities as a producer though.  That's when you can slowly but surely start to upgrade your plugin collection.