By Roy Mathur, on 2012-10-01, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)
Ever had a tune floating around your head? Something you just know sounds so great that if you can only turn it into a finished single, it will land you a contract with a major record label. If you have a dream of being the next Lady Gaga or even PSY (Gangnam Style), here are some tools that might help you achieve future world pop stardom.
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. Virtual Studio Technology attempts to replace studio hardware with various software apps. This is a boon to those on a shoestring budget or with no ready access to studio equipment. All you need to start is a PC. If you are doing this at work or at school when you should be studying or working, get headphones and jiggle with discretion lest the MAN suspect foul-play.
This is a tiny program developed solely for the purpose of allowing you to use VST plugins. What's a VST Plugin you ask? A VST plugin is a piece of software that emulates a musical instrument or various audio effects. For example, on my PC I have instruments such as a classic Moog synthesizer, a spooky sounding theremin (used in the theme music of the original Star Trek series) and a full church organ. There are many, many freeware plugins available to download giving us a much cheaper option than a visit to the music store.
To put all your vocals, instruments and effects together and produce your musical meisterwerk, you need something like Audacity which is a free audio editor. The application, although free, is excellent. In fact, in my opinion, it is much better than some paid-for applications because it is so easy to use. Audacity will also allow you to record audio directly to your PC via a microphone as tracks that can then be spliced into a finished song.
The first thing you will notice after playing with a virtual synthesizer for a few minutes, is that using a mouse to press a virtual electronic keyboard is horrible. The one expense I would advise any budding electronica diva to invest in is a physical piano-like keyboard. There a many to choose from, but personally I use the Mad Catz Pro-Keyboard from the Xbox 360 game Rock Band 3 with a MIDI-to-USB cable to connect it to my computer. The great thing about it is that you can even use this cheap keyboard without the Xbox 360. If the Pro-Keyboard is hard to source, try to find any cheap musical keyboard with a MIDI-out socket and then buy a MIDI-to-USB cable on eBay or Amazon.
Download SaviHost for Windows at http://www.hermannseib.com/english/savihost.htm
The website Music Radar has a great article featuring a selection of top free VST plugins for a variety of musical instruments at http://bit.ly/QxzHxr
Download Audacity at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/
Finally, the website Synthtopia has published a list of places where you can download free audio samples at http://bit.ly/hRzkHe
Now you have the tools, you are going to have to supply the raw musical talent and the hard work. Good luck, and if you become really famous (and rich), please send me VIP tickets and a backstage pass to your next gig. I'm also available to be a front man for your act because I can shake a maraca, a tambourine and my own tail-feathers like Baz, Flava Flav, MC Hammer or even Bruno Raya with a really bad itch. I can also do PSY's Gangnam Style horsey dance disturbingly well.