M a k i n g v a p o r w a v e o n a b u d g e t
Have you slowed things down in Audacity already?
Are you looking for something with more features?
Do you have no money at all?
Then you've found the right place!
This guide wont teach you how to make vaporwave, but it will give you some resources for creating vaporwave on a budget of $0.
For more information on the creation process itself I'd recommend r/makingvaporwave.
I personally use Renoise, which is a tracker with modern DAW capabilities.
I've also two other trackers called OpenMPT and SunVox in the past.
Trackers aren't that popular outside of chiptunes these days, but I'll include some with VST support below anyway.
These are all free, but I don't have any experience with them myself, so I can't tell you much about them.
There are some cheap DAWs on the market, like Reaper ($60) and Ardour (donation), but I'll only list fully free ones below.
Some of these are more limited than paid DAWs, but others have basically the same functionality.
So just try them out and see if they fit you!
Waveform Free (Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspbian)
LMMS (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Soundbridge (Windows, Mac)
Pro-Tools First (Windows, Mac)
Studio One 5 Prime (Windows, Mac)
Podium Free (Windows)
Cakewalk by Bandlab (Windows)
Free Trackers with VST support
Jeskola Buzz (Windows)
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of free VST synths online.
Below I will only list VSTs that emulate retro synths, for that 80s vaporwave sound.
Dexed is a clone of the classic Yamaha DX7 FM synth.
That synth is responsible for the sound of the 80s.
Perfect for metallic bass sounds, electric pianos and bells.
This is definitely the synth I use the most.
SQ8L is based on the Ensoniq SQ-80, a late 80s wavetable synth.
This synth is perfect for pads, brass and bass.
Also, the SQ-80 stored waveforms on floppy disks, and that's vaporwave af.
PG8X is based on the Roland JX-8P, a nice mid 80s analog synth.
What sets this synth apart is its modulation and sync features.
These features allow it to recreate sounds closer to FM synths, but with a warmer quality.
Pads and strings are where it really shines, but it can also do nice bells and bass.
Based on the classic analog synth Roland Juno-60.
This synth works really well for thick pads and strings.
It has a very thick chorus effect that sounds very 80s.
TAL-Bassline is based on the Roland SH-101, which is a simple analogue synth.
As the name suggests it works particularly good for making bass patches.
What effects you'll want depends heavily on your own tastes.
Below I've listed effects I've personally used in my music.
Smartelectronix Magnus Ambience (Reverb)
This is my go-to reverb effect. It can do everything from very mild reverb to huge soundscapes.
Wow & Flutter (Tape Emulation)
To get that degraded lo-fi cassette style sound, this is your VST.
I've used this on basically all of my tracks since my actual cassette recorder broke.
A super simple chorus effect using very few buttons/knobs.
It's an emulation of the Juno 60 chorus and gives a warm and thick chorus sound.
Before I switched to SunVox, this was my go-to delay effect.
You can get both regular delay and more saturated tape-style delay.
iZotope Vinyl (Vinyl Emulation)
While I use Wow & Flutter more than this, it's still very useful.
You can get emulate everything from a slightly used record to a heavily damaged one.
While it's difficult to describe how a flanger sounds, it's essential for vaporwave.
It creates a swooshing, sweeping metallic dreamy sound.
Phaser is an effect similar to flanger, but softer and lacks the metallic feel.
Perfect for creating wide dreamy soundscapes.
OTT (Multi-Band Compression)
Last but not least, OTT. It's a standalone version of an Ableton preset.
It can turn a weak drum hit into something really cutting and beefy.
I use it on basically all of my kick drums.
Drum machine samples:
When it comes to vaporwave, you can't go wrong using retro drum machines.
Buying an old drum machine can set you back hundreds or thousands of dollars,
so therefore it's great that they're all available as samples!
KB6.de drum machine archive
A huge collection of old drum machine samples. And I do mean huge.
A lot of them are free, but some require a donation.
It has most of the classics, EXCEPT Roland's drum machines.
So below I'll link to some classic Roland machines.
You can hear this classic on hits such as "In the air tonight" by Phil Collins.
It has a very cute and analog sound, and I use it A LOT.
A surprisingly punchy analogue drum machine. Definitely different from the CR-78.
A decently punchy and very 80s sounding sample-based drum machine.
You've heard it. You know what it is. No one escapes the 808.
It's THE sound for old house music, but you can of course use it for vaporwave too.
Very punchy and cutting sound. The open hi-hat is instantly recognizeable.