Rocksmith PC related: Free/cheap software for rocking

So you've got this slick little Rocksmith 1/4" to USB audio adapter, and your guitar plugs into your PC like a proverbial boss. What do you do once Rocksmith has honed your chops to a glistening, diamond-plated sheen? You wield your new rockskills to write your own blistering riffs and record some of your own music, that's what.

What do you need beside a guitar and the slick little Rocksmith audio interface? Doesn't it cost a bunch of money to rock? No, motherf*ckers, this is the 21st Century, and we have a little thing called the Internet that can provide almost everything you need to melt faces for little more than the cost of your ISP bill.

If all you want to do is plug in and jam, there are some great free options:

Native Instruments Guitar Rig Player
I've been using NI's Guitar Rig software as my main amp simulator since about 2005. It's great for everything from rock to more atmospheric and effects-drenched fare. Like the full retail version, the free version of the software works as both a standalone amp simulator and a plugin for your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice. It's got a limited selection of presets and minimal ability to edit, but it's still quite usable for rocking, and is a good taste of what the full version offers should you decide to upgrade.

Amplitube Free
IK's Amplitube is a similar product to Guitar Rig, and the free version of the software offers similar functionality. However, IK offers a "Custom Shop" where you can purchase amps and presets a la carte. You like Amplitube Free, but want more capacity for unleashing some metal fury? Swing over to the custom shop and purchase that kick-ass Engl Powerball model for $20. I wasn't much of a fan of Amplitube for the first two versions, but I think IK has really done an awesome job with Amplitube 3. Its well worth a look.

AcmeBarGig Shred
Surprisingly awesome freeware amp sim. It's a bit rough around the edges in terms of UI, but it rules for high gain stuff, and it's totally free. Works as a standalone amp sim or a VST plugin for compatible DAWs.

There are lots of other great free plugins out there, but the majority of them require DAW software to host them. You will also need a DAW if you are interested in recording, so without further ado:

Reaper, the mother of all free DAWs.
Well, it's not exactly free, but you can use it for free with no restrictions until you decide to pay the $60 fee for a personal license. There's a bit of a learning curve, but don't let the price tag fool you, this is a legit DAW and more than adequate for laying waste to the neighborhood with lethal salvos of rock. In fact, it's what Harmonix has been using for authoring tracks in Rock Band, so if you get really awesome and decide that you'd like to submit your stuff to Rock Band Network, you'll be all set.

Once you've settled into your DAW, you have access to some excellent freeware plugs: amp sims, cabinet impulse responses, effects and so on. There is a dizzying array of surprisingly high quality stuff out there, and I'll put a list together later, when I have some more time. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about any awesome free/cheap guitar-related software y'all might recommend.

Not exactly guitar related, but you can create some drum loops fairly easily for free to go along with your guitaring with Hydrogen. Seems more fully featured than most simple trackers for that sort of thing.

Thanks Podunk! Super helpful. The only one I know really, really well is Reaper, and I can tell you, it's the best 60 bucks I may have ever spent. It's just freaking ROCK SOLID, and once you learn the workflow, I can do way more with it than I ever could with Protools, which is where I learned basic audio editing for spoken word stuff.

Just a FYI - the link to PodunkStomp.mp3 doesn't play any audio.

MeatMan wrote:

Just a FYI - the link to PodunkStomp.mp3 doesn't play any audio.

It's just a link to download the mp3. It works for me, but every so often I hear from dudes who can't download from my site. If it continues to not work, I'll toss it up somewhere else.

No worries. I have that track on my PC from when I bought your GWJOST collection a while back.

FWIW, the AsInaDream.mp3 links plays fine.

/shrug

Free! Nice. Now all I need is that 1/4" to usb cord.

If you want the cord and don't care about Rocksmith, there are some similar interfaces available for $30-40.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/deta...
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/deta...

Anyone got any PC-based learning stuff to share? I'm a big fan of the stuff over at justinguitar.com, but am looking for a kind of holy grail of backing track/jam-session/tab-reader/scale practice thing. There is some cool stuff for iPad/iPhone, but I'd rather be looking at my big screen.

rabbit wrote:

Anyone got any PC-based learning stuff to share? I'm a big fan of the stuff over at justinguitar.com, but am looking for a kind of holy grail of backing track/jam-session/tab-reader/scale practice thing. There is some cool stuff for iPad/iPhone, but I'd rather be looking at my big screen.

Thanks for mentioning justinguitar, Julian. As a total guitar newbie, that is a valuable site.

rabbit wrote:

Anyone got any PC-based learning stuff to share? I'm a big fan of the stuff over at justinguitar.com, but am looking for a kind of holy grail of backing track/jam-session/tab-reader/scale practice thing. There is some cool stuff for iPad/iPhone, but I'd rather be looking at my big screen.

Guitar Pro
Band in a Box - Awesome tool, antiquated UI, PRICEY.
iReal B - Doesn't meet your request, but it's a BiaB tool at a fraction of the cost.
JamGuru - Rocksmith type app for PC.
RiffWorks - this is a fun loop recording program with which you can quickly whip up your own backing track.

rabbit wrote:

Anyone got any PC-based learning stuff to share? I'm a big fan of the stuff over at justinguitar.com, but am looking for a kind of holy grail of backing track/jam-session/tab-reader/scale practice thing. There is some cool stuff for iPad/iPhone, but I'd rather be looking at my big screen.

Besides the tools, if you want to get a little more serious you can try some online courses. I've tried a few but I think the best for me was the Jimmy Bruno site (it's Jazz focused, for musical development) http://jbguitarworkshop.com/sampleLe...

The one he recommends is Band in a Box, although it's pricey and the interface suuuuux, it provides some nice results with little work.

rabbit wrote:

The only one I know really, really well is Reaper, and I can tell you, it's the best 60 bucks I may have ever spent. It's just freaking ROCK SOLID

Agreed. For me there's nothing it can't do, and you'd normally being paying about five times as much for a well-featured DAW. If only I had the hardware to match

How is the lag for the Rocksmith adapter by the way (for example playing something live into Reaper with some unintensive effects)?

Concave wrote:
rabbit wrote:

The only one I know really, really well is Reaper, and I can tell you, it's the best 60 bucks I may have ever spent. It's just freaking ROCK SOLID

Agreed. For me there's nothing it can't do, and you'd normally being paying about five times as much for a well-featured DAW. If only I had the hardware to match

How is the lag for the Rocksmith adapter by the way (for example playing something live into Reaper with some unintensive effects)?

The asio lag clocks in at about 40-50ms, which is better than my Behringer board.

Anyone interested in a deal on Band in a Box? I just took advantage of their sale to upgrade to 2012, so I have a copy of the 2010 Everything Pak [sic] with the "Bonus 20 pak" on a bus-powered USB drive. I paid just over $400 for this bundle. I'd sell it to a Goodjer for $180 shipped.

Hey guys, I got excited by all the talk so I picked up Rocksmith for PS3 and am having a blast with it. I've tried hooking up the guitar to the PC using the cable, but I can't get either Reaper or Amplitube to recognize the USB guitar input. I don't see the USB as a choice in the input areas. Harrumph. Any thoughts?

I haven't tried but I believe it shows up as a microphone so maybe it just wasn't obvious?

Yeah, sorry to be that guy, but I just plugged it in and Windows 7 saw it as an audio source.

MadDoc, I had a lot of trouble as well. There was a lot of switching things off and on. I also had to download and install an ASIO driver, disable my normal sound driver and fiddle quite a bit with latency settings to get it to work. Even then, when I play for five minutes or so I get a weird ticking noise that only goes away if I reset the latency settings. It is, indeed, cool to play with if you can get it working, but YMMV as to how easy that actually is to accomplish.

I've actually been having the most fun lately with the iPad version of AmpliTube.

Hey, it's starting to feel a little bit like playing DOS games back in the day. Maybe I should make a 5 1/4" floppy startup disk. . .

Also, vst/vsti/plugins are are a topic near and dear to my heart, so I can't resist adding some more resources:

KVR Audio - Great resource for all things VST
Kjaerhus Classic Series - An all-around great sound suite of effects
Variety of Sound Effects - I just found this set - unique, well-written effects (and great UIs)
The Reaper Forums Great Free Plugin Thread - More effects than you can shake a stick at. The only problem is separating the wheat from the chaff.
And, of course, obviously the GreenMachine amp I listed above.

Then there's the whole realm of VST synths... I could go on.

I don't have any useful tips for the problem at hand, but I am glad I found this thread.
edit: I brought my Rocksmith cable in here and was not able to to get it to be detected in Reaper. Under Options -> Preferences -> Audio - Device, do you have the opportunity to select your hardware? I remember when I set it up the first time I had to manually select it there, and then I was able to choose my inputs on a track-by-track basis.

I've read a bit about people needing the ASIO4All driver, but maybe some unplugging/restarting action might help.

I *did* recently find one of the best freely available amp sim VST effects recently, though. GreenMachine used to be $90 but was turned into freeware. I borrowed a mic from work and will be recording a back to back demo comparing it to my real-life tube amp. I threw a few clips up here: http://hermbot.tumblr.com/ I highly recommend downloading it and fooling around - I've burned through so many terrible amp sims that I'm almost giddy with how great this one is.

Thread arise!

I've been trying to get this to work for a while now without much success. The only virtual amp that seems to work is virtuAMP, but that is both prone to crashing and introduces a delay that makes it impossible to play (almost a second).

AmpliTube 3 outputs incoherent noise that I've been unable to turn into anything like a guitar sound. I think there's some sort of signal issue. Have tried all the USB ports and the little I understand of how the program works; noise filtering, input/output/gain levels, and so forth.

POD Farm 2 doesn't seem to detect any input. I guess it's just not compatible with the Rocksmith interface?

Guitar Rig 5 crashes on trying to select the Rocksmith interface.

Many of these issues may be just down to my laptop's connections and so forth.

Finally I gave in with the standalone virtual amps and installed Reaper. Having no experience whatsoever with DAWs, it looks terrifying. I can't figure out how to have it just output straight to my headphones... but it does record a nice, clean signal with no trouble or settings fidgeting.

So, two questions:
1) how can I just jam with Reaper? Is there a complete idiot's newbie guide somewhere that I've been unable to locate?
2) how would I go about changing my guitar tone with Reaper? Does it have to be done when I'm playing or could I experiment with it once it's recorded?

My final option is to use the iPad. I guess the Realtone cable to the "camera kit" USB jack to Lightning and into GarageBand thing should work, but the laptop would be more convenient.

--
UPDATE: Well, after more googling and stumbling, the instructions on this page got me as far as being able to play and record. It's really rather technical and I didn't quite understand many of the steps, especially the IR stuff, but whatever, it works.

Just leaving that up here for anybody else looking for a "however do I do this" solution.

I haven't tried using my Rocksmith cable in anything other than Rocksmith yet, but I can tell you that Reaper is the deep end of the pool in complexity, I don't think there's such a thing as quick and easy. There is an up to date user guide and quick start guide here.

You would change your tone with plugins, you can run them on your input as you play, or add them on to the output so you can fiddle after recording.

Oh yeah, ASIO drivers are essential for anything music related.

I also got Guitar Rig to work once I installed and configured ASIO4ALL. That seems like a very nice package. Not going to drop the 199€ on it any time soon, though.
--
EDIT: Actually seems that ASIO4ALL is the magic bullet that solves my problems. Amplitube works now, as well.

jlaakso wrote:

So, two questions:
1) how can I just jam with Reaper? Is there a complete idiot's newbie guide somewhere that I've been unable to locate?
2) how would I go about changing my guitar tone with Reaper? Does it have to be done when I'm playing or could I experiment with it once it's recorded?

Reaper is super powerful but that comes with a bit of a learning curve. As with all things audio, though, if there are 120 buttons in front of you they are all just repeats of the same 4 on every channel. If you run into any issues feel free to post them here. There's a lot of little things that can make your life easier.

Regarding Guitar Rig: Native Instruments makes fantastic stuff, but the only way to really do it cost effectively is to pick up Komplete. It's one fairly large purchase ($400 or $500) but with Reaper and the synths/samplers/effects in Komplete you have all the tools to create professional-grade music. Buying two items by themselves costs more than the bundle, doing it piecemeal would be thousands of dollars.

For free I still find myself going back to GreenMachine - that plugin will take you a long way!

Edit: It looks like most of the downloads for GM are down now. It was a commercial plugin that they turned free and might be abandonware at this point.

Here's a download of the DLL and the manual.

If you have any questions getting it set up in Reaper let me know!

And in case anyone wants the shortest path to rocking, here's a brief step-by-step on getting a track going in Reaper. It assumes that you have your driver working for the Rocksmith cable and Reaper installed.

1) Open Reaper. It will open to a blank project that looks like this:

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/MTeyVct.png)

2) Add a new track. This can be done using the Track -> Insert New Track command (CtrlT) or by double-clicking in the area on the left side of the screen. Now you have one blank track in your project like so:

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/iv7Snb7.png)

3) Tell Reaper which input you are using. This will look a bit different as I'm set up for other hardware right now, but there is an "input" dropdown from which you need to select your guitar rig cable.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/37JEOCK.png)

4) Arm the track. Most of the time you will have more than one track in an audio project, so Reaper needs to know which track to record audio to when you press record. Arming the track is done by pressing the red pip on the left side of the track marker. It will appear depressed (oh dear) and if you strum your guitar you should see things happening.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/nCCcxAI.png)

5) Press the record button down by play/stop/etc. The cursor will move to the right and you will see your guitar's signal being recorded. If you don't hear anything, stop the recording and right-click on the red pip you used to arm the track. Select "Monitor Input".

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/4c0mQ5J.png)

Great! You have boring guitar tone. Now to add the effects.

6) Click on the "FX" button to bring up the effects chain.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/2xyN2k5.png)

7) Click "Add" and select Guitar Rig or other product. You are adding a VST effect to the channel. Now all audio will get routed through whatever you add to this list. You can add as many effects as you want or make sense.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/SSTvrFj.png)

Success! Now you have face-melting guitar tone and can record to your heart's content. Don't forget to save your project early and often.

Fun fact one: There are several effects by "Cockos" in your list. They are all actually very good, and one of them is "ReaTune" which can work as a guitar tuner if your effects package doesn't come with one.

Fun fact two: Several of the people on the Reaper team were programmers on Winamp. This explains why Reaper really whips the llama's ass.

Michael wrote:

a generous, wonderful human being at work

Thank you so much. This is a confusing, new world I've stepped into, but only after around six hours of tinkering, I'm playing and recording.

Reaper is a great DAW for serious recording. However if you're wanting to toy with an idea or just jam check out Riffworks. You can quickly lay down some layers and just noodle.

I also like JamStix which is a responsive virtual drummer.

[Edit] Son of a bitch, why am I looking at Komplete? Ooooh, Ultimate looks shiny...

LiquidMantis wrote:

[Edit] Son of a bitch, why am I looking at Komplete? Ooooh, Ultimate looks shiny...

Their stuff does go on sale from time to time, including the Komplete packages. In fact right now a lot of their synths are 50% off.

Ultimate is cool but I didn't see the $400 value-add in the difference over regular Komplete. The base version gets you all the really good stuff like Massive, FM8, Absynth, Reaktor (which is enough to keep you busy forever), Kontakt with all the cool samples, Studio drummer... Hell, you could make an entire EDM album with Massive and/or FM8. I'm working on some one-synth songs in FM8 right now!