Free ‘Bread and Butter’ Sounds

‘Bread and butter sounds’ are the sounds that you will use in your ‘normal’ music production, such as acoustic drum kits, bass, guitar, keyboards, strings, etc.

Sounds like these will come pre-installed on every Windows soundcard – they are the sounds that your media player uses to play a MIDI file. The set of sounds is based on the General MIDI soundset (GM) and is provided by the Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth. These are, unfortunately, not much use. They generally sound weak, unrealistic and will probably cause you problems if you try to use them with your DAW along with VSTs. You need a good VST alternative to those GM sounds for you bread and butter needs.

Option One: Independence Free

There is a free download available from Yellow Tools called Independence. It comes with a 2.5GB sound library and it looks like this:


The sounds are superb. It is a very good advert for them. Of course, there won’t be every sound your heart desires but there is enough to make music with and sound professional.

To download Independence Free you will need to agree to receive a newsletter, which seems fair enough. The download itself consists of the installer and eight content libraries. The download will take a while. Unzip everything and run the installer.

If you first run Independence Free and find no instruments in your browser, check that the content libraries (eight files with a .ytif extension) have copied into the correct directory (yellow tools root folder\image files). If not, copy them in and try again. It should look something like this:

yellow lib

When you are using Independence, note that you do not need a new instance of it for every instrument. You can have sixteen ‘layers’ each containing a different instrument, each on a separate MIDI channel. Just hit ‘add layer’ and then select another instrument. It might look like this:

yellow layers

In your Reaper tracks, set each new MIDI track to point at the same instance of Independence, but change the MIDI channel for the appropriate layer. Magic.

Get it here.

Option Two: SQ8L

Let’s say you are using Reaper off your USB, away from home. You just need some sounds to work with, nothing fancy. The SQ8L synthesiser will provide you with a perfectly usable palette of sounds to work with (except that it has no drums). It’s a tiny instrument that will fit on a USB. Also, I love its warm, slightly dirty sounds. It’s always useful to have some different textures in a mix and some of these are knockout. It looks a bit primitive but it’s a marvel of small engineering.

A lovely little synth for bread and butter

A lovely little synth for bread and butter

One top tip: to browse the presets, right click in the preset window (where it says VOYAGER).

It sits nicely in nearly any mix.

Get it here.

Option Three: Proteus

This is good, but I wouldn’t recommend it for rank beginners. The interface is a little clunky and slow, the install feels old fashioned, it doesn’t remember where it was when you last opened it and it doesn’t seem to organise its own presets at all, so you have a huge list to wade through (unless I’m missing a trick – please let me know).

On the other hand, considering it’s just for b&b sounds,  it sounds good and it has a huge collection of totally usable instruments including a (not too awful) piano, which is worth having. Its drums are a good starting point, too. It will never replace a serious sample based libary but it does the job. If you know what you are doing with your mixing then you could quite happily use this in tracks without anyone objecting.

It works roughly in the same way as Yellow Tools, with 16 tracks, etc. It looks like this:


If you are short on bread and butter sounds, it’s worth the effort, but don’t choose this first.

It’s only 65MB, but as it’s a full installation (rather than a nice little dll) it probably won’t go easily onto your USB key.

Get it here.

Option Four: there are bound to be more

If you know of a good VST bread and butter free download, please leave a comment and link.


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