The Case For Fewer Plugins

2011 Aug 10, 2011

I have a theory: one huge reason so many home and project studio mixes sound amateur is because the mixers are using too many plugins. Sound like a bizarre correlation? Well if you’ve read my free eBook then you may have a hint as to why I believe this is the case.

Time Wasted Chasing Tails

Many young mixers have grown up using a DAW (digital audio workstation). They have access to all the bundled plugins, plus have been told by the many magazines and web forums available that they “need” some “better” third party plugins if they really want great mixes. So the average mixer buys a bundle of two from some respectable companies and then they try to get to work; shiny new plugins in hand.

The problem arises when it comes to do things like EQ or compress. Which EQ plugin should you use? The few that are bundled? The third party ones? The same goes with compressors. Which one is best for which type of track? These questions are really as pointless to the average user as a hamster running in a wheel. You’re asking the wrong questions. You should instead be focused on learning how to use these tools to mix, not which one to mix with.

The Better Approach

If you’re going to be honest with yourself, you need to answer this question: Do you care more about using cool new plugins or getting a great mix? If a great mix (fast) is what you’re after, then I suggest the following: pick one EQ, one compressor, one delay, and one reverb and then get to mixing. Learn those four plugins like the back of your hand. Play around with the presets, experiment with different settings on different tracks. Save your very own custom presets as well.

What you’ll start to find is you will gain confidence with the plugins, knowing their sound, and your mixes will come together much more quickly. This type of mentality, just as in the case for fewer tracks and fewer mics, helps to shift your thinking (and time) away from pointless minutia and instead towards making great music. And after all, isn’t that why you got into this in the first place?

Different Isn’t Necessarily Better

One final thought before I let you get back to mixing. Don’t knock the built in plugins that came bundled with your DAW. Just like a good mixing console already has built in EQs and compressors in every channel, your digital audio workstation will ship with at least one quality EQ and compressor. Before you run out to buy something different just because someone else uses it, use the crud out of your built in plugs. They usually sound just as good as any third party plug out there. Different maybe, but just as good.

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