Why Mixing With Only Stock Plugins Can Give You A Better Mix

2016 Feb 22, 2016

If you truly want a great sounding mix, then the best thing you could do is stop dropping in all your “favorite” 3rd party plugins.

Instead if you would (even for one song) exclusively use the stock EQs, compressors, and other included tools you more than likely will get better results in the end.

Is it because stock plugins sound better? No. Rather it’s because of a very simple but powerful mental shift that happens when you “limit” yourself to them.

The Problem With Awesome 3rd Party Plugins

I’m a fan of plugins as much as anyone.

From all the pressure I felt in college to jump on the cracked plugins bandwagon to actually doing the honest thing and shelling out tons of money for the latest and greatest plug – I’ve been bit by the plugin bug.

And for good reason – there are so many awesome sounding plugins out there.

From the Waves SSL bundle to all the voodoo drenched analog sounding plugins from my buddy Steven Slate I love and use many of the great tools available to us today.

But there’s a very real problem and danger that comes with using 3rd party plugins: they shift your attention away from the real reason why your mix sucks.

Your Mix Sounds Bad And No Plugin Can Fix That

You see – the only reason why you and I reach for 3rd party plugins is because our mixes don’t sound as good as we’d like and so we’re hoping another plugin will help.

The truth is, if your mix sounds bad – it’s because you just haven’t mixed it well. No plugin can help you there.

And deep down inside we both know that’s true.

That’s why I spend so much time teaching and training people to improve themselves and work on their craft, rather than simply buy more stuff.

So back to the problem with 3rd party plugins – they divert your energy attention away from the real issue (doing a better job mixing) and instead keep you searching for the quick fix.

The Secret Hack Of Using Stock Plugins

What if one day you said to yourself “Today I’m only going to use stock plugins on this mix,” and you said “no” to any of your favorite 3rd party plugins?

A very subtle but powerful shift would happen.

Without the lure of reaching for another plugin to “fix” your subpar mix, you’d be forced to really focus on what the real issues are with the tracks in front of you and identify what is needed to take them to the next level.

Since 80% or more of your mix comes from your EQ and compression decisions, you’d be forced to simply grab your available stock EQ and stock compressor (or channel strip) and get to work.

Instead of thinking about which plugin will sound better on a lead vocal, you’ll be thinking about frequencies and attack and release times – things that make a much bigger difference.

It’s a hack you see. When you remove the possibility of grabbing a different plugin, you free up brain power and attention to apply to the actual plugin settings you will use to enhance your tracks.

And that’s really where the mix comes together. The subtle, intentional chipping away of the marble to reveal a beautiful piece of art.

Try It On At Least One Mix

If this sounds like lunacy to you, I want to challenge you: try to use stock plugins exclusively for at least one mix.

Pick one song, maybe even a song you’ve already mixed before, wipe the session clean and mix it from the ground up with only what’s included in your DAW. No exceptions.

Not even other free plugins. Just what comes standard with your software.

I just did this last week actually – and the results are fascinating. I’m getting a more musical and balanced mix this time around.

Is it because my stock plugins sound better than all my fancy 3rd party ones? No. It’s because I’m more focused on the tracks themselves than I am the tools.

So try it yourself and see what happens. If you don’t like the results, you can always go back to your beloved plugins. I won’t judge you.

Remember – I’m FOR you getting better sounding mixes.

That’s the goal of this website. I love seeing my readers and viewers get results. It creates a force that is more powerful and more motivational than anything else I could give them.

So do me (and everyone else here) a favor, will you? Go try a stock-plugin-only mix and then come back here and report your results in a comment below!

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