3 Reasons To Stop Buying Plugins Now

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We all love buying new plug-ins, right? But do you really need them to make great mixes? And what if more plug-ins are actually making your mixes worse?

Hey, it’s Jason from Behind The Speakers. And in this video, you’ll learn three reasons you should stop buying third-party plug-ins. But before we get started, make sure you grab my free e-book, “35 Mixing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making” by clicking the link above or in the description below right now.

The first reason to stop buying third-party plug-ins is because you don’t actually need them to make great mixes. The truth is, if you’re working with one of the major DAWs out there – whether it’s ProTools or Cubase or Logic or Ableton – you have everything you need. Just the stock plug-ins in your DAW alone are more than enough to make really good-sounding mixes.

Now just to illustrate this point, I wanted to share with you a demo that my friend Rob Mayzes over at Musician On A Mission put together, where he actually mixed the same song twice – one time using stock plug-ins alone, and I think he uses Logic, so stock plug-ins in Logic, and then one time using third-party premium plug-ins. So let’s take a listen, and I want you to see if you can tell the difference between these two versions of the mix.

♪ ‘Cause my routine has bled into one, ♪

♪ I’m cruel, disgusting, and fun. ♪

♪ ‘Cause I can’t see how it’s come to be, ♪

♪ My desire, desire, desire. ♪

So I don’t know about you, but I can’t hear the difference between those two. They sound pretty much identical. The moral of the story here is that you don’t actually need to go out and buy a bunch of third-party plug-ins. If your mixes don’t sound as good as you want them to, it’s not because you don’t have the tools, it’s because there’s some information gap. Maybe you don’t know how to use the tools yet, or you just haven’t put in the time and practice to develop the skills needed to make really good-sounding mixes.

So the good news is that that’s stuff that you can work on. And you don’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money to do it. So again, tools aren’t the answer. You don’t need a bunch of third-party premium plug-ins in order to make great mixes. You probably have everything you need right now.

The second reason you should stop buying third-party plug-ins is that too many plug-ins cause something that I call decision fatigue. The truth is when we’re working on a mix, there are so many decisions we have to make, so many choices of what plug-ins to use, what processing to add. And the mix itself is just a result of thousands of tiny little decisions.

Now, the modern-day music making process is already overwhelming enough, right? We have millions of choices, whether it’s virtual instruments or plug-ins or track counts are higher than ever. And all of these choices make the music making process so complicated as is. But when we start buying lots of plug-ins, what happens is we add another layer of complexity to the music making process.

So now when I’m listening to my mix and suddenly I hear the track needs to be compressed, instead of just grabbing my go-to compressor, I have to say okay, well I have twenty different compressor plug-ins, which one of those compressor plug-ins am I going to need to grab, right? And so now before we even got to the actual work of compressing, we’re already adding this other layer of decision making. And when you think about the mixing process as a whole, that additional layer adds so much complexity because you’re thinking about these choices. Every time you add a plug-in, every time you add compression, every time you add EQ, you have to go through this additional process. So suddenly the mixing process becomes even more complicated, right? And it’s already complicated enough.

So what I recommend people to do is rather than having a million different plug-ins to choose from, build a small library of plug-ins that are workhorse tools, that are fairly flexible that you know you can adapt to a variety of different circumstances. And that way when you’re thinking about grabbing a compressor, you have one compressor that you can go for, or maybe two or three. You don’t have to worry about twenty different options that you have to choose from. So by paring down your plug-in library and really going for workhorse, flexible plug-ins – and these can be the stock plug-ins in your DAW, they don’t have to be third-party plug-ins – but the idea here again by paring things down, we’re removing that additional layer of decision making, and mixing becomes a lot easier.

And the third reason I think you should stop buying third-party plug-ins is because spending more money on plug-ins actually pulls us away from investing in the things that make a much bigger impact. When it comes to things that really make a difference in terms of the sound of your music, plug-ins are way down at the bottom of the list. There are so many more important things that you could be spending your money on – acoustic treatment, education, monitoring – just to name a few. The problem is that every dollar that we invest into plug-ins actually gets taken away from those areas in many cases. We have a limited amount of resources. For most of us, music making is a part-time thing, right? We’re not doing this full time and we don’t have a million dollars in the bank that we can spend on this stuff. So what happens is we end up spending money on plug-ins, and we don’t have that money to invest in the areas that actually are going to make a much bigger impact in many cases.

So instead of investing in plug-ins, I recommend that you take a step back and actually think how can I maximize my investment when it comes to my music? If I only have ten dollars or fifty dollars a month to spend on this, where can I spend it to make it count? And chances are it’s not going to be plug-ins. So that’s the third and one of the biggest reasons really that I recommend you don’t spend a bunch of money on third-party premium plug-ins.

So hopefully you found this video helpful, and make sure you grab my free e-book, “35 Mixing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making” too. There’s lots of great content in there that will help steer you away from some of these bad decisions, whether it’s buying plug-ins or other things that will actually take you off the path in the mixing process. So you can grab that e-book again for free by clicking the link above or in the description below.

And before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – do you think people should avoid buying plug-ins? Do you agree with me or disagree with me? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you, so leave your response in the comments section below.

Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more mixing videos and tutorials like these right here on my YouTube channel or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.

About Jason Moss

Jason is an LA-based mixer and the founder of Behind The Speakers. He's a graduate of New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. His how-to articles have been featured in leading industry publications by Berklee, TuneCore, SonicScoop, The Pro Audio Files, and Disc Makers.