Using fewer plugins may actually help you craft better-sounding mixes. Want to learn why? Check out the video below…
Today I want to share with you how using fewer plugins may actually help you make better-sounding mixes.
A couple of years back in audio school, I took a mixing class with Kevin Killen — an incredible mixer. He’s done U2, Peter Gabriel, a ton of other great bands.
The first day of class — I’ll never forget — he pulled up one of his mixes. It was a big mix — probably 120 tracks. I started counting the plugins, and there were literally 6 plugins on the entire session.
I seriously thought it was the rough mix, but when he pressed play I was blown away by how good it sounded.
Week after week, he would bring in these tracks. Some of them were recorded by him, and some of them were recorded by indie bands in their garage. There really weren’t that many plugins on any one of these mixes.
At the time, this was crazy to me. I was using 5 or 6 plugins per track. I started asking myself — how could he get away with using so few plugins? Obviously his mixes sounded way better than mine at that point.
I started thinking about this and talking to him and asking him questions. This concept of reactive mixing started clicking to me.
Often times, we turn on auto-pilot when we’re mixing. We stop listening to the sound that’s coming out of the speakers. We start throwing plugins on things because we think we should.
We should always high-pass vocals, and we should high-pass everything in the track besides the kick and the bass. There are all these rules.
We start using plugins just for the sake of using them. Not really because we need them, but because we think we should put them on a track.
If you start reacting to what’s coming out of the speakers and asking yourself — do I need a plugin? Do I need EQ? Do I need compression? Naturally you’re going to start using less.
And so, over the last few years, I’ve noticed that I’m now using 1/3 of the number of plugins that I used to. And my mixes sound way better.
Now it’s not just from simply saying, “Hey, I’m going to use less plugins.” It’s from asking myself — why am I making these decisions? Why am I pulling up this EQ? Why am I pulling up this compressor?
Every time you add a new plugin to your mix, ask yourself — why am I doing this? If you don’t have a clear answer, you probably shouldn’t be using the plugin.
How many plugins do you use in a typical mix? Leave a comment below and let me know. I’m actually pretty curious.
Anyways, hope you found this helpful. Take care. Have an awesome day, and happy mixing.