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Do I need expensive gear or plugins?

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Don’t believe the hype, you don’t need fancy gear to make great sounding tracks. I just saw a New York Times article/video on Skrillex’s and Justin Bieber’s collaboration on the tune Where R U Now and it was so obvious that Skrillex was pretty much using Ableton live, on a laptop, with no fancy preamps or synths, and simply getting the sickest sounds out of Bieber’s voice and probably some stock plugins that even come with Ableton. Wow, that was a long sentence. Is that even ok? Hemingway did it! Anyway, check out the interview here. But read on because I have some insight to share on this idea.

By the way,  ignore the part where Justin Bieber says “these are expensive sounds”… I don’t buy it. It kinda sounds like a joke to me.  Now I’m not saying that you don’t need to buy ANYTHING at all to make music. You will benefit from having your select few tools, like any painter or chef. You gotta have ingredients and materials. But any great chef will make an excellent dish out of the ingredients they have at their disposal, in fact many famous dishes have been invented this way. The show Chef’s Table on Netflix will prove this to you. But enough on chef’s… I just had a rad meal and still have food on my mind, sorry. Back To music. Stick to your plugins, make music with what you already have. And sure, everyone now and then it’s ok to add a spice to your arsenal, but I would watch out from doing this too often. You’ll find yourself very distracted.

Less Plugins

I recently upgraded my old Protools version to their latest version 12. As a result I lost access to all of my old plugins since the new Pro Tools uses AAX format and the old ones were RTAS, well most of them I couldn’t upgrade without paying a fee. I now only have like 2 EQ’s, a handful of compressors, 2 limiters, and two reverbs- and when I say two I’m including the stock Protools plugins. I’ve been using these, why not? They sound fine, they EQ, compress, add ambience, etc etc. At the end of the day if my music sucks no plugin will offer a solution to that.

“But what about the color and particular sound of an expensive plugin or a hardware gear?”

Sure! This is a valid and good question. Some expensive gear and plugins have a color and distinctive quality that provides some pleasant results and nostalgic qualities to the sound of things. At least that’s what a lot of engineers say. I own some good preamps and compressors and yes they do sound good. But never have they formed part of anything that has to do with content, mix results, or even inspiration in my music. I could have done the same thing without these. Besides, if you have an old guitar amp or pedal, use that to add some color. Run your tracks on parallel through guitar effects, borrow them from friends if you need to. This might be more unique than using the same thing everyone else is raving about.


This is one thing I’m always thinking about and how it can enhance your creativity. We live in an era of too many choices. Too many choices lead to indecisiveness and paralysis. In a recent blog post I made, I created a beat that sounded pretty unique IMO, just by using an ambient recording of street noise made on my iphone. Check it out here . I think it’s so important to limit your tools and to stick to using your brain and imagination. This is how a lot of unique artists create. When you rely too much on your gear and external options then you first have to learn how to use them and then you spend hours thinking about which one will do the job best. Anyway, just my two cents of the subject. Hope you liked the New York times article. I found it to be inspiring and overall a good reminder of what music is about.


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