Music tips: the importance (or lack thereof) of audio plug-ins

Home recording has grown exponentially in the last few years, and one of its most striking characteristics has been the incremental use of audio plugin-ins (effects or instruments that can digitally replace hardware) and these artifacts have truly changed the game for better or for worse, but the truth is that they aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of things.

Creativity vs. Technology

With big companies such as Waves and Universal Audio offering top-notch, high-end virtual effects, it can be easy to get swept up by all the buzz and rave, but certainly the most important aspect of the process must never be forgotten. Creativity is really in the hands of the person behind the controls and must never be undermined. The truth is that whatever the amount of EQs, compressors and reverbs that one can use on their recordings and mixes, the best records exude creative workflows and ideas that are not limited to how much you pay for a particular effect or how much screen time you dedicate to learn how the setting on a particular compressor works.

The new artistic process

There is certainly something to be said of the way recording and mixing works nowadays, as the artist oftentimes takes the role of the engineer, the producer, the arranger and the player all at once, and it can be frustrating to balance all aspects at once if it is not in service of one single idea. The mere action of doing everything yourself can certainly be tempting and against-the-status-quo, but it can be argued that expert hands will always be needed in the end product, as your vision can only grow dimmer with layers and layers of work that don’t allow you to have any perspective into your own artistic process, and laboring on plugin choices can definitely be extravagant to say the least in this scenario.

Pros and cons of digital audio tools

Pros and cons of digital audio tools

However, the truth is that audio plug-ins can certainly be good for some things, be it entire programs that can be synced up with each other to maximize creativity (pairing Propellerhead Reason with Pro Tools, Logic Pro X or Ableton Live or using Arturia Labs virtual instrument tools). VST instruments can also certainly be effective in adding a repertoire of sounds for artists, but this could in turn prove to be detrimental into creating a fixed, consistent aesthetic in the overall body of work of any one artist in particular, and the best way to avoid this could be to actually learn the ins and outs of the hardware before settling in to learn how digital can compare or prove to be a resourceful alternative.

While on the subject, probably two of the best effect makers out there are SoundToys and Universal Audio, whose tools vary from faithful replications of original, vintage hardware used in all of your favorite records, to amazingly creative effects that make all the sounds you’ll ever need available and compact at just the click of a mouse. Certainly, plug-ins are a bonus, but creativity is a must.