Get the sound you want from the tools you have
"Get the sound you want from the tools you have" - That's the strapline on the cover of the November 2021 edition of Sound On Sound mag.
Well, I couldn't have said it better myself. We all like equipment, we all like software, we all like plug-ins. But which of them should come first in importance?
Answer - None of them. Music should come first.
I'd like to be able to say that I have always put music first, and equipment, software, and plug-ins second, third, and fourth, in no particular order. But I only have to look at the massive drop-down menu of plug-ins in my Pro Tools setup to see that I haven't always been following my own advice.
The specific topic of the relevant article in the mag is compression, and I'm going to say that the content of the article doesn't quite match up with my take on the strapline of the cover.
The article, by SOS Editor Sam Inglis, is a comprehensive run-through of what a compressor can do, what it should do, and what it can do for you.
That's great, and I recommend a read. I doubt there are many people who wouldn't find something they don't already know. (Was that a triple negative? Whoops!)
But what I thought I was going to read is rather different...
How many compressors do you need?
With no sense of criticism of the article, because it's my error in interpretation, I thought that the main thrust would be that you already have a compressor in your DAW - they all have at least one compression plug-in as standard - and you don't really need any more.
I said 'need' there. I didn't say 'want'.
My view is that you actually only need two compressors - one that is clean and accurate, and one that has character. There's enough range of expression there to win you your Grammy award if your technique and art are strong enough.
In fact, I often find with Audio Masterclass students that too many plug-ins lead to too much confusion. It's easy to acquire a dozen or more compression plug-ins and not really learn any of them properly. But if you have just two, then after just a few sessions you'll get to know them really well and truly get the best out of them, to the not-to-be-underestimated benefit of your music.
There's always temptation however, and I'm not immune.
One further point that I must add is that some people, myself included, work best when their concentration is focused by having only a few, most relevant, tools to hand. With fewer tools, you are forced to become more creative.
But also I've met people who seem to have the ability to command almost limitless resources, and have in their memory the exact process or effect they want, down to not only the individual plug-in but which preset, factory or custom, and which minute tweak of which control that will get the perfect sound.
If you can do this, or develop this ability, then great. But I expect that for most of us, getting the sound we want from the tools we have, as in the title of this article, will be the way to go.