Hey gang, today I want to talk to you about a common problem many of us face: plugin addiction. Yes, you heard me right. Plugin addiction is when you buy too many audio plugins and don’t focus on using what you already have, especially the ones that come with your DAW. You know what I’m talking about.
You see a shiny new plugin on sale and think: “Wow, this compressor is exactly what I need to make my mixes sound amazing!” And then you buy it, install it, use it once or twice, and then forget about it. And then, you repeat the cycle with another plugin. Will someone stop the madness?
Does this sound familiar? If so, you might be suffering from plugin addiction, a cousin of G.A.S., gear acquisition syndrome. And trust me, I know how it feels. I’ve been there. Unnecessarily, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on plugins that I barely use or don’t even need.
Undoubtedly, countless wasted hours were spent browsing through websites and watching YouTube videos searching for deals. Not to leave out the endless tweaking and swapping of plugins. And you know what? It didn’t make me a better producer. I wasn’t happier. It didn’t make me richer.
So what did I do? I decided to stop buying plugins and use what I already have. And let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Why? Because I realized there are some excellent plugins I already have that I don’t even use or don’t know how to use correctly. They are the ones that come with my DAW. Yes, the stock plugins. The ones that are often overlooked or dismissed as inferior or dull. They are powerful and versatile if you know how to use them.
Think about it. The stock plugins are designed to work seamlessly with your DAW. They are optimized for performance and compatibility. All the essential functions and effects you need for mixing and mastering are already there. They are easy to use and understand. Most importantly, they are free (well, included in the price of your DAW) and sound good.
Don’t Believe Me?
Listen to some professional producers and engineers who swear by using stock plugins. People like Andrew Scheps mixed songs for Adele, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, and many more using only stock plugins from Pro Tools. Similarly, Dave Pensado, who mixed songs for Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Bieber, used only stock plugins from Logic Pro X. People like Graham Cochrane, who runs a successful online mixing and mastering business using only stock plugins from Reaper.
These are examples of people who have achieved excellent results with stock plugins. And you can too. All you need is to learn how to use them properly and creatively. You need to understand the basics of EQ, compression, reverb, delay, distortion, modulation, and other effects.
Additionally, knowledge about how to apply them in different situations and scenarios is critical. You must know how to tweak them to suit your taste and style.
So, What Should You Do?
Great question! It doesn’t mean you should never purchase any third-party plugins again. Some developers make great plugins that offer unique features or sound quality that you can’t get from stock plugins. And if you have the budget and the desire, go ahead and buy them. But make sure that they are something that you really want or need. Make sure that they add value to your workflow and creativity. Make sure that they complement your existing arsenal of plugins.
And how do you do that? Trying demos before you buy them. Yes, demos are your best friend when it comes to buying plugins. They let you test the plugin in your environment to see if it works. Another perk is that you can compare it with similar plugins and see if it offers something better or different. They let you decide if it’s worth your money or not.
My other suggestion is to go hide in a closet during Black Friday and the entire month of November! This is the time when you are prey to all of the companies who are trying to get your hard-earned dollars. It’s great to pick up a bargain or two during that period, but I, among others, have seen what can happen when you let things go wild. Next thing you know, you’re down $300, $400, or $500 or more, and you’re wondering what happened?
So here’s my advice: before you buy any plugin, try the demo first. And before you try the demo, use what you already have first. You might be surprised by how much you can do with stock plugins alone.
The idea here is that you shouldn’t have to waste money to make great music. You should be able to make great music with whatever tools you have. You should be able to focus on your skills and creativity rather than your gear and gadgets.
I have spent hundreds of dollars on plugins that I didn’t need or use much. And I would like some of that money back to spend on other things like instruments, hardware, my kids’ college tuition, or even pizza and beer!