I have opened a lot of different sessions from lots of different people to mix over the years, and there are tons and tons of plugins all over it. Having access to tons of plugins can be a good thing, and it can also be a bad thing. You’ve heard us talk many times about how sometimes you just mute all the plugin and a recording actually comes to life. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen sometimes. We live in a world where we can now access many great plugins that can do anything we want, and sometimes that takes over our recording and it gets lost under all the plugins.
If you look around my studio, you will see tat I have acquired a lot of stuff over the years, including an SSL console, various speakers, mic pres, microphones, and more. What does all of this equipment do? It imparts a sound when I am recording.
So what is the use of plugins? Plugins can also impart a sound on your recordings, which is great when you are dealing with virtual instruments, or an inexpensive microphone without a nice mic pre or compressor. However, you must know your intention.
Intention is the most important element of any recording. If you are trying to get something that glues together and feels like a vintage recording, you need to apply that intention to it. Today, you have access to hundreds of plugins, compressors, EQs, delays, reverbs, and more – which can lead to a bad case of “optionitis”. But the reality is, that when those vintage recordings that inspired you were created, they did not have access to hundreds of plugins, they were very limited, and so it really is less about the options and the number of effects you apply, and more about the intention.
Before you even being recording, paint a mental picture of the sound you want to create, because this should be what is influencing you right from the beginning. For example, are you listening to a vocal acoustic sound? You could just generically record it, and then use all the fancy plugins to pull out any peaks and troughs and all that kind of stuff, or maybe you could pull the microphone back a bit on the guitarist and get a little bit of room tone in there, and create intention.
In the long run, this will make your recording sound that much better, and also make your mixing process easier. Many of us are mixing our recordings ourselves now, so if we begin our recording with intention and create the sound we are aiming for right from the beginning, that will mean we need to do less at the end, and won’t end up with too many plugins on our mix.
Whether you are recording classic rock, modern metal, country, EDM, or anything else, work with intention!
Watch the full video below!