Recording technology has never been more exciting and accessible. What You can do with a laptop, some monitors, an interface and plugins is amazing today! The only caveat is that you have to know what you’re doing. Cheaper and faster technology is great, but watch out for the pitfalls that many amateurs and enthusiasts fall into.
Say what? Plugins? In essence, someone could be handed a race car and potentially wreck it if they didn’t know how to operate it properly. Bad analogy aside, you get the idea; it’s the driver! More often than not, people look to plugins to make up for lackluster recording and mixes. I’m here to tell you that it’s not the plugins in the first place. It has a lot more to do with knowing what you want and going after it. If you don’t know what you kind of sound you’re going for, you ought to figure that out first!
All DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) come with a built-in suite of basic plugins such as Eq, compression, delay, reverb and limiting more or less. These are base essentials, but they are just that. I would suggest to anyone starting out to really learn what an Eq is before going out and purchasing the next hot thing. If you don’t know what compression thresholds and ratios are, those are basic concepts that everyone should know before turning any knobs.
What ultimately matters is the end result or the idea you’re trying to get across sonically. I would view plugins as enhancers to something that you’re already satisfied with. Of course you can use a plugin however you’d like; some use plugins to simply add character to a sound they’re already satisfied with. The crazy thing is, a lot of professionals today still use old plugins that they know well. They know what’s up!
Here are some additional resources if you want to learn more about the basics of audio, mixing, etc. Learn the basics and you’ll achieve great heights. Good luck.
Equalization – Courtesy of Yamaha Pro Audio
Compression – Article courtesy of Universal Audio
Delays – Sound On Sound