CommitYesterday we looked at using busses to route several tracks through one effect as one way of preserving some of your computer’s processing power.

Today I want to talk to you about commitment. That’s right, I said it. Have trouble committing to something? She mentions “baby,” and you freak out, right?

Okay, I’m not talking about that kind of commitment.

Options, options, options

The great thing about today’s computer-based recording systems is all the options they give you. The problem with today’s computer-based recording systems is all the options they give you.

That’s a digital society for you. We’re already overwhelmed with choices. I was looking at cable TV packages the other day, and I’m pretty sure the cheapest package from this particular provider included 150 channels. One hundred fifty!

Your recording system isn’t much different. You can create more tracks and insert more plug-ins than you would ever need. And you’ve got dozens of plug-ins to choose from, right out of the box, not to mention all those third-party plug-in bundles you added to your system.

So what does this have to do with preserving processing power? Well, when you have the option to change every plug-in on every track whenever you want, you tend to exercise that freedom. You’ll change that guitar amp setting every twenty minutes, and you’ll never be happy with the result, because you know you can just change it later. All those plug-ins start taxing your system pretty quickly!

Here’s a thought…make a decision!

Rather than letting all these options stifle your creativity, decide on something and commit to it! This is particularly applicable to guitar amp modeling plug-ins and virtual instruments. But you can apply this things like EQs and compressors as well.

Rather than telling yourself that you can go back and “fix” the tone later, hunker down and get the tone you want right now. Once you’ve dialed it in, route that track to another audio track in your DAW and record the effected signal.

Now that the signal is recorded, you can deactivate the first track (the one with the plug-in on it), thereby freeing up processing power.

Wait…what just happened?

Two things:

  1. You made the decision to dial in the tone you want now. This made you focus on the sound more closely. If you really are happy with the tone, you’re set!! You just saved yourself from having to go back and fix it later.
  2. You preserved processing power by deactivating the initial track/plug-in.

Think of it this way, you’re just doing what recording engineers have been doing for decades. You’re treating the amp modeling plug-in like an actual amp. When you mic up a real guitar amp, you’re committing that amp’s tone to tape.

You can’t go back and change the dials on the amp once it’s recorded. Is this a limitation? Yep. But limitations are good, especially when you’re drowning in a sea of choices.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at offline processing. Got a question? Want to share a pearl of wisdom? Leave a comment below.

  • “But limitations are good, especially when you’re drowning in a sea of choices.”

    Extremely well put. It’s always very tough to decide when I use “Guitar Rig.” The machine I’m using has a ton of RAM, but not much CPU, so I have to commit all the time. Even if I end up questioning that tone in the mix later.. It’s a HUGE limitation for MY workflow. 64 BIT would be INCREDIBLE. (for plugins as well)

  • Totally! As much as we like creative freedom, sometimes giving yourself constraints is the best way to get things really moving (both for your computer and your mind).

  • musiciainsdojo

    I really like the concept here. It's all about giving yourself permission to simplify options and how you use them so you can focus on the rest of what you're working on.

    Not very easy to do when you have that baby thrown in the picture.. πŸ˜‰ lol!

    • Yep. It's amazing how restricting yourself oftentimes makes you more productive (and creative).

  • Hwangman

    Very nice. I'm guilty of not committing as well. Too many amp plugins/drum samples to choose from, so i end up thinking i'll finish it later and move on. I'm sure i'd do better to just take 10 extra minutes to dial in the sound i want, commit it in the DAW, and move on.

    • Good point about drum samples. I've got a song I'm working on in
      EZDrummer, and it's almost time to mix. I tried switching to a
      different drum kit, and it threw everything off. Sounded completely
      different. I had based everything in the recoding around these drums.
      Changing them would've been a bad idea.

  • This article illustrates one of the reasons I decided to buy a hardware sampler for my music production, instead of using one of the many software samplers out there that come with 40 gigabytes of free sample libraries recorded in the best studios by today’s hottest engineers. It forces me to record and use all my own samples, and it forces me to get creative with what I sample. This is also why I bought a field recorder: you never know when you might find a good sound. In short, it forces me to make decisions about what sounds good before the tracking even starts.

    • Excellent point, Darren. I love computer-based systems, but there is definitely an added benefit to going completely “outboard.”

  • Sam

    Buy a re-amping box, and you’ll NEVER be satisfied! You never have to commit to an amp sound… Record guitars and basses direct, then spend weeks re-amping different takes, switching mics, moving mics, changing pres, changing comps, swapping amps, changing tubes in the mics, changing tubes in the amps (in different combinations… one of our amps has five tubes for more fun!), moving the acoustic panels around, moving the whole set-up to a different part of the room, moving the whole room, putting the setup under the air duct and then micing the firebox in the furnace… the sky’s the limit!

    But seriously, I agree with the “commit” principle. I’m about to mix down my 13 drum tracks to a stereo buss. The MacBook can only take so much. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    I can always re-amp it later…

    • πŸ™‚ “putting the setup under the air duct and then micing the firebox in the furnace” Ha ha ha.

  • Wow….! This is so true!!!! I have so many plug-ins on my computer it is crazy!!! I don’t use all of the plug-ins nor do I know how to aply all of them. I think if we be honest with ourselves when it comes to applying reverb, eq, compression, etc. we all have a favorites that we go to every single time for every song. I know I do!!! So…I guess I need to start committing! Dang…I was wondering why it took me so long to mix my tracks…LOL…! I knew I should’ve asked Joe! πŸ™‚