Remember that post I wrote a couple days ago?

The one where I said stealing plugins makes your mixes worse?

(It definitely got a few people fired up.)

Let’s dive a bit deeper into that, shall we?

Some people thought that I was saying that people who steal plugins aren’t capable of learning how to use those plugins effectively…that there’s some magic force field that causes everything to sound like poo.

That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m talking about deeper issues.

I’m talking about recording wannabe’s.

The reason these people steal plugins is because they’re looking for a shortcut. They want to produce killer-sounding mixes without having to do any work.

They’re operating under a flawed assumption.

That assumption is simply this — “I’m not the problem.”

Another way of putting it — “The reason my recordings don’t sound good is because I don’t have [insert gear/software here].”

I hate to break it to you, pilgrim, but that ain’t true.

If you ever want any hope of putting out music that sounds great, music that people want to listen to, music that you can be proud of, YOU have got to get better.

If you’re a recording wannabe, you’ll probably read this and get offended.

But if you’re one of the good guys, this should get you excited. The only thing standing in the way between you and great recordings is…YOU.

I don’t know about you, but that’s exciting to me.

That means I don’t have to hit the lottery to be able to buy the gear to finally produce good-quality recordings.

It means that all I have to do is focus on ME…on learning how to get fantastic results from the gear in my studio right now.

How cool is that?

If you’re a recording wannabe, thanks for reading this far.

If you’re an action-taker, and you’re excited about improving your recordings, grab a copy of Understanding Compression:

I’ll teach you how to get great sounds out of the compressor plugins you own right now.

Joe Gilder

8 Responses to “Recording Wannabe’s”

  1. Christopher w

    I got into the habit of just reading your emails instead of visiting the site, so silly me thought that hitting reply on the email would mean its on the site (to be fair I was very tired at the time). So for those who want to read here is what I sent:

    As most times, I 100% agree with you. For example I couldn’t get one of the drum kits sounding right, it sounded okay but not great even when mixed it sounds better but still just lacked that little something. Peers often tell me “you need this ‘blah blah’ plugin” or “you must be mixing it wrong, try using this ‘insert really long plugin chain list here’ and your problem will be fixed”… of course this won’t work. Don’t get me wrong it may help but it won’t fix. Although buying a new car make make smoother gear changes it doesn’t make you a better driver.

    So I have this band coming in next week to record, there a rock group with really heavy drums. I plan to track it (or most of it) live so the drums have to be spot on as there will be bleed into other instruments. Me and a few friends spent all today with a ‘dry run’ best place for acoustic treatment to minimize spill etc. got all that sorted and thought, well we don’t have anything else to do lets pick up microphones for each drum and sort this kit out once and for all!

    So we recorded some drums with two overheads, two snare microphones, three kick microphones, and one set of tom microphones and one high hat microphone (only one for these because of previous trial and error testing and found that we could get the best sound from these). We went through and picked one of each we liked the most so we had: One Snare, Two kick (we got a really nice sound out of them… more on that later), one set for toms a high hat and a stereo pair of overheads.

    Done? Nope. Granted we got a great sound and took loads of pictures for reference. But as one of the kick drum mics sounded terrible we decided to move it, we got a great sound by moving a microphone a few inches, sometimes that’s all it takes. We used two because we built a kick drum tunnel and placed one just outside it and one very close to the beater and got the biggest kick drum sound I have heard since them classic rock albums. So we decided to try it for the rest, our High hat mic sounded great but we felt as if it was getting too much bleed from the snare so we moved that, still got the great high hat sound but lost most of the bleed from the snare, another success. Our snare mic sounded tons better in another position too, this time only literary an inch further away. In the end we moved the over heads and toms but they were better placed where they were originally but it was worth moving them just for the knowledge that they were in the best place. We recorded a few bars with everything said and done and it was like night and day, we got that mysterious classic stadium rock drum sound. The band are going to love it…. and guess what? all done without a plugin in sight. So we can only imagine (until next week when we start it) how much more better it will sound WITH plugins.

    So to recap, its not that my drums were bad before but with a little planning and placement choices they now sound much, much more better.

  2. CamBam

    We produce music, which is one of the most heavily pirated forms of media right now. How can we expect fans to buy our music, when we pirated the software we used to make it? Pirating software is wrong.

  3. Andrew

    True Joe! I also think other people who steal plugins actually want it to make there tracks sound even more BEAUTIFUL (I use this word loosely because beauty is in the eye of the beholder), but I do believe there are some thieves out there that do know how to use plugins at a virtuoso level may I say.

    Quiet frankly, I think thats why some were mad add your previous blog post, for it was not that you called them a “thief” that offended them but that you IMPLIED to some that they were “Inadequate” at using their stock plugins or any plugin.

    Kinda oxymoron how people react:

    you call them a thief and its not a big deal

    but if you imply that these thieves don’t know how to use “stock plugins” then it strikes there ego LOL!

    Life really is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your gonna get it.

    I apologize if I offend anyone reading this comment.

  4. Craig

    It’s a shame that the studio system is so defunct these days. Almost everyone is flying solo, with no shoulder-of-a-pro to look over and learn from.

    Sure, you can give 20 grand to a school, but I’ve yet to meet a grad who’s light years ahead career-wise from their expenditure.

    We need more collaborative recording projects. More brains in the room = more creativity/perspective.

    I think sometimes we use plugins to try and make up for the lack of other people to bounce ideas off of.

    A bit of a tangent to the issue of not paying for plugins, but I think very relevant to why we’ve got so many “wannabe’s” and so much crap music/recording out there.

    There’s no vetting anymore of who’s “ready” to either be behind the glass or in front of it.

  5. freesoul

    It all comes down to wanting fastest results possible with the least amount of work…in definition,lazy. It’s easier for some to spend money on a one plug/knob solution where all those time tested parameters are already set and instantiated and all you have to do is send the plug in makers a few hundred of your hard earned dollars or go to your local crack dealer(torrent site). It’s true the same results can be had with the tools you already have like the article reads. It just is a matter of what your time is worth,and how easy you want to spend that time.

    I’m not saying that some plug in magic doesn’t happen happen every once and a while. There are great time tested mastering suites that people swear by. Me,I can’t afford them and I’m sure as hell not going to steal them. If I ever get to the point that I NEED(key word)them I’m just going to have to save my money or deal with what I have.

    The problem with so many folks is the whole working/living within your means. That’s what brought down the housing market and crushed our entire economic system(not to paraphrase a huge number of other problems and contributers to it). People over extend there means and think the magic is in owning everything. Buy,buy,buy. Sometimes it’s best to sit back and take stock on what you currently have before you go running out and loading up on another “magic maker”.

    I’m not a pro. I’m just a simple home studio user. Have I wanted Ozone,PSP,UA,ONE Knobs,plugins,SURE. It gives me something to WORK for. I have to buy everything I own with cash down to the cent. This makes purchases come few a year for me. It really brings possessions into a whole different light when you don’t have the liberty to “charge it back” in plastic. You learn very quickly how to work with what you have and appreciate what you have worked for.

    Stealing is wrong. Downloading plugins you haven’t paid for is wrong. Don’t set yourself up for a lifetime of self entitlement and easy ways out. The first time easy becomes rough you might find yourself in a bad way that will change your outlook on everything in life. Get a head start. Work with what you got.

    Thanks for listening to my “cool story bro” :).

  6. Tal

    Amongst being morally wrong, you also run into other matters. The “cracked” plugin has been altered in some way to get it to be utilized without some form of registration. This leaves the possibility of the plugin becoming unstable, or worse, making your DAW experience serious issues. Not something you want when you have that client standing there wanting results or having to re-install everything again due to software issues. It is just too risky in my opinion. Just some thoughts from someone who has “been there”…

  7. Chris

    Putting the creative element aside, it is also just wrong to steal software.

    If you are finding it hard to generate enough money from engineering. You are simply making that situation worse by stealing. If we all stole our software, these tools that we love so much simply would not exist.

  8. Roger

    I totally agree with you! There’s no doubt that there are some plugins that have some special ‘features’, and while in theory all compressors/Eq/limiters could do exactly the same thing, there are significant differences on what you can do with some of them.
    But when we look back at the “early” days of audio recording (when the big boys had ‘only 16 tracks’), we can still find amazing recordings, and that brings us the big lesson: – You really need to learn how to make a great recording with the basic ‘stuff’, and start growing up from there.
    If just can’t start your driving lessons on one day, and try to drive a F1 on a race track on the next day. You won’t be a best driver because you have a super fast car…you’ll only crash faster and harder! 🙂


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