A very good article on the 'Talent and Gear Fallacy'

I stumbled across this looking at featured studios in the Jan 2018 Music Tech Focus magazine. This is a very clear and well written excerpt.

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Great read bud. Hits home with me. I have very little invested and enjoy doing this more than anything. thanks for posting


As your talent develops, I think you can make better use of the gear that’s available, because you know what it is intended for and can use it better. When you finally have the first 90% down, then you can consider the advantages of one compressor over another, or tape simulation vs. distortion, and all that esoteric stuff.
If you are fortunate enough to develop a client base you may also be expected to have more stuff to remain competitive.
It’s all priorities. Nothing wrong with owning a lot of good gear if you know how to use it, and nothing wrong with getting great results out of minimal gear.


spelling error near the end hehe

yeah, I agree with a lot of that. I dont even want to know the $$$ ive sunk into this hobby. Always trying to find ways to step up my overall game

id say that one needs a couple decent mics and a decent interface for sure. A decent computer. of course a lot of it depends on if the person will be recording actual drums. That ups the ante a bit but I use EZ Drummer so I still spend $$$ on it that way.

After that id say that the really big gains will come with just learning the basics of EQ/Compression/levels/arranging etc

Id love to get to the place where actual equipment itself holds me back. I doubt im really there yet

I second the whole thing about asking stuff on forums etc. You’ve really got to know how to take whatever answers you get. People will tell you that you suck and others will tell you that you are ready for stardom.

In the end you gotta find whatever it is that is already inside of you and do whatever it takes to build it up

I have no clue whether im great or whether I suck because im so deep into the process at this point. Just thinking about it puts me into the thousand yard stare lol

Peace, JJ

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I think having good tuned ears are more important than gear and that can take years .
Gear is just gear as hardware and plugs are so close .Andy Wallace might have nice gear but he could do a mix on my set up using the same gear and blow me out of the window, its all in the ears .

I think a lot of this has to do with people’s individual experiences. Many of the big name mixers started their career when computers weren’t used to record music. So that’s how they learned and worked for years. The example they used in the article was Andy Wallace. I looked him up, and he’s 70 years old. That’s decades of time spent without computers. I’m not at all surprised he still relies on analog gear for certain things.

Imagine the state of things 40 years from now. The people who grew up making music without computers will be out of the picture. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if most of the current “big names” had very different sorts of gear preferences. Technology changes. I guess I’m just saying that I’m not convinced by the particular example given in this article.

Certain gear matters to certain people. No doubt about that. And the article has a lot of other good points.


From the article:

Now when I say “gear” in this context, I’m not talking about consoles, vintage microphones, outboard EQs or anything like that. I’m talking about your room and everything in it. So in this case, “gear” could be the way your room sounds, acoustic treatment, monitoring, converters, etc. I’m not even talking about the preference for mixing in or out of the box.

Regardless of age, genre, tech era, or workflow, the writer is attacking the myth that Grammy winning mixes don’t come from laptops and headphones. I feel the hardware/ITB debate is a different one all together. And he’s challenging the notion that its possible compete in this industry without adequate tools even IF you happen to be good at mixing.

Is the example you don’t agree with the one about the guy opening a tire shop with a lug wrench and a jack? And then expecting to win an engineering award?

This article isn’t suggesting you can’t mix anything at all with starter gear. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere. Its also not implying that if you don’t have a plugin library like mine that you shouldn’t even try. Its calling out the Bullshitters that think you can win a Grammy with an Maudio interface, a pair of headphones, and ProTools LE.

The article never said that, and if it did, it would have been wrong. It’s just that it’s rare to find someone that is good enough at mixing that is still using PTLE. And not because PTLE doesn’t provide good enough tools to make a good mix, it just has a limited workflow.

Of course better gear can be easier to work on. In my view, gear is 99% about workflow and 1% about sound quality.

But grammys can be won on a song that is just acoustic guitar and vocals, and PTLE is more than capable of doing everything perfectly well. But people are not winning grammys by doing one good song. They are winning grammys by doing a million songs and one of them happens to be good enough to win. You don’t do a million songs in PTLE because the workflow isn’t there to turn into a song factory. The quality is, but the workflow isn’t.


“Only you know where you currently are and where you want to be. You already have the start and end of the roadmap. Maybe you don’t want to work with Rise Against; maybe you just want to record your own music, your friend’s, etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Don’t let anyone tell you different or say you should be doing something else.”

Good advice I think for most of us, I like that.

Of course if you want to be in business then you need to think like a business person and since this business is customer driven you have to pay attention to all those little whims and preferences that customers have. If they want to see a U47 and spinning reels, guess what?

If plugin makers are paying for your endorsement, is it ethical to run for the console as soon as they leave your studio?

I think a good business person finds the right bottom line and believes in it. How else can you sell it?

WHAT??? LE does not even include an optical compressor sim…nor any imaging and has extremely limited metering options. It lacks transient design, usable bus compression, multi-band comps, saturation…omg the list goes on.

You basically get an EQ, a compressor, a gate, a reverb and a delay. I don’t care how good someone is, you can’t mix competitively with that! Come on.

No. I disagree 100%. You absolutely must have decent imaging, reverb, and saturation tools to pull that off. I don’t care how well that track was printed, you don’t ever send off a deliverable without close attention to the 2 bus and meticulous dynamic control of the 2 sources. Take Justin Beibers ‘you can go and f- yourself’ track…PT LE is incapable of producing that.

Boz, it moves the goalpost if you say PTLE on a laptop with the entire libraries from Waves, UAD, Soundtoys, FabFilter, McDSP, and Isotope. It moves the goalpost because now you’re in the high-end-digital vs high-end-analog discussion. Thats a whole different conversation. You automatically went from a shit scenario to using the best plugins money can buy. The article didn’t even factor the DAW, because I agree with you there, its a non-factor so long as both the laptop and DAW are sufficient for the workflow.

And you can’t mix competitively in headphones, nor can you mix competitively in a bad room. The monitor speakers do seem to be a ‘whatever works for you’ kind of thing. But the room isn’t. An ME can’t correct major fuck ups in the low end imaging because a guy tries to wing it without adequate room treatment and is too cheap to call in a review or critique from a major facility with immaculate treatment.

In this day and age, it goes without saying that when a track reaches that kind of status its just expected to not have rookie mistakes in the production.

Very true. I don’t know if anyone would deny there’s a luck factor involved in this at some levels.

It’s not luck, it’s throughput and variety. You could mix that Beiber song on PTLE if you knew the tools well and specialized in that type of music. It probably wouldn’t sound exactly like that mix, but it could sound just as good. But like I said, the workflow is way limited and it would take a lot more work. No professional engineer in their right mind is going to limit themselves like to save $1000.

You aren’t going to record an orchestra with an M-Box. But anything that can be done on 1 or 2 mics can be done.

But you definitely can mix on headphones if you know how to do it. People seem to argue that because they can’t do it, nobody can. Some people can run long distance barefoot. Some people pay thousands of dollars for shoes to run a marathon. Just because guy B can’t run barefoot doesn’t mean nobody can.

And there are so many good free plugins out there that anybody can use, so limited effects are not an excuse for anybody.

You do have to have some tools to get a good recording. You can’t record without a mic and an interface. You can’t record without a DAW. But the lower limit for a budget to get a good recording is extremely low if you use your gear right and you are making music that fits your gear.


I guess I’m just saying that I think comparing a young person who’s been mixing for 5 years with an older person who’s been mixing for 40 is flawed not only because their levels of experience are so different, but because their actual experiences are so different because of the times and the technology available.

No, it was the example of the big name pro who releases a signature plugin, but still uses his old gear instead. I’m just not surprised at all, and I don’t think it means the plugin isn’t any good. It’s just that of course people are more comfortable with what they know.

When someone’s listening to music, they don’t care how the song was made. People need to know what tools they need for them, and for their kind of music. Some styles of music might sound better when they’re more lo-fi. Sometimes you just get an incredible performance and a lot of things about it are technically shitty, but damn is it great to listen to. The author of the article even seems to say this–that you need to know what you’re doing and what you need to get there. Music is changing all the time. I say screw it and be creative and do what works for you!

gear is great, talent is greater.
I personally know someone in my field (woodwinds) “wouter kellerman” - who has won a Grammy for instrumental composition made entirely with just good ears and little to no knowledge of gear. Most of the initial work was in free plugins . He self taught and evolved over the years and is now a pretty big name in the woodwinds field.

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How do we know this can be done? What engineers has ever mixed an award winning or even a certified gold album without the help of monitors? If no one’s done it, how are we certain it can be?


It’s been done. Again, just because something is not ideal, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. That’s sort of the nature of everything in existence.

Then there’s this. I can’t verify if any of it is true, but it’s not like it’s far fetched.

Fascinating discussion!

I learned about the Tarahumara people a few years ago. They are an ancient people still living mostly traditionally in a mountainous region of Mexico, and are known as fantastic runners - both fast and with extreme endurance. Compared to our modern outlook and standards (and sedentarism) their accomplishments seem almost impossible, but to them it’s a way of life that has served them for centuries or millenia. Sometimes our “bubble” and biases keep us from seeing what is possible. :thinking:

I just don’t buy into the whole “Thing A is quality, therefore thing B must be not quality” idea, as if there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. Each tool and method has it’s strengths and its weaknesses. Every method and every tool has trade offs. And every mixer has to figure out how to deal with those trade offs. It’s really nothing more than that.

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I’ve been wearing exclusively barefoot shoes for years, (except in the cold/snowy winter,) and I love them! Regular shoes feel uncomfortable now. It feels great to run with them too.