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

A very good article on the 'Talent and Gear Fallacy'
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I think I’m looking at the process of how mix engineers get picked differently. And instead of looking at what makes a song go to the top of the charts, I’m looking at what its expected specifically of the mix engineer to get it passed the labels firewall. I think the technical aspects are less significant once you hit a minimum threshold of skill level. And I don’t know any people with that skill level that would consider attempting this from a bedroom.

Why? Should we call them exceptionally well mixed? All I mean is that its extremely rare to see one that was compromised in any noticeable way by technical flaws. Again, I’m talking 2018…here and now.

What do you mean?

Why do you say that?

Let me back up a little. You say I’m confusing talent, popularity, and money. Let me probe at the talent part. I felt like (or was attempting to) try to stay pretty objective, but maybe I’m not.

I’m largely speaking in terms of ‘skill’. More than just ‘talent’. When I say skill, I’m using that word to mean a culmination of developed/refined talent. Where I’m stuck, its it seems as though others wish to disregard someones experience and the knowledge they acquired from working with their tools as irrelevant to their skill set. If anything this will dichotomize a general skill set (being an overall knowledge of audio) vs a specific skill set (a knowledge of particular gear). But the fallacy here is to assume they are mutually exclusive when you sit down behind your console to mix a track. Neither are a reflection of their talent, but both are aspect of your skill.

Your ability to utilize a tool emphatically depends on said compressor or EQ be accessible for use!!! That’s why I keep banging my damn head against the wall insisting that the gear matters. I can’t fathom for the life of me how people are reasoning otherwise. There are plenty of examples…say a variable biasing tube compressor is the wrong tool for crushing a snare drum. There’s no skill an engineer can have that will make this work, other than prior knowledge that its wrong damn compressor for the job!

Is the part you disagree with my view that gear knowledge is an aspect of skill? Or that the ability to employ the skill is dependent on having access to tool?


Nobody’s arguing against that. It’s been said, the workflow sucks. You don’t get chosen to mix a top dollar song unless you have a history, and you don’t have a large history if it takes you 2 weeks to mix a song. So professionals create rooms and setups that allow them to mix as quickly as possible and remove as many roadblocks as possible. I don’t think anybody would contend with that idea.

But to take that idea and extrapolate it to mean that it technically can’t be done in a bedroom is where I think your reasoning is off. It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s just that it’s a sucky way to work if you don’t have to.


great argument, I agree ability to monetize a skill might depend a lot on gear and social infrastructure.

I think the recording industry and music industry in general is evolving. For popular songs there is already an infrastructure in place that skews the statistics of what causes a song to make the charts. (Charts itself is a statistic that depends on many factors, predetermined presence and marketing being the big ones).

I do agree, skill and gear go hand in hand and plays a big hand in maintaining a successful brand, however, what causes an artist to rise is mostly skill and not gear. While today there are not many tracks made from smaller studios (home studios) are attracting Grammy/Billboard attention, in the future the whole system could change. When listening to streams, sometimes its easy to lose track of what songs were from popular artists and which were not, one moment I could be listening to maroon 5 and the next song just blows me away, made from some indie artist in a home studio. Lines are already blurring.


Honestly, I don’t even know what we are debating anymore. You said that you can’t make a top notch mix on a laptop and low grade DAW. I don’t think there’s any truth to that, and I haven’t heard any explanation to convince me that it’s true.


that means it is time for the class clown @CPF to derail this train the most classy manner possible.


haha. Lovely. Ok. Extrapolate indeed.

Lets say I was hired by a label A&R guy who had just been fired and wanted a last chance to stick it to his boss by screwing their top roster artist via commissioning a track from me (of all people) and then setting the condition that I had to mix it in my bathroom and I had to specifically mix from inside the bathtub with the shower door closed. Thus taking away any possible conceivable hope of setting my Focals on both sides of the sink, and stacking a tower of Ethans MondoTraps on the toilet and in the closet or whatever.

The first thing I would do is ask for all the money up front. Once I got it, I would probably order 20 sets of headphones and begin studying the nuances of how stuff translates. I would transfer all of my licenses to a laptop, then I’d probably wire up a little Korg Nano Kontrol and cross my fingers and hope for the best. I’d spend a lot of time a/b or more like a/b/c/d/e/f/g/h the mixes on all different headphones because I think it would take weeks to adapt to and adjust your perception of what you’re hearing before you had any clue what your fader and EQ movements are actually doing. The problem is and always has been translation. Really thinking about it, I’m really out of ideas on how to deal with those kinds of limitations. I suppose it could eventually be done. And the reason is that the knobs and faders are gonna end up in the same position in your DAW that they would if a multi-million dollar dub stage mixed in the box. I’m confident that a track could be delivered from in the box. What I’m fairly uncertain of is how you’d get it there using headphones.

For the sake of thought experiment, there’s one problem here. I think a guy who was trying to do this would get fired from the project for sending in flawed mix after flawed mix. My other concern is that he’d be incapable of making adequate revisions. Because of how badly headphones screw your judgement. When you have a mix sent back, the A&R team doesn’t say “please turn boost the guitars at 1.5k and drop the bass by 2db”. If they did, our lives would be very easy. What you actually get is “I can’t hear the bass enough you dumbass, and everything just sounds fucking wrong. Figure it out and fix it”.


Wait a sec…I said it couldn’t be done on PT LE because the plugins are inadequate. not because of the DAW itself.


But the inadequate plugins argument isn’t really a thing because there are enough free plugins out there to do the job. Saying it has to be done with PTLE and only using it’s included plugins doesn’t match any real world situation. Same with every other made up situation in this thread. None of these are in any way real situations, so why are they being used as examples?


Of course a fantastic mix can be done on a laptop free plugins and headphones .
Its a shame we cant get Andrew scheps or someone to prove it right now.
DAW don’t really come into it because they are all basically the same .Many pro
mixes have been done with stock plugins, a plugin is a plugin ,I have the slate 1176
I have the Waves cla 76 and the stock bomb factory one and I use whatever my eyes see
in the list first I have fabfilter eq and the protools stock one and will again use what I see first,its just an eq I don’t give a shit.It all means nothing its down to skill. A laptop a pair of phones with sonar worx
and a crosstalk plugging and your good to go and make the mix of your skill level.
You don’t need thousands of pounds worth of monitors and the same in room treatment , You can put it on your tax return .CLA would look silly mixing on
a laptop but I bet he would stll do a stunning mix with the same headphones and plugins.


This got me wondering whats out there. I wonder what I could do with them. I’ve never tried. I don’t have time right now, I’d almost be up for trying to do a full mix with just free stuff and stock plugs just to see what happens. Hmmmm… interesting idea for a thread!

Haha! I dunno. We wore this one out so thoroughly, I don’t even remember why that example got used.


That reminds me of an article Graham put out some time back. Food for thought.

Without the lure of reaching for another plugin to “fix” your subpar mix, you’d be forced to really focus on what the real issues are with the tracks in front of you and identify what is needed to take them to the next level.

Since 80% or more of your mix comes from your EQ and compression decisions, you’d be forced to simply grab your available stock EQ and stock compressor (or channel strip) and get to work.

Instead of thinking about which plugin will sound better on a lead vocal, you’ll be thinking about frequencies and attack and release times – things that make a much bigger difference.

It’s a hack you see. When you remove the possibility of grabbing a different plugin, you free up brain power and attention to apply to the actual plugin settings you will use to enhance your tracks.

And that’s really where the mix comes together. The subtle, intentional chipping away of the marble to reveal a beautiful piece of art.


@Stan_Halen, I think that article was targeted at beginners. On more demanding mixes, and to people with highly refined ears, the stock compressors DON’T work. You can’t make a stock Logic compressor act like an API 2500 or an SSL G comp on your 2 bus. You can argue that an API 2500 is not necessary, but if its the right tool for the job, and you know exactly what you’re doing when you reach for it, it is highly beneficial to have it. There is no other compressor on the market that does what this one does. The technology is proprietary to API both in the hardware and software domains. They have a full utility and multiple provisional patents on that compressor. Total bullshit if someone tells you that a stock compressor can do the same thing to a group bus. The UAD SSL channel strip is the same way. Nothing else like it.

I would agree with that 80% statement if you were to somehow quantify a percentage of bytes that are processed with compression and EQ opposed to other plugs. But the plugins that make a mix stand out against everyone else compression and EQ have to do with imaging, saturation, reverbs, delays, and modulation plugs. I think this is solid advice but only to a beginner (which is Recording Revolutions target). Graham does not purport to offer the same level of training that MWTM does.


Well, I think the ‘advice’ could apply to anyone, no matter how advanced. And it wasn’t to prove a point or anything, it was prompted by your statement that you’d “almost be up for trying” a mix with stock plugins “just to see what happens”. The article seemed in line with your ‘curiosity’.

If the 80% ‘rule’ is the basics, then it still applies no matter how advanced someone is. For carpenters, hammering technique is valid whether its a $10 budget hammer or a $100 API hammer. :wink: Graham is talking about the technique, not the tool per se. I think his point is that using the no frills tool gets you to focus on the technique rather than the bells and whistles and pretty knobs. If you can use a $10 hammer skillfully, then surely you will excel with a $100 hammer. But if the master carpenter has become so ‘comfortable’ with his sweet $100 API hammer, his technique might become lazy and complacent causing his performance to slip, but the superior tool might seem to cover up the slippage. If he were to accept the challenge to go back to his $10 beginner hammer, his slippage might be starkly apparent to him on that lesser tool and a cold splash of reality. It’s never a bad thing for a seasoned pro to humble him/herself and return to the basics, aka “beginners mind”. It’s the key to true mastery.

If you’re truly confident in the basics and the technique, there’s nothing to fear in trying it. :slightly_smiling_face:


Sorry man…didn’t realize that! I apologize. Don’t get me wrong…I agree with a lot of what’s in that Recording Revolution article…I misinterpreted your idea behind posting it.

I completely agree with this approach in a training context. When people are first learning what an EQ does, having one stock EQ is better than a library full of them for someone who’s just getting their feet wet.

I hear a lot of guys say that same thing from time to time in interviews. No one wants to hear CLA talk about who a stock logic EQ sounds, because the topic isn’t interesting…so because of that I think the topic often gets overlooked.

I think you’ll find this interesting - I remember talking hearing CLA talk about how he loved the Waves copy of the Helios EQ. He said he uses it now and then, because the saturation and the bell curves are really distinct. He says there’s nothing he can do with Pro Tools built in EQ’s or his SSL console that can make a bell curve like that, and for that particular flavor of saturation. I remember thinking…God, this guys ears must be insane, to be able to pull up an EQ and be able to tell what it is, just by the distinct shape of its bell curve. He wasn’t bragging. If he wants to brag, he has a load of other shit he could be bragging about.

I think there’s a pretty healthy middle ground on this talent vs gear thing. And that grey area… there’s probably a range of acceptable grey space between the two extremes. I think people like myself that love technology itself (and I think @CCbro and @Paul999 are the same way) and who are just fascinated by interesting music gear, probably waver back and forth in that grey area. I guess I might be too outspoken at times about seeing value in stuff like those 1176 comps or that System 5, that are really a work of wonder in our history of recording technology.


I’ll tell ya what man. If you ever happen to win an 1176 or a Massive Passive in the Sweetwater raffle, please give it to me, because it may not mean shit to you, but I will very much appreciate having it if. Just know I’m here to give it a good home if you ever find yourself wanting to like…donate it to someone! :wink:


Right. Tutorial videos and advertisements are typically designed for a particular result (including the presenter’s reputation) or to motivate you in a certain way. Essentially, they don’t care about you … they care about an audience. In interviews, you’re more likely to hear someone being “real” and shooting straight. Not just in audio, but in any discipline (per my carpenter analogy), true mastery requires returning to the basics from time to time. If you look at mastery as continually piling on skill after skill and more elaborate tools on top of more elaborate tools, you’ll see throughout history how sometimes masters got lost in their own hubris and at times crumble under the delusion of their own greatness. And it’s really not asking that much, just from time to time revisit the basics to get in touch with the ‘roots’, take a sabbatical, host a reality show going up against rookies, whatever. Nobody grows in a linear success trajectory. It’s circular and cyclical.