You start mixing… you click on an insert point… and you’re faced with a list of plugins… But how well do you really know the sound of your plugins? Do you know if one of your compressors sounds particularly clean? Or if one of your EQs sounds particularly harsh? Knowing the characteristics of your plugins is so important. It’s a huge part of taking your mix from its current sound, to the sound that you want to achieve. Unfortunately, not knowing what your plugins sound like will really hold you back.
Get to know the sound of your plugins so that you know which is the right one to use
The best thing you can do is to really get to know how all of your different plugins sound. That way, you can make informed decisions. Say you’re mixing a track with a really dynamic vocal part for instance, and you want to compress the signal in a transparent way, knowing the sound of your plugins helps you to decide which one to use. Conversely, if you wanted to hear the compressor really crushing the signal, you’d know which plugin would be the best at achieving that sound.
Get to know the sound of your plugins so that you know which is the wrong one to use
Perhaps even more importantly, you need to know which plugins not to use in certain circumstances. You don’t want to try to gently compress a signal with a plugin which, characteristically, compresses signals heavily.
Its all about having the right tool for the job. Your DAW probably came bundled with a selection of different plugins. So if you have the tools at your disposal, why not make the most of them?
How do you get to know the sound of your plugins?
So how do you get to the point where you know the characteristics of each plugin? The answer is simple! Mix songs using only one type of compressor, only one type of EQ etc. Use that one type of compressor on all of the signals that you want to compress. Use that one type of EQ on all of the signals that you want to equalise. That way, you get to experience how those plugins sound on drums, guitars, vocals, mix buses etc. Do several mixes with the same plugins. Ask your self how the plugins you’ve chosen are making the audio sound. Then, choose a different set of plugins and do the same thing again. Really get to grips with each plugin. You may even realise that a particular plugin is far better than you initially thought.
So give it a try. Limit your self to one type of EQ, one type of compressor etc. Use that same type of audio plugin on each of your audio signals. The plugin will soon reveal its strengths, its weaknesses, and its overall characteristics to you.