Let me ask you a question: how many plugins do you have installed on your computer? I’m talking EQs, compressors, reverbs, etc. How many? If you’re like me you start out with a ton of stock plugins in your DAW. I think the current version of Pro Tools ships with over 70 plugins standard. Add to that the handful of third party plugins I’ve collected over the years and we’re looking at over 100 plugins at my disposal.
How Many Do You Actually Use?
So the better question is: how many of those plugins do you actually use in your sessions? I can tell you right now I use one channel strip, up to two additional compressors, a reverb, a delay, and about three different analog emulation plugins. That’s it! OK, so throw in a pitch correction plugin and the occasional odd ball effect and we’re up to 10 plugins.
So for me personally I’m using less than 10% of my installed plugins, easy. And yet my DAW’s plugin menu is littered with these things that I’ll likely never use. Sure I keep them there just in case. But as my good friend Russ Hughes recently mentioned on his site Pro Tools Expert, “just-in-case rarely happens.”
Imagine If Your Plugins Were Outboard Gear
Imagine for just a moment that computers didn’t exist and all of your plugins were not software effects, but rather their actual hardware counterparts. We’re talking racks and racks of 19″ outboard gear cluttering your studio. Sure it might look impressive (and there’s something to be said for the psychological effects of feeling cool in your studio), but when it comes time to mix, won’t they all just slow you down?
I mean, if you had to look through all of your racks and patch in a different EQ or compressor each time, you would never get any work done. In effect that is what’s happening every time we open our plugin menu and look for the effects we need. Our eyes have to gloss over an insanely large list (even just stock plugins) and then decide which one(s) to use.
What if we instead made those decisions ahead of time?
Narrow The List, Speed Up The Mix
You know you’re only going to really use that same EQ and compressor for 99% of your projects. Just be honest. It’s all you really need anyway. Treat your DAW like a console and get on with your life.
So why not take the next logical step and hide all of those plugins. In Pro Tools this is as simple as moving all of your installed plugins to the “Unused” folder. They instantly disappear from your DAW, but are still on your computer in case you ever need them.
The only consequence of narrowing your plugin list down is…a faster mix. Plain and simple, if you have fewer options in the mix you’ll make decisions faster (some will already be made for you of course) and ironically you’ll feel more confident about those decisions. The opposite is true if you have too many plugins to use. It’s the paradox of choice at its best.