I just came across this article by James Hogg, and it's incredibly intriguing despite being written for musicians. I know, for me, I have way too many plugins, especially considering I tend to rely on the same ones over and over.


Also, it would be interesting to do a Sound Design Challenge using nothing but raw recordings and a small handful of the same plugins.

  • All very good points! Oddly enough whenever i read an article of these i feel like going synth shopping... Sep 2, 2011 at 19:48
  • I understood the article to read that if you "use the same ones over and over," you aren't suffering the dilemma he's outlining. Which is, so buried in new tools and new presets that you never master any of them.
    – MtL
    Sep 3, 2011 at 3:32
  • I still go through a lot of my plugins when I'm looking for something, but I almost always end back at the same place. Sep 4, 2011 at 3:05

6 Answers 6


One of the best (most educative, and most memorable) assignments of my undergrad:

  1. Record approx 30 seconds of your own voice.
  2. Compose a piece using only cut, copy and paste.
  3. Clips should be no longer than a single phoneme.

No plugs. No reversies. No time-stretch. No sampler playback. No usual suspects.

This micro-editing assignment taught me so much. Try it out, if you're curious. Make sure you understand what "zero crossings" are, your editor may automatically make selections at zero crossings.

Credit to my instructor, Kevin Austin.

  • A lot like, The Five Obstructions
    – ChrisSound
    Sep 3, 2011 at 17:14
  • I have never heard of that film. Thank you, I'll check it out. imdb.com/title/tt0354575
    – MtL
    Sep 6, 2011 at 5:38

I had a Drummer friend a while back who paired back his kit from an 8 piece full kit to a small 3 piece Jazz kit... being in a metal band, he had to get pretty insanely creative to keep delivering the same dynamic of drumming... but he did it.

Sometimes I try to do the same with Audio... force myself to do something new. I feel like sometimes we get too used to the fancy plug ins and loose a bit of our innovative and creative abilities. I'm not gonna get rid of my plug ins forever, but sometimes it's good to pull back and get back to the basics, to get the creative juices flowing and to maximize how we use the crazy plug ins we have now.

  • My brother is a drummer, and for the longest time the only cymbals that he had were his hi-hats and a ride -- He was really good with such a limited set up. Now that he has more cymbals, his cymbal work is a lot less creative. Sep 2, 2011 at 23:01

I only ever use the stock Bomb-Factory/Air plugs that come with PT. It's largely because I don't have a lot of throwaway money right now. When I do have $$$, the first thing I think of is always mics or cables or something. I've also taken it as a bit of a challenge, to do as much as I can with as little as possible.

For the most part, and with the exception of the Maxim limiter, the BF and Air plugs are actually really useful. They're clean, low-CPU load, and every PT system in the world has them, so no matter where I am or whose system I'm working on, I can whip out a session and start working.


Fun article! But frankly I don't really see myself in it :-)

I've always been more of an..um..additive, so to say, designer. It didn't really matter weather it was music (I began as an music audio engineer and producer but got bored with it) or film, I've always preferred working with tangible sounds which I layer and filter 'till I'll get what I want. Most of the methods and principles I use today to get what I want originated from very early in my career, but frankly I didn't originally make up the routines because of any philosophy or plan (and certainly not 'cause any hostility against technology), though they did adapt into a real philosophy later on, I made what I did because there where really not much else I could do with the crappy equipment I had as well as due to the fact that the plugins that existed between the second half of the 90's and early 2000 where devastatingly bad. Now I've have all the professional equipment I need, and modern plugins are often of high quality, but I still use the very same principles as then, with the difference that my projects has gained a lot in quality from never having to compromise with sub-par mics and essential equipment, and my speed of work has increased tremendously. I firmly believe that if a sound isn't interesting enough to begin with, including lacking details that would complete a composite effect, it will in no way work better with a lotta effects on it. A good effect, though, may very well become truly kick-ass with a gentle and respectful addition of effects added for a calculated reason. Never do anything without a reason. Funny thing! I listened to a DAT I produced as an apprentice on a record-company here in Gothenburg, and in many of the songs (acoustical pop-stuff) I didn't use any effects at all, save for compressors, EQ and gate (which isn't effects at all, they're processors) :-) Ofcourse it got a little bland without any room added, but it impressed my mentor that I actually got it working quite well none the less :-)

I am in no way opposed of plugins or effects, I wouldn't dream of a world without my Dolby meters, Altiverb or SSL-plugs for example, not to mention all the outboard gear I use (I frankly prefer outboards which I connect through a Lynx-interface, especially compressors, dists, tube-stuff and my trusty old disc-echo!), but when I need to do something concrete, using gear I do not really know or master enough tends to be both stressful and frustrating. I see no use in trying everything I find just for the sake of it, I use the same gear all the time as long as it works with the material. If it doesn't work well enough, then I look for something new, and sometimes it leads me in new directions I've never thought of before. One thing though I never get tired of is different kinds of granular effects, vocoders, degraders and such! Unlike for example reverbs, equalizers and compressors, when needing this stuff I would honestly be disappointed in myself if I knew exactly what I would get in advance as I consider this mainly to reach surrealistic results noone, me included, could ever have imagined before :-)

To contradict myself completely, I firmly believe in the creative power of happy accidents, and it's not rare I find 'em in new effects and processors I don't really know and therefor just play with in ways they're seriously not meant to. But that's something that's better to experiment with between jobs, not when you're already stressed as it is and the deadlines rushes at you like a train...


Although James Hogg's reason for binning plugins relates to the sound design aspect and preference for analogue input; my reason similarly relates to over-processing, but from the point-of-view of field recording and its implications with respect to the future use of library sound archive material - so it all adds up not to waste your $$$ on plugins, and bin the ones you've got!


Around 3 years ago, I left a studio where I worked for 4 years. We had some outboard, but mostly a petty darn good supply of quality plugins and two PT HD systems.

My career path changed quite a bit at that point (mostly from music production to sound design), and I mostly started working from home on PT LE with minimal plugins.

While I had worked in similar conditions years before (Cool Edit, Vegas, Acid...stock plugins...), it was a real challenge for me to return to the world of minimal plugins after having so many at my fingertips, but it made me better.

3 years later, I'm JUST NOW starting to build my plugin and DAW arsenal back up again. There are so many things I've taught myself about audio over the past 3 years, forcing myself to become better at layering and editing. And these lessons will always stay with me.

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