Are you a professional if you aren’t using Pro Tools?

Are you still a professional producer if you don’t use Pro Tools or Logic?

I’ve gotten into countless debates and conversations with people who want to talk about which recording software is for “beginners” and which is for “professionals”. Many say that if you are using Fruity loops or Acid, that you can’t possibly make professional productions that you would see on MTV or hear on the radio. Others say the same thing about Cubase, Sonar, Ableton, Buzz machines and the list goes on and on.

Lets shed some light on this little debate. First off, why Pro Tools?

Although the Pro Tools company kicked off around 1989 with a program called “Sound Tools“. They didn’t really start a revolution until around 1997 when they introduced a 24 bit version of their program.
At the time, computers were still very slow with processing. Too slow to process things like a believable reverb or other cpu taxing processing.
Where Pro Tools saved the day was when they came out with dedicated hardware with their software program. This allowed you to do some really intense processing and still be able to run your program on a pentium 1 computer. So at this time, Pro Tools was certainly the only choice for professionals. People using other software were more commonly using that software for midi sequencing and not as much for professional recording processing and mixing. Many at the time would agree that Cubase midi sequencing was head and shoulders above Pro Tools at the time, so many people would use Pro Tools for audio and Cubase for midi.
At the time, it was true that you simply use Pro Tools, or you used something less professional and that was pretty much universally agreed upon. So what did the entertainment industry do?
Exactly! They made Pro Tools the standard format for all Digital recording. If you were going to take your digital work from one studio to another, you better have it in a Pro Tools format or you are gonna be in for a not so pleasant surprise.
As you can clearly see, once everybody got in their heads that Pro Tools was the only way, they closed their minds to any other options that became available with the rapidly growing computer advances.
If you look back and compare the Pro Tools of 1997 to just about ANY recording software available now, you would then get an idea that any movie soundtrack or song that was made digitally 10 years ago can be reproduced to the same quality specifications that were the industry stardard at that time.
Has anybody stopped watching movies that are 10 years old?
Has anybody you know been complaining about how these movies sound?

Of course the answer would be no! Our idea of what is professional and reality of what tools are used for any particular project should be starting to blur for you by now.

Don’t forget that there are still arguements going on about whether digital recording is even acceptable as a recording format which I believe to be a big load of crap. I’ll probably discuss this further in a future newsletter, but lets stay on track here.

Before you get discouraged by what I last stated about Pro Tools and other software, I don’t want to give the impression that programs like Ableton are 10 years or even 1 year behind Pro Tools. That simply is not the case. The only point I was trying to state is that what is considered “the industry standard” today will be accomplished with free software tomorrow. That is how high the quality is getting in sound recording.

Pro Tools is indeed a high quality program. It also has incredible rendering (very accurate mixdown capabilities) and it has some amazing built in plugin’s that in some cases are superior to what comes loaded in other programs. However, nearly all software recording programs allow 3rd party plug ins of the highest quality (Waves, TC electronics, UAD plugins, Izotope, native instruments etc..). There is no longer a monopoly on quality recording software.
Where I believe Pro Tools falls behind is that I find the workflow to be pretty tedious compared to other programs. I see Pro Tools as a real pain
in the ass myself. It’s so sterile and tedious that I can’t have fun
with it. It has 4 modes that is works in and what seems like a gazzilion tools. If you have the wrong tool or are in the wrong mode, you are not going to be able to perform the task you want. Ableton, for example, has basically 2 tools and one mode. Depending on where you hold your mouse, the right tool will show up for the job. Simple and intuitive.When I’m in a creative mood, I don’t want to jump through hoops to do what should be a simply process. I know there are experts on Pro Tools that know all the quick key shortcuts, but many are starting to rewire Ableton or other programs into it because the workflow can be so much faster. In fact alot of Pro Tools users only use it for rendering the final mix which they feel gives their mix an extra “sheen”. There are also artists like Daft Punk, who run all their sounds through Ableton because they feel Ableton gives a certain sound they love. It all comes down to personal opinion.

24bit and beyond:

To be perfectly honest, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between 24 bit recordings and 32 bit. Many of the top engineers admit that they can’t tell the difference, and that true recording beyond 24 bit that is not done completely in the digital domain (without recording any outside equipment or using a microphone) is still not possible. You may be able to do 32 or 64 bit processing with your internal effects, but you can’t get much better than 24 bit recordings from an analog source.
The reason you are being sold on beyond 24bit record capabilities, is that people buy in to the hype and it makes the industry money.

I urge you to pull yourself out of the hype and just make music.

Listen and listen carefully….

Crappy producers make crappy
music, period. Creative people will always be able to create mindbending works with tools many of us would find outdated or useless.

One of the most respected producers out in the
electronic scene makes music on a free program called buzz machines.
original songs were done on Fruity Loops on a pentium 2 300mhz
computer. These songs went on to be play by the biggest DJ’s on the
planet. Have a listen target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>here and target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>here. (yes, I knowYouTube has lower quality..but if you have any imagination in you, you’ll get an idea of the production on these songs).

I’ve just signed a target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>track that was done completely in Ableton. I
have 2 songs on the market that you can buy at amazon or best buy
(Innerstate – Sidewinder on Hernan cattaneo’s Masters series CD andWest Indian Girl’s song “Rise From the Dead” remixed on their remix
album 4th to the floor). I know countless producers making banging
tracks without ever touching Pro Tools.

I’m so sick to death of this
discussion of people thinking of one program as cheap and another as
professional.Aren’t you?

The recording medium is simply a tool.

You can build a house with simple tools or with complex expensive ones.
Don’t believe me? Read about this Castle built with only hand tools by one 97 pound man. To this day, nobody really knows how he did this. It remains a modern mystery. There are certain tools that everyone needs, but the bottom line comes
down to your own skills.

These days most people have expensive studios because it looks more
impressive to the customer. Also because they have equipment left over
from before computers were as powerful as they are today. Yes, some
hardware compressors, preamps and digital converters can improve your
recordings, but there are many of us that do just fine without any of

I hope you keep on track and continue to build up your skills without
getting discouraged. Some choice samples, learning your software of choice inside and out and a good ear will get you
solid beats no matter what you are using.

So.. should you get Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar, Ableton, Cubase, Fruity loops, or Reason?

The answer is …. Yes ….. now stop stalling and start making music already!

happy music making,


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14 Responses to “Are you a professional if you aren’t using Pro Tools?”

  1. April 12th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Tania says:

    Hi there,
    Everything dynamic and very positively! :)

    Have a nice day

  2. May 10th, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Nik says:

    Good one!

    I remember reading somewhere that at one point the Beatles had 8 tracks and it was considered bleeding edge technology.

    We’ve got so much more processing power these days, yet how often do you come across music that really takes your breath away?

  3. June 25th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Jonathan Stowe says:

    I’ll be using the free Ardour

  4. June 25th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    t.edison says:

    This is quite a funny post – some of your observations about ProTools illustrate you obviously have never bothered to learn to use it in any depth, and are criticising the application for that reason? Quite strange… Similarly then you must really hate Photoshop, with all its tools & modes…. Why does anyone even use Photoshop or ProTools, when they could use something much simpler, cheaper, or seemingly easier to use? Have you actually thought about why? I never understand people investing their egos in software; of course ableton LIVE, ProTools etc are just tools -marketing them as anything else is just pandering to the naive, as is criticisizing them for the same reason

  5. June 25th, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    admin says:

    I think Photoshop is an excellent program as is Pro Tools. I’ve never questioned the quality of it’s capabilities. I simply feel that it’s not an easy program to work ideas “one the fly” and in the moment. To someone who is not already an expert in Pro Tools it seems easier to work with a program that is more intuitive. In Ableton for example, you pretty much have one tool and one “mode” all the other work is done for you. Beatmapping in pro tools also takes more steps than in Ableton where you just drop in a file and you’re ready to go. For inspired creation, I prefer other programs to Pro Tools. For final mixing or quality built in FX, Logic and Pro Tools stand pretty tall (although with 3rd party plugin’s it’s doesn’t make a huge difference).
    To say Pro Tools is a good program is stating fact. To say you aren’t professional if you use anything else is, well…. ignorant, elitist, or both.

  6. July 29th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Joe Gilder says:

    Nice article. I completely agree that the tools have very little to do with the quality of music. Make good music however you can.

    I am a bit curious what you mean by all the different “modes” and “tools” in Pro Tools. The modes are Spot, Shuffle, Slip, and Grid. You can work 100% of the time in Grid mode. As far as tools, I don’t know if you know this, but Pro Tools does the same thing you mentioned, about the tool changing depending on where you hover the mouse.

    Anyhoo, I think you make a valid point about Pro Tools perhaps not being terribly conducive to creating music from scratch, but I thought I’d throw this out there.

  7. February 13th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Sergey says:

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for a great article! Exactly what I was thinking about!
    Another point is that people who invested thousands in their studio gear will continue to argue about the sound quality.



  8. March 30th, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Matt says:

    I used to believe that Logic was better than Ableton but then i learned about “High quality mode” in Ableton and find that stuff sounds just as good, i do believe that some of Logics built in plug-ins are better than Abletons but like you say thats what 3rd party plug-ins are for and i tend to use Waves compressors rather than Abletons is for most things they just sound better, more and more people are now abandoning Logic and switching to Ableton as they are switching to laptop studios and Ableton uses less Cpu power and is much more user friendly than Logic, i like Ableton because it is easy to use and if you have an idea you can get it down much quicker than with logic so for now ill just stick with Ableton thanks

  9. April 9th, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Jordan says:

    Great post man, this is such an important lesson for people to learn.

    Ari Hest and Ben Gortmaker both released phenominal albums using GarageBand and an M-Audio fast track with a single microphone…. Bon Iver just won a couple grammies, and he did his debut album using old recording equipment and some old telecaster guitar. It still sounds better than 99% of the kids who use pro-tools because they think THATS what makes the difference. He originally did the album as demos, but they just sounded so good he didnt even have to re-do anything

  10. December 29th, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Johann says:

    I worked on most DAWs, but I do prefer PT just because it gave me the best options to do day to day work. In a time when I had to have sample acurate waveform editing PT was better so I stuck with it. At this time I would have probably jumped to something else but I have invested a fair amount of money in to PT that it wont make financial sense and I dont really feel like learning a new software to be at the same speed Im with PT..

  11. November 26th, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    James Buddy Rogers says:

    I work with SAWStudio. I did my last album on SAW and it gained me a bunch of award nominations including a 2014 JUNO Award nomination which is Canada’s highest Award program for music. I recorded this at Pacific Audio Visual Institute in Vancouver. They use ProTools but I have always preferred the sound of SawStudio.

  12. December 24th, 2014 at 4:18 am

    Peter Brusch says:

    I think, you’re right.
    I have worked with so many programs (e.g. SEQUOIA, PRO TOOLS, CUBASE, LOGIC) and I found out, that they ALL have a lot of powerful features and they ALL are wonderful workbenches for a creative musician.
    I think, they stand all on a line with each other, you only have to choose, which one suits you the most.
    I started in the 80s with STEINBERG PRO 16 with my COMMODORE 64, over the Decades I tried them all and returned to CUBASE (now PRO 8), but it could have been PRO TOOLS or any other DAW as well.

  13. April 2nd, 2015 at 9:18 am

    glissmeister says:

    I’d like to see the discussion focus more upon issues of universality. If any of these products were properly “professional” there would fewer cross-platform issues; more inter-operability and compatibility. There would be a coherent standard. The barriers and traps that are present now between the respective hardware/software platforms would be considerably fewer.

    As it sits, the current offering of DAWs are just products; proprietary and self-interested. They have that right and that need. But there should be more market pressure brought by users to expose and challenge manufacturers to cease adding or otherwise remove what might best be called restraint-of-trade features in their software/hardware offerings.

    Most will agree Pro Tools is the market leader because of it’s legacy. We forget an important part of that legacy; it’s been the least friendly. It does not play well with others and because of that engineering it sometimes does not play well with itself.

    Much of that strikes me as deliberate. I think that mentality is also reflected in its stock performance. Some may claim it’s saved the company and the product. I think history will show otherwise. I can think of no surer way to invite their demise.

  14. June 4th, 2015 at 1:56 am

    Rusty says:

    @Jordan, Bon Iver used ProTools through a SM57 and an MBox but he indeed recorded independently without a fancy studio. He intended it to be a demo but he took his time and obsessed over the results and, when he was finished, so was a brilliant album

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