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 here and 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 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
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,