I used to always click through the presets on my EQ plug-ins, compression plug-ins, reverb plug-ins, etc.
It was nice. It was easy.
I’d find something close and tweak it until I liked it. And in the end, I was pretty happy.
But just the other day, I decided to try doing an entire mix without using the presets. And I was amazed at the results. Here’s what I found:
I was able to move through the mix much faster than I previous was able to. Which is kinda counter intuitive, I know. But all the time of listening to presets, finding one, trying to figure out what it was doing, and then tweaking it actually takes longer than dialing in exactly what I need for that specific track. So I saved time.
But I also got better results. On the EQs, I was able to better pinpoint the areas that needed adjusting rather than relying on a few preset frequency bands and Q factors. Once I found the frequencies that needed adjusting, I made the change and was overall happier with the sounds.
These things shocked me at first, but after I thought about it for a while, it actually makes sense. I was cutting out a lot of steps and making changes that were more customizable and fit the tracks I was actually working with. It made a huge difference in my workflow and overall output.
But that’s not to say that presets don’t have their value. If I hadn’t used the presets for so long, I probably would not have know what knobs to reach for when I needed them. Presets are a great way to see what a plug-in is capable of and show you a great deal of how to use the effect. That’s why I propose this method in order to get even better at mixing without presets:
Study the presets you use on a regular basis. Find out what makes them sound good to you. Once you understand your presets and a plug-ins, then stop using them. It may take a while to get to that point – maybe even an entire year. But keep it in mind when you’re working so that you can get better over time and ultimately free yourself from presets altogether!