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Read the Manual!

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As musicians and producers we like to think of ourselves as intuitive artistic types – which means that we couldn’t possibly lower ourselves to actually reading the manual. Of course, some manuals can be painful to read at best, but the reality is that there are often features we overlook in the first flush of love for our new toy. Yes, synths and drum machines should be considered creative instruments, but they’re also complex technical tools. There’s no shame in admitting that you need to read the instructions to understand how they work.

synths and drum machines should be considered creative instruments, but they're also complex technical tools.

Exactly the same applies to software. Do you really know what all those different modes in your compressor plugin do? What’s that ‘soft clip’ button for? What the hell are all those weird parameters in your reverb plugin? Adaptive Q in your EQ? Before you scratch your head and reach for the presets, just RTFM!

There are two great advantages to learning your software and hardware inside out. The first is that it makes it easier to work with the features you already know about. In that sense it’s all about making it quicker and easier to get the results you’re looking for.

The second is that with more complex tools you’ll also discover features you didn’t know existed, which could unlock new creative avenues to explore.

The flip side to this is that, especially with a modern DAW, there are multiple ways of achieving the same result, and some functions that you may never need to use. However, every so often you’ll come across one small feature that can entirely change your workflow – which makes a little reading worthwhile. It’s all about learning to use your tools, figuring out what they can do and streamlining the technical side of your production process to put the focus back on the creative parts which really matter.

24th April, 2014

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