it's not about the tools

Lots of knobs on a mixing panel.The idea that the quality of work, be it a painting, a piece of music, or a piece of code is determined by the tool used by the creator is something that you see coming back constantly. Usually this misconception is made by people just starting out in a certain discipline, and are disappointed in finding they don’t pwn quite as much as they would like to, and so they blame their tools. It’s just easier that way than blaming yourself of course, everyone has been there at least once I’m sure.

But when you see this video (via of how a graphic artist creates a picture using a piece of software no serious graphic artist would admit using, MS paint, you know it’s not about the tool you use, but it’s all about the skills. You see this kind of thing typically in electronic music production mailing lists and fora. Someone just started banging out some beats in a piece of free tracker software, doesn’t like the sound of what he came up with and decides to find out what the big league boys are using. Turns out Dom’n’Roland has been using Reason Cubase for instance, so they get themselves a copy of it from their favourite p2p network, and find out everything they produce from now on sounds just as good as the phattest Dom’n’Roland tunes. Of course they get signed in less than a week on Renegade Hardware or another prominent music label, and they get stinking filthy rich overnight, driving a Lamborghini, wearing tons of bling and having 15 unnaturally big breasted yet otherwise thin girlfriends to choose from.
Well, that’s the dream anyway, but in reality however, those tunes will still suck, even though they are using the same tools as the big guns now. It’s all about the skills, and if you don’t know which knobs to twist to make that bass line growl, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a high end studio, or using a shareware softsynth.

My advice for anyone starting out like this, no matter what discipline is this: check out some of the tools available, then pick your favourite. The one you feel most comfortable with, the one that leans the closest to how you want to be working, and then stick with it until you know it inside out.

Once you know it inside out -and that might take a while- you will have those so-wanted skills. By that time, you’ll be able to bust out phat beats on freeware trackers, dish up kick ass website layouts using notepad or create rocking digital art in MS Paint, or whatever you wanted to become good at.

Update: Dom tells me he never has, and never will use Reason. Instead he used to bang tunes out of Cubase on the oldskool Atari computer, and is now working all Mac based, using Logic Pro since version 3 came out.

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