You will always be a beginner.

No, this is not the last fortune cookie I received, it’s the next lesson in our series “Achieving Techno-Literacy in the Studio” series. 

The complete lesson is this:

Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it. 

Guess what? Avid (B.T.W., how many people still call it “Digidesign”?) just released Pro Tools HD Native. Whut, you might say? I never even knew that was an option, you declare? Well, here it is!

It’s still a PCI-e card that you need to operate the software, but it runs off of your computer’s own processing power instead of the HD cards of old. My guess is we’ve reached that point in time where computer power has topped and surpassed the capabilities of what the HD cards can do. And why not? Pro Tools HD has been around since what, 2002? Computers are MANY times more powerful now than they were ten years ago. 12-Core Mac Pros were only a dream then.

And what about the software itself? You know, Avid doesn’t certify its users in their official program for a single version just to make more money. They do it because EVERY new version has new capabilities.

Real-time elastic audio, quick looping capabilities and decent-sounding bundled plug-ins were only a Pro Tooler’s dream a few years ago. Now they’re standard, and you can buy it for what $99 including the hardware?

New features are being added to existing software all the time, not to mention the fact that totally new software is being developed that will supersede what we know today. Another fact that I ALWAYS tell my students is:

One day Pro Tools will be superseded by some other software. Just because Pro Tools was one of the first software programs to achieve wide acceptance doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the king forever. 

Is it possible to master a software program? Sure. You can learn every keyboard shortcut & quick tip available, but next month, there’s a new version out, and you’ll need to forget all those shortcuts they don’t use and learn new shortcuts they added.

AND, if it isn’t obvious already, knowing shortcuts does NOT an engineer make. You know why some of the best-sounding mixes and most innovative music is coming out of 17-year old kid’s bedrooms? Because they sit there day after day pointing, clicking, dragging, and experimenting. Experimentation is they key to learning, because you fail so many more times than you succeed, and failing is one of the best ways to learn. They’re not just going through motions or knowing just enough to get by on the project, but really mastering the tools they use to get the exact sound they want. 

So, what’s a body to do? Spend 12 hours a day playing with software to learn every nook & cranny? No. All that’s going to get you is a continual hamster wheel of learning. What you need to do to survive the recording studio technology crunch is learn technique & theory, and combine it with an understanding of what you want the end result to be. Yes, shortcuts are helpful, but focus on

  • Process
  • Theory
  • Understanding

And I guarantee that you’ll be successful in the recording studio. The process for producing a good sound in the studio, the theory behind what should happen in the studio, and having an understanding of how to achieve what you want will never be superseded.

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