To People Who Want to Succeed in Music

Today I received an email from Mr X:

“I began with the program Logic pro X. But i have a problem: I want to get some plug ins for this program, i’d like to get it for free, because buying it is too expensive for me at the moment,
so i like to download it, but it’s so hard to find it…

I need the following plug ins:

[followed by a list of paid VST-plugins]”

First of all, Mr X, please forgive me for using your email as an example. I get these kinds of requests regularly so it could have been any one of them.

Now, there is something quite big at play here, something that is especially difficult to understand when you’re first starting out in music. That is why I want to address this publicly.

This is what I replied, word to word:

I won’t be able to help you with downloading paid plugins. I only use legit software myself.

Your email reminds me of myself when I was younger. I admit I used to download loads of pirated plugins. It was just too easy, and there was not much peer pressure against it where I’m coming from (in fact, quite the contrary).

So trust me this comes from personal experience:

It’s a trap. You’ll be much better off using legit software.

Having a limited set of tools makes you value them more. You will learn your tools inside out and apply them properly (instead of “fast forwarding” through loads of plugins and then forgetting about them).

As a result you will see faster improvement in your skills. I promise. I wish I had known that sooner.

This is also part of why making music using hardware equipment can be so rewarding. Because most people who do it have a limited set of equipment to work with and they’ve involved themselves in the process by investing their money into it. It’s really no different with software, except the fact that illegal software is easy to obtain makes people fall into the trap.

Through the process of limiting, being legit and investing in what you use, you will build a sort of situational awareness. You will begin to understand where you stand and what the blind spots are that you still need to expand on. This process will greatly help you in discovering your own voice.

If you choose the path of mindlessly downloading loads of stuff, you get none of those benefits. You only end up more confused and without proper focus.

Besides… When you’re legit you will feel great for doing the right thing…

…and the creators get paid for their hard work.

Everyone wins.

Logic X is a great package and you should really learn to make use of all the great tools that come with it. You really don’t need anything more when you’re getting started. Like I said, it would only serve to confuse you.

Learn Logic first, then expand with the great free plugins I’ve recently listed in the blog.

Good luck,

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  • Eugene

    I made this step like 2 months ago. Ableton Live + couple of NI instruments (oh, dat awesome right-in-time sale) and 3-4 free plugins for now (thanks for your recent VST reviews btw!). Limitations are awesome! I feel excellent and am finishing first ever track I’m not ashamed of in any sense.

  • Slope creations

    Been there! Had tons and tons of pirate stuff. And scrolling through endless possibilities just killed the creative flow. Now I have Cubase 6.5 + Reason and a bunch of VST synths & plugins. Either bought them or they were free (thanks Resound, for the list!)

    I totally agree with your story here. Less tools enhances workflow and having paid for it makes you feel more serious or something like that… I am actually a lot more productive nowadays.

    If you dont have the money, that sucks…of course

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Yup that’s it. You only really need money to get a good basic DAW because all of them come with good tools these days, plus there are lots of great free plugins around. Even if you had more money I would advice spending it on monitoring instead of plugins (when you are first starting out).

  • trizo

    Excellent advice here, invaluable information!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen


  • haveing a handful of tools you know how to use in depth is a better way to move on technically and musically. for example, i’m using only one vst-synth for almost everything and a handful of paid&free plugs + the built-ins of cubase7.
    thats far enough to have endless possibilitys in soundmangleing.

    i think the case is that many people who start making music on the computer have a false imagination of using (music) software – they think the most expensive make the best sound from itself without even haveing a tiny amount of knowledge.

    its like buying a race-car and trying to win a race without having a drivers license or even the ability to steer a vehicle 😀

    the advice i have given a few times is to start out with the DAW of choice, get demos and stuff, find out what works best for you. then get a workflow and move on to third party plugs & synths later – if you are still motivated. cause thats a major issue when starting with music production, to keep going on an trying hard.

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      I agree with you 100%. That is great advice. That race car comparison is so true, haha. You definitely need to have a certain amount of skill in order to make use of many of the more high end tools. You also need good monitoring or you won’t be able to hear the difference and steer into the right direction.

      It is difficult and takes guts to restrict yourself in this world of abundance. Especially when you are first starting out and you read about people using this and that. But it pays off.

  • Expensive-shmexpensive %)
    One can buy even the most expensive software for a good price. For example, I have a lot of NI stuff: Kontakt, Reaktor, Battery, Massive and a number of their effects and Reaktor ensembles, but I have Never paid a full price for these products. The most of them were purchased with 50%Off, as for Reaktor, that was 75% Off promo %)))
    You just need to wait a bit, and don’t forget to subscribe their newsletter %))))

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Definitely, it pays off to lurk for the discounts. That’s what I do as well. There seems to be an awful lot of “headroom” in the pricing of some companies, but that is a different discussion.