You’re A Tool

I’m always slightly amazed at how truly committed many musicians become to their tools. To the point that they don’t even want to try anything else, and referring to other options as the “competition”. I think we’ve all seen it, bitter discussions about which DAW is best, which EQ or Compressor is better than another, or which method of DJing is ‘right’. I think if they were taking place face to face, some of these arguments might even come to blows!

From a practical standpoint I certainly understand a small part of it. Some of these tools are expensive, and a lot of people just don’t have the money to invest in multiple options. And of course there’s no forgetting the huge amount of time it can take to become familiar enough with something like a DAW to make it suit our needs the way we want.

But at the same time, I really find a lot of this short-sighted, and dare I say close-minded. In my view, someone who truly wants to excel at their craft does their best to learn as many tools as possible. To know what the strengths and weaknesses are of each, and then have the knowledge to chose the one that best fits their need. To categorically write off other options one might have at their disposal simply because it doesn’t happen to be the artist’s favorite or preferred choice, seems like a bad decision.

Take DJing for instance. Some of the most heated and frequent arguments I read are people going at it about which method of playing music for people is the best. You have your vinyl camp, your CD lovers, those who use laptops with MIDI controllers, those who use laptops with control vinyl, even arguments among each of these groups as they debate things like which DJ software is the best! I would think that anyone who calls themselves a DJ, or professes a desire to want to get really good at it, would WANT to learn ALL of the different methods available. Not only to be ready in any situation they might find themselves in, but also just to learn more about the craft in general.

Another example is the heated debates about which DAW is the best, Logic, Live, Sonar, ProTools, etc. Having been lucky enough to use a lot of different DAWs over the years, I certainly have my own favorites. But I also realize that each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, and I choose which one I use based on what I’m attempting to do. Even if I don’t own a particular DAW, I’d never pass up the chance to work with a fan of another one and try to learn more about it if the opportunity presented itself.

I think it’s time people stepped back and realized that the tools we use do not define our music. They might guide how we create it, or help us more easily realize our goals, but in and of themselves they are just that, tools. After all, when a stranger asks what you do, you don’t say “I’m an Abletoner” or “I’m a “Pioneer CDJer”.

You’re a musician, a producer, or a DJ, you’re not a tool.

(except for you in the back with the goofy hat)


A quick note for those that follow this blog. Earlier today I had to make some major changes to some of the WordPress foundations of the site, so if anyone happens to run into any errors or spots anything that seems out of place, please let me know. Thanks!

15 Replies to “You’re A Tool”

  1. Site note: the whole site seems to be justified a little too far to the left…no margin anymore.

    Post note: I seem to remember Billy Corgan once commenting something like, “Ever notice there’s no magazine called Paintbrush Monthly?”

    Also on the guitarist front, The Edge owns an obscene amount of guitars and amps. However when asked his attitude toward his guitars, he called them “something to be dominated”.

  2. Ever consider putting out a LIVE PACK with a song you recorded for us to dig in and see exactly how you lay it all out? I enjoy your music.

  3. I’m not sure that I agree with you about ‘learning as many tools as possible’, I’d say learn as many tools as you need.

    Life is short, if you find a tool that satisfies your needs why look further?

  4. Good insights mate. I agree, to a point. On the flipside, DAWs and plugins have a major learning curve on them. With the rate at which new software is coming out, it’s possible to be a student your entire life and a master never. The jack of all trades and master of none. So many people I come across know their software at only a surface level, because they’re always fixated on the newest thing. Victims of savvy marketing and availability of pirated warez 😉 It’s software ADHD.

    Rather, I’ve always opted to delve into the tools I have chosen more deeply. Given all the time in the world, I’d try out all the DAWs. But given that time is not something you can currently buy more of, I’ve chosen to focus on a narrower range of tools.

    1. It’s a balancing act for sure, knowing one’s tools versus endless messing around. I wasn’t trying to imply that people should set out to master everything out there, rather that there’s little to be gained from dismissing tools other than the ones we prefer without knowing more about them. While it can take forever to know all the ins and outs of something like a DAW, to get insight into what a program’s strengths are really doesn’t take that long in my experience.

      I guess we all approach it differently, but for me personally having at least some knowledge of multiple tools has opened up a lot more opportunities than being really good at any one of them.

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