Note: this post was originally posted in 2012. For some reason, it seems to have picked up some SEO steam or something, leading to a lot of people who are okay with piracy feeling the need to comment that I’m wrong. Let me save you the time: this post isn’t really about piracy. If you read it, you’ll know why, and perhaps not feel the need to tell me how utterly wrong my opinion is.

Yeah, it’s soapbox time. After a nice discussion on DAW preference, I wanted to highlight some points I’ve tried to make in earlier posts on my blog, specifically those centered around using pirated software to make music.

In short: don’t.

The longer explaination as to why you shouldn’t use pirated audio software can be summarized like this:

  • It’s illegal. Ought to be obvious, but a shocking amount of people don’t know/care.
  • You start hoarding. You install “everything” you read about online, which leads to…
  • You won’t learn anything. This is the most important point!
  • Your system will turn unstable. Yes, it will. Bad cracks, malware (and loads of it) will turn your highly tuned audio-PC-monster into a sluggish 286 after a long night of partying. If you’re super-unlucky, you’ll also be hacked in some way or another. So much for “savings”.

Let me focus on the important point: you won’t learn anything by bathing in pirated plugins and softsynths. Why? Because you’ll just skip around, testing one plugin after another and never actually learning to know the plugin, what makes it tick, or even if it’s a good one to begin with.

Too much in the music production world is, unfortunately, about quick wins or “brands”. You see BT use this and that and think “OMG! That’s all I need to make music like BT!” — of course, this isn’t even close to being true, and everyone knows it, but self-delusion is a powerful force.

This is also the reason why today, in the days of Skrillex, that “Massive and FM8 = dubstep”. If I see one more “Make that signature Skrillex talking bass in Massive”-video on YouTube I’m going to vomit all over myself.

Therefore, instead of hoarding plugins and installing a gazillion softsynths, I recommend this alternative approach — it’s not littered with InstaMusic(tm) tips, but then again, that’s just the way it is:

  • Buy a legal copy of your favourite DAW and install it fresh. I like Reaper.
  • Check the bundled plugins, and IF you miss something — install just one of each “basic feature”-plugin. Yes, that means one compressor, one reverb, one delay, one EQ etc. This is to learn. You can expand later, but keep the count low.
  • Force yourself to use only those plugins. Learn all about them. Read the documentation!
  • Learn the built-in features of your DAW. They are better than you think.

The upside of this approach is that you’ll know your tools, which means that you’ll know what to do and when to do them! This means that you’ll be able to know exactly which plugins and methods to use later on, when you know all you need to know of the basics and want to upgrade.

End of rant. :)