Gear Without Skill Is Useless

I know I’ve been harping on this lately, but hear me out.

I re-watched a great movie the other night called Real Steel. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Hugh Jackman plays the character Charlie Kenton, a former boxer who, in a slightly futuristic world, is now into “robot boxing”. Basically, they have these great big remote controlled robots and they fight with them. It’s awesome.

For the first half of the movie, Charlie is arrogant and stupid. He goes into fight after fight, with bigger and better robots, only to lose the fight (and all the money he bet) because of his incompetence. He thinks that if he can just get one more bot, that he’ll make it big. He’ll win back all that he’s lost.

I won’t spoil the ending of the movie, except to say that in order to find success, he had to learn to get better himself. To put in the work. To have a different attitude.

And of course, my first thought was about how this applies to the studio.

It’s exactly the same. Too easily we will look at a new plugin bundle, a new DAW, a new piece of outboard gear, and like Charlie Kenton we think that this one must be the answer. This is the one that’s going to make all the difference. This one is finally what I’ve been needing.

But the truth is, you gotta put in the time and effort. Practice. Get better at your craft. Only then will you benefit from having better gear.

It’s also true that you can get great recordings without any spectacular gear. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. You can make great music with the gear you have.

But don’t just take my word for it. Graham Cochrane over at has done it. He just released an EP using stock plugins in an unfamiliar DAW, a cheap microphone, and even mixed on his headphones at Starbucks.

And the EP sounds amazing. I wish my music sounded that good.

You see, normally I would be tempted to think, “Well of course his stuff sounds great. He has better gear than me”.

But this time, it’s not the gear. It can’t be. He used cheaper gear than I do, for the most part. And his music is fantastic.

For me, this EP was hugely inspiring. There is nothing standing between me and great music other than time. Time spent getting better. Time spent doing it, maybe failing, and then doing it better next time. Time getting to know the gear I have, before going out and buying more new stuff.

You see, like Charlie Kenton, before we can start seeing improvement, we need to invest in ourselves, not our gear.

And my goal is to help you do that. Stay tuned for an upcoming screencast giving you some insight into a mixing trick I’ve learned that helps me mix faster, and better.

Oh, and definitely go check out Graham’s EP. You’ll be glad you did. I hope it inspires you as much as it’s inspired me.

So get out there, and make great music with what you’ve got!

How are you going to make music with the gear you’ve got this week? Leave me a note in the comments! I read every comment, and I would love to hear from you.


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