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The impact of technology on music

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posted on May, 8 2009 @ 09:33 PM
This topic came up on one of my threads on ATS, and i thought BTS would be a more appropriate place to discuss it.

Someone mentioned that they believe the fact that professional recordings are easier to make nowadays is degrading the quality of the music produced.

I have a small recording studio and having worked with the newer toys, i believe that first, the "ease of creation" factor is greatly exaggerated. Samplers, synths, drum machines, virtual instruments and effects, and digital audio workstations such as Pro Tools are only effective if you know how to use them properly. Learning to do so is no simple task. It requires hours of manual reading, a good foundation in both music theory and modern recording techniques, and most importantly, talent. If you aren't a proficient musician, these tools are useless to you.

Secondly, i believe that the (slightly) easier methods of music production that technology has provided actually makes better, or at least comparable quality music. Great Artists have always utilized the latest in recording wizardry to make their signature sounds. That doesn't mean that their music is any the worse. The Beatles used what was essentially the first sampler, the Mellotron, on "Strawberry Fields Forever," and the song wouldn't have been the same if they hadn't.

Digital recording techniques introduced a vast array of processing possibilities. Studio techs were no longer bound by magnetic tape, but were free to manipulate a recording like any other type of digital file. Sure, audiophiles always complain that the fidelity of digital audio can't compare to that of magnetic tape and vinyl, but the digital world offers so much more in the way of shaping the audio, that just can't be done with tape. I'm sure, had they had the opportunity, very few of the great recording artists would've passed up the opportunity to use tempo based effects.

Yes, music technology can be abused. There are any number of people out there stacking loops from sample CD's in Acid Pro and calling it art. Those people are deluding themselves and will one day find that out. Technology isn't there to make "just push play" music, it's there to smooth the work flow of the truly talented musicians of the world. Just because a few people out there misuse the power doesn't make the power itself or the results of using it bad.

Music theory should always be the basis of a songwriters work. All of the cool new toys available are only there to shape the sound, not to write the song for you.

Tools don't build a house, a carpenter does. And, the fact that he has powerful tools doesn't mean that the end result of his labor is any less an accomplishment than the man who uses a hammer and a handsaw.


posted on May, 8 2009 @ 10:46 PM
Thanks for the opportunity for a blatant plug of us using very basic recording tools. Ultimately it filters down to the lyrics and the riff.
Read the profile on the soundclick page for our ideas on the new technology and our approach to music in general. I also play in a couple other bands and we don't even have a demo; a very antitech approach.
Just beerjoints, BBQ, noEFX, get up off your ass and dance style of R&R.

Where can we listen to your stuff TA?

[edit on 8-5-2009 by whaaa]

posted on May, 8 2009 @ 10:54 PM
I only have a couple of works-in-progress posted but if you want to hear them, they're here. Lyrics are being written, but slowly. I'm a perfectionist and this is just a hobby. Thanks for the reply.


posted on May, 8 2009 @ 11:33 PM
When I first heard Tubular Bells in the 1970's, I didn't realize that I was hearing technology new for the time. I think TB demonstrates that technology still takes a musician to produce music. Mike Oldfield is a musical genius.

posted on May, 8 2009 @ 11:41 PM
reply to post by desert

I think TB demonstrates that technology still takes a musician to produce music.

Exactly, desert.

I was just a wee bit angry when the person suggested otherwise in the thread on ATS, ergo this thread. I think a lot of people really think that technology is making the music these days, when in reality it's the artist.


posted on May, 10 2009 @ 04:24 AM
Pretty much agreed, I think that more tech is a great thing - definitely for the home user/artist... I'm just a bass player, but would like to get a basic home setup in the future, just for fun - which would've been available 10 years ago, but would've been like a Tascam 4-track tape and a basic drum machine. Speaking of which, I've got an old-school Yamaha drum machine, which is very outdated, but still good fun and you can do some cool stuff with it, like "odd" time signatures (yup, I'm a proggy).

Anyway, to the point, the use of technology is great, it makes stuff affordable for the proleteriat, we can make our "art" and get it out there now because of this technology, it's no longer just in the hands of evil wizards like Stock, Aitken and Waterman (remember them?)... look at a band like the Arctic Monkeys - cheap demos and Myspace = mass recognition (fame?), just some (working class?) kids that did it themselves, brilliant! Like anything it can be used for good or ill, but then we can choose what we consume with our cash or time.

Technology has been a brilliant revolution for the home artist, there's so much that can be done, not just with music, but film, art, writing, you can just get your work "out there".

I could digress on this for hours, maybe bring in the debate on downloading, consumerism etc.

posted on May, 10 2009 @ 05:51 AM
The Impact of technology on music. Hmm.

To me, that's a double edged sword.

The Good:
Total recall is possible now with digital audio workstations. Prior to this digital age, once tracks were cut on tape machines, the mixing of the tracks involved many external effects, most of which could not be recalled easily. This meant that any remixes or edits would involve trying to recreate the mix as close as possible with a myriad of devices. Extensive notes had to be kept of the whole setup, so it could be very time consuming trying to match what was already there plus the new edits. That was billable time for the studio.

But that in itself is good for the artist, and bad for the studio. Chargeable time is now reduced to a fraction of what it was when edits or retakes are needed, assuming that all final mixing is being done "in the box." That is a term used to describe when a song or production is being done with all effects and processing taking place inside the computer. Since computers can store all internal effects and mixer settings, generating a new mix with the edits is very simple.

The Bad:
The quality of music arguably has dropped with increasing dependence on electronics. A skilled musician used to be required for the most part to be able to play his or her part from start to finish- much more so than today- where the use of technology allows parts to be recorded separately much easier, and then strung together essentially to create whole songs.

The use of samples has also had an effect on recording engineers, who now do not have to be as skilled to get great sounds, when they can simply replace them in the final mixes with pre-made samples for many instruments. Even singers don't have to be all that great anymore with technologies such as Autotune, which will correct for pitch deficiencies in voices.

And there are many more benefits and detriments for both categories.

All in all though, technology does make possible for aspiring musicians what once used to be reserved for only those who showed excellence in their craft.

And wassup whaaa....You play a mean dobro, brutha! Nice stuff in that other thread floating around here.

posted on May, 10 2009 @ 04:58 PM
reply to post by TrueAmerican

Yeah, it's true that musicianship has declined because it's so much easier to string together different takes in a DAW. Samples have their place in music (like the samples of Bush sr. in N.W.O. by [
] Ministry) but they shouldn't be used to replace live instruments, unless you're going for that rap/hip-hop sampled loop sound. As for auto-tune, it should be destroyed. We don't need singers who can't sing or any more of the Cher pseudo-vocoder sound.

All in all, i think the perks outweigh the detriments, but you're right, it is a bit of a double edged sword.

Thanks for the well thought out reply, post starred.


posted on May, 10 2009 @ 07:57 PM
Well, it's late, so pardon a lack of coherence...

I think that the technology is incidental, there's always a way to "cheat" and I'm thinking of Milli Vanilli here, just 2 "handsome" guys fronting someone else's work... I know it's previously been said that sampling can be an artform in the rap/hip-hop vein and I'd tend to agree - I'm an uber music snob, but kinda stumbled across some stuff I didn't expect to appreciate that makes "artistry" out of sampling... DJ Yoda "How to cut and paste" and 2 Many DJs are pretty cool. I really do agree though, the vocoder should be scrapped, although, wouldn't it be cool to hook one up to Stephen Hawking (no disrespect intended).

Maybe oneday someone will develop a Nocoder, which will silence egomaniac politicians.

posted on May, 10 2009 @ 09:16 PM
reply to post by jokei

DJ Yoda "How to cut and paste" and 2 Many DJs are pretty cool.

Very true. I'm also an incurable DJ Shadow/Unkle fan. I recommend anything DJ Shadow has ever put his name on. Thanks for the reply, post starred.


posted on May, 11 2009 @ 04:25 AM
reply to post by TheAssociate

Cheers, kudos for the Ministry reference.

[edit on 11-5-2009 by jokei]

posted on May, 11 2009 @ 04:53 AM
AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGH! It ate my edited reply...

So, the gist of it was, tech is going to free artists up so long as they're not overly fussed about making money, with a (music) industry that's in terminal decline, the proliferation of affordable home-use technology and of course the web will allow people to get their "art" out there. With little or no "real" money to be made from music the process will start to shed the marketing aspect, I strongly suspect the traditional music industry is dying on it's bum - Virgin are gone, Zavvi are gone, Entertainment UK (major distributor) are gone, EMI have relocated from England to Germany as a cost-cutting exercise, (most sad case) Touch and Go seem to be ceasing, and Pinnacle ceased trading months back. So not only are the decent credible indies (Touch and Go, Pinnacle) gone, but the big "traders" are suffering too.

Perhaps, the artists that really care will just totally diy-it, there'll be no need to give up any creative control... the main problem will be for bands and touring - if that still exists as a phenomenon (doo doo du do do), although, perhaps the advent of 3d tv will sort that too (and you can smoke in your own venue)?

I think like everything there will still be music out there that isn't any good creatively or whatever, but the music that is good will get recognition via word of mouth or word of web.

posted on May, 11 2009 @ 05:49 AM
As a small aside I'm watching A Better Tomorrow dvd this morning and whilst it's a great film the soundtrack sounds pretty hideous, the opening credits have all these 80s sounding instruments on them, very vary dated sounding.

Now whilst technology is potentially great, it is evolving very fast and I think that it's going to be hard to fool the human ear (someone will prove me wrong now) and I think because tech outdoes itself so rapidly it has a tendency to sound "wrong" far more quickly than "traditional" or real, physical instrumentation. The whole vocoder thing backs this up, if you know what you're listening for you can spot music that's had vocoder on it easily - it's too smooth, it doesn't sound natural - check Lady Ga Ga or Avril Lavigne for easy examples.

posted on May, 12 2009 @ 01:22 AM
Personally, i like the vocoder sound such as on "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock. What i don't like is that overused auto-tune effect like on the song "Believe" by Cher.

That's two different effects.

The former is still cool, in my book. The latter is just plain annoying.


posted on May, 14 2009 @ 10:12 AM
In the brand-new (June 2009) issue of PC World magazine, a letter in the PC World Forum makes a case for degraded sound in MP3 files:

"Last year (after his MP3 player was stolen from his car) I reinstalled my old Sony cassette player. I put an old mix tape in the deck -- and was immediately blown away by the improvement in sound. ... MP3s are an abomination. How did we ever accept such a step backward?"

Although I have bought CDs of many new recordings, I usually notice a reduced richness in the sound of the digital "greatest hits" compilations compared with analog versions I have from way back when.

Here in Southern California, we are noticing a small resurgence in shops selling vinyl, and old-style record players are still being sold.

So, how much of an issue is digital versus analog in music for the BTS community?

[edit on 5/14/2009 by Uphill]

posted on May, 14 2009 @ 02:15 PM
Hmm, toughie... I really love vinyl, there's some really nice deluxe versions of stuff coming out on vinyl - I got a lovely reissue of Stevie Wonders "Music of my mind" on heavyweight vinyl and it's awesome.

I still listen to tape sometimes, mostly because they're mixes that friends have done, I still listen to MiniDisc - anyone remember that? It was a really affordable way to rip my friends music collections, now I'm in the process of buying all the really cool stuff! Cd is good for me too... the only format I'm not getting along with is MP3, it sounds ok, not better than that though, it's just not tangible, there's something about the "love" of music, even though it's an ethereal thing, there's nothing like having something with artwork on paper, with lyrics and pictures.

I work in a record shop and "physical product" is still doing very well.

posted on May, 14 2009 @ 05:27 PM
Personally, i don't like the MP3 format. It just doesn't sound "right" to me. Kind of reminds me of the days when friends and i would record our CD's to tape for each other. If you're more concerned with convenience than quality, MP3 is fine, but i'd still rather have either the CD or the record.


posted on May, 14 2009 @ 10:13 PM
While we're talking MP3's: Don't Pirate

Piracy of music is not cool. You're not "sticking it to the man" or playing Robbin Hood. You're taking food off the tables of everyone involved in the process, including those who don't get rich from the sale of recordings, like recording techs. and the people who run mastering houses.

P2P protocols such as BitTorrent shouldn't be regulated, but they shouldn't be misused either.


posted on May, 15 2009 @ 01:55 PM
reply to post by TheAssociate

Totally agreed with that too, I work in a record shop, occasionally I'll overhear someone talking about ripping stuff, it really sucks, especially as albums are so cheap these days - but then for a lot of people music is little other than a fashion accessory, same as everything else, they just like what they think they should like...

The worst thing about piracy (aside from annoying me) is that it's always the smaller (more interesting) artists that get hurt, as their albums don't have such good distribution or can't offer bulk discounts - because they're not popular enough, their albums tend to be more expensive. Personally I have no moral qualms about people ripping U2 or coldplay albums.

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