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Sounding Off September (The Tools We Use)

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Sounding Off September (The Tools We Use)

Postby Suntower » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:50 pm

Good article. But I would've gone further. A LOT further.

One of the best passages I've read in years was in an interview with Glyn Johns where he expresses frustration at 'young' musicians who expect new tech to save them effort. He rejects new tech not because he's a Luddite but because he expects the players to give him a great performance. And the only way? "Just play it again". Repeat until the performance is great. And he laments that most people either won't or can't do that anymore. By avoiding DAWs, he doesn't give people a chance to cheat on a great performance. The older I get, the more I appreciate the genius: Just play it again.

Moreover, the DAW -encourages- the player to create certain types of music. Face it, almost all pop music now has almost no metric or tempo or chordal variation. And I think this is because DAWs encourage us to write music that is super visceral... we can make it as loud and precise and punchy as we want and we can layer things to an ungodly level of richness. DAWs make those operations dead simple.

But they -discourage- us from making music which has lots of variety in terms of meter or chords or tempi. It's REALLY hard to do a lot of music in a DAW that would be dead simple for a conductor or a jazz quintet with some real people and real notes to do.... accelerandos, time sigs, complex chords. Anyone who has ever tried to do -any- 20th century 'classical' music or jazz in a DAW knows what I mean.

So I think the intrinsic 'machine' quality of the DAW is strongly influencing the music that is currently being made. And I find myself ALWAYS fighting this because it seems like the DAW -wants- me to make EDM. Because EDM is the thing that sequencers do best.

That may seem like EDM-snobbery, but it's just a fact. And even if you love EDM in a way I never will? This influence should scare you. A lot. (Well, unless yer into that who Geiger thing---man/machine).

The default position with a DAW? You're not in control. It just -seems- like you are because there are so many more buttons and options.
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Re: Sounding Off September (The Tools We Use)

Postby alexis » Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:07 pm

I record nothing to a flat metronome setting, and with lots of slowdowns, pauses, speedups, etc. - what used to be common on radio in the 70s and 80s, but as is said above, not so much anymore.

Editing, overdubs, and the like are incredibly hard/onerous to manage in Cubase, though definitely doable. It'd sure be nice if it were easier ...

Form follows function, eh? Yeah, sounds right to me, but what do I know!

But it seems like the "big name producers" who record live bands and release hit songs are able to do the job just fine. Or maybe they're not really live, just a bunch of guys coming in one after another recording to a flat-tempo metronome?
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Re: Sounding Off September (The Tools We Use)

Postby VOLOVIA » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:19 am

It all comes down to time and effort. A DAW is nothing but a glorified tape recorder with attached mixer and effects at the end of the day. For a start you can set the ruler to show time instead of bars, if you wish so.
But crucially, what you can do is to record anything you want live and with no metronome; then, if required, you have the amazing opportunity to generate a reliable tempo map (and click) from your free-style performance (either manually or automated in Cubase); at any stage you have tools after tools enabling one to time stretch sections (timing corrections), or even align parts or the whole song to a fixed tempo (making it suitable for EDM remixes, if so wished). Multi-time signatures? As many as you dare.

Once the software knows the tempo map of the song (infinite number of crescendos etc.), it can generate music sheets either from MIDI, obviously, but also from monophonic sounds (for now).
Not enough? I recorded some great, real, non-metronome bound drummer performance but the bass drum lacked 'punch'. A couple of clicks on Cubase and I had a MIDI file of the BD triggering anything I wanted, or had. The bass buzzed too much on in few instances. Too late to recall the musician. No sweat. Cubase analysed the pitch and loudness of every note (not the slides, but these can be left in), MIDI was generated, and a supporting sampled bass was called in places.

Really, what more can technology do for you? With Melodyne you can even correct a guitar note in a chord, or in a full mix! 20 years ago all of this would have been considered nothing short of 'magic', now software costs only a few hundreds notes and works on a bog-standard TESCO laptop...

As per the 'end of real (pop) music', I used to think the same until I discovered Spotify. With their 'recommended to me' section they opened up a world of newly made records that satisfy that little nostalgic corner of my music taste that longs for early Genesis/PFM etc.
Bands like The Flower Kings, Steven Wilson, Anekdoten, IQ (what a band!), etc.

A cheer for technology! As per the 'SELLING' of our music... well, the only way is to go back to early last century's approach and take our wares live and use the recordings as 'promotion material'... or selling it imaginatively, vinyl, soundtracks, video games, etc. Said this many times... Ciao.

P.S. I am not an enthusiastic teen playing with toys. I am on the wrong side of 50 wishing I did not had to go through with horrid 4 track cassette recorders for most of my life
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Re: Sounding Off September (The Tools We Use)

Postby Suntower » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:30 am

VOLOVIA wrote:It all comes down to time and effort. A DAW is nothing but a glorified tape recorder with attached mixer and effects at the end of the day.

Respectfully? Not really.

I'm an old guy. And before there were 'word processors' there were 'text editors' which basically worked like a typewriter. You could -type- much as you would write with a pencil. But the -editing- we take for granted was non-existent. So they were like tape recorders.

By now I had hoped that DAWs would function like Word or any good desktop publisher---which lets you write like you -think-.

All current DAWs are nowhere NEAR as good with music as a word processor is with -words-. You can't move -ideas- around with anywhere near the speed and flexibility of any word processor.

You -can- cut/paste stuff, but it's about 1000% easier if you do it in 4/4 and by moving complete bars or phrases around. There is -nothing- in any DAW that lets you move 'paragraphs' or 'sentences' or clauses around as one would in Word.

I'm not saying that the world would be less 4/4 if this weren't the case, but what it -does- do is encourage DAW users to stick to 4/4 and fixed tempi and one key sig.

The problem I have in discussing this is that people who read music tend to get it and people who don't think I'm being an old fart snob. Because you can't feel bad missing something you can't take advantage of.

But even when I listen to movie scores today all I mostly hear, even when a real orchestra is playing, the chuga-chuga-chuga- of very simple 4/4. Which I suspect is because the composer wrote it on a DAW instead of with pen and paper.

The machines -encourage- the artist to make it mechanical.
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Re: Sounding Off September (The Tools We Use)

Postby VOLOVIA » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:58 am

'Suntower', I understand where you come from. As I edited my previous post, I added my age bracket too... I am also a touch-typist from bygone eras... BUT, although I agree wholeheartedly that many, too many, people just stick the metronome in (4/4) since it's easier to make edits later (including soundtracks, you are right), in 2016, it does not have to be like this.
I have changed my post to include a few more examples of what it is possible within modern software... Cubase for instance enables all the cut and paste and edit as you wish for (time-signature free, of course). You CAN move an adagio part to a crescendo later, simply. Moreover, something you can't do with tape, you can create a seamless transition between them (sonically). And, without repeating my previous post, you can mark the downtempo points (regardless of time signatures) and later generate professional scores. Sure, it takes a bit of time and editing, but it's an astonishing tool you must agree.

I conclude with a slightly philosophical reflection on my own music: back in the times of 4 track tape recorders and one cheap compressor + copy of SM58, I was thinking all the time 'if only I had multiple tracks, Lexicon, Eventide, etc.' "I would sound like.... (fill in)".
Now that one can emulate (sound wise) most of the songs in the current charts (and drastically better those from the 80's, KORG M1-Fairlight-Synclavier based recordings!!) it's up to our skills and creative to make the best use of them.

It is as if all contemporary sculptors were given access to a limitless supply of flawless, Carrara marble to practice and produce their work. How many Michelangelo would we enable then? How many Davide statues would grace the Earth?
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