There are many benefits to modern recording technology, but for me one the greatest remains the sheer convenience of being able to open a project and pick up exactly where I last left off. The other is the Undo button. If only life had one! As Robin Bigwood very eloquently pointed out in his Sounding Off piece back in the September 2015 issue, we’re probably way past the point where technology has offered us all we need to get the job done. It could be argued then that the most significant developments are likely to be related to ease and speed of operation. Though it doesn’t seem to be available yet, the time-saving feature I’d really like to see — and which would be especially useful when working with some bands — is the ability to have the tempo of a live multitrack performance stabilised and all the parts time-aligned in an intelligent way based on an analysis of what was actually played. And if the processing was dependent on an intelligent assessment of what was meant to be played, so much the better. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually, but at the moment such manipulations require a lot of manual input and the end results aren’t always as great as we’d like them to be.
One area that is rapidly coming up to speed, however, is synthesis for the guitar player. I recently installed a copy of Jam Origin’s MIDI Guitar app, as reviewed by Bob Thomas a couple of years back, and found it to work extremely well. I already have a Roland MIDI guitar system and guitars fitted with Hex pickups, but the convenience of just being able to plug whichever guitar I’m playing at the time into my audio interface to control a virtual instrument is very liberating and doesn’t distract the creative muse. What’s more, the results seem to be every bit as good as I get with a hex pickup system, even when playing chords. Roland’s SY300 guitar synth offers similar benefits, and now that particular ball has started rolling, I’m sure that we’ll see a lot more emerging for the guitar player using a standard guitar. After all, the percentage of Sound On Sound readers who play guitar as a main instrument is still well in excess of 50 percent and even those musicians who are fluent in both keyboard and guitar will appreciate that each instrument can lead you in very different musical directions.
The more straightforward the technology is to operate, the easier it is to keep your brain in creative mode, and when it comes to music, what could be more important? Maybe the future will bring us further benefits in the form of reliable voice control and artificial intelligence (‘Hey computer, find me a cool drum part to fit with this — and make it sound something like what Steve Gadd might play’). But for the time being let’s appreciate what we have in the present and get on with making some music. What we have at our disposal today is already extremely good.