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Feedback Is Good

The end of 2012 has been a busy time for us here at SOS, with a number of events and trade shows to slot in between our regular testing, writing and editing commitments. Several of these events involved hosting seminars and Q&A sessions with large groups of project studio owners. I find these particularly valuable, as they help me focus on what the typical reader really needs to know, rather than simply monitoring forum exchanges between much more experienced audio engineers, which can give a false impression of the more general knowledge base. I'm also constantly surprised by just how many of the products we take for granted slip under the radar of the typical recording musician. For example, at a recent event at which the theme of my workshop was guitar synthesis, many of the attendees had never used a guitar synth or even seen one in action. After a brief demo and a chat, a number of them decided that guitar synthesis was worth exploring, but how come the things remain such a mystery to most guitar players? Roland's GR500 and ARP's Avatar guitar synth were launched way back in 1978, which was before many of the attendees were born, so it's hardly a new technology.

Similarly, at a recent Q&A session I hosted, one of the co-presenters asked the 100-strong audience how many of them used Melodyne. Four hands went up. We then asked how many knew of it, and though a few more hands popped up, the majority seemed unaware that such a thing existed. When they were shown polyphonic Melodyne DNA in action, they reacted as though it was black magic!

Useful feedback for us, indeed, but then the tables were turned when one of the audience put me on the spot and asked me what new development in technology I'd really like to see. I thought for a moment and then replied that I'd like to see a DAW intelligent enough to free us from the tyranny of the click track without us having to work 'off the grid', something I've commented on a couple of times in the past. Despite algorithms designed to create a tempo map from an existing drum track, I often find these require a lot of input from the user to produce a usable result, and I was surprised how many of the audience responded to my reply: it earned a mild round of applause, so clearly other musicians are thinking along similar lines.

If something so 'impossible' as Melodyne DNA is already available, surely it isn't too much to ask that a DAW could listen to what you've recorded, without you having to find a separate and spill-free kick or snare for it to follow, and then create a reliable tempo map to fit it without you having to lead it by the hand? Maybe it could even work out an average tempo and then quantise all the recorded audio to fit it, something that takes up a lot of operator time at the moment. After all, if a human can tap their foot in time to a piece of music without relying on a simple kick or snare pattern to follow, surely a computer can be taught to do the same?

Paul White Editor In Chief