I'm writing this column directly after the USA's winter NAMM 2007 show, where I got a taste of some of the new products that we'll be looking at more closely over the coming year. As many of you will have noticed from last month's news stories, there were few absolutely revolutionary products released this year; instead there was lots of evolutionary new equipment, which helps to drive the market along at a steady pace. You can read all about what we saw in our What's New pages, but just for a change I'd like to list a few of the things that we didn't see. In many ways this is my personal wish-list for the future, but hopefully some of it will coincide with your own needs.
Being a guitar player who likes synth sounds, I'm still waiting for a guitar synth I feel comfortable with. I think pitch-tracking is a dead-end, though, and we won't have playable, responsive sounds until we move on to using DSP to reshape the sounds from the strings themselves. We don't need to emulate keyboard sounds, either — we just want something that's interesting, musically useful and that responds to a guitar player's normal technique. Furthermore, now that both Roland and Line 6 have modelling guitars with pitch-shifting capabilities built in, why can't one of them give us pedals that can pitch-bend individual strings to create pedal-steel effects and the like?
But enough about guitars. Something I'm sure the majority of us would like to see is a period of stability in the computer industry, so that we're not forever waiting for our favourite software and plug-ins to become compatible with the next big thing in the realms of operating systems or hardware. And speaking of the next big thing, I know progress is inevitable, but surely part of that progress ought to include tools to make updating the old software as painless as possible? After all, if a human can do it, surely a computer can do it a billion times faster?
While we're on the subject of things a computer can do, when your sequencer next falls over or goes into an infinite loop as you're tweaking something seemingly innocuous, wouldn't it be nice if the software could point a finger and say 'that's the plug-in that did it, guv'? As it is, we just get a 'XYZ has unexpectedly quit' message, when what it really means is 'XYZ has entirely predictably quit and, just to make you suffer a bit more, I'm going to take ages restarting again!' I wouldn't mind this on the odd occasion, as we can't expect everything to run perfectly all the time, but every time I restart my sequencer it spends a couple of minutes poking around the hard drives, before performing an interminable process called 'updating the tree' (I never figured out what was wrong with the old tree), before finally allowing me to get back to where I started from.
The bottom line is that although new equipment with all the latest bells and whistles might be a lot of fun, if manufacturers looked at what we need (rather than what we think we might want), we'd be better equipped to produce good music. Things like solid software, silent computers and more time to actually play our instruments, because we're not busy trying to fix our computer setups, would certainly help us creatively. And we'd appreciate these things far more than flashy gizmos and convoluted but potentially powerful workflows.
Editor In Chief