There’s nothing like a little excess to have people run screaming in the other direction. After a technological gorging on beat quantizing, pitch correction, loops, models, and more, it’s not surprising that some artists have had enough—they just want to stick some mics in front of their band, get a place with decent room acoustics, and just make music.
As much as I enjoy technology, I don’t have a problem with going “back to basics” because, frankly, a lot of things were done right the first time around. There’s a reason why Strats and Les Pauls are still around: Leo Fender and Les Paul got it right. Tubes make some great sounds, and it’s not too much of a mystery why keyboard players are always looking for the perfect sampled pianos; pianos sound cool.
And when it comes to recording, we sometimes see people adding way too much compression or EQ, doing overdubs that aren’t really necessary, inserting gratuitous loops, layering sounds that diminish the importance of the individual parts, and the like. And in the process, they lose sight of the most basic musical component: Recording a great performance that bristles with soul, integrity, and originality.
So it’s good there’s an emphasis on getting back to the right kinds of basics. However, “back to basics” isn’t always done for the right reasons. If “back to basics” is an excuse for not being willing to try new concepts—even ones that might appear to be excessive—then we’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater.
Many thought that rock and roll, a daring blend of R&B, blues, pop, and country, was just a passing fad. Some felt the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s” was excessive in terms of using the studio as an instrument, yet now it’s considered a classic album. And Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” was definitely over the top compared to what was happening at the time, but had a profound influence on pop music.
Today’s tools let us do feats that could only be dreamed about a few years ago, yet often, these tools aren’t exploited to anywhere near their full potential. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that: Just because something exists doesn’t mean we have to use it. In fact, I often advise people who are overwhelmed with technology to find their comfort zone, and work within that.
However, staying exclusively in your comfort zone may keep you from finding something ground-breaking. It’s the people who transposed samples way out of their natural range who uncovered great new options for soundtracks; and we owe looping to the composer who cut a piece of analog tape and stuck one end to the other. Where would the Sex Pistols—or Enya or Queen for that matter—be without huge amounts of layering? And how many tape recorder motors were burned out in the process of figuring out tape flanging?
Sure, don’t lose sight of the fundamentals. But in the process, also make sure you don’t lose sight of what might be over the horizon.
|This Week on HC|
Drum! magazine is one of best music publications you can find. While other magazines sing the blues, Drum! keeps progressing by offering a compelling mix of artist interviews, gear, lessons, and hands-on articles that range from vintage to high-tech. And frankly, it's personal; we've known the people behind the magazine for many years, and always appreciated their straightforward, musician-oriented approach. Drum! is a magazine by, of, and for players. Perhaps one of the best compliments we can pay them is that even if you're not a drummer, it's a great read.
So, we're extremely pleased that Drum! has chosen Harmony Central as an online partner to disseminate their unique brand of knowledge. They'll be feeding us some of their "greatest hits" for publication; these articles will become a part of our articles library, and be searchable when you're on HC looking for All Things Drum. The first article, an interview with the Black Keys' Patrick Carney, is featured in this newsletter; it's simultaneously entertaining and filled with a whole lot of truth.
We're thrilled to have Drum! onboard, and look forward to sharing future content in the newsletter and on the site. Welcome!
By Phil O'Keefe
By Mats Nermark
Our Senior Scandavian Correspondent—who's also the popular host of HC's trade show video "Hall Crawls"—turns his attention to the FUZZ Guitar Show in Sweden. With around 80 pictures (and a liberal amount of gear lust!), his report is the next best thing to being there.
By Andrew Lentz
By Phil O'Keefe
Banish intermittent connections, crackles, and pops with contact cleaner
|Featured Industry News|
This week's pick hits from our News section
A few of this week's top discussions from our Forums
Pink Floyd fans will definitely want to check out this thread for some great pictures of a flying pig. Really.
A list of small—some would say “micro”—pedals; mainly in the Hammond 1590A size enclosure, or smaller. There are a surprising number of these ultra-mini effect pedals available now.
The P90 is Gibson’s single-coil pickup, introduced in 1946. Though eclipsed in popularity by the humbucker (released nine years later), the P90 still has ardent fans, especially for blues and punk. Its footprint is closer to a humbucker than Fender’s single coil, so it’s reasonable to swap out a humbucker-equipped guitar with some after-market P90s—as long as you know what you’re doing. Find out the skinny here.
This discussion centers not on which guitar scale length is better, but the act of switching between them. Are there any ill effects from going from a shorter Gibson (24.75") to a longer Fender (25.5")? How about back the other way? Most forumites say there are indeed differences, but factors besides scale length may be even more important.
The Casio XW-P1, Universal Audio Apollo, and Line 6 “Dream Rig” keep racking up the page views—and with good reason, as they’ve become the go-to threads for info, tips, opinions, and more about these hot products.
There’s no doubt people like the THR 5 and THR 10 amps . . . but some people really, REALLY like them. And it seems like a lot of them have gravitated to this forum with videos, testimonials, and open admissions of serious GAS.
Check out some great advice about proper singing technique from the Singer’s Forum, as well as some useful references for further study.
When you need to keep up with a heavy-handed drummer, guitar, and keyboards you need a fairly serious bass amp. The Bass Forum has been there, done that, and reports on their findings of what works and what doesn’t.
The Keys, Synths & Samplers community gets philosophical about the advantages, disadvantages, and implications of limitations with respect to creativity and playing.
This thread is heavy reading, no doubt about it. But it’s almost like taking a course in music theory—so if you wish you knew more about how all these notes connect, check out this educational, and very informative, thread.
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