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When is technical ability/obsession a hindrance to our musical creation?


Makzimia
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I think another angle is players vs. composers. Back in the day, it was players who went into the studio and tried to capture the magic of playing live. Composers had to "speak" through someone else.

 

With today's tools, it's possible for composers to make the music they want to make without having to hire a band or orchestra to do so. Whether this is good or bad is probably a matter of personal opinion, but it's a significant factor in how music is made today.

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I have a couple of comments to make.

 

 

1. Shortly after finishing a project that involved a lot of editing in Pro Tools, I was half listening to "Inner Visions" while doing some repairs on piece of studio equipment. I heard an edit that I hadn't noticed before. For a fleeting moment I thought "I need to go back and fix that."

 

 

2. I recorded a quick demo for a singer/songwriter who was a better writer than singer and some of the vocals were a bit "pitchy." One of my musician friends had grown up and was still friends with a well known producer and sent him a couple of the better songs (without my consent). The producer's reply was a terse "The girl can't sing" and that was the end of it.

 

The demo was about the songs but the pitchy vocals were enough of a distraction so the songs didn't get a fair listen. I realized then that there is a place for pitch correction and, had we used it on this particular project, the songs would have had a better chance.

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I think another angle is players vs. composers. Back in the day, it was players who went into the studio and tried to capture the magic of playing live. Composers had to "speak" through someone else.

 

With today's tools, it's possible for composers to make the music they want to make without having to hire a band or orchestra to do so. Whether this is good or bad is probably a matter of personal opinion, but it's a significant factor in how music is made today.

 

I would like to hear the work that was done with orchestral libraries that can fool me. smiley-happy

 

But of course it doesn't have to, it just has to fool the musical palette of practically everyone else.

 

There is of course an inevitable outcome when computer orchestras are used for the final product, not to mention steps along the way. It's already been playing out for some time. Fewer orchestras, and the players they consisted of have found other work. Moreover, I'm not very enthused about passing on the musical legacy to my son. Not as a career choice. He's getting enough to find enjoyable, to supposedly be good for him, and so I can see the grin on his face when we play together. The latter is of course music's highest calling IMO. He says he wants to be a marine biologist though, and I'm more than happy to entertain that thought. The world of people increasingly does not need accomplished musicians, or so it seems, and the world itself could use help elsewhere.

 

I type this standing 5 feet from my sequencers and drum machines. They are invaluable to me as a composer, and sometimes I even manage to wring a goose bump or two for myself from them. I seldom have fully completed music in my head and I can realize things with said gear to the point where it seems done except for the part where I LEAP at the chance to have great players take it on.

 

As an artist, I'm currently holding out for the most part. Even though I'm ' bout up a creek without a paddle. Maybe I know the difference too well between what it is and what it could be. I dunno:blah::blah: various reasons:blah::blah::blah: and bunch more typing.

 

 

 

 

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I think a lot of us come from this background and shifted to various hybrid or total ITB setups. My take on recording remains, write it, practice it, record it. A lot of the me me me generation think practicing at the time they perform or record is totally in order. And since we have all this cool stuff, can't we just fix it. Sadly, a lot of producers and engineers are more than happy to fix it after. I admit I have tried to go that way a few times, it never works well for me though, I just cringe at it. I also don't believe removing every pop and squeak and breath, within reason, is a great thing.

 

When the lowest common denominator rules the roost, we've got issues.

 

Yup, the fix-it-in-the-mix thing goes back a ways. For me it depends a lot on the genre and the time period of the style. Now days we can do so much with a lot less effort. You can add the sound of string scratch for a guitar, or church benches creaking at the beginning of a hymn.

 

Whereas back in the day people might go to great lengths to remove those same sounds for a cleaner more highly produced result. Either way could wander into the realm of, "over produced."

 

The more tools available and the more those tools are pitched by marketing people, the more over-production is likely to happen.

 

One thing I believe stays the same and and is good practice is the art of subtle. Subtle is to use tools in a way that doesn't draw attention to the tools, but to the artist.

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Yup, the fix-it-in-the-mix thing goes back a ways. For me it depends a lot on the genre and the time period of the style. Now days we can do so much with a lot less effort. You can add the sound of string scratch for a guitar, or church benches creaking at the beginning of a hymn.

 

Whereas back in the day people might go to great lengths to remove those same sounds for a cleaner more highly produced result. Either way could wander into the realm of, "over produced."

 

The more tools available and the more those tools are pitched by marketing people, the more over-production is likely to happen.

 

One thing I believe stays the same and and is good practice is the art of subtle. Subtle is to use tools in a way that doesn't draw attention to the tools, but to the artist.

 

 

Spoken like a true minimalist! :)

 

 

Edited by audioicon
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I would like to hear the work that was done with orchestral libraries that can fool me. smiley-happy

 

But of course it doesn't have to, it just has to fool the musical palette of practically everyone else.

 

There is of course an inevitable outcome when computer orchestras are used for the final product, not to mention steps along the way. It's already been playing out for some time. Fewer orchestras, and the players they consisted of have found other work. Moreover, I'm not very enthused about passing on the musical legacy to my son. Not as a career choice. He's getting enough to find enjoyable, to supposedly be good for him, and so I can see the grin on his face when we play together. The latter is of course music's highest calling IMO. He says he wants to be a marine biologist though, and I'm more than happy to entertain that thought. The world of people increasingly does not need accomplished musicians, or so it seems, and the world itself could use help elsewhere.

 

I type this standing 5 feet from my sequencers and drum machines. They are invaluable to me as a composer, and sometimes I even manage to wring a goose bump or two for myself from them. I seldom have fully completed music in my head and I can realize things with said gear to the point where it seems done except for the part where I LEAP at the chance to have great players take it on.

 

As an artist, I'm currently holding out for the most part. Even though I'm ' bout up a creek without a paddle. Maybe I know the difference too well between what it is and what it could be. I dunno:blah::blah: various reasons:blah::blah::blah: and bunch more typing.

 

 

 

 

 

I have been reading lots of your comments on HC and I get a sense of perplexity and frustration, in terms of how music stands today and your endeavor to keep those qualities that matter.

 

I used to think the same way, in fact I became so frustrated that I abandoned music for 10 years.

To put it bluntly, I was angry (not saying you are). I could not understand how Lil Wayne could be the biggest artist in America, how shows like America Idol diminished the focus of music quality. In fact someone on these forum once referred to me as the "most negative person he has ever met." That was a stretch because I have never spoken to or met anyone on these forums.

 

I feel you and I have very similar views, we respect the process and the quality and the power of music. While I use technology to make music, nothing is ever going to change my view that technology has caused more damage to music quality.

 

To me it's like having a McDonalds on every street corner replacing all natural food stores.

 

Given I cannot change where the world is headed, I decided to do my part to preserve the quality of the music making process. To do this, I decided that using computers should not diminish my work or replace my abilities, so in the end, and as I have previously argued, the results should be the same or very close.

 

A friend recently contacted me to recommend a Piano for her son. There was one with BlueTooth. I emphasized the need to keep the focus on the music and all those other features were a distraction, simply put I did not recommend the bluetooth piano.

 

There are still people out there who appreciate good music and the quality of the music making process. And for me, those are the people who matter the most and as long as they are around, I know the demand for quality music will not die.

Edited by audioicon
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I would like to hear the work that was done with orchestral libraries that can fool me.

 

I was actually thinking of "composer" in a more general sense, e.g., I compose the songs on my YouTube channel, I don't play them live with a band. Or someone doing beats is composing rather than playing.

 

Would my music be better if it was played by a band? I don't know. It would be different, that's for sure, with one reason being that several elements of what I do couldn't be played live (well I guess they could if you, for example, sampled the backwards guitar parts and played them from a sampler, but that's not the way most people think of a band). The songs, the lyrics, and the vocals would all be the same. I would prefer to play the music live with a band, but that's not an option for now, so I have the studio.

 

And the reality is I do play the parts, except for the drum loops...but even those are manipulated, cut, pasted, combined with individual drum hits, etc. So a lot of work goes into those.

 

The idea of having a band play together is because of the bond that happens among players. Well, isn't there a bond within me for the different parts of me that are expressing themselves? I don't have to look myself in the eye, I am the eye :) I feel what's lost with the do-it-all approach is feedback from others that could make for a better piece of music, but I'm not sure the parts themselves suffer...especially because I often re-cut parts to reflect changes in the music as it develops.

 

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I was actually thinking of "composer" in a more general sense, e.g., I compose the songs on my YouTube channel, I don't play them live with a band. Or someone doing beats is composing rather than playing.

 

Would my music be better if it was played by a band? I don't know. It would be different, that's for sure, with one reason being that several elements of what I do couldn't be played live (well I guess they could if you, for example, sampled the backwards guitar parts and played them from a sampler, but that's not the way most people think of a band). The songs, the lyrics, and the vocals would all be the same. I would prefer to play the music live with a band, but that's not an option for now, so I have the studio.

 

And the reality is I do play the parts, except for the drum loops...but even those are manipulated, cut, pasted, combined with individual drum hits, etc. So a lot of work goes into those.

 

The idea of having a band play together is because of the bond that happens among players. Well, isn't there a bond within me for the different parts of me that are expressing themselves? I don't have to look myself in the eye, I am the eye :) I feel what's lost with the do-it-all approach is feedback from others that could make for a better piece of music, but I'm not sure the parts themselves suffer...especially because I often re-cut parts to reflect changes in the music as it develops.

 

OK. What I spoke of in the remainder of my post is what's happening though. Composers no longer need orchestras, as you said. Indeed, neither do movie studios. FWIW, I watched a Pirates of the Carribean movie with my son last night. It was from 10 years ago. The music was a computer orchestra and I could tell in eh...less than 5 maybe 6 seconds. Uniformity and a governor, or flatness uncharacteristic of the real thing, as is often the case with sample based music. I checked later, famous music director, no orchestra credited. I'm sure the libraries and techniques are better by now. Maybe it might take me 10 seconds. Not saying that to boast at all, but more to rain on the parade. (As a former orchestra player, I feel for my peeps. My former gig just shortened it's season by a month and a half and has lost some really good players as well.)

 

Anyway, I don't think it's really even close, and the things that are missing are important for the music to have real impact, on me anyway, and I know I'm not alone.

 

 

 

I can echo much of what you say as far as the way we work goes, though my gear is different. I'm the eye too, ever since do it alls like Prince and Vai gave me big ideas. Good ideas are always welcome, but I'm rarely stumped when it comes to how my music should go. I know the life and light that a good player can add to core parts of the instrumentation though.

 

I've got 118 sequencer tracks. I've never used all of them, but I do have a lot more going on than 4 or 5 guys can cover most of the time. It's just a trade off. One that I'd accept at the cost of some extra percussion, pads, a backwards effect, etc. I put together a trio some years back and we rearranged several of my songs rather easily. Good players laying into it with all the feel and zest is a breath of fresh air after being alone with my gear for a while, I've found. The tools are great, but there are some things they still cannot do. Sometimes it matters more than others. If its's just a 4 on the floor kick, there's probably not much difference between a drummer playing to a click with triggers and compressed, and a drum machine.

 

The machines are always there though, unless the power is out. They don't come drunk, or limp with a broken heart, or coughing up a lung.

 

But, to be frank, I feel like I'm just another stranded musician, playing over his automated music, and that no matter how much work I put into or how rare an electric violinist is, it it's nothing that bears much notice as such. I can't believe in it enough to push it, other than to see if it might fit some TAXI listing. As we used to say in Iowa when I was growing up, "Whoopieding."

 

Sorry for my part in the derail Makzimia.

 

 

 

 

Edited by RockViolin
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I have been reading lots of your comments on HC and I get a sense of perplexity and frustration, in terms of how music stands today and your endeavor to keep those qualities that matter.

 

I used to think the same way, in fact I became so frustrated that I abandoned music for 10 years.

To put it bluntly, I was angry (not saying you are). I could not understand how Lil Wayne could be the biggest artist in America, how shows like America Idol diminished the focus of music quality. In fact someone on these forum once referred to me as the "most negative person he has ever met." That was a stretch because I have never spoken to or met anyone on these forums.

 

I feel you and I have very similar views, we respect the process and the quality and the power of music. While I use technology to make music, nothing is ever going to change my view that technology has caused more damage to music quality.

 

To me it's like having a McDonalds on every street corner replacing all natural food stores.

 

Given I cannot change where the world is headed, I decided to do my part to preserve the quality of the music making process. To do this, I decided that using computers should not diminish my work or replace my abilities, so in the end, and as I have previously argued, the results should be the same or very close.

 

A friend recently contacted me to recommend a Piano for her son. There was one with BlueTooth. I emphasized the need to keep the focus on the music and all those other features were a distraction, simply put I did not recommend the bluetooth piano.

 

There are still people out there who appreciate good music and the quality of the music making process. And for me, those are the people who matter the most and as long as they are around, I know the demand for quality music will not die.

 

Thanks man. I'm cool. I see a plus right along with a minus in most every direction I look these days. It's not all good to me, and I guess I don't mind saying so. Maybe not so frustrated and perplexed as just wanting to decry what seems to me are sad trends in the music world/biz. Dang, is that, is that a soapbox I feel under my feet?

 

At least people that go on AI, and The Voice have to sing like people have for millennia. Without any help.

 

And you're right and I've been bearing it in mind in this thread and others. Nothing said here will change anything. Yelling into the wind as it were.

Edited by RockViolin
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I listen to a lot of older music and often there are imperfections in the recordings.

 

One of the most common is having a particular instrument too low or high when it first begins a solo. For me, a good performance and good material will usually transcend a flawed recording. By good performance I mean enthusiastic and heart-felt, not perfectly precise.

 

It takes really bad room acoustics (as heard on many non-professionally recorded live performances on bootleg releases) and excessive noise (audience noise or the background noise heard on a damaged vinyl record) to make good music unlistenable.

 

The advantage of digital recording is that it is possible to fix distracting errors in an otherwise good performance. The technology does not, and can not, make the music sterile, only a bad performance, poor material or excessive manipulation of a recording can do that.

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'I would like to hear the work that was done with orchestral libraries that can fool me.'

 

That's because you have an ear for it. People who are good at something obsess over technicality and can pick apart the most minute detail. Do people like that care too much on how it is technically? F** no. That's what makes them good in ways others don't even notice.

 

"This sounds soooo good, how do they do it???" They know things you don't. They see details you don't.

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"I listen to a lot of older music and often there are imperfections in the recordings."

 

We recently had a classic rock listening session on my system, and one thing was glaring: Classic songs [we all love] next to modern electronic stuff sounds... Bad. Really bad. You can hear the room and the mics and how stifled everything sounds. Over all, noisy and not very intelligible.

Edited by BlueGreene
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This has been an awesome thread to read and re-read.

 

"Do we care too much how music is technically?" If I may, I'd like to rephrase the question: When is technical ability/obsession a hinderance to our musical creation?

 

With everything, the closer you look, the more you see. The better you get at something, the more details to concern yourself with. The devil is in the details, and that's what separates pros from amateurs.

 

To answer my own embellishment:

Whenever spending time on details slows down your creative process to the point where frustration takes root, and one leaves the place of learning. It's hard to expand your mind, it takes work and discipline. The trick is knowing where to draw the line between challenging yourself and getting stuck and frustrated.

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Hold 'em or fold 'em. Sometimes it matters more than others and the trick is to know the difference. Talent and or experience are enormously helpful in making the call, as is the light under which whatever it is is seen.

 

Maybe it's fair to say that it just depends on the music, and what it seems to need, which is a matter of perspective.

 

A conductor with, oh say, Wagner's overture to "The Flying Dutchman" at hand probably shouldn't be too worried about whether 16th chair 2nd violin is grabbing all the notes in certain spots. He/she likely is not, nor is anyone else for that matter. It's a shimmer effect anyway, ridiculously hard, nobody out in the hall will know one way or the other, and what's way more important is what's going on with the horns.

 

But if it's Mozart's overture to "Cosi Fan Tutte", which also has it's difficult spots, anything but the right notes, in the right spot, in the right way will stick out like a sore thumb and 16th chair 2nd violin had better have their act together or they will get the laser beams. :cop:

 

Sometimes it's the mood that's most important -Debussy

 

Sometimes it's about the notes a bit more. -Paganini

 

Balance, the main thing is the main thing, etc.

 

There just maybe isn't a donkey to pin the tail on here though, really.

 

 

 

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I'll make an analogy to movies.

 

When the movie serves the effects instead of the story, technology got in the way.

 

When the technology serves the story and the story serves the music, the technology is used right.

 

In music it's the same way.

 

When the recording serves the technology instead of the music, it's in the way.

 

If the technology serves the music, then the technology is used correctly.

 

The focus must be on the music, not the technology or the perfection of the recording. Anything that gets in the way of the music is wrong. Anything that helps the music is good.

 

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I'll make an analogy to movies.

 

When the movie serves the effects instead of the story, technology got in the way.

 

You got that right. I've seen a lot of visually spectacularly movies that had nothing going on inside. Yes, I appreciated the spectacular visuals, but that would be a movie I would watch once and forget...kind of empty calories. OTOH I found "Blade Runner 2049" both visually stunning and with an emotional underpinning of what was human vs. what was replicated, which actually has a lot to do with this thread.

 

The focus must be on the music, not the technology or the perfection of the recording. Anything that gets in the way of the music is wrong. Anything that helps the music is good.

 

In a way that explains how I work. I emphasize getting the music down fast, while the muse is hanging out. Instrumental parts, vocals, and lyrics pretty much tumble out. But after that's done, I get super-detailed in terms of making tons of little changes.

 

I ran across an older version I'd done of a song that was finished, and although the essence was there, the finished version was just so much more complete. I think there's plenty of room for technology and frankly, with obsession to detail. But if it happens during the right-brain/creative process zone, then it can be a distraction. If it's like turning a book over to a copy editor, then all it does is make a stronger result.

 

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[uSER=519559]BlueGreene[/uSER] - I like the pottery story a lot. I think the crucial part was talking about how those involved in quantity were learning from their mistakes and refining the process, not just the object. Come to think of it my creative process is sort of a "split the difference" situation: I'll come up with a bunch of ideas, but one seems to stand out and I zero in on that one.

Edited by Anderton
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