I love technology. It is a beautiful thing.
However, while there’s nothing wrong technology itself, we need to consider the role that technology should play in our lives.
I’m mainly referring to technology as it pertains to making music, particularly in the recording world. These days everybody and their dog can have a home recording studio.
Don’t get me wrong, that can be an awesome thing. Thirty years ago it simply wasn’t possible to spend a couple hundred dollars and be able to make high-quality recordings at home. The technology wasn’t there.
Technological advancements of the last few decades have brought a new, massive percentage of the population into the world of studio recording. My life would certainly be dramatically different if I couldn’t record my music (and the music of others).
Without the onset of new technology, the entire recording industry would consist of the select few who could drop $400,000 on a huge recording studio, fully equipped with analog tape machines and massive recording consoles.
Today an average Joe can pick up an interface and a microphone and do a lot of things the big analog studios of the past could do, and a lot of things they couldn’t!
This leads me to my next point — the misuse of technology.
Here’s what has happened. That average Joe with his interface and microphone has been told he can “do a lot of things the big analog studios of the past could do, and a lot of things they couldn’t!” (Where have I heard that before?)
Now what does average Joe do? He interprets this as “you can make a record that sounds JUST as good as the professionals…with a $300 interface…and a $100 microphone.”
What average Joe doesn’t realize is that technology, while playing a huge role in his ability to create, has nothing to do with talent and ability.
Now imagine that we picked up average Joe and plopped him down behind a huge Harrison console in 1982, introduced him to a nice young man named Michael Jackson and said, “Joe, we need you to engineer this young fellow’s next album called Thriller.”
What would happen? Would our fearless hero be able to achieve Bruce Swedien-like results? Would the album still become the best-selling album of all time?
The answer is a resounding NO. But you may say, “Well, he has all the same technology that Bruce had, surely he could make it work.”
That’s like saying, “Hey, here are all the colors and brushes Michelangelo used on the Sistine Chapel. Why don’t you go ahead and paint a version for us, okay?”
Let us not forget the importance of talent and God-given ability. Just because you can record a hundred original songs in your bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If the songs are bad, or if the recordings sound awful, what’s the point?
I firmly believe that technology was meant to enhance creativity, not replace it.
If your songs aren’t that great, put down the laptop and go work on your songwriting. If your recordings sound consistently bad, stop working on that epic record and work on your microphone placement instead.
Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you have to be an insanely amazing engineer or musician before you are allowed to dabble in recording. That’s the beauty of technology. You don’t have to land a record deal before you can record your music. You don’t have to work for a big studio to become a recording engineer.
Becoming a good engineer or musician takes time. Everyone has to start somewhere, and technology has made that a relatively inexpensive endeavor.
Keep in mind, though, that this is all about the music. Be careful not to sacrifice creativity on the altar of technology. If you produce the most technologically advanced album, utilizing all the latest fancy digital trinkets and do-dads, and yet your music is lifeless and lacking any emotion, you have failed. Technology wins.
Don’t let that happen. Viva la musica.
Joe Gilder is a Nashville-based engineer, musician, and producer who also provides training and advice at the Home Studio Corner.