The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Do recording techniques follow technology??? Audio Interfaces
Old 5th September 2007
Lives for gear
jindrich's Avatar

I think it's a bit of both.

But unfortunately, tides have changed. If you take a look at the last 50 years (till the 90s) of Popular Music, ARTIST have been taking advantge of technology in recording, developing new recording techniques, and pushed everything further in very creative ways.

But in the last 10 years, the opposite has happened. TECHNOLOGY & RECORDING TECHNIQUES HAVE TAKEN ADVANTGE OF ARTISTS (to sell more technology).

Nowadays, U2, Madonna, Metallica, Eminem and Avril Lavigne SOUND THE SAME.

Now you tell me.
Old 5th September 2007
Lives for gear
dokushoka's Avatar

Improvements in technology are always striving to fill a need. Where the soul-searching should begin is: what are "needs"?
I think the greatest "need" for the last 20 years of commercial music has been to make good looking people who don't sound so good, sound good. With the advent of MTV, it became about how you look more than how you sound, so technology quickly rushed in to make so so people sound passable.

The upside is we have some ridiculous tools now!
Old 5th September 2007
Lives for gear
videoteque's Avatar
Nowadays, U2, Madonna, Metallica, Eminem and Avril Lavigne SOUND THE SAME.

Old 5th September 2007
Gear Addict
Dale's Avatar

technology has trumped musicianship
recording is no longer how _you_play your instrument
it is how you would like to

cusinart the art of music
Old 5th September 2007
Lives for gear
vernier's Avatar
Do recording techniques follow technology???
Unfortunately, yes.
Old 6th September 2007
Gear Addict
mastermix's Avatar
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
As somebody implied above, technology can be good if it enhances the music but it's bad when its main purpose becomes polishing ugliness into characterless mediocrity.
Great quote! Sounds like a sig to me...
Old 6th September 2007
Lives for gear
Flying_Dutchman's Avatar

Originally Posted by Bruce Swedien View Post
Here’s an interesting question...

Do recording techniques follow technology or does technology follow recording technique? In other words, does technique imply certain technology in the studio. Does technique command technology that would not be there if it wasn’t for the technique?

For instance: I think that the AMS “Non-Linear”, or gated reverb program was a definite response to a musical demand.

i.e: The Phil Collins and David Bowie drum sound, using gated reverb on the drums in the early 1980’s.

Look at it this way, if we are to say that technology has kept up with recording technique, then can we say that multi-track recording has made it possible to make a recording that is that is virtually free of technical errors.

Or is it that multi-track recording has made it possible to make a recording that is virtually free of musical errors.

Obviously, it’s a bit of both. Personally, I lean a lot to the musical side of that issue. I think it’s more important to produce music that is as good as we can make it.

I have always thought of my mixes as being “Sonic Sculptures”. For me, the real adventure in modern popular music mixing, is in projecting my concept of reality in the music I record. I don’t very often strive for technical, virtual reality.

To me, the over-all "Musical-Sense" of a piece of music is the most important thing to consider. I like to let the music tell me what it needs in the way of recording and mixing values.

A good song, or piece of music, seems to have a life of it's own. In other words let the music "Tell us what to do next". In a mix-down session, if we work for hours to try to make a 'gated reverb' on the snare drum sound good, and in our heart if hearts we know it sounds awful, the fact is; the song doesn’t want a 'gated reverb' on the snare drum. Don't try and force it. I don’t think we can ever win out over the personality of the song. The music will always triumph.

Of course, to me.... It’s All About The Music.....

What do you think???

Bruce Swedien
1. Gear vs Technique

I think that the most gear inventions are made to solve a given problem.
In the earlier days, microphones and PAs were invented for non musical applications. The problem was to adress political propaganda to many people at one time. It was solved. Than it was "misused" to bring an artists performance to the customers home, for financial benefit. This made a new problem. The sound quality had to improve. In these days money wasn´t the problem, there was no low-end market like in these days. As studios grew, new gear was made. Many designs were done by studios itself. Sound quality increased. Maybe, because there many music loving people involved. If i listen to many new gear i sometimes doubt. More studios came into the market causing more competition. This and the fact, that everybody reached for the max created some of the most beatiful gear in the analog eara.
If i listen to some master tapes of this days, no digital recording can touch this.

As computers got cheaper, the industry realized the pros of a total recall system, so desk automation was invented. Than the digital ercording era followed. Years of discussions about pros and cons.... I don´t think there was a really sonical need this time, but the technical inventions had to be used. Off course, total recall can safe time, but maybe you don´t need an assistant anymore...

In the now, its the problem to make the digital domain sound as good as the analog past. (But some digital devices can do things analog cant, so its no black/white). If i think of the new Drawmer 3 band anlog splitter, its like a analog multiband approach, for example, so the digital technique created a workflow thats now used analog, but i cant really tell if somebody first had the idea to spilt a signal, or if the multiband was first :-) )

Nowdays, the market is full, so price dropped. Nearlly everybody who does some music has a small recording studio.
Everybody wants to get a professional sound with low costs. There is a whole new problem to be solved, price.
Plug-in manufactures try to emulate the glorious sound of some hardware goodies and they do well in my opinion, for example.

Cheap hardware is another case. If you look at SM Pro Audio for example, they sell 8CH preamp at 200$... Open this an look at the electronics. Everybody who knows a little about electronics will know why this cant sound good. But its more important to spend 4 cent on a capiciator than 23 cent...
Price is dominating sound quality in some cases. Great gear is much more expansive than it could be. But nowdays, there are less people familiar in electronics, so the industry can demand this prices.
But back to the topic, this makes new problems. Try to get a good sound out of a signal recorded with an sm pro audio... Needs to be solved :-)

On the other hand....Some gear is invented to solve a problem that isn´t there, but the industry is pushing the global opinion to accept this problem and solve it the given way.
If i think of analog summing devices, for example, i still see no need to get one again. The "analog touch" of a recording (many people seem to search for this) can be achieved by many other ways with much better results. But if you decide for analog summing, than you need more converters and maybe a the industry is working.

At the end of the day i use the device which solves my special problem, from digital to analog, from lo to high cost. But i normally try to think twice and use the gear, not the other way round.

We´re caught in a spiders web :-)

2. Musical sense

Every genere has its own rules, or let me call it customers expectation about sound. Rockabilly wants its slapback delay, Rock wants in your face drums...etc.
But if you break some rules, it can get your own style, the reason why people come to your studio. If its modern to bring in a gated reverb and you´re disgusted by this idea, well, i would drop it. If the record company isn´t satisfied well.... i would have to put it, but i would like to say i wont. (Maybe in some years :-))
Technical inventions can improve abilities. What about bringing the drum room mics in with a transient designer or using reamping devices. Great improvments.

Ok, gear changes the quality of musicans trying to produce a record.
Nowdays, its easy to bring a bad drum performance back to a good drum performance. Although i think that some drummers and some bands got the magic nowdays, too. But what had you to do in the past? You had to hire a professional drummer. In the end the record was done by humans.
Some bands sound like gods on tape, cause they arent on tape or the tape was manipulated, but if you go to a live gig, youll often be very disappointed.
But if you arent a musician, youll maybe not notice. Maybe its more important to a record company that they all look good. Technic can make them sound good.
If the singer is out of tune, well let autotune bring him in. If the guitar isn´t grooving, well no problem...

To some its all about music, but to some important it seems to be all about money...

I ever wonder microfone manufactures statemanets like "this mic was used to record artist xyz". People often think that they need this mic, but if artist xyz will sing through an SM7B or whatever, their sound is more in their voice than anywhere else...

We´re caught in a spiders web :-)
Old 7th September 2007
Originally Posted by WidgetNinja View Post
I'll take the stance that technique follows technology, meaning technology precedes new techniques.

The reason is that very early on, the technique, and the technology took divergent paths. The technique is about capturing sound, how to mix in my mind. Musicians aren't the best at this. However, it was musicians that heard a flange and went "whoah, that's an instrument! Let me play with it." A musician heard that tape put on backwards accidentally and said "whoah, that's an instrument! Let me play with it."
I don't agree with you regarding the order of things (or at least, I can think of many exceptions). I think in many, if not most cases, technology is driven by pre-existing practices. Or, at the very least, technology and practice emerge together.

Les Paul managed to achieve overdubbing well before there was any technology designed to allow such a workflow. His guitar noodlings may have in part driven the quickness to expand the track counts on the early tape machines (which easily could have remained at 1-track or 2-track for a longer time).

The vast majority of VST/RTAS/AU plugins are simulations of previous recording gear. They don't have to be. With the VST plugin architecture there is no reason you have to make an EQ (just because there was one in the analog world). But now there's hundreds of EQs which sound similar to previous designs in part because there is so much demand to EQ things. Techniques largely drive and set the form of the development of software.

I can think of many other examples, from nearly every single musical instrument design, to staff notation itself.

Then there's cases when technologies are radically transformed (such as happened with the conversion of 19th century medical technologies into early sound recording and reproduction technologies).
Old 7th September 2007
Lives for gear
picksail's Avatar

Originally Posted by Alex Niedt View Post
I'm very happy to read this here. It seems like all I ever come across on Gearslutz is complaints about these things. I think it's wonderful to embrace it and see it as its own creature.
I completely embrace it.

Of course there will be those who abuse it, but a few may actually stumble upon some amazing new discoveries.
Old 7th September 2007
Deleted User
I dunno. I'm getting a little tired of the "technology vs. performance" debate. It's a false dichotomy to begin with. To me, music is ALL performance. The engineer can sit back and capture a 'pure' performance, or he/she can participate and add some 'performance' of his/her own. Is that inherently good or bad? Depends on the result doesn't it?

I remember hearing that when pianos were first invented there were some purists who detested them as monstrous music making machines. They were, in a sense, the first synthesizers, designed to allow a composer access to the complete tonal range of an orchestra, all performed on one big clanking hammering contraption made with the best of what new technology at the time made possible.

WHo cares if you make your music by strumming a lute, hammering a taut wire, connecting patch cords together, or cascading 300 different reverb plugins together on a DAW... It's all music. Some of it good music. Some of it bad. Lots of it horrible. But I don't think that judgement has anything to do with HOW it's made. It's the quality of the ideas put in, the quality of the artist executing those ideas, and the quality of the ears in the listener.

Now hand me a lute and a reverb plugin -- I sense a horrible new song coming on!
Old 7th September 2007
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by oudplayer View Post
I think in many, if not most cases, technology is driven by pre-existing practices. Or, at the very least, technology and practice emerge together.
I think that is less true today. Also I was trying to point out that techology is (mis)used during the actual composition process, making it more than a recording technique. Convolution? Technology with no real purpose. Someone uses it for reverb and then along come musicians to reapply it.

Originally Posted by oudplayer View Post
The vast majority of VST/RTAS/AU plugins are simulations of previous recording gear. They don't have to be. With the VST plugin architecture there is no reason you have to make an EQ (just because there was one in the analog world). But now there's hundreds of EQs which sound similar to previous designs in part because there is so much demand to EQ things. Techniques largely drive and set the form of the development of software.
Yes, but the fact that you can use very narrow and precise filters and precise compressors has given rise to new techniques. This is pretty easily evidenced in my mind that you can very much hear a difference in sound in the last 10 years vs more pre-daw periods. I don't mean style or preference or the quality, but the sounds themselves. A lot of pop sounds, and metal sounds especially, are new sounds that resulted from people being presented with plugs that had beyond analog ranges in their controls, simply because it is mathematically possible.

The plugins don't start and end where analog versions might. How many people use short delays on guitars now? Certainly nobody was intuitively craving a 12ms delay when they heard the tape version. Someone bought a new piece of gear, fiddled with it, and voila. The hard left/right pan with one side detuned a few cents with a small delay is another one.

It's certainly not impossible, but I would be hard pressed to find any personal albums I own where the sound wasn't dependent on some plugin doing what is impossible in analog. Even things like Atmosphere (the VSTI), NI's spectral delay... these are technology with no purpose but to allow musicians to broaden their pallete. Before you know it, the engineer is sitting there, mixing, and someone is thinking "You know what would make this section sound better, an airy pad like this one I heard on..." and the methods become a result of the technology.
Old 7th September 2007
Lives for gear

Hi Bruce,

I think everyone wants to jump on top of the good idea. So when a discovery is made and technology can be adapted to get that new sound then the demand will generate that new device that gets the new sound.

I think people get bored and experiment all the time so engineers will just try stuff. But only sometimes will this result in something aurally pleasing and distinctive.

With all the correction plug-ins and what not, I think there is a homogenising effect on the resulting music. But as you know a little discernment in the use of these technologies by someone with refined listening skills and experience of great and lesser musical performances makes all the difference. It's restraint and taste.

An old friend and musical mentor of mine used to get me to ask the question "it this (what ever I was listening to) exciting or excited?".

Exciting as in musical, with verve and musical intent.
Excited as in overly loud (getting the adrenaline going) without the music doing the work or a gig where the stage show distracts you from the ordinary or bad music and lesser playing skills.

I think it is more important to get great takes and look for the spirit of the performance being there than ever. And correction should only be used where a small lapse in performance drws attention to itself.

There is also the issue of music becoming uncool! I call it big sister syndrome. The big sister has had her day and the little sister decides that her big sisters fav bands have been around to long and it's time for something new and vibrant.

The search for the latest cool sounds... How do they do that we say and we have a go at recreating it.... Must buy something tht does that sound!

just my thoughts on your topic Bruce!
Old 9th September 2007
Motown legend
Bob Olhsson's Avatar

It's funny, I think by far Les Paul's most important contribution to music was his use of the electric guitar in country music. It would forever change the sound of popular music. Overdubbing was developed in Hollywood during the 1930s to solve production problems in creating motion picture sound tracks. Les was among the first to apply these ideas to popular music recordings but it wasn't nearly as revolutionary as his guitar playing.
Old 9th September 2007
Gear Guru
u b k's Avatar

Originally Posted by picksail View Post
Of course there will be those who abuse it, but a few may actually stumble upon some amazing new discoveries.

then there will be some who do both.

wish me luck! thumbsup

Old 9th September 2007
I think it's useful to distinguish between 2 somewhat different things:
  1. different creative ways of using (mis-using) technologies
  2. what ideas and forces lead to a new technology being developed

It's obvious that incredible things have been done with reverbs, echoes, etc. that were not intended in their design. With that in mind, one thing that helps make technologies legendary is the extent of their flexibility. Reverbs that don't have a "pleasing" character when they overload (a lot of lower end digital reverbs) are for sale on ebay for a few dollars while tape echoes, space echoes, and certain spring reverbs fetch great sums of money. The 808 drum machine still sells for over $1000 not because it had realistic drum sounds or because it did what it was intended to do well (it was developed as a practice device for guitarists who didn't want to call the drummer to the rehearsal). Other drum machines didn't distort in a pleasing way, didn't have that kind of flexibility, and are long forgotten. The same is true for compressors, EQs, consoles, whatever.

But when I see these creative misuses become a standardized practice, when I see new gear that specifically attempt to emulate or achieve those misuses of technology, I think I'm witnessing a different sequence of events. It's moved from an exploration of the limits of a particular technology to certain musical practices (echoes, kinds of distortions, ways of eqing) driving what technology is being developed and why. I think that's always been around, it's just sometimes hard to see.

I dunno, I don't see any talk by the gear manufacturers here about how their new microphone is going to change the way people sing (at best it will help the engineer capture "warmth"). But I see plenty of evidence that a large field of singing practices and techniques which worked well on U47s, coupled with a scarcity of those microphones, has driven a lot of development of cheaper alternatives to this microphone. I'd argue microphone designers are dependent, at least in the prototyping stage, on knowledge of the ways people currently use microphones (such as the U47). Compressor designers are responding to economic concerns coupled with increased use of compressors in certain applications when developing new products. The better of these designs will probably be susceptible to creative mis-uses which will change the way people conceive of mics/compressors, and the cycle continues...
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.

Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread Starter / Forum
mwagener / High end
roon / Low End Theory
frist44 / So much gear, so little time
mwagener / High end

Forum Jump
Forum Jump