Digitizing data in the music industry was merely theoretical before the 60’s. Since the rise of digitalization of data, a whole new era manifested. I am trying, to make you as the reader, to think about what the uprise of this intriguing phenomenon did to the music industry we know today. Many classic records were made in the analogue domain. However releases of new tracks coming from the digital domain are nowadays more in quantity and in higher quality then ever before.
Also the discussion about which music sounds better, coming from the analog or digital domain, has been going on ever since.
The first analog recording of audio was made by a device called phonograph. The process exists of 3 distinctive steps. First of all, sound needs to travel through a cone-shaped component of the device. Then a small needle connected to that device starts to vibrate. And lastly, the moving needle will etch a groove into a cylinder which was made out of wax. Playback of the wax cilinder is essentially the recording process but then reversed. These cylinders containing the original recordings could only survive playback around a dozen times of before it would wear out.
Later, after the invention of magnetic tape, it became more interesting to record audio because the quality was much better and the tapes did not lose there quality that fast. This is a technique called electro magnetic recording. This process was more nifty than the one described above. For this to happen, an electro magnetic charge was needed from the recordhead, that would align metal particles with varying magnetic polarity within the tape. To playback the electro magnetic charged tape, one needs to reverse the process. When the tape passes the playback head, the magnetically charged tape would create changes in magnetic flux at the playback head, which would be translated to electric current, and then when amplified, would be a replica of the recorded sounds.
A nice property is that, if there are not enough magnetic particles on the tape to store a stronger magnetic field, saturation compression occurs. In audio hardware, tubes and transistors that are used will cause hard or soft clipping of the waveform, if being overdriven. These components also have the properties to create 2nd and 3rd order harmonics. These harmonics that are generated are used in their advantage for musical purposes.
Enough about analogue for now, let’s dive a bit into the history of the digital domain.The first digital commercial recordings were made in the 60’s and were released in the 70’s. Sound from a source is captured with the use of e.g. a microphone. The current generated by the microphone is then being digitized by a ADC (analog to digital converter). If we want to play back that sound, the digital data is then translated to current through a DAC (digital to analog converter), which would then feed a speaker and will create a reproduction of the recorded sound from the earlier mentioned source.
In Japan, Unites states, and the UK developers were trying to make digital storage more customer friendly and therefore commercially accessible. Many different types of storage systems were accordingly developed over time. From DAT (digital audio tape), DCC (digital compact cassette), to CD (compact disc) and later even MiniDisc and Blu-ray. The capacity and quality of the different types of storage increased massively.
Now what I would like to point out in this blog is the convenience of one domain over the other. Nowadays in the music making world we are often hybrid users. We love to use analog hardware because of their saturating, harmonic and non-linear properties, yet we love multitrack recording in Pro Tools because it is easier to edit and the shelf life of the data is, if handled with care, much longer than any analogue storage media ever could.
We can tweak parameters of hardware emulating plugins with the touchscreen of our tablet, or we can use rotary knobs on the actual hardware. The ease of taking snapshots of the settings and recall them anytime, no costs on maintenance versus interaction with actual hardware, non-linearity, no digitalization, and the hardware’s aesthetics is something I can not choose from. My workflow will remain hybrid and I will use what is within my set of tools and never reject any kind of technology because we are innovating and it can only get better!! 😀
-Huber,D.M. Runstein, R.E. 2013. Modern Recording Techniques. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 182, 189, 416, 491.
-Waldfogel,J. 2015. Economic Analysis of the Digital Economy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 411.
-Case,F. 2012. 2. order and 3. order harmonic distortion?. Gearslutz. [online] Availale at: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/geekslutz-forum/734092-2-order-3-order-harmonic-distortion.html [03-02-2017]
-Robjohns, H. 2010. Analogue Warmth. Sound On Sound. [online] February issue. Available at: http://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/analogue-warmth [03-02-2017]
-Daley,D. 2017. Off The Record: Analogue Technology. Sound On Sound. [online] January issue. Available at: http://www.soundonsound.com/music-business/record-analogue-technology
-Goodwin, A. 1988. Pop eats itself. Sample and hold: pop music in the digital age of reproduction. [online] September. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8705.1988.tb00315.x/full [03-02-2017]
In our first module at my recent educational institute we had the assignment to make a businessplan and marketingplan. It was a very extensive and intensive course but we made an awesome concept and the effort put into it was well spend.
Another assignment was to record a band and make an EP. (Extended Play).
Unfortunately I was not in a group until the deadline passed nor groups were assigned by a teacher at the beginning of the course. This situation gave me a false start. But since it was required in the first module to record an EP from start to finish, I laid out the cards myself and got in touch with this amazing band who wanted to record their EP. And so we did! From pre production to mastering, everything was done by me.
The school I attended in Toronto prepared me so well for these situations that I dove into the project and had the job done quite fast. Although I was not allowed to submit the assignment since it was a group project. But I have made great connections to a new network of people and I showed that I am capable of managing all stages in recording myself. Also brewing good coffee is added to the list of skills I currently posses!!
We are also being educated in studies of cultures. which is a broad subject and has many aspects. We as creative human beings, are surrounded with different cultures that I believe on the long run will be a mixed culture that will feel as a whole new one. I have an example.
Today in the capital of the Netherlands you can not walk into some stores and ask one of the staff a question in Dutch anymore. The other day I asked someone in Dutch, if she had a size medium shirt. The seller said: “I can’t speak Dutch, English?” I was surprised and switched to English for her. (They did not have my size shirt by the way). Later she asked me what the word “size” was in Dutch and I replied with “maat”. Before I left, the saleswoman said from the back of the store: “Next time we hope to have your maat in stock”, and we both laughed. What I am trying to say here is that we adopt words from other countries. The Dutch language for example is full of them; Paraplu which means umbrella but comes from French: “parapluie”. But we do not always change them a bit, we also just copy them: Computer, Überhaupt, Sultan, those are all words we have adopted.
We as creative people also do that with music too. We use what is given and alter it a bit, reproduce it in a slightly different way to make it ours.
This rule counts for every course that is being giving at my recent educational institute. Wether it is business and marketing, individual essays, audio for video or the studies of cultures. This way people attending these courses can take it all in and use what they need to further develop their skills. With help and support from the professionals that wants us to succeed.
In today’s world where innovation and music making are closely related to each other it is good to see (from a musicians perspective) that we make more and more music. Let me explain that briefly.
Back in the days there were only acoustic drums. Later technicians developed electric drumkits. So instead of hitting a drum which is then causing a skin to vibrate that makes sound waves resonate in the drum itself, now one would hit a snare drum on an electric drumkit which actually triggers a piezo element. That is a totally different beast because then that trigger gets registered and digitized so we can now playback any sample we desire.
Focussing on our phones with touch screen, or tablets and laptops.
Our mobile devices can process that digital information, therefore it is possible to register and playback any sound we like. We can load sounds into a program on our phone, could be existing samples or maybe today’s recording of chirping birds. The software is extremely advanced, the pads are touch sensitive and the software also allows us to alter the sound. We can apply effects like delay, reverb, or even reverse the entire sample and chop it up.
The lay out of these programs is simple, just like drum sampling machines from the 90’s, there are 16 pads. 4 in rows of 4. On a mobile device with touch screen they are shown as a raster. What you need to do to make the device generate sound is to select a pad, load a sample and start tapping away. And if you decide to process your creation even more, you can send the project file form your phone or tablet to your computer which you can alter even further with the use of even more sophisticated software.
Time is crucial and we all want to be the first one out there with the newest sounds, and newest creations. Well, this way we can! You can record and program drums during your commute. Its is easy now to exchange ideas or having 4 people work on the same project from different locations. Also the beauty of it’s simplicity. It is now not a requirement to know how to play the drums to program them. Finger drumming is totally different then holding two 7a’s and trying to hit the drums the way you intended to. One way is definitely NOT easier than the other.
But in all honesty, it is too bad that the aesthetics of the drums are vanishing this way.
I like playing the drums, from tuning the kit, positioning the drums and cymbals to practicing paradiddles and jamming with the metalhead from downstairs. Nothing can beat a “real” drumkit. Although a programmed drum track might sound quite similar to a live recorded drum track, it will never be the same as the real deal. But what is the real deal again?!