Is all this power helping us make better music?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
re:dream
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Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by re:dream » Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:22 pm

So I was taking some time out this evening to work my way through a Zebra synthesis tutorial. Evolving pads, that kind of thing.

It was pretty interesting & impressive to see what all is possible: oscillators piled on oscillators, multi-stage envelope generators, comb filters & LFOs modulating things like there's no tomorrow. Near the end my desktop machine, which is not an unrespectable beast by any means, was struggling to keep up.

But in the end I find myself wondering how much all this is even helping. Cool and impressive as the pad I eventually generated sounds, it is going to be hard as hell to make any actual music with it, it is so complicated and layered. And a lot of the stuff that was going on - noise generators, frequency shifters, whatnot, were actually making differences so small that my tin ears could hardly hear them. I spent the best part of twenty minutes tweaking the settings on the comb filter before realising that it was basically making very difference.

It struck me that one of my favourite pieces of music that I made in the last while was a simple piece in which I play one chord over and over, modulated by a simple low pass filter and some bit reduction.

I wonder what the experience is of other people on this forum about the balance between technical innovation and music making. How much of all the new capabilities of all this software is actually making a difference to the music we make? And when does it make a difference? When and under what conditions does all the money and expertise we are spending on the technical side of things pay off in better, different, more interesting or more fun music making?

Or is what I have been doing all evening - making skronking sounds on my computer, none of which will ever figure in a piece of music -- somehow an end in itself?

Just wondering 8)

oblique strategies
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by oblique strategies » Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:57 pm

It can be easy to get lost, & not be able to see the forest through the trees.

My question to you: did you have fun on your sonic journey?

stoersignal
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by stoersignal » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:04 pm

5 years ago i started diving deeper into synthesis. about 4 years i didn`t finish more than a few tracks. until about one year ago where i realized that fact :roll: . the last year i started making music with the goal to finish things. fazit: i`m very happy that i spent that long time with all those synths and techniques but it`s easy getting lost with all that possibilities. i think it`s important that all these things are possible and that one knows how they are working. but now i just use a feature where i need it and there are lots of situations where feature A or feature B is essential or the 4th multi stage envelope will be needed and then i`m happy that it`s there. but it`s not like the time before where i spend hours creating a sound in the way that i added one oscillator after oscillator , modulation after modulation, rack after rack und mapping after mapping just to wake up hours later realizing that i don`t have any idea how to use that sound.
but yeah..... sometimes i still enjoy endless weaking and i still love it and will ever do :D

stringtapper
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by stringtapper » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:05 pm

The Finn wrote:Or is what I have been doing all evening - making skronking sounds on my computer, none of which will ever figure in a piece of music -- somehow an end in itself?

Just wondering 8)
Were those sounds music?

8)
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eyeknow
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by eyeknow » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:12 pm

It's interesting because with all I have, I usually gravitate towards pretty breadnbutter sounds. So yeah, when it comes to synths, all that tech is not necessarily what I'm going to use.

oblique strategies
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by oblique strategies » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:14 pm

It may be human nature, when presented with an array of options, to feel the need to explore & master them all. I certainly feel this way. But with the staggering amount of choice presented to one today, it is just not reasonable to think that one will devote the time necessary to master them all. Frankly, it is probably not even possible.

I choose what I want to focus on. But there is that nagging feeling that what I am not paying attention to may indeed be something amazing. I'd rather explore these new avenues out of a sense of adventure rather than a sense of anxiety.

At the end of the day, I want to be relatively good at a few things, rather then be relatively poor at a lot of things.

Bottom line: computers are time vampires! They'll drain your last drop! :lol:

tone61
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by tone61 » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:27 pm

Does your time with Live need to produce great music?

Can it be enough for hobby use that your DAW environment provides interesting possibilities to explore synthesis or what ever people do with their synths and effects?
That as result you produce something that YOU feel like listening later, even if it's not the next hit single or even an entire song.

oblique strategies
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by oblique strategies » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:36 pm

Exploration is frequently its own reward. And we can bring treasures back from these journeys.

Angstrom
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by Angstrom » Thu Jan 09, 2014 10:42 pm

Hmm,
Well this increasing array of new options is like a toolkit, so its usefulness is determined by usage.

Personally if I need a particular sound for a song I will have a specific idea of what it ought to contain and be capable of. When I have a broad toolkit which has a low barrier to entry this means I get better results, where better is defined as closer to my intention. I rarely use an all-singing all-dancing patch, but I do need a wide array of tools to accomplish my wide array of tasks.

Is it better music? Well, it's me making it. Of course it's better! The cheek of it. Outrageous.

mr.ergonomics
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by mr.ergonomics » Thu Jan 09, 2014 11:03 pm

Is all this power helping us make better music?
no. I was one of the GAS driven people... but when I have learned something in the last 10 years it's that it makes no difference if you have the highend stuff or not. It's just your skill that matters.

with other words.... music technology is fun, but it's only slightly related to making good music.

oblique strategies
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by oblique strategies » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:49 am

Angstrom wrote: Is it better music? Well, it's me making it. Of course it's better! The cheek of it. Outrageous.
That's the spirit! 8)

Tarekith
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by Tarekith » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:27 am

I think there comes a point for a lot of people where there's stuff you thought made a big difference in writing music, and then you realize it really doesn't. It can be having too many plug ins, using too complicated of a synth, or just focusing on the gear in general.

I used to obsess over really getting into the nitty gritty of digital audio. I'd happily debate and discuss the great important of using just the right dither, or why it was bad to do something like normalizing your audio. Eventually I realized that in the long and difficult process of writing music, those tiny aspects had fuck all to do with writing good music that hopefully sounds great too.

Useful to know maybe on some level, but I'm a much happier musician not worrying about that stuff and just getting on with it. Much easier to follow the simple rule "don't clip" when writing and forget all that nitty gritty stuff.

I guess my point is that it's easy to let the tech side of things become it's own pursuit, and that's not always a bad thing for some people. But if you want to just write music and not worry about that stuff, just remember that great music is about great ideas more than anything else. The technicalities don't matte at all if you have a great idea and can express that. It's good to know your tools, but you need to remember to focus on the message, and not the means.

Angstrom
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by Angstrom » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:39 am

Tarekith wrote:
I guess my point is that it's easy to let the tech side of things become it's own pursuit, and that's not always a bad thing for some people. But if you want to just write music and not worry about that stuff, just remember that great music is about great ideas more than anything else. The technicalities don't matte at all if you have a great idea and can express that. It's good to know your tools, but you need to remember to focus on the message, and not the means.
For everybody that boundary between feeling like an inspired musician and feeling like a baffled technician falls in a different place. For me I can still enjoy using a software modular, or using layers of racks in Live - because these are quick powerful steps to get what I want. I understand them musically. But anything beyond the level of "plug the oscillator into the other oscillator's mod input" is too far from music for me.
I certainly don't want to be learning a new programming paradigm, or finding out that I need to represent my floats using the symbol ~ but never combined with the symbol $ because that stands for a variable, and ~$ is the shorthand for a pointer to an array, etc, etc. That's too far away from music for me. I'm fully capable of learning it, but you had better be paying me for the time because that is not musical time well spent. If all I need is "a fuzz on the top end of this bass sound" I don't expect to have to spend a week considering my oversampling re-integration strategies, or opening up a log file to track bugs.

For some people that point of "no thanks" lies at the place where they tweak the filter dial and then save a preset!
It's very individual.

Tarekith
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by Tarekith » Fri Jan 10, 2014 2:54 am

Good point! I know some people love stuff like M4L, but that's definitely WAY past that point for me!

stringtapper
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Re: Is all this power helping us make better music?

Post by stringtapper » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:23 am

I'm personally all about things like Max and M4L and Csound and…

But…

I would blow my head off if making music with a computer—even the most straightforward way, simply using a DAW—were my only option.

As much as I generally despise humans one thing I really like about them is that they can be pretty fun to make music with.

Playing live music with other humans on instruments has to be a part of my musical equation or it's over.
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