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How modern technology is leading to bad music and bad records

Nowadays many professional (and even some amateur) recordings use up to 100 or even more channels/tracks, and the total number of plug-ins used per song is often even higher. Thanks to modern DAWs, today’s artists and producers have 5 to 10 times more horsepower in the studio than people ever had in the Golden Age, nevertheless, the result is mostly crap.

SO MAYBE THE RAW NUMBER OF TRACKS AND EFFECTS ISN’T WHAT REALLY MAKES UP A GREAT RECORD.

Today's music production is all about technology

There are a few major problems I see with today’s recording technology in fact, and it will be a good idea to analyze those in detail:

  1. TODAY’S RECORDS LACK SOUL AND IMPERFECTION.
    This is the result of the fact that all timings are being corrected (this is also called quantization), vocals are being pitch corrected, real instruments are being replaced by virtual ones, and all possible noises are being muted or removed. This leads to bad records that lack soul, which seems to be what today’s Top 40 listeners want to hear. But this is certainly not what real music lovers will be after, and only a small part of the population prefers today’s sterile music.
  2. THE NUMBER OF AUDIO TRACKS AND CHANNELS YOU MAY USE IS ALMOST UNLIMITED.
    I’ve seen amateurs using over 100 tracks in their DAWs, which is much more than any of the greatest records of all time ever used. Instead of recording one great instrument track, today’s musicians simply tend to pile up more and more mediocre stuff, hoping that it will all add up and magically turn into something great. But things don’t work that way, and the result is mostly crap. Modern technology makes us believe that we can compensate quality by quantity.
  3. THE NUMBER OF SOUNDS YOU MAY USE IS ALMOST UNLIMITED.
    There are now incredibly large collections of synths, virtual instruments, samples, and loops. Back in the Golden Age, even a successful artist could only afford a limited number of instruments, and people were experimenting with the equipment they could afford in order to create something great. Today you just click through libraries of sounds and effects in your DAW, so that everything becomes something like a random process. Instead of using their brains, talent, and imagination in order to develop a cool sound idea, today’s artists and producers just click through libraries until something okay pops up.
  4. FUNDAMENTAL FLAWS ARE NO LONGER BEING ADDRESSED.
    You may just hide all kinds of weaknesses by adding either more or just different stuff. If an arrangement sucks, then you will simply change the sounds and add effects until it all sounds somewhat better, instead of questioning and reworking the music itself.
  5. HAVING GOOD IDEAS HAS BECOME LESS IMPORTANT.
    And this may be a direct consequence of points #3 and #4 already. Back in the Golden Age, technology was still quite limited, which means that artists had to find creative ways to achieve their goals using the stuff that was simply available. Today, in the age of almost unlimited resources, this is no longer necessary. And instead of starting with a great riff or a melody, today’s songwriters often select a sound or an effect and then simply build the song around it. Technology has led to the problem that the entire songwriting has become something like a random process in many cases, resulting in bad music and irrelevant records.
  6. ARTISTS AND ENGINEERS DON’T USE THEIR EARS ANYMORE.
    If you were working with EQs or compressors in the Golden Age, then you were just turning a few knobs and you were listening to the results. Today people work with a mouse, staring at the screen and hoping to hit the right virtual knob or button, or trying to paint an EQ curve that looks nice. Nowadays music is being made with the eyes, instead of using ears. In the end, it’s all really distracting, and you’re no longer focusing on the music itself.

Bad music and bad records are the results of flawed production techniques

The basic problem is that the entire mental process that once led to great art in the past has now been replaced by simply clicking with your mouse.

PEOPLE DON’T USE THEIR EARS AND BRAINS ANYMORE.

As mentioned in the previous chapters already, computers, DAWs and other modern technology allow for cheap mass production, and so music is being produced in factory-like ways, and the creation of music has become a pure service and a craft offered by professional producers and songwriters.

WHILE TECHNOLOGY THEORETICALLY ALLOWS TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY, BOTH ARTISTS AND PRODUCERS ONLY USE IT TO LOWER PRODUCTION COSTS WHILE TAKING QUALITY DROPS INTO ACCOUNT.

That’s the number one problem of today’s music production techniques, and that’s what we’ll need to change if we want to start producing really great records again.