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Sound Advice

Making Music With Our Ears by Ron Skinner

Over the past decade we have seen the recording industry become more and more dependant on the use of electronics in the creation of our music. The advent of the computer has added a new dimension to the way we record and listen to music. We now have a large selection of inexpensive samplers, keyboards and music sequencing programs at our disposal. For a relatively small investment, a musician can now create high quality recordings in his/her basement. This new technology has spawned a revolution in the music industry and has brought music out of the studio and into the home.

But as we all know, with every positive action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. The development of these new technologies has allowed us greater freedom and creativity; but, at the same time, we may be getting spoiled. When you can hit a key on a keyboard and get a killer kick drum sound, why bother learning how to tune an acoustic drum kit? Or, if you know that you can always rely on your guitar tuner, why bother learning how to tune the guitar? This constant reliance on electronics may actually deter us from making real music.

The use of electronic devices and computer technology now touches every aspect of our industry – studio designers use computers as a ‘quick fix’ in the acoustic design of recording studio control rooms; recording engineers depend on Real Time Spectral Analyzers to ensure that their mix ‘looks’ like everyone else’s; and musicians may have never actually played an acoustic instrument! These are all examples of how technology could be misused. Instead of relying on technology, we should use it to enhance our skills and increase our artistic potential.

Technology is a tool that allows us to be more productive and creative. It allows us greater flexibility and the ability to be precise in our work. However it’s important to remember that it is only a tool. The final determining factor of the quality of our work should always be what we hear with our ears. We should all make an effort to stop looking at our computers and listen. This way, we can once again start making music with our ears and not our eyes.

Ron Skinner, CBC Radio Technician, Toronto Broadcast Centre, Independent Producer and Recording Engineer

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