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Music Technology

Ask Slashdot: Can Digital Music Replace Most Instrumental Musicians? 328

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-get-the-moosic-for-free dept.
deviated_prevert writes "Most instrumental music used today in television commercials, background sounds and themes even on the majority of produced shows comes from completely digital composers who produce the product through digitized instrument samples. This has almost eliminated the need for real human instrumental musicians. For many listeners this makes no difference, as such music is essentially background in nature and does not need to have a true musical interaction with a listening audience at all. The same thing applies to the waves of digital music produced for things like raves. To quote one observer at the Globe and Mail 'So now we know why Deadmau5 and Daft Punk wear helmets when they perform. Everybody is digging the music, but no one is dancing. It is a sad development; the headgear of the maestros is there to mask their tears.' Will the live performance of instrumental musicians also become a thing of the past, or will there continue to be a real need for it? Purely instrumental groups like Booker T and the MGs, as well as solo performers like Herbie Hancock or John McLaughlin, seem not to take the spotlight as they once did. It is apparent that unless someone with a young fresh face is singing, today's producers will not attempt to seriously promote them. Regardless of how great today's instrumentalists are musically, there no longer seems to be a market for real musicianship. Even great performing classical musicians and ensembles are becoming scarcer due to faster and cheaper digital music production."
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Ask Slashdot: Can Digital Music Replace Most Instrumental Musicians?

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  • Well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @01:36AM (#45722985) Journal

    You can either sit at a computer pasting together sound samples and massaging them into some semblance of emotion,
      or you can hire a musician to play it for you and give you the sound you're looking for.

    Some of the most famous musical acts in the USA recorded their albums using the studio's house band.
    Which is why it's so funny that the submitter brings up Booker T. & the M.G.'s: they started out as a house band.

  • Yes, actually (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @02:26AM (#45723227)
    As TFA an incredible amount of orchestral music in movies, TV shows, ads etc.
    already is made from 100% samples, and nobody notices (or cares).

    An at the time seemingly crazy person over a decade ago started the
    Vienna Symphonic Library [vsl.co.at], a project to sample all possible
    sounds all instruments can make. A completely insane idea. Today, it's
    the undisputed market leader everyone uses...
    (make your own google analogy here)

    Will high-culture live-performance symphonic orchestras be replaced by
    sample computers any time soon? Most likely not. But that's a couple of
    thousand musicians in the world. Most on-staff "working class" instrumentalists
    are replaceable by a computer and a skilled person operating it today.

    The situation seems to be a bit like the animation revolution, when Pixar's
    Renderman (and others) turned hand-drawn animation into a bit of a niche thing.

    The big difference: The demand for animators probably has even increased
    over the last decade (admittedly, with in part a different skillset, but animators
    are animators first and not defined by the tools they use to animate) - but there
    were no "pencil operators" following an "animation conductor" in animation compared
    to "instrument operators" and... well... conductors in a traditional symphonic orchestra.

    Using the VSL samples, one person with a machine can indeed replace a whole
    orchestra for all but the most high-profile uses. And it is already happening.

    Also, the world will not end. "Nobody's dancing"? Have they seen the audience at a
    Daft Punk performance?
  • by Pubstar (2525396) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @04:40AM (#45723779)
    My friend made a video about a track she was recording. It was the same song, but the difference was one had all the drums PERFECT. The other had the drums just the slightest amount off, to emulate someone playing life.

    It was weird. Just that little bit of imperfection made the song sound quite a bit warmer. Her youtube account has since been deleted. Its rather sad, she had tons of good stuff on there.
  • by gtall (79522) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @07:09AM (#45724353)

    And you won't replace the spontaneity or timing insight of a drummer either. Most of what I've heard in computer generated drum rhythms and fills seems to have been produced by non-drummers. It's usually mundane because most people, including other musicians (especially other musicians) have no idea what makes a rhythm or fill interesting. They just want something back there so they can concentrate on their instrument. As a consequence, and as a drummer, I find their music usually mundane and uninteresting.

    Look at a YouTube video, say, Buddy Rich Amazing Drum Solo. No one yet has been able to reproduce electronically what he was capable of. Most drummers can't come close either.

    Also, you wont' drive a band like Deep Purple without an Ian Paice or Iron Maiden without a Nicko McBrain. Both bands are still touring to large audiences. And why would you go to see a bunch of electronics generate music at you. Part of the allure of a live performance is, uh the live performance. If all you wanted was to jump around with a bunch of friends to loud music, throw a party.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @09:23AM (#45724999) Homepage

    But Katy Pery or whoever the next anonymous pretty face is will make more money off of one single than someone like a Tony Mac or Vic Wooten or Seree Lee or (take your pick) will make in their multi-decade careers.

    That's really simple to explain: Katy Perry's real product isn't music, it's holding forth the believe that women who hear her can be like her, and men who hear her can bang her, without actually fulfilling either one. That's pretty much the job of female pop stars between the ages of 16 and 35 or so, along with dancing and acting. (And this isn't specifically about Katy Perry: Madonna, Britney Spears, Beyonce, etc all did exactly the same thing at that stage in their careers.)

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday December 18, 2013 @10:45AM (#45725679) Homepage Journal

    Music is a language - among other things. Music can be an expression of otherwise inchoate feelings and non-verbal awareness or sensations.

    Not having REAL music - which means the playing, presence of human expression - is a loss of part of the spectrum of being human. Machines can mimic timing, tone and timbre - but machines cannot groove. They cannot translate yearning or joy into trembling fingertips... into welling breath.

    Music can be as simple as banging your hand on a log... But everybody can make music. Everybody SHOULD make music. Teach music, learn music, love music.

    Now, where IS my Earth Wind and Fire track?

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