I love technology. It is a beautiful thing. However, while there’s nothing wrong technology itself, we need to consider the role that technology should play in our lives.

I’m mainly referring to technology as it pertains to making music, particularly in the recording world. These days everybody and their dog can have a home recording studio. Don’t get me wrong, that can be an awesome thing. Thirty years ago it simply wasn’t possible to spend a couple hundred dollars and be able to make high-quality recordings at home. The technology wasn’t there.

Technological advancements of the last few decades have brought a new, massive percentage of the population into the world of studio recording. My life would certainly be dramatically different if I couldn’t record my music (and the music of others). Without the onset of new technology, the entire recording industry would consist of the select few who could drop $400,000 on a huge recording studio, fully equipped with analog tape machines and massive recording consoles.

Today an average Joe can pick up an interface and a microphone and do a lot of things the big analog studios of the past could do, and a lot of things they couldn’t!

This leads me to my next point — the misuse of technology

Here’s what has happened. That average Joe with his interface and microphone has been told he can “do a lot of things the big analog studios of the past could do, and a lot of things they couldn’t!” (Where have I heard that before?)

Now what does average Joe do? He interprets this as “you can make a record that sounds JUST as good as the professionals…with a $300 interface…and a $100 microphone.” 

What average Joe doesn’t realize is that technology, while playing a huge role in his ability to create, has nothing to do with talent and ability. Now imagine that we picked up average Joe and plopped him down behind a huge Harrison console in 1982, introduced him to a nice young man named Michael Jackson and said, “Joe, we need you to engineer this young fellow’s next album called Thriller.” What would happen? Would our fearless hero be able to achieve Bruce Swedien-like results? Would the album still become the best-selling album of all time? 

The answer is a resounding NO. But you may say, “Well, he has all the same technology that Bruce had, surely he could make it work.” That’s like saying, “Hey, here are all the colors and brushes Michelangelo used on the Sistine Chapel. Why don’t you go ahead and paint a version for us, okay?”

Let us not forget the importance of talent and God-given ability. In a recent article, I discussed Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and how having all the equipment in the world won’t guarantee a good recording. Just because you can record a hundred original songs in your bedroom doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If the songs are bad, or if the recordings sound awful, what’s the point? 

I firmly believe that technology was meant to enhance creativity, not replace it.

If your songs aren’t that great, put down the laptop and go work on your songwriting. If your recordings sound consistently bad, stop working on that epic record and work on your microphone placement instead.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying you have to be an insanely amazing engineer or musician before you are allowed to dabble in recording. That’s the beauty of technology. You don’t have to land a record deal before you can record your music. You don’t have to work for a big studio to become a recording engineer.

Becoming a good engineer or musician takes time. Everyone has to start somewhere, and technology has made that a relatively inexpensive endeavor. 

Keep in mind, though, that this is all about the music. Be careful not to sacrifice creativity on the altar of technology. If you produce the most technologically advanced album, utilizing all the latest fancy digital trinkets and do-dads, and yet your music is lifeless and lacking any emotion, you have failed. Technology wins. Don’t let that happen. Viva la musica.

How do you feel about technology and the role that it plays in today’s music? Leave a comment below.


Related Articles:

9 Responses to “The Battle of Technology vs. Good Music”

  1. Jenny Graham

    Not only in music but technology plays a massive part in all the factors of the human life.
    Technology is the output of the Creativity.Your article is really interesting to read.

    Logitech Z4

  2. Emmanuel

    Joe dont have make many years of hard working before Bruce Swedien so yeah in the past he isn’t able to do same things… It’s so simple it’s hard working not god given or something (ok ok… u can

    I agree the way the article go truly !

    “I firmly believe that technology was meant to enhance creativity, not replace it.”
    In fact Technology can’t replace creativity

  3. Carlos

    Well, I get your point and I sure agree with you, Pro’s exist for the pro results they deliver, I just have to point out 2 things.
    First of all, we all know that technology IS used to replace talent on a daily basis (pop stars who are chosen only for their looks so they could sexually sell some one else’s music) and the public should be educated to not let themselves be amazed by the pro quality songs/records/sound.
    This leads to my second point, I believe that since almost every one knows the kind of technology available to “Joe”, they expect that “Joe” can make the new Thriller and when “Joe” puts a poorly mixed/recorded song on youtube they just bash and ignore the fact that it was the only way for him to put out his amazingly written song.

  4. Jonathan

    I think we home hackers have to learn and respect the skills behind engineering. If you can write 100 original songs in your bedroom – you should absolutely do it; who cares how it sounds? That’s the skill of a songwriter. I wish I could do that…

    You then switch hats, and realize that no matter how awesome you are at writing or performing, you may FAIL at mixing. All it means is you have to learn a new skill… which means 2x the work of the old days.

    To use your example, could you take the same Bruce Swedien, plunk him in front of a mic and tell him to record “Thriller”? Or take Michael Jackson, leave him alone in the studio and expect him to come up with anything acceptable to master?

    The technology does make it easier to take on both jobs than it ever did before though. At least on an amateur level, anyway.

    • Joe Gilder

      I have a friend who’s working on an article dealing with the concept of wearing two hats in the studio. In many cases we’re no longer just an engineer or just a musician — we’re both. This can be both good and bad. It’s good in that we now can have complete control over the process from writing to arrangement all the way to a finished master. It’s bad in that it’s very easy for both sides to suffer, since it’s hard to devote your full attention to both musicianship and engineering.

  5. John

    Hi Joe,

    Great article, and can be related to other than music. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that technology is only a tool to help us and not replace what we’re suppose to do.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *