Re: music query

From: James Rogers (
Date: Wed Dec 12 2001 - 10:32:20 MST

On 12/4/01 1:10 AM, "E. Shaun Russell" <> wrote:
> James Rogers wrote:
> I'm not so sure about that. I think that in the past ten years, the genre
> of "Electronica" has branched out from being essentially one style of
> music, to being literally hundreds of variations on a style such as we have
> today (Ambient, Drum N' Bass, Progressive Electronica, House, Jungle, Goa,
> Techno etc.). I would argue that this is a direct by-product of having
> more tools available to express one's creative leanings. Newer
> technologies in music (as in all fields) lead to more options, and
> ultimately more creativity.

A majority of the new genre creation is entirely unnecessary. Most people
are unable to tell you what the difference is between half the genres. And
of all these dozens of genres, only a couple are fundamentally new at the
composition level. Many genres don't define much other than a particular
sound used to make it e.g. trance is almost entirely defined by the use of
the "hoover" sound (for the semi-layman, detuned PWM oscillators in unison
mode typically used with an inverted pitch envelope -- originally found as a
preset on the old Roland Alpha Juno).

I would say that the most unique thing to come out of the '90s that hadn't
been done before in music, was proper Drum 'n' Bass (e.g. LTJ Bukem and
Talvin Singh). Most of the other "new" genres were barely distinguishable
deviations of existing stuff, such that the differences probably fall below
the noise floor of normal differences between given artists in the same

> In my opinion, the biggest area that
> musical technology has and will continue to affect is in the production
> end, as opposed to the writing and performance end. Being able to
> digitally smooth out and process any aspect of an analog-initiated
> performance is a very valuable tool nowadays. Just try to find any decent
> producer or engineer who hasn't used Pro Tools yet.

I agree that the technology is getting ridiculously good and only getting
better. However, Pro Tools is primarily of useful for editing live
recordings in the studio. For productions that are fundamentally
electronic, Logic Audio rules the roost.

> I don't foresee analog
> guitars and basses being phased out anytime soon, but the analog drum kit
> will soon be a goner, I fear. Most musicians (at least, the ones who are
> not drummers...) only want a steady beat to play to. The labor of finding
> a drummer (let alone a good one) and hauling around the multitude of
> equipment the average drummer has is rather redundant, when you can get
> digital equipment that is almost always the equal of an analog (i.e. flesh
> and blood) drummer.

That's a good observation. I have a library of over 10,000 drum samples
that I use and an increasing number of very good percussion synthesizers
(including physical models for most parts of a drum kit). Most of the sound
and performance aspects of a drummer are available to me if I want to add
those as well. So a drummer is replaceable in the studio at least.

In truth though, I simply love the sound of sample-accurate timing (which is
accurate to within 10-20 microseconds on most hardware). I *had* been using
a MIDI sampler, which is only accurate to within maybe 3-5 milliseconds and
has a bit of random variation in the timing. I didn't think it would be a
big deal, but the difference between going from a MIDI sampler to a
sample-accurate Logic Audio soft sampler (the EXS24) was like night and day.
Sample accurate drum tracks sound *tight*. Highly recommended.

Question for the drummers: Why does sloppy drummer timing sound "organic"
and sloppy MIDI timing sound "sloppy"? I don't hear a difference, but I've
seen it justified this way many times. Drummers that actually have
excellent timing (i.e. sub-millisecond) are extremely rare, so perhaps it is
a way of justifying abilities that are less than excellent.

> Not to be overly obvious, but I also think that the digification of analog
> instruments will increase steadily for the next number of years. Look to
> see more and more of those old Mellotrons, Hammond and Farfisa organs,
> Moogs, Prophets, Jupiters and VCS3s become MIDIfied and used in more
> commercial recordings.

The digital models of the old analog monsters are becoming VERY good. A
couple existing models are indistinguishable from the real thing (e.g. the
OASYS has a Prophet-5 DSP model that is shockingly perfect, though the DSP
model was designed by the same guy that made the original Prophet-5). We
are only a few years from getting to the point where everything can be
cheaply modeled in DSP. We are pretty much at that point now for analog

The holy grail of physical modeling, the piano, has almost dropped into the
range of commercially viable DSP requirements (Moore's Law marches on).
I've heard from knowledgeable people (at Korg R&D) that the piano models
sound indistinguishable from the real thing, but the fact that it originally
required multiple high-end DSPs for each note when it was first created
meant that you would have to have a DSP mainframe to have a usable

> As for me, I'm just happy with my Korgs!

Me too. (Wavestation A/D, Z1, and OASYS)


-James Rogers

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