Thursday, January 28, 2016

New instruments

If you follow me on Twitter (and I can't imagine why you don't) you'll have noticed that I've been sharing a lot of articles about new music gear these past few days. That's because the yearly Winter National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show has been going on. This is the annual trade show where music equipment manufacturers parade out their product line and unveil their shiny new money makers. Tech heads get CES, gamers get E3, gear sluts get NAMM. (There is a summer NAMM as well, but let's not talk about that).

I truly do believe that music production is at an amazing place these days. Where once it would be fairly expected that you could find a guitar in a musically inclined person's bedroom, today you'll find a computer loaded with a digital audio workstation and a decent audio interface, and even that set up is comparatively high end when you look at the landscape of free stand alone ways to make a melody. The push now is either to perform music in a new way, bring analog sounds into the digital world, or make tried and true methods even more accessible. NAMM 2016 had all three on display. Korg's Minilogue finally found the holy trinity of being cheap, analog, and polyphonic. Arturia's Matrixbrute mixes the concepts of modular synthesis and presets. Roland's electric cajon breaks ground on acoustic performace versus digital reliability. Roli brought multitouch expression to the four octave realm, and Expressive E found a way to add the same to any rig out there. Hell, Zoom even found a way to make performance a fashion statement. The methods available to making music have never been more interesting or more accessible. So, of course, the old guard has never been more bitchy.

It never ceases to amaze me that as music production becomes more diverse and accessible, older musicians become more defensive over what they do. This probably most closely resembles the rise of Photoshop in terms of visual artists, or at least the way technology in general has affected the visual medium. As it stands though, with any new controller or synth, you'll get an immediate group of folks who will automatically tell you why that piece of equipment is inferior to everything they use and why you just aren't that good for being happy about it. Especially keyboard players. Find an elitist douchebag bitching about being a "real musician" and I'll bet you a dollar that they insist that everything needs to have a full set of 88 full weight black and whites in order to be considered an actual instrument.

Personally, I don't get this mindset. I enjoy learning to make music in new ways. I've been making music in some form since I was 8 years old. My mom and dad both originally graduated college with music degrees (neither of them found success with said degree). The first instrument I actually learned in and out was the trumpet. I didn't immediately decide then and there that everything I would ever play from then on needed three valves and a mouthpiece. I explored beyond that because I genuinely like finding new ways to make music. Over the years I've learned a number of new instruments: trombone, baritone, euphonium, french horn, tuba, flute, piccolo, clarinet, saxiphone, violin, cello, guitar, bass guitar, drum set, xylophone, piano, synthesizer, and now various midi instruments. I am aching to get my hands on some of the new tech that's out there now, and more importantly I'm aching to hear what other people manage to come up with using all these amazing things. Hell, just look at what happens when you get two of the best gear designers in history together or what happens when an elite player jams out in a new way.

I've made it a point in life to embrace new things when they come along. When my dayjob bought a machine that literally does my job I was the first to step up and learn how it works. Now, I'm in charge of my department and am pretty much the go to guy when it comes to running the computer controlled machines at my job. The same applies in music. Give me something new, and I'll be the first to say "Ok, what can we do with this?". So I just can't wrap my mind around the Luddites who insist that everything needs to cater to what they already know. And while I am talking about music makers here, you'll find these types of people every where. In Eve, at your job, on your Facebook, etc. People just fight change for some reason.

To which I say "Bring it on. I'll adapt." :)

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