The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

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wub
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The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by wub » Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:15 am

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The slow release of information about Roland’s new AIRA range produced handwringing from nearly every corner of the electronic music world. Before we’d even heard a note of music from any of the products, people were denouncing them for one perceived flaw or another. Some complained that they’d be too expensive, while others complained that they’d be too cheap. Some claimed that they’d be analogue, while some assumed they’d be digital. The level of feverish debate was unprecedented.

The whole brouhaha got me thinking about the role that production gear has played over the years in underground dance music, and the changing perception of that gear. Specifically, whether the fetishisation of particular instruments may even be potentially harmful to less experienced artists.

“the entire history of house and techno is built upon some of the cheapest gear available.”

There are obvious reasons why expensive gear is fetishised. Manufacturers need to promote the idea that buying expensive equipment will make you a better
artist. Producers want to appear professional and buy into the myth that real pros spend a small fortune on synths and drum machines. But the entire history of house and techno – as well as most of their offshoots – is built upon some of the cheapest gear available. While the early producers may have been trying to achieve the sounds of major label records, they did it mostly with whatever equipment they could afford.

The misuse of the TB-303 in Chicago to invent acid house is probably the best-known example. Despite such inauspicious beginnings, the 303 is looked at very differently now by people who are willing to pay multiple thousands of dollars to own that same ‘toy’ and all of its limitations. Even the great TR-808 and TR-909 were heavily out of favour by the time techno and house producers began to manipulate them in new ways; most pros at the time were more interested in ‘realistic’ drum machines like the LinnDrum or Oberheim DMX.

Of course, if you listen to old Chicago house records you’ll hear the cheaper baby brother, the TR-707, just as much as its more famous older siblings – if not more. Despite using samples whose sound was not manipulable, the 707 went on to be a core component of house music for 25 years before the prices really escalated beyond $150 or so. This is the same drum machine that is still continuously being beaten to death by a large number of producers in 2014, with all the limitations inherent in it.

Even taking into account this history, Roland’s digital Groovebox line in the 90s was received in much the same way as the AIRA range is today: perceived by many producers as toys, not worthy of the originals and therefore of no use to ‘serious’ musicians. But as unfashionable as they may be, the MC-909, MC-808, MC-505 are still used to this day by artists like Omar-S and Big Strick.

“the specs of the equipment used to make a track are almost completely irrelevant.”

Techno is a great example of a genre where many of the classic hits were made with less classic gear than perhaps most people think. Roland R8s were cheaper than 808s and 909s, so their sampled versions of those well-known sounds grace many a Detroit classic. More recently, Perc revealed that many of the sounds on his latest album were created using a Casio toy keyboard.

The lesson to be learned from this is one that few people seem to get: the specs of the equipment used to make a track are almost completely irrelevant. Any synth, drum machine, DAW, plugin, or piece of hardware you can think of has been used to make dance music classics. You don’t need the newest thing, whether that’s a huge modular synth or the latest plugin, and you don’t need the expensive and difficult to maintain classics.

What no one in the industry will tell you is that it’s creativity and skill that dictate whether you make good music or not. You can’t go to Guitar Center and buy creativity; skill can’t be bought for $3,000 on eBay from an older producer who no longer needs it. This is precisely what makes music production such a gratifying activity: even with all the money in the world, you can’t just purchase the ability to be dope!

In a field of music which is inherently defined by the technology used to create it, it’s all too easy for us to blame our tools when we can’t get the results we’re looking for. Conversely, some artists are given an easy ride for following the right production trends regardless of the quality of the end result. We’ve all witnessed the hype around lo-fi analogue jams over the last couple of years. Something’s gone wrong when the first question about a track is what kind of gear was used to make it rather than whether it’s any good.

“Can you really freak the 808 in a more interesting manner than Egyptian Lover?”

I wish people getting into production would think about how they can make their mark on the music, instead of copying the marks already made by others. Do you really have enough skills to say something on a 909 that Jeff Mills hasn’t already said? Can you really freak the 808 in a more interesting manner than Egyptian Lover? Are your acid lines really fresh, or do they sound like something from an Armando demo that was rightfully never released 25 years ago? Even if you can’t do those things, can you at least reframe them in a way that isn’t derivative?

The best thing that could happen is for people to challenge themselves by picking whatever production method they can easily afford, borrow or steal, and trying to be the best they can at it. Then move on to something else and learn that inside out too. Chasing expensive gear and letting that sound define your creativity might work out well for a select few artists, but for the most part good music is made by a talented individual with motivation to make interesting music on whatever tools are handy.

http://www.attackmagazine.com/features/ ... gear-myth/

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by karmacazee » Mon Mar 31, 2014 9:26 am

Couldn't agree more. It's the cheap eqipment that allows us access. Access is the key for new talent to unlock their potential.

Did punks care if they had the latest guitar with massive marshall stacks like their metal counter parts?

Did blues artists care if they had all the strings on their guitars?

Shit, Beethoven only had a piano and some paper to capture his genius. Dude didn't even have fully functioning ears!
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by AxeD » Mon Mar 31, 2014 10:16 am

For me this is more noticeable in software. People want to have the latest multi-band compressors
and that shit.. I always think: how many years will it take you to get the most out of just a DAW?
All the options you have in a bit of software like that.
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by test_recordings » Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:29 am

Tl:dr - it's not what you got, it's what you do with it.

Agree.
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by wolf89 » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:47 pm

Wait so you can't buy expensive stuff for it's quality because in the past cheap stuff has been used on important records? What if you do need a huge modular to do what you want? I mean I see the point it's trying to make but it does seem to forget that there are reasons to go for expensive equipment.
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by wub » Mon Mar 31, 2014 2:54 pm

wolf89 wrote:Wait so you can't buy expensive stuff for it's quality because in the past cheap stuff has been used on important records? What if you do need a huge modular to do what you want? I mean I see the point it's trying to make but it does seem to forget that there are reasons to go for expensive equipment.
That wasn't the message I was getting from the article. I interpreted it as saying that buying a specific bit of kit just because it was used by a successful producer on a successful track doesn't automatically mean you'll instantly gain talent from using it.

Or as test wrote;
test recordings wrote:Tl:dr - it's not what you got, it's what you do with it.

Agree.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by _ronzlo_ » Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:50 pm

Image

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by Mr_Frost » Mon Mar 31, 2014 7:40 pm

A bad carpenter blames his tools.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by sunny_b_uk » Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:49 pm

A bad producer blames his pirated version of massive.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by SunkLo » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:20 am

Disinfo thread so Wub can snap up all the juicy ebay deals. :a:
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by deadly_habit » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:32 am

SunkLo wrote:Disinfo thread so Wub can snap up all the juicy ebay deals. :a:
:z:
Akaizer while good and all doesn't compare to my S2000, plus tube emulation is good and all, but I'll take the real deal any day.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by test_recordings » Tue Apr 01, 2014 12:36 am

I'm going the DIY route and freeware route so fuck you all
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by deadly_habit » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:01 am

test recordings wrote:I'm going the DIY route and freeware route so fuck you all
Nothing wrong with either.
Want a killer tube pre on the the cheap, ART Tube MP Mod plans that are a pain to find now, turn a 20-30$ Tube Pre close to sounding like a 400-600$ one https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/129 ... cation.pdf

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by SunkLo » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:10 am

I want more BLA guides! Would love to be able to do one of their mods myself without having to pay.
Blaze it -4.20dB
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by deadly_habit » Tue Apr 01, 2014 1:48 am

SunkLo wrote:I want more BLA guides! Would love to be able to do one of their mods myself without having to pay.
This one isn't avail pay or not due to a cease and desist from ART a lovely local company to me.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by deadly_habit » Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:00 am

Oh and learn Pro Tools, snag Recording magazine and Sound on Sound when you can.
Learn how to mic vocalists, instruments, cabs and finally drums. When you can you can mic for verb etc and know what mics and settings to gen use.
Learn the gear in the studio you work in and out and possible patch and hardware variations. While you serve coffee you may learn the gear so much you can suggest changing a tube or patch that will ring true with a sleepy engigneer.
If you mix and record at home make some business cards and offer bands etc who come thru free live recordings to practice on, many will take it up and may become future clients if they disklike sound of main studio etc but thats a tricky line to walk. Live engineering and recording is gen safe.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by nowaysj » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:43 am

Something has been bugging me for a very long time, and by today's standards of time, it's been an epoch, but... good instruments, just sound good, all by themselves. Volume matching is tough, right, but just a raw normalized wave from a legendary instrument versus a crappy instrument... and the legend sounds better to ME.

I can't get around it. I don't understand it. I listen, A/B, try to determine what the character of the sound is, what the difference is, those legends are just bigger, better.

And, like, this thought cycles through my mind, like every few months, I'm plagued by it. If any of you have heard my music, it is fucked, like sonically low quality. Like, I don't obsess over some high fidelity sound quality (like many do). I love noise in a lot of forms. But I don't know. I just want to hear what I could make with really high quality instruments, in a high quality environment. Not to make some release or "important music" or any external thing, I'm a giant narcissist, I just want to hear it for myself. I think what I'd make would be substantially similar to what I do now, in fact, it might be harder to break the sound as I like the sound of smashed shit that is hastily glued back together. But I just want to hear it.

I fucking totally missed the target with this post. :Q:

Lemme say this. I love the 404sx, and more recently, I've really really been getting into it. Starting most of my tracks on it, maybe going 30-50% of the way on the 404. And this thing sounds GREAT to me. BUT, epic but, but when I get 404 stuff onto my computer, and get it into, like, audio land, with pure hard clean audio, fhack, I find it VERY difficult to reconcile the two types of audio. Like, I've not found anything on my computer that can effectively fuck up sound like the 404, and just a few sounds played together in a sequence on the 404 cannot be anywhere near as clear and powerful as sounds on the computer... this part of the post is closer to what I'm thinking about.

End of the day though, in terms of MUSIC, it is not what you got, but how you use it, or it's not what you got on the outside, it's what you got on the inside.

Or some other platitude.

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by wub » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:50 am

Sounds like the only solution is to get another 404 and just do live sets off the two of them :Q:

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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by nowaysj » Tue Apr 01, 2014 8:54 am

Seriously fuck you wub! You've awoken my long dormant gear lust with that 8 bit grain sampler. I hear that screeching sound echoing through my downtown streets.

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But you really may be right... I really could do some things with two 404's. Might not have to go into hard clean audio land.
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Re: The Gear Myth - hardware fetishisation

Post by wub » Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:08 am

BTW I slept on those samplers this weekend and missed another release of them. Godamn crazy Czech mofos :u:

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