Vintage Is Not Necessarily The Way

So many people are saying how old is good and new is bad... this is not always the case.

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So often these days you'll read interviews with artists where they say things such as, "everything today is so over-worked. It all sounds the same, like pro tools. We've gone back to basics for our new album."

Bands are now reverting back to analogue tape in a vain effort to recapture the 'golden days' of old. This is like eating cocoa beans because chocolate is bad for your teeth.

The thing to do here is not to eschew using all new tools and technology, it's to learn to use restraint when you are using them. Having new gadgets does not mean that one needs to use them, of course... but likewise the way to stop from using them is not to deprive yourself of them! That'll never end well.

The music industry does currently suffer from a certain lack of identity, a lack of creativity and purpose in music that means that we're no longer seeing the 'classic' songs of yesteryear. Modern music is not designed to last the test of time, but rather to serve as a quick fix for your ears; a short spasm of sonic entertainment that leaves your memory as fast as it entered it. There are things we can learn from the past and carry forward as the industry evolves, but this is not done by ignoring the present. It's done by taking on board all that we have, and choosing to use the best bits.

In an ideal world, every vocal track on an album would not be auto-tuned. Song sections would not be cut and pasted and there would occasionally be mistakes released into the music-loving world... but in a world where artists go 'back to their roots', new music lovers - the kids in their bedrooms just starting on their long and winding road into the music world, these kids will follow suit. They'll say, "the Foo Fighters recorded their album on analogue tape, that's what we'll do". This is all well and good, you might say, these kids have the right idea. But of course, before we start to concentrate on what we should be doing we must first learn what we can do. Get youngsters to experiment with auto-tune, get them to cut and paste songs together in pro tools - light a fire under their creativity and let them make the right decisions for themselves.

The modern technology used in the music industry has been both its best and worst assets - on the one hand it's made recording music easy, so that artists don't need to put in the effort that they once did. On the other hand, it's made recording music easy. Now a young musician like myself can start to learn about producing music, about putting a song together. So don't fear these new advancements, proclaiming them to be a detriment to the industry and saying that the 'old times were the best", say instead that we can learn from our new inventions, just as we do with the old ones.

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    krypticguitar87
    I just want to point out that when technology in music progresses there are a ton of musicians that will be against it. when the electric guitar was created there were plenty of guitarists that were against the idea of it. even computers have had people who treat it like it was a step backwards. vintage has been treated as synonomis with the best. eventually people will get over it. the trick is to actually embrace the fact that you see that it isn't a step backwards and break the mold. then you'll haev a bunch of people that fallow and say they always believed that this was best. it's like when a great band comes out and says they never learned theory then you'll get a bunch of bands that say the same thing. it's all about trends... but I like that you have also noticed this, and I think this was a pretty good read.
    Ragu35
    I don't have a problem with people who use Auto-tune creatively. I do, on the other hand, have a problem with people who use it just to make their horrible voices sound "better".
    BillR87
    Todays recording equipment is awesome dont get me wrong I love it I just cant get my head around how bland the music itself has become its the same same thing with video games and movies these days more effort and money has been invested in special effects and editing that it no longer takes a great song/movie/game to make millions of dollars people are totally missing the point these days its all special effects now
    Sansfield
    what i find interesting is that this hark back to vintage actually requires major technology to do so; they always advertise vintage as the xyz look and feel blah blah with the amazing inovation of abc of modern technology. if we had nothing but vintage then everyone would complain that nothing new is happening.
    Petey D
    Very well said. Especially the point that modern music lacks creativity. Good writing. Cheers,
    Attercop
    I absolutely agree. At the same time, technology has been responsible for major negatives that just haven't existed as problems in the past. When I listen to a record, I want to hear the musicians who wrote and toured that record, playing the songs. I don't want a riff played once and looped, because that's a total cop-out. Same thing with auto-tune; if you can't sing, don't record yourself. Creative use of it (although I personally don't like it) is valid, although music has become too saturated with it. As far as almost all other uses of technology, I am all for it. Make your songs sound the best they possibly can, while still making them your songs. On the issue of artists rejecting technology, I can see where they're coming from only in the interest of stripped-down simplicity. Let's face it, the Foo Fighters are going to be pretty much the same whether they use analog or digital methods, it's just that one way is less convenient, and apparently thus holds more merit. Vintage equipment, in the right hands, can be a creative conduit not found in the digital world. It's like using a guitar with 3 strings (not ripping on bassists xD) to force your mind to come up with more original things. However, the vast majority of these people are not using it like that, and instead equate digital to lack of artistic integrity. The two are not mutually exclusive.
    Don't Ask
    guitarpatrick66 wrote: Technology is NOT the issue today. The more im around people in music the more im convinced that artists simply dont have the urge to be creative. It doesnt help that many listeners today just dont appreciate originality today. Imagine what Led Zepplin could have produced if they had todays technology at their disposal.
    Yes! Exactly. Way too few musicians put effort in their music nowadays. It's like they don't take it seriously. And they can make it anyway because there are so many people listening to music who don't take it seriously. They fall for the easy catches and hooks, and don't think twice about it. They can listen to the same chord progressions and beats in 1000 different songs without tiring of it, because they never truly listen to it. More complicated music is often considered bad, just because they think it's hard to listen to, because it isn't just C, G, Am, F, over and over again (not stating here that songs like that are per definition bad). On the top of that, because of todays technology, (autotune, myspace etc.) you can make "decent" songs and then spread them on the web without even having any talent or really making an effort. This makes life much harder for the musicians who actually put their soul into the music that they make. But they are out there, check out The Answer for example. Anyway, this is a negative thing about modern technology, but of course there are ways to use it creatively as well, but I won't go over that, since I think this post is more than long enough already. Anyway, I more or less agree with the article. Don't whine about technology, use it. Or don't. Whichever you prefer.
    guitarpatrick66
    Technology is NOT the issue today. The more im around people in music the more im convinced that artists simply dont have the urge to be creative. It doesnt help that many listeners today just dont appreciate originality today. Imagine what Led Zepplin could have produced if they had todays technology at their disposal.
    Loki_37
    smokedhamtaro wrote: SmudgeMetal wrote: Quick post just to point out that certain digital effects (in particular Auto-Tune) can be used well when applied for different reasons. Auto-Tune is, by definition, a corrective tool. But if you take artists such as T-Pain for example who use it in a creative sense, then it works exceptiionally well. It's like colouring in a sheet of paper with pencil and using the eraser to create the picture I don't like t-pain, well i don't like anything from that kinda genre, but i do agree with you. I just hate the people that use auto tune because they just plain cannot sing. If you can't sing, don't be in singing area of the music industry!!!
    Yeah +1111. Thank you. It did not need to be said. I personally know a lot of talented vocal people who can do without autotune - just being a controlled setting without any mass-stress or tour dates around them makes their performance a gazillion times better. But when you see a lot of pop and rap stars - obviously they're not the only ones - using autotune it's just like, wtf? As for the article, I understand where you're coming from, it's a good point. However I disagree. I'm totally against the idea modern music differs drastically from old music in any way whatsoever. Yes, there are a lot of classics from back then, but there are also a lot of really good albums and songs nowadays that some people will look to as classics down the road. The only difference between then and now is who's listening to music, and the internet. Yes, those things greatly change how music is perceived, and will likely change the path of music in future, but the quality is still there. You just have to find it.
    SmudgeMetal
    smokedhamtaro wrote: SmudgeMetal wrote: Quick post just to point out that certain digital effects (in particular Auto-Tune) can be used well when applied for different reasons. Auto-Tune is, by definition, a corrective tool. But if you take artists such as T-Pain for example who use it in a creative sense, then it works exceptiionally well. It's like colouring in a sheet of paper with pencil and using the eraser to create the picture I don't like t-pain, well i don't like anything from that kinda genre, but i do agree with you. I just hate the people that use auto tune because they just plain cannot sing. If you can't sing, don't be in singing area of the music industry!!!
    +1 +1
    smokedhamtaro
    SmudgeMetal wrote: Quick post just to point out that certain digital effects (in particular Auto-Tune) can be used well when applied for different reasons. Auto-Tune is, by definition, a corrective tool. But if you take artists such as T-Pain for example who use it in a creative sense, then it works exceptiionally well. It's like colouring in a sheet of paper with pencil and using the eraser to create the picture
    I don't like t-pain, well i don't like anything from that kinda genre, but i do agree with you. I just hate the people that use auto tune because they just plain cannot sing. If you can't sing, don't be in singing area of the music industry!!!
    SmudgeMetal
    Quick post just to point out that certain digital effects (in particular Auto-Tune) can be used well when applied for different reasons. Auto-Tune is, by definition, a corrective tool. But if you take artists such as T-Pain for example who use it in a creative sense, then it works exceptiionally well. It's like colouring in a sheet of paper with pencil and using the eraser to create the picture
    JamsWithFeel
    yes that is a good read.....instead of going against technology work with it. Just because some commercial songs suck doesn't mean you cant take that same technology and make something epic .If people stop whining and use this to their advantage maybe they can help be the turnaround in commercialized music.
    MacMan2001
    I thought about this the other day, and I'm glad I'm not the only one. It's so boring to hear everyone using retro gear to appear cool! If I'm going for a different vibe, I use apps. Yeah, they're the new fad, but ones like TouchOSC, the Moog sound-editing-wannabe KAOSS pad-thing app and GarageBand are really genuinely good. Digital is starting to get good, and as others have said, guys from the past would use this stuff if they were still around. They weren't being cool by using vintage gear... it was new itself back then!
    baronvonbadguy3
    Dynamight wrote: Vintage is usually for pretentious hipsters who want to sound interesting by rejecting newer technology. The real quality lies in the fidelity to the instrument, and you're not going to get much of that from analog. Some people like the "imperfect sound," which I respect, but most of us prefer a polished sound.
    Dynamight
    Vintage is usually for pretentious hipsters who want to sound interesting by rejecting newer technology. The real quality lies in the fidelity to the instrument, and you're not going to get much of that from analog. Some people like the "imperfect sound," which I respect, but most of us prefer a polished sound.
    Jackie Lawless
    aaron@tmc wrote: I agree. People seem to forget that technology is simply a tool. Just because some people abuse those tools doesn't make them anything less than what they are. I keep thinking that if Jimi Hendrix had all the tools we have available today he would still use them in his music and experiment with them the same way he did with the technology of his time. At one point of time 'vintage' was 'cutting edge technology' and in some point in the future people will look back at today's technology and label it 'vintage'. When you look at it that way it's all pretty meaningless. If you like the sound of vintage gear and decide to use them then that's great. What I don't agree with is guitarists who shun new technology just because it's new and use all vintage just because of the label 'vintage'. Jack White once said something like 'technology kills creativity' which is pretty stupid when you realize that everything is 'technology', even vintage gear. New technology doesn't kill creativity - some people prefer it and some don't. It's as simple as that.
    word.
    luke_guitar
    soulsablaze wrote: Its not that I don't agree with using technology, I just prefer analog over digital. There is a noticeable difference and I don't care for it
    I also agree. I use both from time to time and I always take analog when I am going for quality. Not that I completely hate digital...it has its place, and the thing about digital, as stated before, it continues to expand in all realms of possibilty. Just have to be a liberal musician I suppose. Oxymoron? (sarcasm)
    L2112Lif
    soulsablaze wrote: Its not that I don't agree with using technology, I just prefer analog over digital. There is a noticeable difference and I don't care for it
    +1. There are significant tonal differences between analog and digital, even if some listeners can't pick them up. Its akin to the Marshall MG's CRUSHING OVERDRIVE versus a vintage Marshall's gain-stage. The thing is... Digital tools are attempting to emulate the sounds of vintage, tube-and-analog tools. Look at a Compressor in Logic, hit the little arrow in the corner, and it asks if you want some form of clip to the compressed sound... This comes from back in the day where tape and circuitry couldn't adequately handle some of the compression needed, and there was a slight overdrive introduced as a result. When the sound of the Digital finally totally emulates the sound of the Analog while providing another variety of sound not available to the analog world, that is when we can declare analog to be an archaic production medium... But as for now, they both have their merits and disadvantages (Tape has a 100% sample retention rate... You need to designate a sample speed for digital. Tape has a warm sound, while digital can sound dead, dull, and lifeless when produced poorly. Tape has what are essentially built-in failsafes against over-compression and brickwall limiting, thus limiting the overall loudness of a track and retaining more of the inherent dynamics, digital... Has Death Magnetic), and they will both continue to be used until Digital eventually slays its adversary... But how long will that take?
    soulsablaze
    Its not that I don't agree with using technology, I just prefer analog over digital. There is a noticeable difference and I don't care for it
    aaron@tmc
    I agree. People seem to forget that technology is simply a tool. Just because some people abuse those tools doesn't make them anything less than what they are. I keep thinking that if Jimi Hendrix had all the tools we have available today he would still use them in his music and experiment with them the same way he did with the technology of his time. At one point of time 'vintage' was 'cutting edge technology' and in some point in the future people will look back at today's technology and label it 'vintage'. When you look at it that way it's all pretty meaningless. If you like the sound of vintage gear and decide to use them then that's great. What I don't agree with is guitarists who shun new technology just because it's new and use all vintage just because of the label 'vintage'. Jack White once said something like 'technology kills creativity' which is pretty stupid when you realize that everything is 'technology', even vintage gear. New technology doesn't kill creativity - some people prefer it and some don't. It's as simple as that.
    the rocket ape
    Actually, living in this era gives us more advantages to choose between the vintage and the latest technology. So, it depends on the musician's creativity.