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Is this where music production is headed? I certainly hope so!
I recently saw a video about a "crazy synthesizer demo". Here is the video:
Why is that synth so fascinating? Well, the software seems really good but it's the hardware that stands out.
The Wave of the Future
Way back in the early days of electronic music production, the hardware that was being used resembled fax machines and calculators. The look of a machine was not important to all those using them, but the functionality certainly was.
But now it's 2015 and we're at a time when it's much more than what a machine can do, but also how it can be used and manipulated. This is why it seems like many more manufacturers are releasing products that have big LED screens so producers and beatmakers can get a good look at what they're seeing.
If you take a look at some of the Native Instruments products like Maschine Studio, the S-Series keyboards, and even the Traktor hardware, it's all about the screens. And it makes sense because even though I'm a big proponent of using your ears to make beats, I think the visual aspect is also very important. For example, when I bang out beats on Maschine, I'm looking at the pads, but when it's time to fine-tune a sample, I tend to look at my computer screen so I can really zoom in. The screen on Maschine is good (I'm using the MK1 but Studio is much better), but it's always better to get a good look at what you're doing.
CSI Started the Trend
If you ever watched any episode of CSI, particularly CSI Miami, at one point they had this super amazing NSA-CIA-FBI-NASA computer that could literally do anything. Forget desktop PCs or laptops, these guys were actually throwing files across a screen with their hands and accessing databases by touching the air. Seems far fetched, but hey, they caught all the bad guys.
I get the feeling that this is what's going to happen with beatmaking and just music production overall. I know that it's great how things are now, but to be able to make music by flailing your arms around? Dope! It's not that I would necessarily use that type of technology, but the fact that it might exist is really cool, and the fundamentals could be applied to other hardware and software.
However, right now the focus is on large screens and by the looks of the video above, things are about to pick up. Look at how they record their voices and the waveform appears instantly on a huge screen, which they can then manipulate with a simple knob and slider. It may not seem amazing to some, given that some of that technology is already available, but the fact that it's been packaged like that definitely looks futuristic.
Will It Change the Sound of Hip Hop Beats?
Actually, the question should be: How can it not change the sound of Hip Hop beats?
Just picture yourself loading up a waveform onto that screen, maybe a drum loop, and you're zooming in and fine-tuning the sample and then throwing other tracks on top. I think it would bring a certain level of flavor to beatmaking, and that's a good thing.
The bad thing is that it could also change the sound of Hip Hop beats.
Now as I'm already saying, the advancement of music production technology is a great thing, but just as how the current tech has changed music, the future of tech will as well, and it might not be good at all.
The problem, of course, is how people use it. We all know that the best type of Hip Hop was the kind from the 80s and 90s where producers had many limitations but they made it work. With an unlimited amount of tracks and tons of VSTs at their disposal today, one could say that Hip Hop producers have gotten lazy. 5 minute beats, anyone?
Having a big LED screen that you can touch or even just easily manipulate sounds with is a great thing, but we have to be careful how we use that, as well as the current technology we have.
It's also important to remember that all the software and hardware we have today is supposed to make it easier to produce music, but at the same time not make us lazy. It's supposed to motivate and inspire us to create amazing music.
Otherwise we'll end up with CSI beats. And that might not be a good thing.
Further Reading About Beat Making