Your digital has a beef with my analog

Vector-Background-YellowPink-StarA lot of highly exciting things have happened in music technology and have been happening for a very long time. Watch Sound City: a beautiful documentary about the legendary Sound City studios, which had to shut down because it couldn’t compete with the advent of modern recording technology. It is a tragic story for some but to some it is the onset of new and exciting ways to make music. In essence some like the rawness of music and some like the sophistication. What I am talking about is the struggle that every musician faces at some point: the question of digital versus analog sound. Through the course of this article I want to explore both approaches and clear up a few things along the way.

So, most musicians know that analog sounds are warmer whereas digital sounds are clearer, and in this regard it is each to his/her own. The kinds of music one wants to play usually determines which kinds of sounds one uses. To give a few examples, Jack White is a firm believer in the analog way of doing things, whereas Trent Reznor has been using digital tools to great effect for very long. Listen to their records and you will see the difference as clearly as possible. Many musicians believe that an analog sound has a closer relationship to the musician. The rawness of having just a musician and his talent to help him is the attractiveness. Digital on the other hand can provide you with great levels of finesse and help you to hone the rawness into clear sounds.

Both ideas and schools of thought have their own power and can be used very beautifully by any musician. One needs to identify the right method of using them. Now before we proceed any further, lets just be clear on a point: any kind of a sound, be it analog or digital is just like an instrument- you need to know how to play one.

In guitars, for example, the popular way to get effects in to your sound is by using a digital signal processor. Or as some people call it: Multi-Effect pedals. Many musicians, especially in India, love using them. They are convenient and can do just about anything there is to do with guitars. You don’t need an amplifier; you can just plug in and go. They have a wide variety of sounds ranging from the bizarre to the usual. Now these processors have a certain kind  of sound and one needs to use those sounds as a tool for the music one makes. Many a time I have heard from a whole bunch of musicians that “digital is shit” and other such sentiments. This however is not really true. It only depends upon what one decides to play. If I wanted to play Nine Inch Nails or other such industrial or electro stuff, there’s nothing like digital processing to give you highly complex and many-layered sounds. I wouldn’t play the blues like that though.

The choice, at some point, becomes a bit genre specific. However, one must also understand that genres in today’s world, don’t mean very much. No one is really afraid to experiment around genres anymore and the album Odd Soul by Mute Math actually goes out and slams my previous statement about blues and digital sounds to the ground.

Experimentation is really the key here. I am a convert from digital to analog, but both sounds never cease to impress me. Now there are digital processors that can sound indistinguishably analog and analog processors that can do some really wild stuff. Your sound could be found by just a little experimentation and research. And of course one mustn’t be afraid to mix and match as well.

I’m pretty sure you can distill this article into the phrase: ‘Try Before Buy’, but I’m also sure you knew that already.


Posted on April 15, 2013, in Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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