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Ask Slashdot: Can Digital Music Replace Most Instrumental Musicians?

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the why-buy-the-cow-when-you-can-get-the-moosic-for-free dept.

Music 328

deviated_prevert writes "Most instrumental music used today in television commercials, background sounds and themes even on the majority of produced shows comes from completely digital composers who produce the product through digitized instrument samples. This has almost eliminated the need for real human instrumental musicians. For many listeners this makes no difference, as such music is essentially background in nature and does not need to have a true musical interaction with a listening audience at all. The same thing applies to the waves of digital music produced for things like raves. To quote one observer at the Globe and Mail 'So now we know why Deadmau5 and Daft Punk wear helmets when they perform. Everybody is digging the music, but no one is dancing. It is a sad development; the headgear of the maestros is there to mask their tears.' Will the live performance of instrumental musicians also become a thing of the past, or will there continue to be a real need for it? Purely instrumental groups like Booker T and the MGs, as well as solo performers like Herbie Hancock or John McLaughlin, seem not to take the spotlight as they once did. It is apparent that unless someone with a young fresh face is singing, today's producers will not attempt to seriously promote them. Regardless of how great today's instrumentalists are musically, there no longer seems to be a market for real musicianship. Even great performing classical musicians and ensembles are becoming scarcer due to faster and cheaper digital music production."

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328 comments

Rodrigo y Gabriela (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722835)

... would like to disagree.

Instrumental groups have a hard time up against bands with singers; they always have. As a species, we like singing. But there _are_ instrumental bands out there still.

Re:Rodrigo y Gabriela (2)

torsmo (1301691) | about 4 months ago | (#45723411)

I don't think John Coltrane would have a hard time finding an appreciative audience.

Re:Rodrigo y Gabriela (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723443)

I hate vocals in music. That's why I stick to classical and electronic genres.

Re:Rodrigo y Gabriela (2, Insightful)

TranquilVoid (2444228) | about 4 months ago | (#45723491)

Read the fine title :) That's why the it refers to most music. People like singing because it's an extension of talking, our primary mode of communication. We can differentiate between 1000s of voices in the same accent and therefore singing has more 'personality' than a guitar or piano tone.

Rodrigo y Gabriela belong to the sphere of virtuostic rock music where the personality of the instrument (and playing) is much more pronounced. This makes them an exception. Most of the songs on X-Factor/Idol could be played back instrumentally, using synthesised instruments, and most of the audience couldn't tell.

I do think the need for live instrumental musicians will never disappear. This is the whole point of a concert, to get worse sound quality in exchange for direct communication with the artist*. If the artist is just pushing the play button that disappears. Further, many people enjoy the expression of playing an instrument themselves, and they will always want to hear others do the same.

* Or the hype of a crowd, so maybe DJs will prove me to be wrong.

Re:Rodrigo y Gabriela (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723675)

Singing is a way to cover up for the lack of a talented composer. Take any music with lyrics, remove the lyrics and listen to the music itself. It's always simplistic, uninteresting, repetitive crap.

Can most humans be replaced by robots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722839)

For many purposes it makes no difference.

Automatons vs performers. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722847)

You aren't going to replace a jazz player with a sampler. Getting rid of concert performers for media production is just economics.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722917)

I don't care how good the keyboard is, it won't replace all the notes all the notes another musical instrument can play. It can come close, but things like glissando on a trombone, various strumming/fingering on a guitar, or what it takes to play a saxophone well with how much pressure one does on a reed just cannot be done in canned samples.

The only instrument a synth might be able to replace might be drums because of acoustical modeling... but even then, it still will require some type of v-drum set to handle the different ways of striking the drum head. One can do OK in the studio with mimicing this on a keyboard, but this won't suffice live.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (5, Insightful)

Inflammatory Fallacy (3464447) | about 4 months ago | (#45723035)

You're underestimating a synthesizer. Take a look at a Moog sometime. There's a lot of knobs and dials, and they all do something (and most of them do something that was nearly impossible with any other instrument invented). A saxophone can't gradually alter its entire timber mid-phrase, the closest wind instruments have are the various kinds of mute, each limited in its ability in a way a synthesizer isn't. The electric guitar is the closest, because using different digital and analog pedals one can achieve a massive range of effects, in much the same way a synthesizer does. And, may I ask you to remember what the common reaction was to the invention of the electric guitar? Much the same as the modern reaction of so-called 'purists' to the popularization of sampling, synthesizing, and digital production via software. The fact of the matter is, they are no longer able to be looked at as more or less than each other. They are simply different ways of making art, and each is capable of truly amazing things.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (2)

ebusinessmedia1 (561777) | about 4 months ago | (#45723243)

Agreed. A Moog synthesizer is a musical instrument. For instance, Don Buchla insists that his synthesizers be called musical instruments.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (2, Insightful)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45723409)

You're underestimating a synthesizer.

I have yet to meet the synthesizer that can even remotely duplicate the dulcet noises of the old-fashioned dead trees and metal strings of my grand piano. Or the delightfully analog feel. Or dynamic range. Or imposing presence in the living room. As well the synthesizer completely fails at those little weird harmonics only found in acoustic pianos but which add rich character to the sound.

No thank you sir, you may keep your electro-wizardry, your programmable gewgaws, your artificial noises. I do not wish to play on a computer; working on one is enough. Nay, sir, the music comes from the soul, through the fingers, and sings or roars out from the harmonious combination of iron, steel, copper, and spruce. The pure pitch and harmonic perfection of your electronically generated waveforms only takes away from the music; it adds nothing. Computerized precision has no soul, sir.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#45723457)

I have yet to meet the synthesizer that can even remotely duplicate the dulcet noises of the old-fashioned dead trees and metal strings of my grand piano.

This is extremely frustrating to me.

Or dynamic range.

Well actually you just need bigger speakers. Some will blow your eardrums. Those speakers go up to 11.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723459)

+1 Mighty Boosh reference!

Re:Automatons vs performers. (3, Insightful)

rioki (1328185) | about 4 months ago | (#45723485)

I think you people are talking two different things.

From the summary:

Most instrumental music used today in television commercials, background sounds and themes [...]. For many listeners this makes no difference, as such music is essentially background in nature and does not need to have a true musical interaction with a listening audience at all

Can Digital Music Replace Most Instrumental Musicians?

Betteridge's law of headlines says: NO.

You are both right and wrong. Current synthesizer technology is incredibly advanced and can produce a large number of music. Especially music that used in contexts that few people care. The dulcet [sweet and soothing (often used ironically).] noises of you grand piano will be lost in the recording for a Mc Donald's commercial. Will someone put a synthesizer in his living room to show how sophisticated he is? (Somebody probably will.) There is a reason why live classical performances exists and it will remain. Even with perfect reproduction people will want to see live performance, singing the queen of night is an achievement, hitting the play button is not.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (3, Insightful)

spongman (182339) | about 4 months ago | (#45723499)

i have yet to meet a piano that can sound like a violin.

yet, it's still a musical instrument.

just because one machine can't make the same sound as another machine, doesn't mean that it's not an instrument.

no, you're a luddite snob.

that is all.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (0)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45723613)

I didn't say the synthesizer isn't an instrument. I said it can't fully duplicate the real thing.

I might be a Luddite snob, but you suck at reading comprehension.

Re: Automatons vs performers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723637)

Check out Modartt Pianoteq. It's not sampled, it's completely synthesized, using a physical model. I'd bet most people would get it wrong in blind tests.

Re:Automatons vs performers. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723687)

I have yet to meet the synthesizer that can even remotely duplicate the dulcet noises of the old-fashioned dead trees and metal strings of my grand piano. Or the delightfully analog feel. Or dynamic range. Or imposing presence in the living room. As well the synthesizer completely fails at those little weird harmonics only found in acoustic pianos but which add rich character to the sound.

Just because you are ignorant, doesn't mean it's not doable (it might just not be easy to do it real-time with current processing abilities). Waveguide synthesis can replicate all of that, and in a way that's perfectly undistinguishable by a human (with its limited frequency range) from the real thing, given appropriate sampling rates... it's just not very computationally cheap.

Besides, if what you want is "the delightfully analog feel" (whatever you mean by that), there are analog synths out there, you know (e.g. a theremin)?

Nay, sir, the music comes from the soul, through the fingers, and sings or roars out from the harmonious combination of iron, steel, copper, and spruce.

So, whatever comes out of an electric guitar cannot be classified as music, right?

Protip: "music" is just structured sound, which can be obtained from a wide range of means; redefining "music" to mean "sounds that come out of $choose_arbitrary_instrument" is not insightful.

The pure pitch and harmonic perfection of your electronically generated waveforms only takes away from the music; it adds nothing.

Yes, because it's impossible to add noise or otherwise detune oscillators. Also, try to figure out how "pure" the pitch of the common analog synth is (protip: not very pure).

Computerized precision has no soul, sir.

The difference between a computer and a piano is that, with a computer, you can choose to be as precise or imprecise as you want; with a piano, you have no choice.

The funniest thing is that, for sure, you have already heard renditions of piano that you thought were "real" (i.e. were recorded from a physical piano), but actually weren't (i.e. were recorded from a waveguide model of a piano).

A computer might not have a soul, but if you can't distinguish between the sound that a soulful piano makes vs. the sound a soulless computer makes, maybe that distinction is purely arbitrary autism?

TL;DR: You need to polish your "no true scotsman" fallacy, brah.

Composition or Instrumental Excellence? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722855)

Music success is much more about creativity and the composition than the performance. The most difficult part is writing good songs which is why the best musicians often can't make a living off music. Now that computers can reproduce instruments at an above average level, people only need to learn piano and composition and show talent in creating new music to make a living.

Algorithmic Music Composition (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 4 months ago | (#45723505)

There's this thing called "Algorithmic Music Composition" - they analyzed the composition of famous music composers such as Bach and copied the "style" and transfer the algorithm into computer and let it churn out music.

There's even a freeware that you can try on your own computer, more info @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FractMus_(software) [wikipedia.org]
or @ http://www.gustavodiazjerez.com/?cat=14 [gustavodiazjerez.com]

Re:Algorithmic Music Composition (1)

s1d3track3D (1504503) | about 4 months ago | (#45723689)

From the site: "A word of caution: you are the composer, FractMus will create no masterpiece for you, nor it was designed for that." - @ http://www.gustavodiazjerez.com/?cat=14 [gustavodiazjerez.com]

No dancing? (4, Insightful)

Fwipp (1473271) | about 4 months ago | (#45722857)

"So now we know why Deadmau5 and Daft Punk wear helmets when they perform. Everybody is digging the music, but no one is dancing."
Have you seen those concerts? Maybe it ain't the Charleston, but those kids are certainly groovin to the beat.

"It is a sad development; the headgear of the maestros is there to mask their tears."
Somehow, I think they have no trouble sleeping on their large piles of money each night.

Re:No dancing? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722987)

Money... Because that's what music is about. Burn in hell while listening to your mass-produced music, Idiot.

Re:No dancing? (1)

spongman (182339) | about 4 months ago | (#45723563)

mass-produced? deadmau5 and daft punk? you do realize that those three are pretty much the sole performers, engineers, producers, marketers & distributors of their music? they make their own music on their own in their own studios that they built. they own their own record labels. they perform on stage alone. (sure, they collaborate...)

or do you mean mass-produced like they print a bunch of CDs?

Re:No dancing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723809)

Deadmau5 and Daft Punk are mainstream, poppy crap. They cater to the masses rather than doing anything original. Pretty much the Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera of electronic music.

Re:No dancing? (2)

znrt (2424692) | about 4 months ago | (#45723611)

Money... Because that's what music is about. Burn in hell while listening to your mass-produced music, Idiot.

the whole issue is much more about music industry than about music itself, pretty much pointless and, well, just wrong: in fact musical creativity has boomed since technology has universalized (well, almost) the means for production and distribution. if TFA author would get his head out of his ass he could listen for himself. just count the occurrences of the word "production" in the post. you don't "produce" music, but "products": icons, myths, aesthetics, fashion. what is he talking about? mass-production. mass-produced music is like mass-produced everything else.

another aspect that is fuelling musical creativity nowadays is, not surprisingly in this scenario, economic crisis. it's driving people to find alternative ways to have fun, largely ignoring the mainstream canned offering. at least in europe more people every day are rediscovering folklore and old popular musical styles and instruments and combining them with modern styles and tech. in essence, they are rediscovering music. you won't hear that in mtv, though.

Re:No dancing? (-1, Flamebait)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#45723307)

yeah and it's a fucking stupid thing to say since _most_ dancing music -counted by hours per person per time on dancefloor- is electronic. full electronic, there's no pretense about how it was produced. ever since the rave revolution of '90s.

and then compare that to metallica. why the fuck did the author bring dancing to this at all? especially when classical concerts pretty much as a rule nowadays have __no__ dancing or even possibility for dancing - so concerts with dozens of actual instrument players have no possibility for dancing whatsoever while deadmau5, skrillex, daft punk, js16 etc concerts HAVE NO SEATING AT ALL.

so what the fuck? total fail.

if it sounds good it sounds good, don't let anything else come between you and the music - don't give a shit if it's produced by entering a program into a c64, if it's just one dude and his mouth and a loop-device, if it's a full symphonic orchestra, if it's just an 80's sequencer, a "normal" rock band, a guy with a guitar.. none of that matters - music is very easy to judge, just listen to it. music schools can teach people what sounds "right", but they can't teach people what people will enjoy, this is why music schools focus on complicated to play shit jazz nowadays... they can judge the players skills with it, too bad the playing skill of the player is just a small portion of being a good artist people want to actually listen to play.

Betteridge's Law of headlines (1)

Hieronymus Hero (1082235) | about 4 months ago | (#45722861)

No.

Absolutely, no.

Journalistic principle.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 4 months ago | (#45722905)

Except the answer is yes. Most music can be made with digital tools without significant loss. It can't, however, replace all of them. Digital music is good for technically perfect scripted performances. It falls short for live music and anything where the imperfections improve the music, primarily music heavily focused on emotions.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723013)

Well, you can call them imperfections. I call it "the real thing". But I get what you're saying, bro.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723063)

He's just speaking from a technical perspective. Humans are inherently imprecise, however little. Computers have the ability to be much more precise. That usage of "imperfection" doesn't remove any of the impact of truly great music.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (2)

Inflammatory Fallacy (3464447) | about 4 months ago | (#45723075)

It really doesn't "fall short" in any case. Digital tools are tools nonetheless, and equally capable of transferring emotion to a sonic medium. There is plenty of 'digital' music that does so consistently, it's just a matter of finding it.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723291)

Unless you synthezise the imperfections well enough. Then live musicians aswell will be obsolete. All that will be required is a composer. Then of course we can synthezise that composer aswell. I for one welcome our composerobotic overlords.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (1)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45723421)

I think you have pretty much described (part of) a world not worth living in.

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723465)

You sir are full of shit!
http://youtu.be/25VGdNU3nrU

Re:Betteridge's Law of headlines (4, Interesting)

Pubstar (2525396) | about 4 months ago | (#45723779)

My friend made a video about a track she was recording. It was the same song, but the difference was one had all the drums PERFECT. The other had the drums just the slightest amount off, to emulate someone playing life.

It was weird. Just that little bit of imperfection made the song sound quite a bit warmer. Her youtube account has since been deleted. Its rather sad, she had tons of good stuff on there.

Uhh... No one is dancing?? (3, Insightful)

urbanriot (924981) | about 4 months ago | (#45722865)

I'm guessing he's never been to one of the aforementioned performer's party since he's talking out of his ass.

Laugh tracks (3, Insightful)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about 4 months ago | (#45722891)

Comedy shows on TV have used canned laughter for decades, but nobody would say that it beats the experience of sitting in an auditorium live, with a great comedian on stage. The better TV shows will continue to have real music played by real musicians, and we'll all continue to get a better musical experience by going to the local concert hall, church, or bar.

This is really about Big Music losing its stranglehold on deciding who the big stars will be.

Re:Laugh tracks (3, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#45723107)

This.....

There are few musicians/bands i will pay to see in concert any more. But i love going to festivals and watching performers. I love hitting bars to watch local talent. I don't even care if the sound is imperfect or the acustics reminds you of dogs barking at cats having screaming loud sex. Its the ecperience of seeing people give it their best and having a hell of a good time in the process.

The last major concert i went to, it seemed like my $80 for tickets bothered the band or something. It was almost like they had something better to do. I know i have something better to do. Long live the garage bands and festivals. Even the has been headliners stuck doing county fairs are better then most headliners in my opinion.

Re:Laugh tracks (1, Offtopic)

Pubstar (2525396) | about 4 months ago | (#45723787)

I paid $20 to see Dick Dale at some bar a few years back. Best show I've ever been too. It was seriously just like having some local band up on the small stage, but, you know, Dick fucking Dale. It was a bit weird though - I was the only one under 25 there.

Re:Laugh tracks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723301)

Yes, real music listened to live with real instruments cannot be replaced. And it also goes to the same argument about digital (CD's) vs vinyl. Having said that it makes ME wonder how something created digitally would sound on vinyl!! But being at a live show and being able to physically feel the instruments, as an attendee cannot be replaced. Playing a real instrument and having the same feel, obviously cannot be replaced.

poor venue... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722895)

Music discussions should not happen on /.

That being said, digital music is simply another facet of the experience. There are plenty of acts out currently combining live instruments and digital equipment (big gigantic, griz).

Music fans will always prefer a live show, instrumentalists are not going anywhere.

My opinion (1)

EvanED (569694) | about 4 months ago | (#45722909)

I know the article is mainly about dance music, but I see this happening a bit in the world of orchestral soundtracks, which is a genre I tend to like quite a bit, where recordings of orchestras are being replaced by sample libraries. And it's really unfortunate... even without getting into any philosophical arguments, just from the listener's perspective. For instance, I really like a lot of the music from the Mass Effect series, but there are certain parts that just sound bad even though compositionally I much approve.

Music (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722923)

In my opinion, music that has no performance quality to it is like watching a cartoon. People hate things they can't immediately understand. I watch cartoons sometimes. I never watch cartoon porn.

Anyway, the real problem with music is everyone puts musicians, boring or not, on a pedestal. Music does the most good when you participate with others and love yourself.

Pop music is like the Jungle Boat Ride at Disney. The animals always show up, there's a nice little narrative, it's over in a few minutes. Most "serious" music is like observing animals in the wild. You have to really look and listen, sometimes the animals don't show up, it sucks being outside. Most people can enjoy both modes.

Shaping notes (5, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#45722929)

An article by a digital musician I read recently claimed that although digital synthesis can approach the quality of a real orchestra, it's extremely time-consuming to shape every note to fit the mood and context of that note.

If you factor in the time and effort to "carve" the note to sufficient quality, it's not economical compared to a smaller orchestra, because experienced musicians do the same in real time, with 1 practice and 2 takes on average. The performing group gets it done in about an hour, while diddling a synth rendering can take weeks. Even though it's one dude or so, it's a LOT of one dude.

Plus, you risk "ear burn-out" from so many replays such that you cannot recognize quality anymore. One has to switch between projects and styles to keep their ears fresh, delaying the finished product.

Maybe the editing software eventually will get better and the computer can assist with more natural "guesses" to get closer to expectations to reduce customization, but at this stage if you want quality performances, synthesis is not fully competitive.

Re:Shaping notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722989)

It's also less fun and interesting. An orchestra is a community of individuals that are all re-processing lifetimes' worth of musical experience, digesting breakfast, having families, etc. I think you can hear all of that in many ensembles.

Also, if for some reason real orchestras were phased out because they could not compete in the realm of recorded music, we would lose the opportunity to hear them in person. Music sounds so great in real life. Holy shit. Speakers ruin everything. Even going to see electric jazz at a large theater, you might as well listen at home. You're lucky to hear a snare drum.

Re:Shaping notes (2)

Jack Griffin (3459907) | about 4 months ago | (#45723085)

I'm a hobby musician (ie can string a few notes together) and I can't tell the difference most of the time, what chance do regular folk have? My wife can't even tell the difference between a bass and a guitar, do you really think people like her will notice it an individual note on an individual instrument has been hammered instead of bent? The one intangible thing that regular folk do grasp is the energy of live music, but as the Daft Punk example shows, even that means nothing anymore.

Re:Shaping notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723135)

I'm a hobby musician (ie can string a few notes together) and I can't tell the difference most of the time, what chance do regular folk have?

At the risk of appearing cruel, I must be direct :

All of us out here are not all Philistines like you and your wife.

Re:Shaping notes (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#45723253)

I'm a hobby musician...I can't tell the difference most of the time

But enough critics, audiophiles, and fans can such that it can affect the reputation of a work or publisher.

The organic, primitive sound of a beat-up but well-chosen instrument for vintage chamber music is sometimes pure magic. It's very difficult to emulate something half falling apart in the hands of somebody who knows how to tame a wild mustang to it keep just on the inside of rogue.

Re:Shaping notes (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 4 months ago | (#45723403)

what chance? why would they care.

if you need to care about an individual note then the song sucks. sorry.

I'm spending the winter in thailand and every 4th bar has live music every day. it's not very good most of the time, maybe it would be better if listening to it while drunk though... but a good dj would be better most of the time.

Re:Shaping notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723115)

In 20 years AI will solve this problem.

Re:Shaping notes (1)

spongman (182339) | about 4 months ago | (#45723591)

but why would you bother trying to emulate the sounds of an orchestra or of any real instrument?

why, when those sounds are so limited in their expressiveness? the electronic music producer has a far wider tableau to play with than wobbling tubes and strings.

I'm guessing you never attend live performances (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45722947)

Seriously, a good band playing out on thr edge of their comfort zone and creating something magical, or the power of a full orchestra with the complexity of the sound reverbarating around a concert hall.... is going to be replaced with some samples?

And art galleries have died because you can see digital photos on the net?

No doubt it has and will be tried again and again, but this is like saying you won't ever need to have sex again because off the pron on the internet.

Oh, please... (4, Informative)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 4 months ago | (#45722949)

1. They said the same thing when the Mellotron was built back in the 1960s. In fact, members of the Musicians Union would picket Moody Blues concerts because they felt the Mellotron was taking away jobs from hard working union member musicians.

2. No recording of an orchestra is going to sound like sitting in the same room with an orchestra playing. Period. End of discussion.

3. There are PLENTY of instrumental bands that are doing just fine. Examples:
Animals as Leaders: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCsWlOo9qgw [youtube.com]
Explosions in the Sky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mqBMmhgsjM [youtube.com]
And boodles of electronic music bands that have no interest in whether or not you dance to them, for example:
Boards of Canada: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp8ZBT-VHrA&list=PLZqsyBiYZFQ1SDoE-ulm6Qlpt7jetkEMH [youtube.com]
among many others.

Then this howler:

Purely instrumental groups like Booker T and the MGs, as well as solo performers like Herbie Hancock or John McLaughlin, seem not to take the spotlight as they once did.

WTF? Booker T's bass player died last year. HE WAS 70 YEARS OLD. How many pop bands of any stripe are in the spotlight at age 70? Herbie Hancock is 73. John McLaughlin is 71. They Are Old People. What do you expect from them? Then this bit of cluelessness:

It is apparent that unless someone with a young fresh face is singing, today's producers will not attempt to seriously promote them.

It's not their producer's job to promote them. It is their PROMOTER'S job to promote them. That's why they're called PROMOTERS. The producer helps direct and manage the PRODUCTION of the record. Believe me - I know these things.

This article is basically flamebait.

Re:Oh, please... (2)

mbstone (457308) | about 4 months ago | (#45723045)

No recording of an orchestra is going to sound like sitting in the same room with an orchestra playing. Period. End of discussion.

Depends on the quality of the recording and of the playback equipment. You can get pretty close.

Re:Oh, please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723109)

No recording of an orchestra is going to sound like sitting in the same room with an orchestra playing. Period. End of discussion.

Depends on the quality of the recording and of the playback equipment. You can get pretty close.

My whole house is one huge, oxygen-free, pure gold, electron tube, yet my vinyl records still do not sound like an orchestra. What am I doing wrong?

Re:Oh, please... (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 4 months ago | (#45723181)

Pro applications don't use vinyl.

If you were a cheap bastard stage-play producer you wouldn't use vinyl. You'd hire pros to make a multichannel, high-sample-rate digital recording of the pit orchestra using very expensive mics, and you'd hire pros to design the playback PA. If the PA was also in the pit no one would bitch about the lack of directional sound, even from close up.

Of course this would depend on how cheap of a bastard you are.

Re:Oh, please... (2)

xfade551 (2627499) | about 4 months ago | (#45723143)

By "close" you mean seated in the nosebleed seats of a good amphitheatre. One thing you miss even in a good recording is the directional quality of sound from the different instruments and sections. Stereo recording helps, and surround sound has an interesting quality of its own, but it's still not quite the same as being there!

Re:Oh, please... (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 4 months ago | (#45723765)

One thing you miss even in a good recording is the directional quality of sound from the different instruments and sections.

You also miss out on the experience. On having been there. You miss out on the champagne and everybody dressed up. The feeling of belonging to the exclusive club that will be there at this time, an experience which will never repeat.

What I mean is that music really is way, way more than airwaves. It makes a difference if it's "just a synth" prgrammed by Nameless, or if it's mister Weirdface who used to be an alcoholic and now is spreading the message that set him free. Even if it were completely pointless from an audio processing point of view, people would still want to hear the human playing, bacause at the end of the day this is all about humans listening to each other.

Re:Oh, please... (1)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45723455)

Depends on the quality of the recording and of the playback equipment. You can get pretty close.

Those words could only be said by someone who:

* has either never been in a concert hall with a real live orchestra, or

* is tone deaf.

If you're the latter, gods bless you, you'll never be disappointed.

Re:Oh, please... (2)

xfade551 (2627499) | about 4 months ago | (#45723241)

Instrumental (progressive) metal has been gaining more popularity of late, but still has not attracted the interest of the major record labels, yet, so most of the bands are unsigned, DIY, or only signed to minor record labels. A few bands off the top of my head worth checking out (mostly local to my area - greater Seattle): Steelscape (fully instrumental; Seattle area) Isthmusia (fully instrumental; Seattle area) Lo' There Do I See My Brother (a couple songs with lyrics; Seattle area) Summer Finn (a couple songs with lyrics; Seattle area) Lion in Winter (long instrumental parts, with some interspersed screaming; Seattle) Ghosts of Glaciers (fully instrumental; Colorado)

Instrumental should always have a place. (1)

klingers48 (968406) | about 4 months ago | (#45722951)

The world would be a poorer place if it didn't have Carlos Santana and his legacy in it.

Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subject. (2)

Inflammatory Fallacy (3464447) | about 4 months ago | (#45722969)

The same thing applies to the waves of digital music produced for things like raves. To quote one observer at the Globe and Mail 'So now we know why Deadmau5 and Daft Punk wear helmets when they perform. Everybody is digging the music, but no one is dancing. It is a sad development; the headgear of the maestros is there to mask their tears.'
No, it doesn't apply to "the waves of digital music produced for raves". Firstly, the rave scene died in the 90's, but it appears that you're not actually referring to a rave, you're talking about a concert by a musician whose methods you don't understand. Go see any decent house, dubstep, or techno artist play, and suddenly it's apparent that the quote you referenced is completely wrong, at least in the context in which you're using it. You can get a crowd moving with a Macintosh, it's not that difficult.
Will the live performance of instrumental musicians also become a thing of the past?
No, it won't.. Look to the same examples to see evidence that musicians without vocalists are actually becoming far more popular. And if you're trying to insinuate that a DJ isn't an 'instrumental' artist, you're wrong. A pair of turntables is an instrument just as a guitar is, and a performance using one requires just as much 'musicianship' as with any other instrument.

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (1, Troll)

Tough Love (215404) | about 4 months ago | (#45723345)

if you're trying to insinuate that a DJ isn't an 'instrumental' artist, you're wrong. A pair of turntables is an instrument just as a guitar is, and a performance using one requires just as much 'musicianship' as with any other instrument.

No, sorry, a pair of turntables is not an instrument like a guitar is, it is more an instrument like a mixing board is, and a DJ is more like a sound guy or a producer than a musician. Put it another way: some DJs may be performers but not all performers are musicians. Otherwise agreed with your post.

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (1)

spongman (182339) | about 4 months ago | (#45723641)

wait, so these guys [youtube.com] aren't playing instruments?

manipulating objects that make sounds. hmmm. looks like it to me.

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (0)

Godwin O'Hitler (205945) | about 4 months ago | (#45723711)

OK I watched that. You'll have to help me out. At what point in the performance did they make music?

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 4 months ago | (#45723811)

You raised the question of whether these guys are musicians or not, not me. I said "a pair of turntables is not an instrument like a guitar is", which is patently obvious. A turntable is more an instrument like a kazoo is, and as an art form, has a future roughly as bright.

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (2, Funny)

ApplePy (2703131) | about 4 months ago | (#45723471)

A pair of turntables is an instrument just as a guitar is, and a performance using one requires just as much 'musicianship' as with any other instrument.

Hm... Tell that to Christopher Parkening, or Wilhelm Kempff, or... ... hell with it. No. Just... no. OMG no. Holy shit.

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (1)

spongman (182339) | about 4 months ago | (#45723619)

You can get a crowd moving with a Macintosh

You can get a crowd moving with a SNES!

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (2, Insightful)

Godwin O'Hitler (205945) | about 4 months ago | (#45723699)

Jeeeezus how many times have I heard this. Go and listen to a piano-violin duo playing Souvenir d'un Lieu Cher then come back and tell me someone with a pair of turntables messing around with SOMEONE ELSE'S MUSIC is a musician. I'm sure they'd like to think they are but until they pick up an instrument, electronic or otherwise, that is actually capable of creating notes they are not.

The stuff you are talking about is fine for people who don't really want musicianship. And good luck to them. Each to his own.

Re:Imagine a prolonged sigh in place of this subje (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723849)

Yes, please do tell me about how Ligeti has no musicianship.

First, listen to this [youtube.com] and then you can proceed to read this [wikipedia.org].

Particularly the part that says:

He has been described as "one of the most important and innovative composers of the second half of the 20th century".

Thank you for demonstrating you fail to comprehend the difference between "music" (i.e. any type of structured sound), which does not necessarily even have to be made with tonal instruments, and $whatever_music_you_happen_to_like.

Enjoy living inside your little bubble-world.

Well (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#45722985)

You can either sit at a computer pasting together sound samples and massaging them into some semblance of emotion,
  or you can hire a musician to play it for you and give you the sound you're looking for.

Some of the most famous musical acts in the USA recorded their albums using the studio's house band.
Which is why it's so funny that the submitter brings up Booker T. & the M.G.'s: they started out as a house band.

Question is so 1980s (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 4 months ago | (#45723017)

The cost savings realized by eliminating live musicians is generally due to using one recording of said live musicians and playing it back multiple times (for example in many stage plays). There's not much extra savings to be realized by using, say, MIDI controlled synths for the original recording.

What a crock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723031)

Musicianship is more important now than ever.

Obligatory "No" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723051)

Isn't there a rule with articles that have yes or no questions as their title?

see yoyo ma performance.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723119)

see yoyo ma performance....
No digital performer will ever match his abilities. No one noticed important point. Once we loose classical music performers, we also loose composers. By the way...trend reznor Oscar for sound is complete bullshit.

Not really (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 4 months ago | (#45723121)

Replace? Yes. Sound the same? Definitely not. Just consider the range of effects possible with an electric guitar. The only way to do that with a digital workstation is to use a guitar for input, then it isn't purely digital. Another example: synthesized piano is getting very good, but it still cannot be mistaken for the real thing.

Sound different but just as good? Maybe, sometimes. There is no question that digital has already invaded the territory of traditional instruments. In applications where top quality is not a requirement a digital clarinet or trumpet can work out just fine cost a lot less than the real thing, perhaps unfortunately.

Can Digital Music Replace Most Musicians? (3, Insightful)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#45723137)

Depends on the purpose. For just listening to background music, or the radio, probably. Session musicians? Maybe, but live is better. For events in which live musicians add to the prestige, no. And in between?

If I'm gong to pay money to see the The Typewriter [youtube.com], Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet [youtube.com], or Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture [youtube.com], I want a real symphony orchestra (and preferably real canons for the 1812). No digital music will replace someone like Victor Borge [youtube.com] (RIP).

Marching bands [youtube.com] can't really be replaced with digital music. Certainly the British [youtube.com] and Russians [youtube.com] would never do it for their parades. (Are bagpipes even compatible with digital music? ;) . )

There is no replacing a cappella music, such as this [youtube.com], or a barbershop quartets [youtube.com]. Many other forms of music would suffer, maybe even be pointless, if they were done without live performers. They are often much of the fun.

Digital is handy for composing though even if you will perform live later.

Re:Can Digital Music Replace Most Musicians? (3, Insightful)

spongman (182339) | about 4 months ago | (#45723647)

i think you're missing the point. digital musicians aren't attempting to reproduce what's been done before. they're creating new stuff - called music - digitally.

Re:Can Digital Music Replace Most Musicians? (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#45723719)

Let's revisit part of the question:

Will the live performance of instrumental musicians also become a thing of the past, or will there continue to be a real need for it? .... Regardless of how great today's instrumentalists are musically, there no longer seems to be a market for real musicianship. Even great performing classical musicians and ensembles are becoming scarcer due to faster and cheaper digital music production."

I think my answer stands. There is a place for all digital, of course, including the creation of new music. But there will still be a place for live musicians.

Kids these days.... (4, Insightful)

ripler (19188) | about 4 months ago | (#45723179)

Ironic that Herbie Hancock was used as an example. It wasn't so long ago that Mr Hancock would have been the poster's point made with synths vs real piano players. Musicians make the music. The instruments are just tools. There has always been, and will always be crappy mass produced pablum. Likewise, there will always be musicians who rise above the rest. The tools they use influence the sound, but the artist creates the experience.

Now, get off my lawn!

Yes, actually (4, Interesting)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | about 4 months ago | (#45723227)

As TFA an incredible amount of orchestral music in movies, TV shows, ads etc.
already is made from 100% samples, and nobody notices (or cares).

An at the time seemingly crazy person over a decade ago started the
Vienna Symphonic Library [vsl.co.at], a project to sample all possible
sounds all instruments can make. A completely insane idea. Today, it's
the undisputed market leader everyone uses...
(make your own google analogy here)

Will high-culture live-performance symphonic orchestras be replaced by
sample computers any time soon? Most likely not. But that's a couple of
thousand musicians in the world. Most on-staff "working class" instrumentalists
are replaceable by a computer and a skilled person operating it today.

The situation seems to be a bit like the animation revolution, when Pixar's
Renderman (and others) turned hand-drawn animation into a bit of a niche thing.

The big difference: The demand for animators probably has even increased
over the last decade (admittedly, with in part a different skillset, but animators
are animators first and not defined by the tools they use to animate) - but there
were no "pencil operators" following an "animation conductor" in animation compared
to "instrument operators" and... well... conductors in a traditional symphonic orchestra.

Using the VSL samples, one person with a machine can indeed replace a whole
orchestra for all but the most high-profile uses. And it is already happening.

Also, the world will not end. "Nobody's dancing"? Have they seen the audience at a
Daft Punk performance?

Bad Assumption is Bad. (4, Informative)

bmajik (96670) | about 4 months ago | (#45723233)

Hi. Former guitar shredder here.

I have news for you. The idea that the instrumental performers with "the most talent" will no longer get paid big bucks in the future isn't something you have to wait for.

It has been going on for at least my entire life.

After I had been playing guitar for about 2 years in high school, I could play nearly any guitar part of any popular song (I came of age in the 90s, the grunge time frame. So, admittedly, a low bar.)

Most of it just wasn't very complicated. If what mattered was being able to play things note for note, capturing all of the "feeling" and what not, for most popular music that just isn't a tall order.

I'm not being a braggart; I was nothing special. My point is that youtube is filled with kids who are _astounding_ guitarists.. and who will never make any money off of their guitar work. Technical proficiency isn't what gets you paid.

I still love all of my Shrapnel Records artists that I dutifully bought albums from growing up. I am thrilled beyond belief that monumental talents like Tony MacAlpine are still able to record and perform after decades of being unknown outside of the guitar-nerd community. And I am escstatic that new younger talents are emerging and doing cool stuff (Seree Lee -- youtube him).

But Katy Pery or whoever the next anonymous pretty face is will make more money off of one single than someone like a Tony Mac or Vic Wooten or Seree Lee or (take your pick) will make in their multi-decade careers. And that's not new, and digital music isn't going to fundamentally change that.

Re:Bad Assumption is Bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723329)

Technical virtuosity has essentially nothing to do with artistic merit. Ain't nobody but guitar nerds wanna listen to steve vai jerkin off on cd.

Many points off base (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723303)

So many points are off base, here.
First of all, yes, many composers use sample libraries when necessary, but when given the chance, prefer to work with living, breathing musicians. Look at Bear McCreary's process (Battlestar Galactica, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as example. Even composer Dave Porter (Breaking Bad), who specializes in audio sample manipulation, records unique tracks with live musicians, and then delves into his digital processing from there. Also, the term "completely digital composers" implies that the writers themselves are machine and not man - not the case.
"This has almost eliminated the need for real human instrumental musicians." - Wow. I assume that you are makng a point about recorded and not live music. Have you seen a concert lately? I won't even ask you to count the number of people on stage during an Arcade Fire performance, or playing behind any of the top pop acts, or heck, even the line-up at your local pub. Real human musicians are alive and playing! You can argue whether the singer is auto-tuned to death or not, but that's another discussion...

The kids are dancing to Deadmau5. It's true. Doesn't negate the rest, though.

Symphonies and instrumental ensembles are not suffering because of a lack of recorded gigs. They never made their money that way in the first place. They get money mainly through donors and live performances. Both took a terrible hit during the last recession. "Faster and cheaper digital music production" has nothing to do with it - apples and oranges.

I agree that there's a trend towards cheaper, faster production in the recording industry, but its not the sampler that's done us in. Its the audience putting up with the homogenous, uncreative work that the marketing machines push at us. If we take the time to stop listening to that crap, and make the effort to search out independent artists, then the real musicians will actually get to make a living. Even the sampler-based ones.

DJ problem (1)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45723305)

Everybody is digging the music, but no one is dancing.

That's usually a "DJ trying to be too cool" problem.

There are automated DJ programs, but so far, no one seems to have one that takes in video of the dance floor, tracks how many people are dancing, and adjusts the playlist accordingly. I thought of doing that 20 years ago, but now it would be both feasible and cost-effective. (Optional feature: also connects to the bar cash register system to optimize for revenue.)

Digital vs. Analog all comes down to the task (2)

idioto (259918) | about 4 months ago | (#45723387)

I can play a few instruments and make my own music, as well as having played in a few bands, but over the years I've learned to accept that computers can help me out a bunch. I used to try to play everything and record it too, which was a lot of work and it made things a bear to change. These days, I just try to focus in on a thing at a time, rather than be engineer, instrumentalist, songwriter, etc. I hardly have been playing instruments much on recordings because I don't have the time to do it all and come up with the sounds I like. I will enter my chord progressions into band in a box, and find a style that I kind of like. Then I'll tweek the instruments. It's just a million times easier. So I take sequencing shortcuts as well. But it's just a matter of ease, I mean if I could find a real steel drum player and could mike them up and it wouldn't take a few hours more than clicking a button, I'd do that, but only if I really had a vision or it was going out commercially and I could justify the cost.

Stupidity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723539)

Your definition of "real musician" is fundamentally flawed. Similar to "A REAL WORKER" goes to the coal mine and doesn't work in an office on computers. Just stupid. You must be american.

Random Access Memories (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45723547)

Um, the whole point of Daft Punk's latest album was that it's basically 100% analogue, real performances and sessions (and faintly-ridiculous cost), as a sort of homage, to make the kind of record that they used to sample.

You're putting words in their mouths that they'd pretty vehemently disagree with.

Music and its benefits (0)

John Allsup (987) | about 4 months ago | (#45723615)

As we move more and more to a greed and market driven life, this sort of thing will happen.  Music is of massive benefit to us all, especially the learning of an instrument and playing it with/to others.  Finding a way to make music pay is necessary, but as we have seen in many other markets, when the highest quality of carefully hand-produced things is not required, often there is a computer/technology based solution that, whilst poorer in quality, suffices for what's needed.

When composing for adverts, for example, sample libraries with phrases recorded by live players are useful.  Actually making a sampler-orchestra sound like a real one, however, is rather difficult.  You can mask the differences with non-orchestral sounds (which also leads the listeners ear to regard the whole thing as studio produced, so not to reject the sound as cheap and artificial).

But let us not forget that the value of music can't be measured in dollars or pounds.

Yes and No (1)

Eskarel (565631) | about 4 months ago | (#45723665)

Digital music isn't going to be replacing instrumental artists any time soon, quite possibly it may never be even capable of doing so. Folks like Yo Yo Ma or the various orchestras are going to be able to make a living for a long time yet.

The problem is that digital music very much is replacing and will continue to replace commercial instrumental musicians, which are the vast majority of musicians actually able to earn a living from their craft. These folks are screwed. In the long term this may mean that there are far fewer instrumental artists simply because the chances of making a living from performance have become so small that no one bothers anymore.

In 50 years it will be TV and film performers (2)

PingXao (153057) | about 4 months ago | (#45723797)

Digitized versions of actors and actresses will be substituted for the real-life things. Humphrey Bogart and Lana Turner will make huge comebacks in virtual form. And without all that pesky union BS that goes along with card carrying members of SAG. Audiences won't be able to tell the difference between virtual clones and the real thing. Eventually the fake replacements will garner perpetual fan bases of their own. First they came for the real musicians...

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