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Music has become digitalised in every sense of the word. From Vinyls and tapes to CDs and now to online streaming. In the past few years though, vinyl is back on the rise. In the US for example, vinyl sales are at a 30-year high. There are many benefits to the digital consumption of music, and we wouldn’t necessarily change it if we could, but there is a craving for the soulful physical possession of records - and many who have never experienced it may never discover its beauty.

The experience seems more full. Having the obstacle of physically travelling and purchasing an awaited album, go home, hear the scratch and have the artwork in your hands certainly cannot be replaced. This isn’t the only aspect of music coming back in fashion, though. 

The physical playing of instruments seems to have made a bit of a comeback. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, electronic dance music paved the way for the synthetic use of instruments in pop music. Almost every pop and hip hop song would be created on music production software such as Ableton and FL studio. With a plethora of samples, presets and functions, composing music has never been more accessible.

Production software allows for instant playback and constant editing, collaboration can be done remotely and it is easier to share. The process become very refined and effective, and the results have meant many artists such as Modestep can only perform digitally. Since it has become the status quo though and it is all we hear on the radio, there is that craving again, to go back to less artificial means of music.

The fuller and more authentic sounds - and particularly the imperfections - of physical instruments is difficult to replace. Dance music group Disclosure is one of many who prefer playing their electronic music with physical instruments when performing live, for the audience to enjoy their live experience as more unique rather than exactly what they’ve already heard from their studio album. Grime rapper Little Simz in the UK is one example of going from electronic instruments in her production back to producing a whole album with live recorded instruments. She claims it actually allowed for a wider variety of sounds.

Where we are at currently is a fortunate time of opportunity. Artists can enjoy the fruits of both digitalisation and authenticity. One example of this is the technological advancements of physical instruments, such as custom pedalboards for guitars. The configurations of such equipment is becoming more and more complex (in a good way), meaning you can achieve a wider variety of results.

Many places like Aclam Guitars that are offering customisation are seizing this moment. It is a time of bringing boundary-pushing technology and engineering to the instruments that will never die out. Loop pedals, distortion pedals, Cajons (drum boxes) are all examples of enhancing instruments as opposed to synthetically replacing them. Whilst some of this equipment in general may not be new inventions, the technology that is being produced is impeccable and increasingly affordable.

This isn’t to disregard electronically produced music. There can be times where it is necessary to achieve certain sounds. The push-back towards authentic sound though is welcomed by many. Like in most industries, trends are cyclical. But it is important that the value of learning an instrument, particularly with children, doesn’t get trampled on by fast-food music production.


Great music: It's all about instruments
Digital Mag

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