ORGANIC OR FAKE?
ORGANIC OR FAKE?
Musicians and music lovers usually fall into two groups. Those who like to hear the organic sound of real instruments played by quality highly trained slaves to their chosen instrument or voice, OR those who couldn’t give a damn how the track they’re listening to was made, so long as it makes them feel good.
Technology has helped so many talented and, sometimes, talent challenged ‘performers’ to have successful hit records in a highly competitive marketplace, that there is always a debate about the level of scandalousness that has allowed machines to take over the human element of an audio delight.
It’s a bit like breasts. Untampered natural ones can be a wonderful thing if pleasing on the eye and touch. However, to many the surgically enhanced item(s) can also be just as asthetically pleasing and, although maybe not having the feel of a pair of uninterfered originals, the overall visual experience is one that will appeal favourably to the discerning recipient. Is that clear enough? Ponder for a while……and carry on.
As most know, I am a big fan of sixties and seventies music where almost all instruments and voices were organic and natural.
Suddenly, along came technology in the shape of firstly, guitar effects, then synthesisation, followed by studio trickery including vocal autotune and finally beat and musical sequence generation. The advancement of technological breakthroughs to make it easier for the novice to produce a polished final master recording is something that now has to be accepted.
So, is it wrong for an electronically enhanced piece of music to exist?
I am guilty, your honour, of using every trick I can get hold of to enhance my productions because, although as I earlier stated, I value and love the sounds that I grew up with from a few decades back, I am a realist who knows that to compete in today’s market, with a very few exceptions, your finished master recording must be A1 smooth as silk with not a hair out of place.
For me, the beauty of a raw early Beatles disc was the simplicity of the basic band topped off with energetic and enthusiastic vocals, natural and inventive harmonies together with extremely well written songs that can sound just as good played and sung acoustically with not even a guitar amp to enhance the finished result.
However, I am just as taken with a modern processed pop masterpiece such as the type Maroon 5 produce which sound so good on the radio.
Vocal autotuning is lambasted by some but we have all been singing along to processed voices for a long time now. I was first aware of perfect pitch tuning on Shania Twain’s massive world wide hits with producer Mutt Lange’s highly autotuned backing vocals providing an important ingredient to the overall sound. My thoughts at that time were that if a top hit making ‘rock’ producer like Mutt Lange who had just produced world best sellers for Brian Adams, Def Leppard and AC/DC was using technology to enhance a great pop record, then so shall I, instantly installing all the electronic toys I could muster into my studio. Hits followed as a result.
The challenge for any music producer is how far to take it.
Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling who produced ‘Believe’ by Cher in ‘98 took autotuning to the max by setting the amount to 100% in part, but in doing so, made a record that hit the number one spot for many weeks. Now it can be quite common to hear an obviously tuned voice, many times for arty effect.
Nowadays, in the same way that many top producers do, I like to keep as much of an organic sound as possible but use the latest computer technology tecniques to push a few notes into exactly the right place or take a great vocal performance that might be a bit ‘pitchy’ and smooth out the nasty bits.
This does not mean, however, that anyone can sound good. A fair modicum of talent is needed in the first place. I can make a good singer or player sound great but I cannot make a poor performance sound good. So please, do not fool yourself that just because you can sound OK on a Karaoke system, then pop stardom is for you and the guy behind the mixing desk can make you sound as fabulous as Lady GaGa or Bruno Mars.
Before all this technology came along, I would spend hours and hours with a singer (and some very famous ones at that) perfecting a line for performance, diction and correct pitching. Now a lot of this frustrating time has been saved because, so long as you have a fairly near perfect take with a charismatic performance, the smoothing out process can be achieved in post-production.
The END RESULT is all that matters as that is what will be heard on the radio, hopefully spurring the discerning listener to become a fan.
BUT….there is still nothing better than a live, organic, original sounding performance to stir the loins.