Music: Theory vs. Technology
My name is Jeff or Pete Ryan depending on who you are and I.. am.. a.. gearslut. I’m guilty of scouring Gearslutz. I’m also borderline obsessed with learning more about composition, arrangement, and theory. My girlfriend will tell you that I spend too many nights up pouring over gear and techniques and, especially in the past few years, the finer details of music theory, acoustics, and recording/mixing/mastering theory.
So I started thinking: Which is more important? Theory or Technology?
Everything that I’ve learned along the way so far tells me that theory is THE most important aspect of being a producer/artist/mixer/engineer. When I had a chance to meet and see Bruce Swedien speak (Quincy Jones’ engineer and the man responsible for Michael Jackson’s Thriller) he implored the audience that music wasn’t about the gear. Bruce told us that it was the communication between the artist and the listener that was paramount.
BUT I found it humorous that later on in his presentation Mr. Swedien got a euphoric look on his face as he spoke about his custom Neumann U47′s and his collection of classic microphones that had only been made in small batches and blew all the modern outsourced mics of today out of the water.
I’ve run in to engineers with the best gear recording lackluster music, blaming their clients for poor recordings. These same guys are usually what I like to call the “button pushers” of the industry. They sit in front of their expensive consoles (which they’re still paying off very slowly) and push record. They shuffle their client in to the studio, make some small talk about their studio, and usher them in to the booth. They’ve lined up a Brauner tube microphone with the vintage Neve 1073 and a CL1B just touching a Pultec and they say “You Ready?” The performance is off, there’s no vibe, no panache, but BOY DOES IT SOUND GOOD. Those St. Ives transformers and NOS tubes just sing. They take all of this beautifully subtly distorted 24 bit 192khz sound captured through some specially built A/D/A converters that nobody but them has ever heard of (because they’re just that dope) in to their Pro Tools HD|3 system and they sum it on a vintage analog console using every piece of that $750,000 gear debt on the mix. But nobody cares… nobody listens… and the “stupid buying public” gets blamed because they can’t appreciate REAL talent.
On the other hand, the A-List guys who are so on top of their craft that they can continually produce hit after hit after great album after career artist…. they’re not using Behringer products. Ever. Although Tony Maserati was quoted as saying that he could “mix on a Mackie in a bathroom.”
Obviously both are important, but which takes the throne?
Will it continue in the future?
Will the autotuning ever subside?