You Are The Software, The "AI"
Welcome! In this episode of "Chapter 1 - An Introspection" we talk about "Through The Glass" and the accompaniment EP. This EP contains 4 separate pieces of the song but provides different textures and instrumentation.
After listening to "Eric Clapton's Unplugged Album" which contains some of his most beloved works, I remembered how much of the music we listen to today is cut and pasted, in some aspects over-produced to the point you have a vocal that isn't even human anymore. With so many plugins able to create synthetic interpretations of instrumentation, at what point do we say this has gone too far?
Watching Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer", there is a good interpretation to be made and something I could have included in the audio episode. Yes, sure we have this superhuman weapon, a power to end worlds but at what point does it become counter-productive? The power of such destructive weaponry led to some of the most devastating attacks during World War 2 and created "a destroyer of worlds".
More is sometimes not the answer. Sure, reaching the knowledge, the technical advantages are great. Having plugins that can do more than musicians have spent decades mastering is software magic, but with such power is it something we should condone? Music recording used to be linked to a musician's skill and talent. Some of the classic 80s albums were done this way. For example: "Nevermind - Nirvana", to the point music was recorded without a metronome. A great documentary to check out is "Sound City", they talk about recording this way in much more detail.
This all brings me to "Unplugged", stripping things down and only using the essentials to record your piece of music. You only get one take each time. Therefore you're cutting out the editing software, the majority of plugins. It's up to you and your recording, not your MIDI information. And this brings me back to asking what classifies you as a musician in 2023 and for me, this is a part of that. Being able to record in such a way that it's your skill that is the predominant factor. Yes there a post-editing plugins you can add, but it's very restrictive. Having a recording in such a matter, you can't cut any of the breaths out, the slight lip clicks, or the natural ambiance of the room. It's all in there. Sure if you really wanted to be anal about it, yes I could through software remove the natural reverb, etc. but then you'll get vocals sounding more like a computer, than a human. Prince said this well "I'd rather listen to my washing machine".
And this was my mindset going toward these recordings. The EP for "Through The Glass" contains 4 separate pieces. Two nylon and two steel, and with that 2 separate ways of performing. Using the guitar pick and finger-picking; finger-picking is something I have become quite fond of. Each piece was recorded in one go. Yes. That means I press record and away you go. What you get, is what you get. There was no bpm, no metronome to keep my time. It was all up to me. The result is music that's genuine, that's vulnerable. Music that no software or AI is able to generate for you. You are the software, the "advanced intelligence".
So how did I record? Well, it's all about positioning. Something I go into more detail in the video component/audio podcast available on all major platforms ;). Placement of your mics is key, and determining how many mics you'd like to use. I chose for this EP - 2 mics. A vocal and an instrumental. That's it. To get the most out of them, you have to adjust, do a few takes, listen to the recording, and see what you like and/or what's missing. Is the guitar clear, is there enough low end, etc? I personally prefer a more low-end arrangement, more body, but you may prefer more neck/mid-range to extenuate the timbre for the instrument. This is a personal choice and what your piece of music is.
There you go. I hope this gives you more insight into the process and what this EP is about. As always I'd like to encourage you to go out and try the same. Step away from the plugins and record your instrumentation. Learn the skill of recording, of being a musician. This is something we need more of, not less.