Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why Musicians and Engineers Need Sound Engineering Knowledge (Part II)

We continue from with the second part of our discussion. Make sure you read the first part to ensure a thorough understanding of this all important subject matter.

THE ELECTRONIC AGE

With the acoustic age technology firmly in place to the extent that a thriving industry had been built around it for centuries came a breakthrough in electricity and electronics. Man was contemplating easier ways of doing
everything. The age of industry had set in and energy requirements were becoming more and more complicated. The music industry was no exception.

There was the need for a louder sound which had to be managed without resorting to the building of larger instruments and larger halls. Musicians were exploring new ideas in their songs which traditional acoustic instruments were not able to support. Concert halls were larger than usual and singers were still required to sing with the same clarity, strength and stability as they did in the smaller halls. Man's use of sheer human power was reaching its limit.

The electronic age brought with it the technology music needed to expand and grow. We were now looking at microphones, megaphones, radio, amplifiers, speakers, electric guitars, electric organs that needed no paddling and the like. This brought more flexibility and style.

With all this came a new global sound which has influenced the development of music today more ever. Man moved beyond the classical and baroque to more popular forms of music which could create a sound as large as the orchestra could but with electronic support.

This in turn gave birth to a globally standard recording industry as technology explored various options of producing sheet music in an audio form rather than paper form which needed a piano player, violinist, flutist or piper.

With this, those who previously did not have the chance to belong to the music industry could do so without having to spend a fortune buying equipment for a 46 piece orchestra and finding money to rent the plush, huge and large concert halls built for classical orchestra's. With a keyboard, electric guitar, an electric double-bass, a 3 piece drum-set, a few microphones, two speakers and an amplifier to match, all was set for performing good music.

THE DIGITAL AGE

We are now in what we refer to as the digital age, the age of precision. Information technology is driving everything. What we thought was a shrinking of larger gadgets and appliances from the acoustic age by the electronic age is seen as child's play when compared to what the digital age has brought with it.
Amplifiers that weighed so heavy that it took 2 or 3 people to carry in the electronic age, are the size of a CD case and are more powerful in output.

Today, it is possible to carry over 5000 samples of sounds for a keyboard in a small digital storage device which is shorter and smaller than your little finger. All you would do is plug it into the back of your keyboard and you can
play all those sounds at the touch of a button.

The digital age has brought more detail for music than we have ever known. The nature and character of a sound can be altered in micro units. This is because digital technology interprets sound signals as data in bits and bytes rather than in the normal electronic method of turning knobs fitted with predetermined values and units. What this means is that it is now possible to increase or decrease the values on a musical or sound engineering instrument in micro values which cannot be humanly precise or possible.

Digital technology in music today gives the musician the much needed space, support and opportunity to create any sound he desires the way he desires. In addition, the musician has more control over the sound he produces and how it is required to behave in a performance.

Summary

What is significant is that the basic principles of music and sound engineering used in the acoustic era are still in place without any significant change. It is the methods, the range of variety and opportunity that is different. Today you and I have the flexibility to do what we want to do with very little difficulty but with amazing results all because of digital technology.

In all this what has really changed and what has stayed the same? Music and the way it is processed have changed so much. Our songwriting and performance of music in my view is more predetermined than in the past because digital technology gives so much room to copy with ease what others have done already.

Having said these, it is important to note that the human factor which is crucial to originality is still in place. With the scope that digital technology offers the musician in the area of sound engineering, there is no need to just dream about a musical idea. It is now possible to bring it to life in a relatively quick, easy and cost efficient way with sound knowledge.

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