By Ed Melendez
Having been expose to music production incrementally over my career, I am a little less intimidated by technology than most. I am also a bit of a gadget geek, and that helps. I’ve seem how these little things can make a songwriters job easier. This is why I believe technology can be the songwriter’s best friend if used properly. Need a band you can have on call 24/7 when you get that sudden burst of creativity? Nothing works better than a 4-track or a sequencer.
Now don’t get me wrong. Electronic substitutes can never replicate actual human interaction or playing off someone else’s video or ideas. But if your only other option is to wait until your next practice, there are plenty of alternative options as long as you are not afraid to experiment.
Unfortunately there are some who run and hide from even the word “technology”. Perhaps it brings to mind images of “Sarah Connor’s Terminator” or Star Trek’s Borg. Where machines start out as our friends, then end up as our enemies out to destroy us.
But be of good cheer. Today’s technologies (for the most part) are our friend. At least for now. But pace yourself. Being on the cutting edge of technology can have it’s downsides too. I can still remember when MIDI was new. I walked into a Radio Shack in 1989 asking a sales guy for a MIDI cable. The guy looked at me like I just walked out of a time portal. He kept repeating it to me, MID-E? MID-I? Having no idea what the heck I was talking about. I had already spent a couple of years in college learning about sequencers and what MIDI was, how it worked, and more importantly, how I could take full advantage of it in my music.
With the advancements of computers and audio interfaces, older technologies are becoming more obsolete, but the theory behind many of them still stand. For you younglings, MIDI stands for: Musical Instrument Digital Interface. See, you won’t even need to google it.
We are fortunate enough to live in a time where the advancements in technology truly allow songwriters to be extremely fluid in their creativity. It allows them to call the shots. The better the tools the easier and less cumbersome the creative process becomes. You can move back and forth between a particular technology without being shackled to its electronic anchors.
Don’t let technology bog you down. I use to have tons of stuff. At least a half dozen keyboards, multiple recording units like 8-tracks and 4-tracks, etc. My tools of choice today are much simpler. They include my Korg Kronos 73 key workstation, M-Audio Fast Track Ultra interface that I have plugged into my 27″ iMac using Garageband. I am already fortunate that I have the user friendly simplicity of my iMac computer (worth the investment), but the genius’ at Apple have gone even further in creating a phenomenal tool like Garageband. You can get it free with the purchased of any Mac computer (hint, hint). It comes installed on the machine. Or your can buy it as a separate Suite from the Apple Store.
The bottom line here is, find a tool that works for you, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and experiment. Technology changes rather quickly in these times. MIDI is a great tool and it is still being utilized in new applications such as Garageband.
Don’t be afraid to use technology. It can be a very useful friend as long as you don’t let it intimidate you.