R/E/P > Brad Blackwood

Is G.A.S. destroying modern records?

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I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, and after having some interesting discussions with friends, I've come to wonder if Gear Acquisition Syndrome is destroying modern recordings.

Ponder it for a bit then tell us what you think - I'll weigh on it more later...

Jerry Tubb:
Well it's sure destroyed a few trust funds along the way... but seriously folks...

I suppose shortly after the first reverb was invented, the tendency was to overuse it on everything.

With all the zillions of current recording & processing gadgets available, a neophyte engineer (who's just blown his trust fund), might indulge in the tendency to spend more time focusing on the equipment than the actual music itself, accomplishing nothing in the process.

He'd be better off with a couple of basic tape machines, a console, a few good mics, a decent room and little else, other than a good band to record.

However G.A.S. has been good to me this year, we've picked up numerous choice pieces to get up with current trends.

...gee, now I sound like an addict in denial : - )

Good topic Brad.


Well, I notice that when I'm playing with significantly new toys my ability is quite impaired... if it's a completely unfamiliar thing, anyway. Types of new toy that are similar to things I've long worked with aren't a problem (I just coded some chebyshev harmonic enhancers which were easy, but that's because I've played with stuff like that many times before) but strange new things are a learning curve.

And you wind up exploring the new things, and NOT the point of the music- which is a very serious drawback.

I'm trying to get a toolset that is good and comprehensive but boring... so there aren't any surprises about what's possible. Some would find this strange I just feel that if I have to respond musically to work coming in- all the more now that I'm actually getting some real gigs- I want to not be distracted by sound as sound. I want it to be about the meaning of the sound, the purpose. Having the tools boring helps.

Barry Hufker:
As no one thing is enhancing modern records, no one thing is destroying them.  Life is too broad for that.

I believe it always comes down to a matter of "taste".  Not the kind of taste where one person says this is good and the other says no it's not.  The kind of taste a mature person has.  "Mature" here means "someone with a lot of artistic experience and a well-developed aesthetic".  Some people are born with it and just need to develop it.  Others, like me, have had to acquire it and work to keep it.  Some never will have it.

This kind of taste is highly discriminatory and yet all-encompassing.  The person with this quality knows exactly what they want to hear and how to get it.  He/she is open to all ideas but is very selective in their choice.  And when they do make their choice, it's the exact right thing for the project.  It may not be the thing you choose.  And your choice may be just as good.  But this person's choice is right on the money for the style he/she is working in.

It's not the gadgets that are killing modern records.  In fact, gadget buying is keeping the audio industry alive.  If it weren't for all the peripheral musicians/engineers/producers/wanna-bes, there wouldn't be any gear.  No store, no manufacturer can stay in business any longer by just selling to "the pros."

If equipment is the "colors" of sound, then how can one have too many colors?  The trick is in knowing when to use certain colors and how much.  I suppose music is in its "red period" where everything has to be extremely compressed and loud.  But what art movement hasn't had its followers and detracters?  Eventually people will tire of red and then we'll move on.

The talented and innovative always take us to the next idea, whether it is a new one or the revival of an old one.  The only thing destroying modern records is "poor artistic judgment" -- at one level or all levels.  That poor artistic judgment comes from an underdeveloped sense of aesthetics -- which equals "bad taste".  Improve a person's aesthetic sense and you'll improve modern recordings one person at a time.


MASSIVE Mastering:
G.A.S. is only as dangerous as the person who has G.A.S.  

Seriously though - On a personal level, if someone knows what they're looking for, I don't think it's a bad thing - The potential for great recordings is still there for sure.  As are the tools and the quality.  

But when G.A.S. gets out of control (which it certainly does) it makes me appreciate "simple" recordings more - A jazz trio, a live recording with great musicians - Recordings that are just done with great gear and "allowed to happen" (for lack of a better term).  I still record straight to two-track here and there and I generally enjoy listening to some of those recordings more than the artist's studio recordings in many cases.  

(Epiphany occuring as to may have pushed me into mastering as I type)

Back in the "good ol' days" (when I was a tracking & mixing guy) I was very much into trying to capture the performance and then mix it.  When the place I was working at went digital (tape) it was pretty much the same.  When it went to hard disk - That was where I started going nuts...  I could edit a horrible performance into something totally usable - and I hated it.  It ate at me as a musician.  Over time (after the owner wanted to get a basic mastering setup) I wound up assisting and engineering during tracking, another engineer would mix, I would master ("half-aster" we called it at the time).  

The further things went, the more freaky things got - The same engineer that I worked with at JEM is still a good friend and client now.  We talk all the time about this and that.  I can't even imagine where he gets the patience he has...  Now, you can take a poor performance on poor sounding gear and completely rewrite it - He changes crappy sounding drums with Drumagog (he also came up with the "Rock Drums" drum samples collection in the process).  He can reamp a crappy guitar tone and get something usable with a Pod or one of several amps at his studio.  He can tweak an out-of-tune and off-time vocalist into near perfection.    

I don't have that kind of patience...  I expect more from the band than that.  

So - Has G.A.S. destroyed recordings...  I don't really think so.  But I *do* think that it's made recordings that wouldn't have ever been recorded & released a reality.  I think it's "dumbed down" the talent.  It's taken recordings from "let it happen" to "make it perfect" - I'm slightly guilty myself - I was hired to record & mix a band a several years ago that flew in for only several days from NY.  They were pretty good.  Pretty good.  The vocalist wasn't "feeling it" for a few tunes, so I pulled a "Cher" on him and ran him through a pitch corrector with extreme settings.  Everybody loved it.  It sounded "modern" and yada, yada.  

I felt dirty...  

I hope I didn't go too far off-topic here...  


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