In The Not-So-Distant Future (la la la)
(In this play, Randy will be crustily portraying the role of Grandpa)
Kids: “Grandpa, tell us again about the days before Auto-Tune!”
Grandpa: “Well, I know it’s hard to imagine, but there were these people called singers who could stand in front of an audience or a microphone and perform a song from beginning to end! ”
Kids: “But didn’t they use a computer to fix wrong notes?”
Grandpa: “No, they actually sang the whole song correctly!”
Kids: “But that’s not possible!”
Grandpa: “It’s not possible today, but back then singers and musicians would spend years of their lives doing this crazy thing called ‘practicing’ that allowed them to achieve this amazing feat. And lots of them could do it.”
Kid 1: “What’s practicing?
Kid 2: “What’s a musician?”
Grandpa: “Kids, back then, all a computer could really do was math and stuff; They were really expensive and slow. The only way to get music was to play an instrument with your hands! And if you wanted to hear a voice singing, you had to learn to do it yourself. In those days, the way to learn these things was to do the same thing over and over until you got it right! It took many years until you sounded good enough that anyone would want to hear it. This was called ‘practicing.’ These people literally devoted their lives to it.”
Kids: “Sounds BORING!”
Grandpa: “Today, people get bored in a few seconds unless something cool happens that makes them feel important. And even back then, some people found practicing to be boring, but the ones who really wanted to make music figured out how to enjoy it.”
Kids: “How can you enjoy something that takes a long time and is a lot of work?”
Grandpa: “It’s crazy, because now for $19.95 you can buy a pre-recorded track and tell everybody it’s yours… but back then you had to create it yourself. Then everything changed when somebody used the factory demo track in a keyboard to make a hit record. The track was just supposed to sell the keyboard…Nobody even knows who wrote it. Now people realize it’s much easier to do it that way.”
Kids: “Wow…Glad we didn’t live back then!”
Tools of the Trade
In case you think I am exaggerating, let’s listen to just a few demos of tracks you can buy to make your own record. You don’t need to know anything at all about harmony, chords, technique, feel, time, or tone.
Here, you can get dozens of pop piano parts to paste together into a song.
From the same vendor, Complete with female vocal melisma:
Or this one.
Now, I know this is nothing new, and that there are thousands of vendors, but I don’t think it would be all that farfetched to hear this conversation today.
What is the answer?
The only way I know is to try to good, sincere work. Choose to use your own skills to create something original; there are those out there who can tell the difference. Learn your craft and don’t pretend to know things that you don’t.
We all use tools, just don’t let the tools use you. (pun intended)
- How do you feel about pre-packaged musical clip-art?
- Is it worth it to learn to do it the hard way, or are we just “dinosaurs?”
- Does the audience care, or is it just a “business?”