It’s hard to think of an industry or activity that technology hasn’t changed. Even the arts, which likely don’t immediately come to mind when thinking of new tech, have forever altered their course because of tech innovation. From the phonograph to the electric guitar, technology has always driven the music recording industry.
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New tech is still changing music recording today. Here’s a look at six innovations that are shaping how people record music.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) launched in the early 80s and has since become the standard for digital music. This standard that lets musical gear connect and control sound now has a new version: MIDI 2.0. As MIDI 2.0 rolls out to more devices, it could unlock a new era of digital sound.
MIDI 2.0 features higher resolution and velocity, leading to crisper sound and more immediate, precise control. MIDI 2.0 devices can also exchange information to automatically configure to work together, providing a more seamless experience. That includes backward compatibility with MIDI 1.0 gear.
With MIDI 2.0, musicians will be able to set up digital gear faster and have more control over their sound. As new technologies emerge, this new standard could unlock new possibilities for performance and recording.
Pitch correction software like Auto-Tune isn’t necessarily new, but it’s reaching new heights. Plugin options are more varied and widely available than ever before, and their underlying technology is more advanced. Modern pitch correction software can analyze tracks in multiple ways, letting musicians match its approach to their desired outcome.
Some musicians may set this software to analyze tracks percussively to improve rhythm or adjust its beat. Others may use it to analyze and adjust the pitch of one specific channel, and others could correct multiple tracks simultaneously. This abundance of options gives recording artists more control over how they manipulate tracks.
These algorithms also come as simple plugins today. Any musician or audio engineer, regardless of experience or technical knowledge, can start using them immediately.
Robots have reshaped heavy industries like manufacturing, and they’re starting to influence the arts, too. While robots may never replace human musicians, musical cooperative robots, or cobots, are starting to appear. These bots can give musicians a willing and talented jamming partner to stand in for someone who couldn’t make it to the session.
Shimon, a robotic marimba player from the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a leading example. The bot can improvise music by listening to human partners and generating melodies and harmonies that match. Since these come from complex algorithms, they likely sound unlike anything a human musician would produce.
Collaborating with these cobots can help musicians produce new, interesting songs unlike anything previously recorded.
Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) can automate the mastering process. This is the last step in music production and involves balancing various elements so a song sounds consistent across all platforms. Mastering involves a precise ear and complex balancing, which AI is excellent at.
Traditionally, mastering can cost thousands of dollars per track for elite industry expert. AI mastering algorithms are far cheaper, as using these programs doesn’t take time away from an in-demand expert. As a result, top-notch mastering is becoming more accessible.
AI likely won’t put humans out of a job in this area, as there will still be demand for an artist’s touch. However, these quick, affordable AI options are a great opportunity for emerging talent with fewer resources.
The synthesizer is one of the most impactful music innovations in history, and new technology unlocks new possibilities. Pocket synthesizers, as their name implies, let recording artists take these versatile digital tools anywhere they go. That way, they can record rhythms and melodies no matter where they are when inspiration strikes.
Some pocket synthesizers let users record samples through built-in microphones to play with in the moment or save for later. With that function, artists could record an interesting sound they hear in their daily life then use it in a track. They no longer have to come back later with recording equipment to get the sample.
Traditionally, many instruments require fine motor skills and training to play. While that gives musicians a sense of accomplishment, it does make instruments inaccessible for people with some disabilities. Thankfully, new technologies are working past those limitations.
One such technology, Control One, turns wheelchairs into instruments using their mobility controllers. Control One uses a MIDI controller to translate joystick movements into musical notes, letting wheelchair users play music without needing to learn a new skill. This also opens instrumentation to a new audience who previously couldn’t access it.
Other accessible instruments include gloves that translate hand motions into notes or guitar attachments that help apply pressure for those with musculoskeletal disorders.
Human creativity and talent will always be at the center of music recording, but new technologies are reshaping what that process looks like. These innovations open the door for new melodies, recording techniques, and musicians, letting people reach their full musical potential. As these technologies become more common, recording as we know it could alter its course for good.