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The New Millenium - When Technology Replaced Talent

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Modern Recording StudioToday, one cannot possibly record a typical album without tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, gadgets, pedals, auto-tune and a myriad of other technologies. Mixing boards consisting of various filters, equalizers, 128 or more channels all feeding digital recorders with the same number of channels. Artists and musicians can be recording each of their respective parts individually -- often in different recording studios and even hundreds of miles apart. That is the evolution of the music that has taken place during the past quarter century.

Things were not always this complicated or complex. Many of the greatest albums of all time were recorded on 8 track boards and four track tape decks. Remember Home Made on TEAC, an album shipped with many 4-Track 4-Channel consumer tape decks? Remember when only a few mics were used to capture an orchestra, vocalist and leads for artists like Frank Sinatra? The early Rock & Roll LPs flooded the record stores during the 1970s and '80s by the millions and few utilized even a fraction of the gadgets used today. Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield was a top album for a long time and was recorded in his flat on consumer gear. There are millions of releases that confirm you don't need a fortune in equipment to make a high quality, award winning album. You need talent.

Today, we have voice-overs, auto-tune and even pre-recorded taped audio at supposedly live concerts. Is it real or is it Memorex? Do you really know what you're listening to? We have seen the artists embarrassed when the technology fails and reveals off key or even no vocals at all coming out of the systems. Talent has been replaced by technology. There is certainly a world of quality talent out there so one has to ask why so many with lesser talent are promoted by the music biz? Maybe looks and charm are more valuable than talent.

Social media is filled with commentary regarding talentless stars in today’s music. They appear in almost all genres and styles. Bluegrass isn't immune to this new trend however, it remains mostly Non-GMO and Organic as far as real music is concerned. I remember going to a festival in California years ago. The power amp blew and the band came down to the audience and played without any electronic support. They still sounded great. Technology was never their crutch. They had talent.

I have seen studios with rack after rack after rack of expensive gadgetry to Genetically Modify the Music (GMO Music). Every kind of device imaginable from equalizers, compressors, expanders, distortion of various kinds, tube gear, discrete solid state gear, integrated circuit gear, digital gear, analog gear, clipping, phasing, and more to fill the racks. Some sound studios today have more knobs, dials and switches than the cockpit of a modern airliner. Some is store bought and others home made or home brewed but, every piece is designed to make the artist sound like something they aren't. Every piece is to "enhance" the talent where it is lacking. Technology can supposedly fix that.

When we've had enough, we return to our roots. There is a lot of roots music, including bluegrass that shuns all this pseudo talent gear. The artist's desire for perfection is in producing that perfection naturally and without all the plastic. They sound just as good without all that gear as they do with it. From jamming in the hotel hallways during the IBMA World of Bluegrass event or in some far away campground, the music is the music and the talent is the talent. They are in tune, sing on pitch, in key and play all those notes rapidly in perfect time. Even the use of electric instruments is discouraged. No techie toys are required. Talent before technology reigns supreme.

Today, we put too much emphasis on the spit and polish of the music and often overlook the music itself. What is it we are trying to accomplish anyway? We are putting out a lot of plastic music that doesn't resemble the real thing. Much of today's music doesn't even resemble what is really under all the makeup. It is a faux facade of reality. Bluegrass gives us our reality and, a lot more. Real, organic, non-GMO roots music that continues to endure the test of time and technological coloration. Keep it real. You don't need rooms of equipment and fancy gadgetry to record great bluegrass albums. Even Béla Fleck recorded Grammy winning albums himself. Yes, it can be done and, more importantly, it should be done. Talent will always reign over technology.

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