Music is a universal joy that people from all ages and races can appreciate. However, with the invention of technological methods now pervasively used in the music industry, there is a bit of controversy whether it is actually an improvement or a hindrance.
Automation is a kind of technology that uses various control systems to make it work. It replaces the human effort. It is widely involved in different industries, from telephone switch systems to aircraft stabilizations. Automation not only saves labor energy and labor cost in productions, but also improves quality and accuracy of each project. As the technological revolution has grown, its application is seen widespread in many industries, including the music industry. Automation is responsible for creating a new mainstream of music, which is part of where the controversy begins. Those who enjoy the purity of unembellished music might find that these automated programs to be the source of the problem. Many may say, “is this really music?”
On this topic, one might consider the plight of the starving artist. These artists have endless passion for music but they can’t afford expensive productions. So here is an example of where automation boxes are a positive influence, as they can help artists actualize their dream performance, without having to invest in expensive productions and accompaniments. In addition, while they are enthusiastic about music, they haven’t received any professional education which means it’s not an easy process for them to do the arrangements by themselves. With automated accompaniment software, songwriters can produce an accompanied song without much knowledge of music theory. Automatic accompaniment software can translate a single note into a corresponding chord with some preset performing styles. This way, artists can choose the most suitable music genre and performing style for their melody. When using accompaniment software to create an accompaniment, they also can achieve a basic understanding of how to create an arrangement on their own. This technology offers artists access to the professional music platform, and the ability to transform their beautiful melody to a real, original accompanied musical piece. However, due to the convenience of an automated arrangement, artists may lose the passion to learn on their own. After all, if these new technologies can do everything for them, what’s the reason for them to have to make any effort to advance their knowledge? As time goes by, the creativity of music will leave them.
Now, let’s take a look into how automation works in professional music production. The famous audio processor “Auto-tune” has been used by many top hit artists such as Kanye West, who won the best album of 2008. He used the Auto-tune in almost in every vocal track. Auto tune allows singers to hit the note they normally cannot as well as pull back an off-pitch note to the right key. (Auto-tune was designed for non-innate music talents as they really need this kind of production tool to correct their pitches). After Kanye’s success from Auto-tune, it became a common hidden strategy used in professional studios.
On the other hand however, listeners are not fools. They finally found out the weird parts in voices and the similar voices between different artists were the effects that Auto-tune creates. And, it is easy to tell the difference between an artist’s live performance, and a studio recording. Overall, it is a surprising innovation in the music and recording industry if you use it where it can be really useful. When you overuse it, everything will have side effects, which is especially noticeable in country music and rap music. The side effects show the laziness from some artists who have stopped working on developing their own voice. As many of the new artists are intoxicated with this studio magic, and thus over-using it, it seems as though anyone can become a studio singer with the use of Auto-tune. This is a reason why the music industry has lower criteria for any novice singers to enter.
Music is more than technology, though technology plays an important role in today’s music trends. While innovation of automatic accompaniment and Auto-Tune may bring convenience to music industry, overuse of these automatic technologies will distort the meaning of music. Consumers and listeners also value the emotional connection in music with the musician’s background and history, and this will always prevail. It is for sure there will be more automation software launched in future, but I am guessing they will not dominate the music industry.