Sunday, January 31, 2016

All this machinery making modern music...

By Tim Dolbear

Can it still be open hearted?

I am just back from the NAMM 2016 show is So California, a 4 day event filled with every Musical Instrument and Pro Audio manufacturer, all showing their newest gear for recording, performing and making music to the million or so visitors that attend.

I came back with a few thoughts to ponder, things that I have had on my mind for a while but seem to be brought to the forefront once again while at this show. I have no real answers, and I too fall into most of the traps I will bring up. Feel free to comment or reply...

Since when is it more desired to be the guy in the studio (engineer) or a "producer", than a actual musician with talent?

People collect recording gear and build home studios like car fans did back in the 60/70s; They build these awesome hot rods and mussel cars or huge 4x4 trucks, and never even drive them over 55mph or off road...

Nowadays, People collect audio plugins like Pokemon cards, and 500 series units like Tupperware. It seems to be a trap people are falling into... "If I just own this piece of gear with its magic button, I will succeed and be admired".

"Just because you have a nice kitchen, don't mean you know how to cook"- Tim Dolbear

It seems like the only people profiting from all this is Manufactures. Sure good gear is needed, but things have gotten out of hand.

Over the last 20+ years, struggling musicians that could not afford to record their music in a real studio, bought gear to record themselves. As these people realized they could not "Make it" as an musician and become a Rock Star, they decided to offer recording services with the gear they had and then bought more gear to bulk up the equipment list.

Then while learning about working in the studio, either from the forums, magazines and youtube, they learn about audio engineers who have worked on high profile albums. Some of these guys have even moved into Rock Star status.

Now...over the years, with so many people doing just this, suddenly we find everyone wanting to be a audio engineers and/or producers and be that next "Rock Star". Audio Manufactures come in and speak into our minds that if we just have this piece of gear or that plugin, we can "make it" and be the Rock Star we have always strived to be, feeding the dream, or disease.

A side affect is that with less and less people striving to be good songwriters, or good musicians, there is less and less work for these struggling studio engineers.

Paul McCartney recorded his McCartney II Album by plugging his tube mic directly into the Studer 16 track tape machine, no preamp even...  Ponder that for a minute. 

Does anyone else get the sense that making music nowadays is simply a form of  "playing a video game"? Search back to what made you want to become a musician, what gave you a desire to make music. No one cares what frame the Mona Lisa has around it, or what font a poem uses. Its about the song, not the gear. Everyone Agrees that a great song recorded badly is so much better than a bad song recorded beautifully.


  1. Man,
    I totally agree with your blog about the overwhelming shitstorm of gear and the underwhelming ingenuity using what one already has, and learning how to play proper.

    I can't hardly bother to read reviews unless a product is something I have a specific need for.
    All the new plugins and 500 series stuff, the standalone DAW boxes, it's just too much. I just don't care. At all.

    Can't take the noise.

    Well said man!

  2. I have come up through the end of tape up to present and have seen exactly what you speak of. The market wants this, so its hard to fault anyone in particular. But the truths shall always remain, no gear is going to help if the music created isn't done from the heart.

    I try to not let the noise bother me, and yet, keep an open mind of the tools which we use to create and inspire mixes with. "less judgement, more curiosity" is what I strive for, plus, it takes alot of energy to be "the old guy yelling at the clouds"! lol...*(not suggesting you are the old guy, just an example :-D ).

    I enjoyed reading your blog and want to also suggest to make things from the heart, and no piece of gear can fix something that is not right.

    The last thing I will add for those who are newer mixer's/hobbyist's etc...don't put any plugins on until you balance things with pan and fader....this will change your life I promise :-D

  3. Hi Tim,
    I happened on your Blog. I agree totally. The overuse of Plugins and digital recording has contributed greatly to the decline of the audio experience. A great performance and song can cut through the distractions of distortion, "plastic" tone, and unpleasing artifacts , but makes it more difficult. Because of this,over the years I developed audio-saving techniques to fix these and other problems and collaborated with Sonic Studio to create the Anti-Plugin Plugin called I.C.E.(In Case of Emergency). A free trial is available at Please help save the Audio! Thanks, I do concur. Billy Stull