The Rebirth of Live Instruments in Modern Music Production

06/27/2017 08:29 am ET

You can’t beat authentic acoustic instruments in music production. From thumping drum beats with varying clarity to the sound of a pick strumming guitar strings, it’s these imperfections that give music character and personality. But despite their beauty, over the last 20 years the use of live instruments has been declining.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s the music industry took a more digital route. MIDI-recorded instruments and software seemed more convenient, and coupled with the emergence of the Internet, opened doors for DIY musicians looking for their big break. By the early 2000s it seemed that the analogue approach was all but lost. However, recently, there has been a remarkable shift towards the old ways.

The Resurgence of Acoustic Music Production

Traditional genres, such as folk and country, have never really changed, but EDM and other genres, which only require virtual instruments have been a catalyst for hybrid styles. Now it’s not uncommon to hear digital instrumentation in pop and rock music. In recent years, however, this trend seems to have gone full circle. Nowadays electronic music often incorporates live instruments to create a warmer, more in-depth sound.

When comparing the charts from the last year with the charts over the last decade, the amount of acoustically produced music has increased. For example, musicians such as Bon Iver and Daniel Norgren have released home recorded albums using nothing more than a couple cheap microphones, a laptop (or tape recorder in Norgren’s case!) and an acoustic guitar. Despite this minimal approach, it was more than enough to pave the way for mainstream success.

And even artists that dominate the charts haven’t forgotten their roots. Love him or hate him, Justin Bieber is a multi-instrumentalist who, through songs such as Love Yourself, recognizes the power and authenticity that live instruments can provide. And pretty much every Ed Sheeran song ever produced has an acoustic base.

The Rise of Cloud-Based Recording

Physical recording studios have been declining. Artists simply cannot justify the costs when they have access to Pro Tools and digital alternatives. While this has been a blessing for amateur musicians all over the world, many have been forced to compromise on quality.

In the future Cloud computing will take on a major role in the recording industry. Online recording studios, such as Tunedly, are bridging the gap between the old and the new, providing a platform that utilizes the rise of digital production along with the increasing popularity of acoustic instrumentation. The site was created by Chris Erhardt and Mylene Besancon with the purpose of making live instrument recordings with professional session musicians more affordable and accessible, and to provide a central hub where musicians can connect and create via the web. Now it’s one of the most talked about tech startups in North America, gaining increasingly popularity among both established and up-and- coming artists.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with virtual instruments, they will never fully replace real guitars, drums, brass, or any acoustic instruments. No matter how advanced technology gets, the difference is, and will always be, audible. With companies like Tunedly now coming into the fold, we’re about to enter an exciting new era of home studio production. It seems things are finally changing for the better!

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