News From The Woods.03


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published June 22, 1996

"Talking Technology"

Let's talk about technology. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anybody that technology is driving our industry, and at all levels. In this respect, musicians have never had it so good. New production techniques have enabled manufacturers to offer tidbits like DAT and CD recorders, Computer publishing and sequencing Software, MIDI implementation across the board, synth workstations with massive internal memory, and ENDLESS lists of digital signal processing equipment designed to manipulate sound in every conceivable way. Not to mention the advantages of surfing the Net.

A good friend who happens not to be in this industry stopped by the other day to see the studio in it's new surroundings and to just visit for an afternoon. During the course of our visitations I received the usual onslaught of phone calls, some for more than 5 minutes, and so whenever I got involved he passed the time by scanning through several of my trade magazines I have laying about. At one point when I hung up the phone and looked over to check on my guest, he was walking over to me with a MUSICIAN'S FRIEND catalog. He laid the catalog open on my desk and started pointing to several items.. "What the hell is a Strummer Interactive MIDI Guitar Chord Voicing Convertor?"... (turns page).. "or this Realtime Analyzer.. Is there any other kind of time other that real time? ".. (another page).. "and I MUST know who would ever want a Rotating Horn Speaker Simulator..???"

I guess it WOULD be as confusing to him as me looking for building materials or parts for my car engine. I take it for granted because most of the people I "talk shop" with would know what a realtime Analyzer does. But living here in the Ozarks, how does one keep up with the technology? Probably the easiest way for a musician to keep up with what's happening is courtesy of the US mail. I'm talking mail-order catalogs. Where else can you get lengthy (and juicy) descriptions of the latest gear that technology can produce? Not to mention what it's gonna' set you back.

Now I'm not telling you to buy all your stuff from mail-order. No.. not me. Well.... Sometimes I do, but it's only because there may not be a local music store that actually has a Vocal Actuated MIDI-controlled pitch-to-voltage frequency Analyzer. But I always try to keep my $$$$ locally, and if you are close enough to a savvy music store, you can get real feedback (not the audible kind) from the sales reps, and even have hands on in most cases.

Yeah, I know.... "But it's CHEAPER from the catalog !!" True, but my local music store guru at Talbert's Music will at least try to match those prices whenever I tell him what I'm looking for. He has enough connections to order that gear and let me tell you it's a lot easier to walk back into that local shop and say "Hey ! This framistan widget doesn't fit my guitar right !" and get it taken care of. Believe me, I've tried returning gear for "warranty repair" to a mail order house. It doesn't happen. They usually refer you direct to a factory warranty repair representative. Probably what my local guy has to do when I take that faulty kick trigger unit back for the third time. I think I've become a Beta test site for the company that makes my KickKAT pedal. Now they send new transducers from third party manufacturers for me to try out. I imagine we'll eventually get it straightened out .. or maybe I should just learn to lighten up on the kick a little. Too much Rn'R in the 70's, I guess.

Another way to get info of course is to subscribe to the various guitar player / drummer / keyboard / engineer / whatever magazines. If you're interested in recording there are no less than 7 monthly magazines devoted to all aspects of the industry that you can subscribe to. All totalled, I probably receive 15 to 20 pieces a month. Fortunately, the studio has always had a P.O. Box, so I can keep just my personal mail coming to my house. It keeps my postman happy.

I think all this technology with PC's is very good because it's forcing more people to read again. In the 80's I started noticing a decline in book reading. Either people didn't have the time or the patience to read, or their interests changed socially. But now the computer is forcing people to read again. And once you get used to reading and enjoying the time it takes to invest in reading, you'll start reading for pleasure. Thank God for comic books , Ian Fleming, and science fiction pulps, or I might never have become an avid reader. I hope computers teach young children the value of reading and not just looking at the pictures.

And what about the video technology? When was the last time you had Steve Vai drop by your house and show you a few hot guitar riffs? Or maybe Carmine Appice needed to tell you that rudiments ARE important to becoming a good drummer... y'see? And who could have possibly imagined 20 years ago that advancing technology would allow a regular guy without a million dollars to build a state-of-the-art digital video production facility in the heart of the Ozarks. Certainly NOT me.

And yet here I sit at my computer typing this article for NIGHTFLYING while the computer is simultaneously backing up digital data for a video project I have just completed. If my video client calls in 6 months and says that it needs updating, I just fetch the 4mm DAT cartridges and restore the entire project back to the hard drives, make the changes, run a master tape or two and then reboot the project back down to the DDS cartridges. Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Videographers, the digital revolutions IS HERE, and the transition will be less painful than the Analog-to-digital Audio Revolution. Think of it more like going from 8-track to cassette, mono to stereo, tubes to transistors and back to tubes again. Who would have thunk it !

Well, time to run again... My modem needs to talk to NIGHTFLYING's modem, I've got dinner in the microwave, caller ID is engaged, the audio DAT is patched into the house intercom system, I've got the timer set on the VCR, I heard the hot tub click on another cycle, the boat battery is on charge for tomorrow, and the Toaster is creating an animation. Time to head for the lake.

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