Mobile Revolution

The recording of music has always been a process associated with cutting edge technology – whether that was the first ever sound recording, the development of multi-track tape-based recording and through to the latest, computer-based digital audio workstations (DAWs) which can cram as much recording technology into ones and zeros as would have been found in many a multi-million pound ‘real’ studios only 10 or so years ago. And while there are also sorts of perfectly valid reasons why it is still desirable to make some recordings in a ’retro’ fashion using classic items of music technology’s past, there is also space for those wanting to record using the latest and greatest that the recording technology industry keeps tempting us with.

I’ve been interested in recording technology long enough to have collected a good number of ’jaw dropping’ moments – times when the capabilities of a new piece of equipment simply blow you away with their possibilities. For example, I remember seeing the first cassette-based multi-track recorder demonstrated on UK television (c. 1980 – anyone else old enough to remember Tomorrow’s World on the BBC? I was very young!), the first time I used a computer-based MIDI sequencer (around 1988 on an Atari ST), using a sequencer that could record audio as well as MIDI (for me, around 1997 with Logic on a PC but the technology was launched a little earlier than this) and the first time I was really convinced by a guitar tone generated without a real amp (1997 – the POD and I still love Line 6 products). More recently, some of my best jaw-dropping moments have come courtesy of Celemony’s Melodyne, software that seems to make audio almost as editable as MIDI data – love it or loath it, retuning of audio this transparent is amazing technology.

Without wishing to claim any ability with a crystal ball, I think we are at the start of another significant revolution in recording technology. Or rather, we are at the start of a technology revolution that is going to sweep many of those interested in recording and music making along for the ride – the mobile device. As Tim Cook (Apple’s current CEO) put it at the recent 3rd generation iPad launch, we are entering the ’post-PC’ era. The desktop or laptop computer – PC or Mac – is no longer going to be the dominant platform for everyone’s computing needs. Instead, it’s going to be the smartphone and the tablet. And as the desktop/laptop is currently at the heart of most recording studios – from the humble home studio through to the majority of the world’s most sophisticated and expensive recording environments, this post-PC era, is going to impact upon musicians and music recording. Can the tablet computer currently challenge a top-of-the-range PC or Mac running one of the more popular, equally top-of-the-range DAWs? Not yet – but it will be interesting to see what the answer to that question might be in another 5 years time…

I suspect most people reading this are here because they can already see the potential of the smartphone and tablet computer to those with a passion for music but, if you remain unconvinced, then please just search the iTunes App Store for ’music’ apps. The list that appears is staggering – and even more so when you consider that this mobile ’platform’ is only 2 or 3 years old. What’s more, these apps cover a range of different niches, from music playback devices, music recognition, instrument tuition, virtual instruments and, yes, multi-track recording.

So, if you are excited about where the world of apps is going to lead us as musicians and the potential it might offer us to make music in new ways, in new places and at times that we currently cannot, then join the club. And I’ll try, through this blog, to keep us all up to speed with where the journey is taking us.

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    Comments

    1. Agree. What’s interesting is that it’s just going to be come so seductive it will be impossible to resist. There will always be hardware but the desktop to touch device transition is clear, particularly with instruments. The developer and user, er, musician energy around synth apps, for example, is extraordinary. Last month I completed my first recording using nothing but iOS apps as instruments. I mixed it with hardware an in ProTools, but the race is on. The main thing I’d like to see is the development of instruments that are not simply emulations of existing ones, but based on the capabilities of the device – including the sensors and the fact that it’s connected to the network.

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