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Published On: Mon, Jul 30th, 2018

The Rise of Modern Music Technology: The Past, Present and Future

Technology has and continues to change the way things are done and this is greatly visible in the music industry. Music has been described as the biggest influence on human feelings, mood, personality and behavior. It is not only a universal language that awakens emotions and special sensations but also a rhythm that everyone likes.

photo/ Tom Gordon

Modern music has become a predominant entertainment source from the early 1920s when radios became commercially available to families. Since then, the music industry has undergone several technological evolutions to become what it is today.

Production

With the invention of the microphone and the discovery of electromagnetic waves, music began to be enjoyed through the radio by the early 1920s. At that time, music production was based on real-time performances inside the broadcasting station. After this came, the magnetic tape recorder that was developed by the Germans during the WWII followed by the 7-inch vinyl discs that were played at 78 rpm.

Until the late 1970s and early 80s, FM radios, live mixing, record players and record labels dominated the music industry before it was overtaken by multitrack recording that came with the discovery of the digital sound. This opened the doors for recording multiple tracks at separate times and then combining and mixing them later. From the digital sound came the virtual sound which came with the popularization of the internet in the 1990s with MP3s taking over from CDs.

With current tech developments and a myriad of modern gadgets, music production has become easier and cheaper. All you need to produce music is an equipped studio plus some additional devices that you can easily get without breaking the bank. These include:

  • A computer with a good processor and enough memory like Apple MacBook Pro
  • A Digital Workstation (DAW) like Avid Pro Tools or GarageBand
  • Audio interface
  • A good microphone
  • Headphones and studio monitor speakers

This equipment is enough for a basic bedroom studio which you can upgrade to a dedicated home studio with MIDI controllers, bass traps, and a workstation and so on.

The fact is that tech has taken music away from record labels and placed into the hands of musicians themselves. You can efficiently produce music right in your basement studio, distribute them directly to your audience and promote it successfully without going through a third party.

Sound

The first music storage medium that became a standard in the music industry was Vinyl LP which was introduced back in 1948. This was an analogue medium that was used to produce analogue sound for up to twenty minutes on both sides.

Compared to the modern mediums, the sound of the vinyl is unmatched in terms of depth and authenticity since it delivers a sound that is as close to the original recording as possible. While the sound quality of the vinyl was good, it was affected by faint crackles and smoky tones.

Other disadvantages included high maintenance, bulkiness and high vulnerability to dust, scratches and warping which affected the pitch or made it unplayable.

The use of vinyl was replaced by the CD which came with the development of the digital sound in the early 1980s. The CDs were not only smaller and more convenient than the vinyl, but it also produced a clear and clean sound. They were reliable, easy to maintain, long-lasting and not highly sensitive like the vinyl. While the CD remained as the standard music storage medium for a long time, the digitization of the sound, as well as the act of compression, resulted in sound quality that has no depth.

The CD era has now been overtaken by streaming which came with the internet tech.

Streaming is highly convenient and gives you secure and fast access to any kind of music under the sun as long as you have the internet connection. It is cheap and saves a lot of space compared to both CD and vinyl. The main downside of streaming has been the poor sound quality and the absence of a tangible relationship with your music that you get from CDs and vinyl.

Learning

There is also a change in the way people learn about music. While many people still prefer the traditional in-person teacher guidance, video chat lessons are gaining popularity since they are more convenient and cheap.

All information on music is now a click away from a complete guide on MIDI controllers to DAW basics and how to mix music like a pro. Others prefer watching tutorials on YouTube that demonstrate how to play various musical instruments.

Experience

The most significant impact that tech has had on music is on the way people experience it. Traditionally, guitar pedals produced sounds such as wah-wah, fuzz, tremolo, distortion and delay but with today’s effect pedals, many sound effects are produced such that musicians can create almost any sound effect that they can dream of.

The development of online music libraries like iTunes means that you can store your music conveniently without having to deal with damaging CDs, tapes or records. Apart from this, there is also the rise of music streaming sites like Apple Music, Spotify and Audiomack whereby you subscribe and download any kind of music to your iTunes library. In this way, musicians no longer rely on albums and record purchases to distribute their music or make a profit.

The future

As tech continues to evolve, the music industry is expected to undergo many changes that beyond what you see currently. Expect technologies such as virtual reality with 360 degrees music videos which will significantly change not only the production but the way people will experience music. You should also expect artificial intelligence to be involved in songwriting and wearable tech to create new ways that musicians will perform music.

Music has come a long way and will continue to play a significant role in everyday living. As technologies continue to evolve, you should expect to see more changes in production, delivery, consumption and experience of music.

Author: Hailey Balzam

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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