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Keyboard synthesizers - are they messengers of the anti-Christ?

A post by David Mellor
Sunday May 08, 2005
Did the Yamaha DX7 FM synthesizer really kill music? Are modern musicians the walking undead? A keyboard player comments...
Keyboard synthesizers - are they messengers of the anti-Christ?

Hi there,

I came across your article called, "What's Wrong With This Picture," (found here http://www.audiomasterclass.com/learn.cfm?a=2439) and was compelled to reply, as you welcomed people to do at the end of the article. =)

While I definitely see your point in synthesizers being some sort of anti-Christ to the "true" music industry, I think you may have overlooked the point of synthesizers themselves.

In another article on the same website, it talks about keyboards replacing real-life orchestras. Things like this are most definitely NOT the true goal of synthesizers and REAL musicians who utilize today's top technology. It is very true that non-musicians can create"music" at the touch of a button, but what they create issub-standard, repetetive, simplistic loops, not full-fledged songswith thematic development, any semblance of harmonic depth, andeverything else that makes good music what it is. They get a drum beatand some synth patterns over it...hardly music to the ears of anytrained musician.

There is a fair bit of "questionable" technology in synthesizers today...acoustic instrument emulations and sequencing software being the most notable. As far as acoustic instrument emulation goes, such as with the DX7 replacing orchestras...the argument is quite weak. The DX7 is a 20-year-old keyboard, and even today, the most complex computer programs designed to emulate orchestras are still struggling for true realism. Replacing orchestras was definitely not the intention of those who made the synth, nor most of those who use synths. A more accurate look into the intentions of a synthesist/keyboardist is that the ability to sound like an orchestra gives them an advantage in composition...now an orchestra can be heard instead of a piano playing music intended for an orchestra. Now the musician can utilize a keyboard patch for amatuer recordings instead of hiring an expensive string group to play for him. It may keep some money from the string group, but it saves a lot for the lone musiciancomposing his music. Who do we give preference to?

This is true for all instrument emulations...orchestras, acoustic guitars, you name it. When everything is said and done, experienced synthesists know that above all, nothing replaces the real thing. Jordan Rudess, recognized by some as the premier modern prog-rock keyboardist and synthesist, has a forum on his website which I frequently check in at, and the consensus among knowledgable, experienced keyboardists is that emulations are great, but the novelty and realism of a real acoustic instrument can never be replaced.Imitations are fun, but they are not the real thing.

Synthesizers offer sounds that no other instrument can come close to achieving, and can add an atmosphere to music that nothing else offers...but this is assuming that they are used "correctly." They are not meant to replace other musicians, but to offer variousalternatives ON TOP OF the sounds that are unique to synthesizers.

If one instrument emulating another bothers you, then you ought to hold nearly every instrument created in contempt, as most (if not all) were invented to mimic the human voice to one extent or another. The organ? It replaced choirs and allowed a single musician to take the place of a large group of singers...if someone wanted it to. Same with synthesizers...it can replace (although innacurately) a string quartet...if somebody wants it to. So can the mellotron, a classic keyboard instrument that utilized tape-recorded choir or string samples. I guess we should write them off too. Wah-pedals for guitarists are evil as well, since the midrange filter sweep is meantto mimic human vowel sounds.

Maybe synthesizers are not the enemy...maybe they are an addition to the plethora of available sounds in music that should be welcomed just like any other, but not abused with intentions of replacing other instruments. But then again, maybe I'm just biased as a keyboardist myself. :p

I think that the problem is not synthesizers, it's uneducated, self-centered biggots who misuse them and give them a bad reputation. Without the technology of the various forms of synthesis (analog, FM, HI, ect.), music would not be nearly the same, and we would be missing a significant amount of quality music created by these instruments.

Just my $0.02

=)

--
-Ryan

A post by David Mellor
Sunday May 08, 2005 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)
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