Soft Sell: New Software Makes Guitarists Obsolete


A while back we had a little discussion here on Cream about Auto-Tune, the pitch-correcting software that can make bad singers sound a little less bad and good singers sound a lot better. (Dork alert: This post might get a little technical-sounding, but in a way it's really about whether or not we care about "real" performances.) As you may have heard, there is another of this kind of software on its way, called Direct Note Access (DNA—clever), that can, according to this Wired blog post, "dissect a chord into individual notes so that the chord can be re-formed into something new." Basically, if someone plays a chord on a recording, the software can take the recording, analyze it and separate out each individual note in the chord. Neat. But hardly the revolution (or apocalypse) some people are claiming/fearing. Of course, people are already cutting and pasting on a micro scale, creating entire albums from small pieces of music. For instance, the Deerhoof album Milk Man was recorded without anyone in the band ever playing a single chord—everything was edited together digitally from individual notes. Basically the DNA process in reverse. Similarly, David Andrew Strackany aka Paleo (the guy who recorded 365 songs in a year) records long sessions and then cherry-picks certain segments and digitally stitches them together. This new software will just make this sort of thing much easier to do, since it can instantly transpose the notes of a chord into various modes. But does it matter? After all, virtual singers have been around for a while. Everyone thought that was going to change the world, maybe, but it didn't. Anyway, read the whole article if you're so inclined. It's pretty nifty software overall, but likely will only be useful to pro studio people who need to correct a small part of a performance that, for whatever reason, they are unable to get the original performer/instrument/amp. Or people who just really like doing things the hard way. Or people for whom actually playing a piece of music on an actual instrument is the hard way. Which leads me to my next question: If you play, say, a B major barre chord on a guitar, it has a certain tone and timbre taken as a whole. Depending on the type of guitar and amp, it will have a very distinctive sound—which is quite different from the sound you'd get playing each note individually. Since guitarists tend to be picky about their hair killer tone, how do the notes sound when they're separated out artificially by a computer? Because sheeit, computers have a way to go before they're very good at recognizing music.

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