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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Sep-15 > THE 150 BEST

THE 150 BEST

In case you hadn’t realised, it’s issue 150 of MusicTech and to celebrate we thought we’d look back at the 150 best ‘things’ that have occurred over the course of those issues. Andy Jones offers a quick history lesson, reveals that it’s your environment that counts, and unveils the 150 best tips, tech, quotes and studios of the last 12.5 years…

Great historians will tell you that what you learn from history you can apply to your present and future. Indeed, some might go as far as to say that we simply must do so – if we don’t, then how can we progress? We understand this all too well in the world of music production. MusicTech might well be a technologybased magazine with a big beady eye on future technology and music trends but, especially with the current retrohealed world of studio technology, we know only too well that you can and should learn pretty much everything from your past. So what better time to do just that than in issue 150 of the magazine?

But, fear not, this isn’t going to be one of those sentimental journeys where we look back and say that everything was much better in those days – far from it. Nor will we be laughing at the things we used to use to make music, in an ‘aren’t we so much more sophisticated now?’ type of way. Well, not that much anyway…

150 issues is a long time in publishing and a landmark that few magazines these days ever get to, but forget about any more self-congratulatory back slapping from our side, because it’s also a large chunk of time in the world of technology. The last few decades in music production have seen as big a change in music making – and indeed the way we consume the music that’s being made – as there has been in modern history. Everyone now has the possibility of having the tools at their fingertips to make great-sounding music, and more and more people are taking advantage of it to do just that (whether you believe the results are a ‘good a thing’ is another matter).

So while these technology advancements have made music production easier, there have also been significant and dramatic changes in style, fashion, opinion and philosophy over the last 12 and a half years (to use a more human timescale). Yep, there is a lot to take in!

150 issues ago, the music technology world was a very different place to the one we live in now – but also, in many ways, very similar. We were in the midst of a synthesiser revolution; all the major DAWs that we know and love today were being updated and were maturing rapidly. As a result, people were discovering that you could do pretty much everything on software. Change the odd word here and there and you could describe things in the same way today. But, actually, the big difference is down to how important the studio environment has become…

Individual, environmental…

A dozen years ago, the flow was definitely towards a computer-based set-up, with everyone and his dog thinking that software was going to be the next big thing. And it was! In the first year of MusicTech’s existence, we witnessed the arrival of the first big (successful) analogue soft synth emulations from Arturia and GForce, we saw big companies such as Steinberg launch attempts at software workstations… it all seemed to be obvious where we were going: right in there and on to our computer processors…

But it wasn’t to be that simple. Today’s producer is now much more concerned with not just the gear and software they are using, but the environment in which they are using it, too – and, get this, the hardware that they are using. Yes, our studios have become – by design, accident, desperation or need – more hardware-based. We have become more appreciative of tactile music making interfaces, and definitely more discerning when it comes to sound – so using retro-based hardware, whether original, repackaged or reproduced, to go back to the quality. Learning from history, perhaps?

So, yes, we can do it all on a laptop, but many of us focus on what is going on outside the laptop – as that particular dream didn’t pan out as expected. We’ll still use the laptop, for sure, but make it the centrepiece of an inspirational room with great interfacing for audio and, of course, human interaction; make sure the source recordings are perfect, and that the devices we are listening to the results on are as good as we can afford. And we are, thank the lord, becoming less about looking at our mixes and more about listening to them again. So, now we are in the middle of another synthesiser revolution – a hardware one – DAWS are still getting major updates (as I write, four have just received major additions), but manufacturers are thinking more about controlling them in other ways. And people are discovering that you can do everything… with hardware.

One of the most significant features we’ve run in the magazine, that brings this home, is Show Off Your Studio, where we simply get you to send in pictures of your music-making set-ups. Of course, every single one is different and every studio is brilliant in its own way (and boy, are they brilliant? Turn to p24 now!).

So the technology we have used over the last 150 issues might have ebbed and flowed between analogue and digital, hardware and software, but the room in which we house it has become simply incredible. Today’s studio must now be inspiring, comfortable and a great place to be. There is no one right way to create this – or at least no obvious way. Instead, there’s a multitude of brilliant ways, whether you choose to house your studio in a bedroom or a shipping container (yes, I mean it – turn to p25). You are creating spaces that, yes, are full of gear and well treated acoustically, but you are creating spaces to create – and we are all moving more towards an environment that’s like a great music-making space should be.

So we are going to celebrate the fact that there is no one way to achieve this by looking at, well, 150 great ways: the Best 150 tips, techniques, gear, quotes and studios that we have discovered over 150 issues of MusicTech. Prepare to learn from history…

THE 10 BEST Very Cool Things

They either looked cool, sounded cool or still are cool. Or could be used as cricket bats…

ELEKTRON SFX-6 MONOMACHINE

Elektron gear is, by the company’s own admission, sometimes a pain in the rear to use. The Monomachine was not the easiest, either, but by god it was distinctive. It sounded cool, looked cool, and would (no doubt about this whatsoever) look incredibly cool in some hipster’s loft apartment in Shoreditch. Right now. You could, if needs be, also use it as a cricket bat to play the Aussies in the Ashes at Lord’s.

ROLAND V-SYNTH XT (above)

The V-Synth keyboard was an underrated synth, mainly down to a fairly complex operating system and somewhat underwhelming polyphony when used at maximum power. But work with it and you’ll get some incredible results – and if you can get the V-Synth XT, you get all of that, a D-50 expansion, a vocal expansion and, importantly, two ruddy great big metal handles to carry it around if you don’t rack it up. How could you resist?

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About MusicTech

It’s celebration time here at MusicTech as we reveal our 150th issue! quite a milestone we’re sure you’ll agree. What an issue we’ve got to celebrate. First we’ve compiled the 150 best gear, studios, quotes and tips from the last 150 issues of MusicTech and we sit down for chats with studio legends Tony Visconti and Bob Clearmountain. We’ve also got a whole host of tutorials, reviews and a brand new feature looking at the six ways to save time when recording.
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