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Creative Tech: Software Brings a New Way to Groove

Note: The following is part of our Creative Tech series. Creative Tech aims to educate and inform creative professionals about the ways technology can enhance their creative work experience.

A new way to create music has emerged over the last few years. Composers and producers of contemporary music have a completely different set of sounds and tools to work with. It is now commonplace for a producer to “assemble” music for a song from bits and pieces of drum loops, audio sound bytes, vocal samples and synth sounds and effects. This has completely blurred the lines between traditional composers, producers, DJs, songwriters and musicians.

One company that has embraced this newer way of creating music is Native Instruments. They have created a music production “environment” called MASCHINE STUDIO. (Pronounced: mah-shee-nah )

Maschine Hardware Pic

What It Does
MASCHINE STUDIO is a hardware/software music production system. It can import sounds via a connected computer, record beats using sounds assigned to pads and then triggering those sounds by playing the pads in time to its recorder. It can chop, slice and dice audio phrases and then use the resulting sounds as part of a new music track. It can import an audio musical phrase and then stretch or compress it in time so that it will match the tempo and groove of a new composition.

Imagine an artist taking a beautiful painting, making a copy of it and then cutting the copy up into many pieces. Then the artist reassembles those pieces into a new piece of art. He or she may have stretched some of the pieces, or crunched them up. The artist might also then paint over the resulting work of art in several places. It is essentially a piece of art made from other pieces of art. It is certainly an interesting way to work creatively.

Maschine Edit Screen 1

Maschine Edit Screen 2

Maschine Drum Synth Screen

All of this manipulation of sound can result in a music track that sounds compelling and fresh. It is also true that it can sound contrived and rather unmusical in the hands of an amateur. To be fair, the same can be said about a guitar or music keyboard.

This type of music production places an emphasis on “beat” creation and the need for actual musicianship is somewhat minimized. Why use a drummer to actually play a drum part with brains, heart and emotion throughout a track when you can program a drum part using endless numbers of drum sounds that are manipulated and recorded by MASCHINE? The answer to that question is complex. MASCHINE is a production tool that most any tech oriented person, DJ or musician can learn to use. It is this writer’s opinion that the most compelling music will always emerge from the mind of a true artist – an artist with vision, experience and “something to say”. It’s easy to lose sight of that idea when presented with a production tool that can make a pretty impressive sound like Mascine does. There is room for all types of music in the marketplace and the average consumer is not very interested in how a music track is created. There will always be an endless appetite for fresh sounds in pop music. MASCHINE empowers anyone interested with a platform to create music with a fresh twist.

The Backlash
There are many music consumers who still prefer the more organic and human sound of actual musicians playing and singing a song from start to finish. Consumers and fans who want to hear musicians who have spent thousands of hours learning to play. From symphony orchestras to angry punk or metal bands, humans are the most complex machine of all. Nothing can surpass the depth of art created by people who have the ability, intention and heart to deliver their message.

Where Does Mascine Fit?
MASCHINE and tools like it are just “cogs in the wheel” of current music production technology and style. In the hands of an artist with vision, it is capable of assisting in the creation of music that is both compelling and new. It can also easily work alongside of traditional musical skills with singers and instrumentalists. It can certainly be an element in the production of entertaining music. Give a painter with vision a new type of brush and watch them create a new type of art!

There will always be both traditionalists and pioneers in the arts. Both paths are valid and an artist who embraces both old and new ways of creating their vision is certainly capable of creating compelling music, regardless of the tools used! MASCHINE is “a new type of brush” for musical artists. As such, it offers seemingly endless sound possibilities and is a valid music production platform. It will be entertaining to hear what true artists with musical skills and vision create with it.

• Roger Adler is a freelance composer/producer/performer who has played more than 4,500 live gigs from smoky bars to the Inaugural Ball for the President of the United States. He has played on more than 1,000 TV commercials as a guitarist and even played on the soundtrack for and appeared in the movie Groundhog Day. As a composer, his clients include Comic Relief on A&E, HBO, PBS (NOVA) WTTW Chicago and many more. He has received four EMMY Nominations for his music for TV and his TV show Wild Chicago won many Emmy awards. He also co-wrote and produced the debut single by Michael Lynch from THE VOICE TV show.

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