Electronic music making has been around for a long time. However, with the progress of technology, it’s now easier than ever before to make music all by yourself. In this article, I will look at the progress music technology has made and how it makes music making much easier.
Early Computer Music
People have been making sounds out of computers for a long time, but for most of that time they were not considered a serious musical instrument. Once we reached the late 70’s and early 80’s though, it started to become more of a possibility to use computers as a serious music making tool. This is due to the invention of high-end computer musical instruments such as the Synclavier and the Fairlight CMI. However, despite this great jump forwards for musical technology, the high price meant it was still not an option for the average musician or composer, and remained the tool of the rich musicians, studios and producers.
In 1983, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (abbreviated to MIDI) was born. This is communication standard for electronic musical instruments, allowing them to control each other using simple instructions such as note on and note off, etc. Using MIDI, it’s possible to play notes on one keyboard and have them play the sounds of another keyboard.
However, one of the major uses of MIDI was for sequencing. Using a MIDI sequencer, you can program in note patterns and then let the sequencer play the synthesizer for you. You can even program in entire pieces of music, a task which was made much easier using a MIDI-compatible computer such as the Atari ST, along with MIDI sequencing software.
PC Music Creation
Once we got well into the 1990’s, PC’s began to take over as the dominant computer standard. PC’s started to get used for sequencing, due to the progress of top quality music creation software, which started to include audio recording alongside the MIDI sequencing. This, in conjunction with the ever increasing progress of synthesizer technology, meant that creating quality music in your bedroom was becoming much more of a realistic and creatively enabling possibility. As long as you were able to afford a high-end PC, some good music software, and at least one good synthesizer, you were well on your way towards musical domination.
In recent years, the invention of software synthesizers has given birth to a whole new world of sound creation. No longer were musicians restricted to using sounds that could be produced by actual physical hardware they could fit in their room. Now, all sounds could be synthesized entirely by computer software.
At first, these software synthesizers tended to be just single, stand-alone synthesizers, intended to be played via a MIDI keyboard, for example as part of a live performance. Then came plug-in software synthesizers for music software programs such as Cubase VST, which enabled the integration of software synthesis within an overall music creation and sequencing environment.
These days, with full-blown soft synth based music creation software such as Reason, software synthesizers are combined along with a sequencer, virtual samplers, virtual effects, and a virtual mixing desk, to create the ultimate software-based music studio all inside your computer. This means that with just one piece of software (plus a MIDI keyboard to play notes) it’s now possible to create spectacular pieces of music without any other equipment at all.