Are Musical Instruments Becoming Obsolete?

by 54 comments
In researching musical instruments, I come across a recurring theme: Synthesizers now produce sounds that are indistinguishable from the original instruments. Are musical instruments no longer necessary, apart from the synthesizer that can deliver the sounds of the original instruments? For me, the question kind of answers itself.

The original musical instrument being electronically mimicked had to exist in the first place and its sounds extensively sampled, therefore possesses desirable qualities in and of itself. And you don't need electrical outlets to play a saxophone, guitar, or fiddle.

However, I keep coming across assertions that most musical instruments are passť and unnecessary to produce the sounds you want. Are musical instruments becoming obsolete?
#off topic
  • Profile picture of the author Horny Devil
    Originally Posted by thunderbird View Post


    Are musical instruments becoming obsolete?

    I dunno, but the wife still throws in a good one now and then. They say there's many a good tune played on an old fiddle.
  • Profile picture of the author Ephrils
    I see a lot of concerts these days because of my work and I spent the past 2 years seeing my favorite artist on tour whenever I could. Plus there are rich music scenes in New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. I think we're safe from electronic instruments right now
  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    Synthesizers have been around a LONG time! Piano types have ALSO! For DECADES you could buy a tiny little $100-$200 synth and STILL the HUGE EXPENSIVE pianos STILL exist and are STILL sold. HECK, English is spoken by MANY on the planet, and europe, UK, australia, new zealand, US ARE big markets. Other languages STILL exist, and translators STILL get business.

    Humans are funny! HEY, I could REALLY go out there and show you how people are trying to $%^&*() BUT....

    Steve
  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    That IS another thing! Musicians have been playing with the little qualities of instruments like using a part of the instrument for percussion, and resonance, etc... And YEAH, I have NEVER heard of a way to notate it. Until they can notate it, a synthesizer won't be sold that can do it. BTW they have probably thought about this for thousands of years. They can map octaves, notes, and timing, ad that is really it. For instruments, pace, tweaks, etc... they resort to writing notes, etc... And even THAT couldn't replicate that classical gas piece.

    Steve
    • Profile picture of the author ThomM
      And then there's this.
    • Profile picture of the author Steven Wagenheim
      Originally Posted by seasoned View Post

      That IS another thing! Musicians have been playing with the little qualities of instruments like using a part of the instrument for percussion, and resonance, etc... And YEAH, I have NEVER heard of a way to notate it. Until they can notate it, a synthesizer won't be sold that can do it. BTW they have probably thought about this for thousands of years. They can map octaves, notes, and timing, ad that is really it. For instruments, pace, tweaks, etc... they resort to writing notes, etc... And even THAT couldn't replicate that classical gas piece.

      Steve
      Steve, I am a musician and a composer going on 35 years of my 55 years on
      this planet and I have no idea what you're talking about. In English please?

      Aside from that, I could go into a big long spiel on how synthetic sound is
      created (not that anybody would care) but ultimately, in general, yes, a
      synthesizer CAN duplicate a piece of music note for note and have it sound
      almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

      The key word is ALMOST. To the very trained ear, they can tell that the flute
      attack on the runs is a little unnatural or the up bow on the violin isn't crisp
      enough.

      But to your average Joe on the street, trust me, if I played them two pieces,
      one by an orchestra and another by a synthesizer or program, they could NOT
      tell the difference.

      In fact, here is the program that I use to produce my classical recordings.

      Listen to this. It's downright scary.

  • Profile picture of the author SandraLarkin
    Absolutely not. You can't synthesize a raw guitar performance ever.
    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by thunderbird View Post

      I Are musical instruments becoming obsolete?
      I hope not, I dusted off my old guitar and started monkeying around again a few months ago.

      Originally Posted by Brandon Tanner View Post

      I'd like to see someone try to play something like this on a synthesizer!

      Tommy Emmanuel - Classical Gas (by Mason Williams) - YouTube
      Whoa! That was awesome. The best version of Classical Gas I've ever seen or heard. Thanks, Brandon.

      A synthesizer can imitate sounds, but can it imitate the love, the pain, the loneliness, the joy and so forth that pours through a musician into his instrument? I think not. Therefore, musical instruments will remain.
  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    Obsolete? So much for loving to toot your own horn.

    I'm thinking the same as everyone else - won't happen. Humans have the need for creativity and self expression, and electronics just won't cut it as a complete replacement.
  • Profile picture of the author TTGSteve
    No.

    /thread
    • Profile picture of the author MissTerraK
      Not as long as people are passionate about the instrument they play.

      Personally, watching hubby play his heart out on his drums, pouring his very soul, the very essence of his being and releasing the emotion he is feeling at the time into that playing is very endearing and draws us closer. He's not quite the talker that I am and he expresses his feelings through his drums and I get it.

      I'm quite confidant that watching him play a synthesizer wouldn't do the same, not to mention how many of them we would have to replace because his playing broke them. That could get quite costly.

      Terra
  • Profile picture of the author mojojuju
    In answering this question, it's important to realize that synthesizers ARE musical instruments.
    • Profile picture of the author ThomM
      Originally Posted by mojojuju View Post

      In answering this question, it's important to realize that synthesizers ARE musical instruments.
      Yep, just ask Kieth Emerson.
      Terra and Steve,
      Just like you have acoustic and electric guitars, you also have acoustic and electric drums.
      The vast majority of drummers prefer acoustic drums, but I've seen many that play a hybrid kit (Carl Plamer for one). Then you have drum triggers which can be used to alter the sound of an acoustic drum or to level the volume of the drums. Drum triggers first came into prominence in the early 90's with some heavy metal drummers. They allowed the drummer to hit the drums lighter and still get the same sound (but enhanced) as you would if you hit the drum hard. Mostly they where used on bass drums. Much of that "phat" bass drum sound you hear in heavy metal is because of triggers.
      As far as this goes "Synthesizers now produce sounds that are indistinguishable from the original instruments" and drums maybe they are for an untrained "drummers" ear, but with all the variances in acoustic drums they simply can't reproduce the actual sound of drums.
      For example the material and thickness of a drums shell will play a part in the sound of that drum. You can have four drums of identical size, made from Maple, Birch, African Mahogany, or a composite, that may sound the same to an untrained ear but will sound significantly different to a drummer. Maple will give you boosted lows with even mids and highs while Birch will give you boosted highs with slightly reduced mids and lows. Mahogany gives you extremely rich low end frequencies, with beautifully smooth mids and a slight roll-off in the higher frequencies.
      Composite shells try to balance the frequencies or depending on the material enhance one over the other two.
      Shell thickness also plays a role. A 5 ply shell will vibrate more then an 8 ply shell will giving you more over tones that you may not want.
      Then you have all the different head types. I recently went from Remo Weather King Ambassadors (on all drums) to Evans G2 Level 360 tom heads, Evans G2 Power center reverse dot snare head, and Evans Emad II Bass batter head with an Evans EQ3 front head. The sound of the drums changed significantly.
      I won't get into the tuning, but suffice it to say there are so many variables with drums that it would be nearly impossible for a synthesizer to duplicate the differences just in the way a kit may be set up.
  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    I believe they are. And Google is somehow behind it all.
  • Profile picture of the author Michael Ten
    As long as humans are human, musical instruments will never become obsolete. If you make music with an electronic synthesizer or computer, then that device is the instrument.
    • Profile picture of the author LeeLee
      Originally Posted by Michael Ten View Post

      As long as humans are human, musical instruments will never become obsolete. If you make music with an electronic synthesizer or computer, then that device is the instrument.
      Makes me think of Mr. Data on STNG. He was an accomplished musician and composer but he was always looking for the soul of the music. He was technically flawless but felt something was missing.
  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    Ever play a great Hammond B3 through a screaming Leslie speaker in a wood-floor studio?

    Korg, Roland, and Yamaha are still trying...

    As are all the VI plugin developers...

    But don't get me wrong, I LOVE amp modeling and digital drum sets that trigger samples, etc.

    Music and technology go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

    Brian
  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    The great thing about art is that it supersedes the medium.

    Artists express and create. Sometimes it's with wire and wood.

    Sometimes it's with oscillators and waveforms in a DAW.

    For every Earl Klugh there's a Trent Reznor. For every Radiohead there's a Monte Montgomery (look him up on youtube, geetar pickers!)

    It's all art.
    • Profile picture of the author MissTerraK
      That is true Brian but let's not just include the musician's art in the mix. Add a writer's art in and Wow!

      Some of the best times hubby and I have is when he's playing from his heart, his soul. Not anything previously composed, but just on the fly, interpretive, if you will and then I'll write the emotions I feel from his playing.

      Sometimes, we'll do it in reverse and I'll write letting my feelings and emotions flow from inside to being penned on paper. He'll then take it and play the music for it.

      It's fun and creative and yet another way of connecting with one another. After almost 30 years of marriage, you have to find new and fun ways to connect, lol!

      But, it's not just for couples either. If you get a group of like minded guys or ladies together or even a mix of both, the raw emotion and connection on that topic and level becomes extremely powerful.

      Wait! I'm sure that's how all of the greatest bands and musical groups have done it for years, right? Haha!

      Terra
    • Profile picture of the author thunderbird
      Originally Posted by BrianMcLeod View Post

      The great thing about art is that it supersedes the medium.

      Artists express and create. Sometimes it's with wire and wood.

      Sometimes it's with oscillators and waveforms in a DAW.

      For every Earl Klugh there's a Trent Reznor. For every Radiohead there's a Monte Montgomery (look him up on youtube, geetar pickers!)

      It's all art.
      I've witnessed this in my own experience. There's a vision that precedes the medium (or even the language).
    • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
      Originally Posted by BrianMcLeod View Post

      For every Radiohead there's a Monte Montgomery (look him up on youtube, geetar pickers!)
      No need, I've got a couple CD of him.

      The truth is, there's room for everyone and a place for everyone. Nothing is going away or becoming obsolete.
  • Profile picture of the author socialentry
    The advent of NASCAR did not render horse racing obsolete.
  • Profile picture of the author Rmipro
    I think as long as people enjoy live music and shows, they will not be obsolete any time soon. When people stop paying...they'll stop producing.

    Synthesizers do have their place in convenience...but in a studio OR live atmosphere absolutely nothing can replace the sound of a REAL instrument.

    Anyone with an ear can tell the difference, but most people can't. So I'm not sure if it matters that much anymore.

    In alot of songs (especially in the R&B genre) live instruments used to be the norm. Now, it's what you do if you want to be different. Funny.

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