Music production is often times overlooked due to the flashy nature of those who perform the song. There are far more miniscule aspects that go behind the music that is being produced today and it can even be argued that music producers play a fundamental role in comparison to the artists that perform them especially in the music scene of the 21st century. The conventional beauty of music that was recognized during the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic times are slowly fading away as we shift further into the 20th/21st Century.
This is definitely an interesting shift and it happened primarily due the advancement of technology and the ability to alter sound as we know it. Technology brought forward a whole new soundscape that was waiting to be explored and now we are too deep into the rabbit hole that music can be fully synthesized without the presence of an instrument. The ability to manipulate sound has taken over the need for physical instruments altogether rendering classical works as a unique taste for a small few. The music that has been mass marketed today is heavily influenced by the pop genre but even that is slowly shifting over time.
The main struggle for musicians in the past was composing a musical piece and composition can be seen as an arrangement of notes to create a melody/symphony. There was no such thing as post production which is what the music of today undergoes heavily. Music in the past was extremely raw and naked, stripping away the glossy unrealistic finish that is present in the sounds we hear in modern day music. There was every little room for error when it came to music in the past as there was no such thing as manipulating the sounds or cleaning up bits and pieces to make it sound crisp. Perfection was everything and range was definitely limited.
New World of Sounds
Its time to say goodbye to sound as we know it as more and more people experiment with a brand new soundscape that is humanly impossible to create with an instrument. With he ability to manipulate waveforms, music will never been the same anymore. People have complete control over every miniscule aspect of music from the rhythm, tone and frequency. Sounds can be mixed thus forming infinite possibilities. Sound mixing is often times referred to as an equation that slowly branches out much like permutations.
As we advance further into a musical age, common sounds become boring and music arrangement strays away from common patterns that involve chord progressions. Songs such as Bodak Yellow by Cardi B barely has any chords and merely comprises of 3 notes. The famous chord progression which is used in 100s of pop songs today is the I–V–vi–IV progression so for example, in the key of C major, this would be: C–G–Am–F
- –V–vi–IV : C–G–Am–F (optimistic)
- V–vi–IV–I : G–Am–F–C
- vi–IV–I–V : Am–F–C–G (pessimistic)
- IV–I–V–vi : F–C–G–Am
Music has is some ways strayed away from the realm of complexity and embraced minimal simplicity. In the past the typical song structure includes a verse, chorus, and bridge in the following arrangement: intro, verse — chorus — verse — chorus —bridge — chorus — outro but even this is slowly changing over time with more artists wanting there to be no start or end. Music production today is more about the subtle complexities that add layer and emotion to words as people see songs as a means to portray feelings when words end up failing them. Creating songs that tie into emotional connection is hard as a lot of thought is put into it from a psychological standpoint.
The use of everyday sounds is becoming more of a normality as people tend to feel and react more to these tones/melodies. This is done well by producers such as Finneas Baird O’Connell and Trent Reznor who use everyday sounds such as the whirring of a radiator to spark annoyance, lighting a match and even the sounds of an airline calling button to produce music. Production value when it comes to the new soundscape is definitely heightened due to the demand of more enriching sounds by audiophiles which is no longer a niche group anymore. More people demand for better production as a means to isolate themselves in this bubble of musical euphoria that acts as an escape.
Short and Sweet
The next generation wants things fast and also in a concise format due to the short attention span. Songs today are around 2-3 minutes long in comparison to previous hits that are around 4-5 minutes. The reason behind this is also due to commercial gains as a shorter song promotes more replays and increases monetary gain. Examples of popular songs that capitalize on this algorithm are ‘SO DONE’ (2020) by The Kid LAROI and ‘positions’ (2020) by Ariana Grande. Most albums released by modern day artists are kept short and sweet to really cater for the fast paced lifestyle.
Albums that are released also tend to have more of a storyline format that embraces a specific theme that is in some ways quite specific. Instead of being vague and abstract like the older days, music today is built on a theme or meant to resemble a certain life story. Songs today are also more emotional and realistic rather than being an outlandish portrayal of emotions like an over glorified version of love/anger. This form of rawness has a higher appeal today as people view music as a means of documenting personal life experiences and connecting on a more meaningful level rather than just living empty words uttered by the singer.
The production that goes into these albums to build the fake atmosphere that encapsulates the listener is difficult as it can only be accomplished if the musical direction is given by someone who has faced such hardships first hand. Music production in the past was a clean up job whereas now it is more of forming an attachment and being able to amplify the lyrics by resonating meaning from each word through multiple takes ensuring a level of sincerity is retained in the recordings. This level of thought has never been put into music production until the 21st century, when more people wanted more than just a common beat and overused lyrics.
There seemed to be more value placed on the quality of the song rather than the length that was able to make it out for the final cut. Less people care about the complexity as there is more thought put into ways to make the beat catchy and unforgettable. The well known template when it comes to a catchy beat production is through the use of a high hat, snare/kick and an 808. This is pretty much textbook when it comes to modern beat making and this is due to the reliability of this template. However the constant use of this template makes most beats indistinguishable.
The oversaturation due to beat similarity is negligible for many as the lyrics mean more but even then it can be a turn off for those who got into music during the older eras as the beauty in those pieces were the beat originality. The music scene used to be more diverse but now, even with the variety that is present in the production scene many still choose to fallback on existing and functioning methods rather than breaking the mould when it comes to an aggressive rhythmic change. Simplicity has definitely taken over but it may have also killed bold creativity in the process and built a tone deaf generation that may strive on minor alterations rather than revolutionary changes.
Music production today goes beyond just the commonality as more artists strive for more visual appeal to compliment their music. More artists today take into consideration the art as an extension/ introduction of the music in the album thus helping to set the tone and get listeners into the right headspace. Music videos have also become a defining feature when it comes to music and this is something that was neglected in the past. Mozart never became popular because of a music video but the same can’t be said for many mainstream artists. Appearance may in fact be a defining factor to elevate some musical careers but creativity is everything to capture a larger audience.
A lot of money is put into these video productions in the hope, it helps formulate a perfect image when the song is played on the radio. Visuals help reenact a song or in some cases insert meanings that may not be able to shine through the lyrics. It is a sort of added level or dimension when it comes to music production allowing a more immersive experience for the listeners. An artistic touch may also be implemented in a simple manner through the use of Easter eggs in songs or forming a storyline allowing for continuity in an album.
More artists are adopting a seamless integration between songs allowing the entire album to be a vague story that develops over time and the creation of a story reels in listeners to analyze and piece everything together. The storytelling approach also allows more people to be personally invested, gathering a stronger fanbase over time as more people are able to view the progression of the artist in the form of a melodic journey. Production beyond the constraints of sound has definitely allowed music to evolve and grow into other aspects allowing for more personal connections to be made with fans.
It is safe to say music in this day and age is vastly different from the past due to the introduction of high level production. Gone were the days of home made songs with questionable audio quality and generic instrumentals. In the age of experimentation more artists try to accomplish a unique style in an oversaturated industry. Music production will only go up from here but even with this level of flexibility, it is possible that music will be even more generic in the coming years due to the high demand for a specific genre that has encompassed the music industry.
Raw music always had its own unique appeal and zero production value was never directly proportional to the quality of music being produced so as long as music in its original sense is not overworked then there will always be some level of beauty. The excessive use of production on tracks often times take away from the technical nature of music which is what a niche group of people love. Music production in some cases may be seen by some as shortcut methods or cheats that take away from extremely technical musicians.
Sound manipulation still takes leaps and bounds of creativity and so long as this vast new soundscape is taken as a challenge rather than a comfort zone then it should be all good. Originality will always reign supreme and those who challenge the technical boundaries are able to break out of the common sound scope as they will always be remembered. In the new age of technology, there may be a lot more copycats but there are still artists who are aiming for the next big thing with the help of modern day production. Music production has become synonymous with the music industry and clearly the reason is justified.
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