As digital technology continually gets more powerful, reality is becoming more and more fudgeable. For example, in the photography world, Photoshop manipulation has made it so that we never know if the image that we’re looking is real, or has been changed or enhanced.
The same can be said for music. With the impressive editing power we have at our fingertips, and the powerful pitch and time processing algorithms available, when you hear a song, it’s hard to know how much is a result of actual musicianship and how much has been digitally changed after the fact.
When you consider the amazing ability to manipulate audio in software like Celemony Melodyne and zynaptiq Pitchmap, where previously impossible tasks like correcting individual notes in a polyphonic recording or re-harmonizing audio in real time by playing chords on a MIDI controller are now easily doable, it’s pretty mind boggling.
But is it cheating? If it makes the music sound better, does it really matter how it’s been manipulated? Some would say yes. You could make the comparison between the song that’s been heavily corrected and the photo of a celebrity whose wrinkles were removed in Photoshop for a magazine cover. It’s not real, but does it matter?
I have very mixed feelings on this subject. As a producer and mixer, I don’t have a problem with correcting a vocalist’s pitch with Auto-Tune or Melodyne or some other tool of that ilk, but as an instrumentalist, I feel like I should be able to play the part right, and if I don’t initially, I’d rather play it again (at least via a punch-in) in than digitally correct it.
What do you think? Is there a danger that too much digital manipulation will cheapen the accomplishment of making music? Or does the end justify the means? It’s not an easy question to answer, but I’d love to discuss it. Post responses in the Sound Techniques section of our Forum.
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