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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Electronic Musicians: Use Some Acoustic Stuff!

I have a challenge for all you purely electronic musicians out there: incorporate some sort of acoustic instrumentation into your songs. Here are some ideas to get you started:

You've got a voice, and even if you don't, you probably have a friend who does. Throw in some lyrics. If you're no poet, just write some stuff that doesn't make sense. It wouldn't be the first time an artist did that.

A decent pair of bongos or some other percussion instrument only costs around fifty bucks or more. Go ahead an add some fun drumming. Record multiple takes of the same part for a cool, dense multi-layered effect.

Grab your guitar or steal a friend's
. Learn a couple of basic chords or simply learn the exact chords that you're already using and then strum along with your own music. Something as basic as strumming can be very effective. For an example, see Pink Floyd's 'Welcome to the Machine'.

If you are absolutely clumsy with real-world instruments, find a friend who can play something and record them. Recording with other folks is really fun anyway, and it could lead to fantastic collaborations in the future.

Why am I challenging you to do this? There are three interrelated reasons. One is that acoustic instruments not only sound great by themselves, they will also add real gravity to the electronic ones. Synthesizers just sound more legitimate when performing next to physical instruments, and having them mixed together makes for a profoundly rich sound pallete.

The second reason is that by being purely electronic, you are limiting yourself. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a mostly electronic musician myself, but I've still found the time to recorded banjo, guitar, bongos, random percussion, sound effects, my own voice and the voices of others. I see these as challenges. I'm always looking for ways to record real stuff in with my electronics. By getting a microphone and adding some acoustic elements, you are expanding your own potential as a musician, and that can't be a bad thing, right?

The third reason comes from the motto of the old LucasArts Audio Stooges (Michael Land, Clint Bajakian and Pete McConnel), the geniuses behind some of the best music in the game industry: "Music travels through air. If it's not going through air, there's a problem somewhere." Just as it is good to get out of the house and play sometimes, it's good to step out of the computer occasionally and just make some noise. It will enrich your life.

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