New technology has paved the path of pretty much every major genre of music created in the past 300 years. For example in the not too distant past the electric guitar has given birth to rock and roll, turntables to hip hop, drum machines to house and samplers to drum and bass. But were are the new instruments these days? It seems like all the effort and hard work is put towards creating more realistic emulations and mimicking old instruments rather than trying to create things we havent seen or heard before.
There is innovation, though, and its mostly aimed towards DAW's (digital audio workstation's). Greater integration and compatibility means that we are now able to produce complex and complete musical pieces on one screen using nothing but software. And now that we can so that I think we have to start looking at DAW's as an instrument itself and not just a piece of software. Now we should consider wether this 'instrument' is directly influencing the types of music that we're creating.
Getting too easy?
In the past someone interested in music may have picked up a guitar and over time learned how to make music from it, perhaps learning a chord a day but mastering the instrument took time and considerable effort. When you sit down at your computer and fire up your DAW, however, you can have a loop playing in seconds and complete an entire track in a day sometimes. It probably wouldn't be any good but just like with any other instrument the features available to you will inevitably influence the sounds you first create and if you let it, there is also a chance that these features will influence the types of tracks that you go on to build in the future.
To understand this a little better lets take a look at one of todays most popular DAW's; Propellerheads reason. This piece of software is completely self contained and nothing else is needed to complete an entire track. Now everyone who uses reasons tracks will have a similiar sound because they are all using the same set of tools - the same synths, the same effects and the same samplers. Even worse everyone gets the same factory sound bank.
Maybe it is the types of tools available to you that drive you towards a specific sound. For example reason gave us the dr. rex player which encourages its users to take other peoples loops and drop them into your own track. Whats more, the MIDI editing tools you'll find in reason are not as sophisticated as those provided by cubase or logic. Maybe this is why people say that propellerheads apps are too simplistic and rigidly loop based.
Live has also been accused of initiating the production of loop-based, unimaginative music. And it is true that Live is designed to work with loops and makes it easy to think in very rigid bar by bar timing terms.
But in Live and Reason (and other software that promotes creating music in a certain way), such qualities will only dominate your sound if you let them. The problem, if you see it this way, is that these DAW's have made it incredibly easy for people who otherwise would not have had the patience or skill to produce music in the past to sit down and produce a great track. Whats worse is that this software can cause laziness in people who are skilled and driven. Like the guitarist who only bothers to learn a few notes rather than master the instrument in its entirity.
So in conclusion, does the software we use dictate our sound? Obviously it can but we mustn't let it if we want music to keep progressing forward. Music making apps may be the new instruments of our time but each one has its own strengths and limitations. If you want your music to be creative and have an impact than you need to broaden your horizons: the more tools you bring in to your arsenal the greater range of production techniques you will have at your disposal.
You must make the most of what you have. Read your manual and all the info you can on your software and learn something new every day- then use it.
The more musical genres you listen to the more you can bring to your own music and the more different features you can use, the greater the variety of your musical output.
Think outside the box