On the importance of using "hot" gear

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KBD_TRACKER
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On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by KBD_TRACKER » Thu Jan 07, 2016 10:07 am

On forums and other specialized web sites I read constantly about certain especially eligible gear, ie gear that seem required, highly desirable or at least essential to produce legitimate (to be taken "seriously") music. For example:

- Boutique gear such as the Cirklon sequencer
- Eventide effects such as the H9, H3000, space, cathedral etc.
- Strymon pedals such as Big Sky, Time line, etc.
- Red Panda stuff like the Particle, etc.
- Vintage synths like the SH101, TB303 (and its upscale clones)
- Vintage drum machines like the TR808, 909
- Elektron boxes such as Octatrack, A4, etc.
etc. etc.

I was wondering what for many posters makes these items apparently indispensable for making "good" music. Is this a matter of fashion, trendiness, social mimetism, of displaying financial status (a common characteristic of this gear is their expensive price), or is it a rational, objective, independent, truly quality-based assessment ??

How comes such specific gear has got so much importance in electronic music making ? How come web sites sections describing with text/images the studio/gear of renowned musicians/producers are so popular ??

Is this phenomenon maybe connected with the increasing uniformity and lack of "spirit" of much present music production ?

Imagine the wry, slightly droll reception, if at a musician's party somebody described his studio as primarily composed of a TR626 drum machine, an EX800 synth module, a Behringer mixer, and an Alesis Midiverb effect box .... :mrgreen:

I do wonder whether these thoughts are not just "sour apples" from somebody (ie me) who hasn't got any of this gear ... or who stubbornly and inanely refuses conformity.
Also, I realize that much of this gear eulogy is what makes the traffic/post count (and thus thankfully, contributes to the survival) of sites such as this one, GS, Muff, etc.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by Dr. Phibes » Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:38 am

I don't condone stealing.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:55 am

I've always used the instruments I use -- I don't care for trends, Internet communities, other people's opinions, you name it. The instruments I use were discarded as junk at the time I bought them, and many people believed me to be utterly stupid -- I would use these instruments even if they still weren't popular or desirable or "cool" or "hip" or whatever.

And yes, I use them because they give me the results I want to achieve, and they give me some kind of satisfaction as well.

Stephen
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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by Psy_Free » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:18 pm

I use whatever gives me the sounds I am trying to achieve within whatever context I am using them. I'm pretty sure most musicians would be of the same opinion.

Most of my vintage gear was bought when nobody wanted it, prices were cheap and it was all I could afford. I wouldn't spend anywhere near the amount of money it goes for these days.

Many of the items you list are 'desirable' to electronic musicians simply because they sound good, or help provide said musicians with the sounds they are searching for or have a workflow that aids creativitiy (e.g. Elektron gear). Other musicians will find that gear not particularly necessary in their musical creations.

There are probably plenty of people who think it absolutely necessary to have a 303 & an 808 and nothing else comes close to them soundwise. So what ? If that's what they believe then fine. If they pour scorn on people using 'crappy' gear to make their music, that's their hangup. Plenty of music that is liked by plenty of people has been made on less than state-of-the-art gear; long may that continue to be the case.

IMO there is really no such thing as 'good' music. There is only music you like, music you dislike (at the moment), and music you haven't heard yet. Music is an art form and can only really be judged subjectively by whoever is listening to it. Applying terms like 'good' and 'bad' to it is thus utterly pointless. It's also pointless to own all the gear you mention if it doesn't help you achieve your musical objectives.

Non-conformity is good. Without it we would all still be living in caves ;)
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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by Hybrid88 » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:19 pm

I'd always recommend using your ears before making any other judgements. I've found things said on the net about gear that I completely disagree with when I've tried them out myself.

Similarly there are classics that just do what they do well and have become staples, can't deny that.

But experiment, don't always go with the popular choice, your music will benefit tremendously from it. In fact if you want your music to stand out, taking the bold choice and *not* using that 808/token piece will do exactly that. ;)

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:34 pm

Psy_Free wrote: [...] Most of my vintage gear was bought when nobody wanted it, prices were cheap and it was all I could afford. I wouldn't spend anywhere near the amount of money it goes for these days. [...]
Same here!

Back in 1989, a Korg M-1 was priced around 4,000 DM, a Mini Moog was 750 DM. I was a pupil back then -- guess what I opted for.

Also, my favourite albums at that time had not been recorded using a Korg M-1 but a Mini Moog. It was an easy choice.

Stephen
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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by desmond » Thu Jan 07, 2016 1:05 pm

The only people that care about what gear you are using are other people also using gear.

People that care bout the music, or will pay you for it, couldn't give a stuff what gear you are using, only the resulting music.

I tend to find, in general (of course there are exceptions) that people more interested in gear, and who have more stuff and keep buying recent stuff, are less interested in music, and their music isn't that great, and people most interested in music do not have shedloads of up-to-date gear.

Of course, if you are trying to do a particular thing that none of the gear you have does, causing you to make a bad approximation - that's not ideal. Tools matter, to a point. But they don't matter more than the music, unless it's just a hobby playground to play with synthesisers, in which case no-one cares either.

Quit worrying, and make better music! ;)

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by meatballfulton » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:16 pm

This is hardly unique to electronic musicians. It's the same with pretty much every musical genre you can name.

Musicians who are still in their formative stages tend to look to the equipment their heroes and influences use/used. Thus the cliches that you must use a real 303, 808, Model D, 1954 Fender Stratocaster, 1959 Les Paul Standard, 1967 Marshall plexi, 1959 tweed Bassman, a Selmer MkVI tenor saxophone, a Stradivarius violin, a Gibson L5 mandolin, a Martin HD28 guitar, a Ludwig Vistalite drum kit, Neuman U67, Shure SM57, Pultec EQ, 1176 compressor, Neve console, etc., etc. ad infinitum.

Manufacturers cater to this phenomenon with signature models, "vintage reissues" (see: Roland Boutiques for a rather twisted variation of this). Other parts of the industry like the muzik comix, YouTube experts, GC, Thomanns, etc. all spread the gospel in order to make money. Even websites like this one fuel it.

The real answer is: the importance of gear is much less than the importance of good compositions and good performances. The proof is that incredible music has been made in the past without "hot" gear.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by smith toppleton » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:57 pm

This is just my opinion, but all the gear you listed sounds great, is easy/fun to use, and is relatively affordable. I think that's all there is to it. For the most part electronic musicians produce music because they love it, not because they're trying to cash in, so any trend would be because they like the sound or find it inspiring, not because it's a selling point. In fact, the EDM artists that are simply cashing in on a trend tend to use software, don't they?

I would love to stop using my Juno 106, Eventide H3000, TR-808, etc. because it's expensive to keep the stuff working and it's not always reliable, but I haven't been able to find anything that comes close to filling the niche in terms of sound quality and ease-of-use.

Edit: is also occurs to me that while going through gear you try to get your hands on as much stuff as possible and then sell off what you don't like and keep around the stuff that you do. Perhaps the gear you listed happens to be the type of equipment people hold onto throughout the years while other stuff comes and goes.
Last edited by smith toppleton on Thu Jan 07, 2016 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by micahjonhughes » Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:52 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote: Imagine the wry, slightly droll reception, if at a musician's party somebody described his studio as primarily composed of a TR626 drum machine, an EX800 synth module, a Behringer mixer, and an Alesis Midiverb effect box ....
This is really funny. In the early 90s I put out a few tracks using a TR626 and Poly800 as my main gear. My effects box was not even a Midiverb; I had something from ART.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by smith toppleton » Thu Jan 07, 2016 4:16 pm

KBD_TRACKER wrote: Imagine the wry, slightly droll reception, if at a musician's party somebody described his studio as primarily composed of a TR626 drum machine, an EX800 synth module, a Behringer mixer, and an Alesis Midiverb effect box ....

Or even worse, "just a laptop with some software."

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by meatballfulton » Thu Jan 07, 2016 6:08 pm

micahjonhughes wrote:
KBD_TRACKER wrote: Imagine the wry, slightly droll reception, if at a musician's party somebody described his studio as primarily composed of a TR626 drum machine, an EX800 synth module, a Behringer mixer, and an Alesis Midiverb effect box ....
This is really funny. In the early 90s I put out a few tracks using a TR626 and Poly800 as my main gear. My effects box was not even a Midiverb; I had something from ART.
My rig was an SQ80, SQ-R+, TR505, Korg line mixer, two Alesis Microverbs, a Yamaha SPX-50D.

That cost me about $2000 (all bought used except the SPX which was a $100 blowout). When I sold the lot in 2005 I think I got $250 for the SQ80 and maybe $150 for everything else. None of it was "hot" even in 1990 ;)
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Jan 09, 2016 1:56 am

That's just a list of instruments that are good. They're desirable because they sound good and are fun to play with, in contrast to a lot of the cheaper things which have had corners cut in terms of build quality, sound quality and UI, and that's why people like them, buy them, and talk about them on forums. I don't think anyone's saying they're essential or you wouldn't be taken seriously if you didn't use them though.

The reason I have a lot of things on that list is because I've been doing this for a while and in that time I've been able to try a lot of things out and decide what I like the best and keep that. I've tried making music all on the computer, I didn't like it. I got a modular system, I loved it. I tried various delay pedals, they all had something missing. I got an Eventide Timefactor, I loved it cause I could really make my own delays with it, it has a lot of parameters to adjust.
smith toppleton wrote:
KBD_TRACKER wrote: Imagine the wry, slightly droll reception, if at a musician's party somebody described his studio as primarily composed of a TR626 drum machine, an EX800 synth module, a <a class="vglnk" target="_blank" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi ... &x=11&y=13" rel="nofollow"><span>Behringer</span></a> mixer, and an Alesis Midiverb effect box ....
Or even worse, "just a laptop with some software."
I know quite a few musicians who just use a laptop and software, nobody looks down on them. It's not the tools you use, it's the music you make with it. The people that get looked down on are the ones that have all the expensive gear and don't even use it to make music with.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by smith toppleton » Sat Jan 09, 2016 2:18 pm

Many mixing engineers have a rack full of outboard gear even if they primarily use software to impress clients who think that the only way to get a commercial sound is through expensive equipment. Being a laptop musician is fine if that's what gets the job done, it just doesn't wow anyone.

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Re: On the importance of using "hot" gear

Post by shaft9000 » Sun Jan 10, 2016 6:10 pm

everybody starts somewhere, and times change how we view things. i started on a borrowed sy-55 & hr-16, a s**t solid-state amp and other cheap guitar stuff. analog didn't have the 'prestige' it does today in some circles, and was kicked around as being old junk by most people in the 90s. Around '97 i was obsessed with Q/uberzone and so i bought a scratchy JP-08 for $500 - i played it a few times and then it sat in a corner until I flipped it for the same $ a year later because it needed calibration - but i (and the tech that looked at it) just thought it was "too complicated and archaic" to spend the fixit money on at the time. times change/

but anyway - nice gear just means there's fewer hoops to jump through
- and the possibility that you'll be able to stop working on something sooner because it gives you what your looking for instead of fighting you.
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