Real instruments being used in music again

Wednesday 12th June 2013 | jim


In more recent years dance music has become associated with very computer literate guys in their bedrooms playing around on computer programmes, drum machines and synthesisers. With the rise of the Internet and programmes such as Fruity Loops and Ableton, anyone can just download one of these an instantly start to create loops and beats and even make a music career out of it. 

When once musicians had been raised up as the typical rock star figure, now the producers and DJs of today seem more introverted and less personal people, more at home with a computer screen, than a guitar or amp. Computers have even made it easier to find samples removing the need to have an actual vocalist in lyrical songs. This is a slight exaggeration, but there has defiantly been a decline in real instruments being used in music, especially in the underground scene, which is being spearheaded by dance music at the moment.

Take for example one of the still young stars who helped define dance music today: Skream, and his bass driven dubstep music. He started producing from his bedroom at the age of 15, and although his dubstep music is a little dated today, he has still created a huge a profitable career out of using software like Fruity Loops.

But has this era of exclusively computer-generated music come to an end. The introduction of the Moog synthesiser back in the 60s led to a revolution in music and since then computer enhanced and produced music seems to have been at the forefront of the scene. But with people becoming more knowledgeable of music and how it is being produced there seems to have been a slight introduction of real instruments back into the scene.

Regardless of how incredible any rave can be, without even having to ever see who is playing the tune, there is still something special about actually seeing music being produced and created in front of your eyes. It changes the experience from one about just dancing and listening to one that involves a slightly more engaged listening.

Two groups that exemplify this move are Daft Punk and Disclosure, both of who have just released albums that have been some of the most hotly anticipated of the summer. Both groups are very different in their styles of music and experience. Daft Punk has been going since 1993 and has definitely helped define dance music today. Their more famous songs such as One More Time, or Around the World are very loop heavy and are entirely computer generated. Disclosure, comprised of brothers Guy, 21 and Howard, 19 on the other hand are relatively new having been producing for just four years, but have found huge success with songs such as Latch and White Noise which would fit perfectly well into any underground dance music set or even along side a Rhianna song in Oceana.

Both of them seem known for their computer based sound, but most recently seem to have left the computer to the side somewhat and look to create music with actual instruments.

Daft Punk’s latest album Random Access Memories including the huge single Get Lucky includes a huge number of collaborators including Nile Rogers the bassist from Chic. No longer is the music just about the computer but real instruments have been used, and in interviews with them they revealed how they wanted to include more actual instruments and actual vocalists in the production of their songs.

Most of disclosures songs already feature actual lyricists and for many of them their inclusion in a Disclosure song has led to their break through into the music scene. But, just looking at Disclosure play live now it is obvious that their music is not just about computers anymore as real instruments litter the stage for them to play and create their more electronic sounding music.

But does this mean that the age of computer generated music is over? Definitely not! The synthesiser is so influential on music today, and the computer really allows anyone to create music, so it will always be a powerful tool in breaking people into the music scene. So computer produced music isn’t ending, but at least dance music producers are beginning to experiment with actual instruments to create richer and more powerful sounds.


Written by Jim Roberts