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Topic: Why is pop vocal sampling so awful?

  1. #1

    Why is pop vocal sampling so awful?

    I work retail 1 or 2 days a week. Unlike most places, we don’t have to let customers dump on us, but the horrible music is non-negotiable. Some of it is bland pop with autotuned vocals. In essence, those vocals are just a variation on sampling technology, as the sound heard by the microphones gets diced and rearranged by the computer until it plays the tune the producer wants. But whereas the sampling we use has grown enormously in the last few years, I only hear these vocal samples turned into expressionless, plasticy output.

    So are our tools better, or is it miserably hard to tune and add expression to a vocal sample, or are plastic vocals exactly what the producers want?

    Of course, if better technology arrives, it won’t ease my pain. The retail world demands horrible music, and someone will always satisfy those demands.

  2. #2

    Re: Why is pop vocal sampling so awful?

    I\'ve recently found it to be refreshing to go back to some of my favorite rock recordings from the 70\'s up through the early 90\'s and hear those little imperfections in the vocal tracks. It\'s quite shocking to look back and be reminded of the extent to which autotune (and Pro Tools tweaking in general) is used to remove all trace of humanity from a singer or a band.

  3. #3

    Re: Why is pop vocal sampling so awful?

    I agree with your comments. I\'d also like to add that this might be a symptom of pop music in general. There\'s a lot of mediocre stuff out there. We need to raise the bar collectively. We can\'t let the ease with which technology can help us make us complacent about our craft.

  4. #4

    Re: Why is pop vocal sampling so awful?

    This thread has been up for over an hour already, and yet no one has realized the larger implications? Apparently some things are first seen only by a true genius with great breadth of vision, like me.

    Sample developers, your financial worries are over. Have you learned nothing from modern music marketing? My sample library CDs don’t have ANY pictures of good-looking people on them! Here’s what you need to do. For your next library, hire a very good-looking person to perform at least one step of the process, such as pressing Enter once. If this forum accurately reflects the demographics of sample users, your models should usually be female, ideally with just enough personal problems for good gossip. Give that person top billing, and print plenty of posters. Hire all the composers and arrangers you want, but in the videos and at concerts, there will only be that one person dancing in front of the DAW. Since your largest revenue streams will come from concerts and marketing tie-ins, sample piracy will be largely irrelevant.

    I realize that in giving you this idea, I show a generosity equal to my genius. How can you thank me? My desires are few. Just send me copies of all your libraries, and a better computer or two to run them. I’ll need a lot of music education to able to use your libraries, so arrange for the music professors here in town to drop by whenever I have the time and inclination for lessons. Cash? No, please; it’s really not necessary. Though if it will make you feel bad not to give me some, PM me for direct deposit info.

  5. #5

    Re: Why is pop vocal sampling so awful?

    Our tools ARE better, and it IS a simple thing these days to retune a vocal to a track without redlining an autotuner and getting the Cher effect.

    I believe the problem you\'re describing - out of tune vocals and vocal phrases which are shoehorned into arrangements that they barely match - are the result of pop music production becoming more accessable to people with no music education. (No, I\'m not a pompous @ss who thinks anyone without a music degree should be laying bricks - apologies to any brickies out there).

    I noticed this apparent blindspot for tuning and harmony at about the same time that DJ\'ing evolved from the job of basically MC\'ing and choosing a vinyl playlist for a club, to actually mixing parts of one tune with another to create \'new music\', and later becoming involved in remixes.

    When this phenomen started the prime aim of most DJs seemed to be to match tempo between a series of LPs (some running simultaneously) and keep people glued to the dance floor. Rhythm was God, and anything else seemed barely worth consideration. For me, this prioritising of rhythm over tone was where dance music pushed the harmony train off the rails.

    Don\'t get me wrong, I think that what some of these guys do is amazing. Nowadays there are many more musician/DJs involved in production, and I\'m no conservatorium trained musician myself.

    BUT, there has been barely a month go by in the last ten years where I\'ve been listening to some dance tune on mainstream radio and haven\'t cringed at a clash in tuning or harmony. Sometimes it\'s a lead vocal, sometimes it\'s something like a major chord played against a minor harmony backing, sometimes it\'s two basses which simply aren\'t in tune. This is not \'indie\' club stuff - it\'s on pop radio at prime time.

    I know that we wouldn\'t have the wonderful harmonic pallette available to us today if it wasn\'t for the odd composer pushing the envelope, but these DJs just tossed the whole envelope away overnight and now we have a youth market breast fed on bad tuning and clangorous, clumsy approaches to harmony.

    The guy I work with spends much more time than me listening to dance music, and I can see that his \'tolerance\' for these things has become much greater than mine. I can recall at least two or three times where we\'ve written a music track for a TVC and kept an out of tune vocal, harmony, bass line or synth chord - not because we\'re too lazy to fix it, but because it sounded more \'dance\' that way. It\'s very hard to live with.

    And it\'s not just tuning and harmony. How many complaints have we heard about the use of huuuge amounts of compression in dance music? It started as a way to give mixes more punch, became THE way to make your mix \'radio friendly\', and now it\'s a \'sound\' you need to be able to get. The other day I went to turn down Basement Jaxx \'Good Luck\' because my stereo sounded like it was coning, only to find that the distortion was a fundamental part of the mix. ugh...

    Like I said, don\'t get me wrong - there\'s a whole branch of music out there which didn\'t exist a few decades ago - and it\'s matured, has plenty of sub genres, has spawned the development of a whole new set of music production software, and seems to be as likely to survive music evolution as the cockroach is likely to survive armageddon.

    I just hope more musicians continue to get involved in dance music production. That way, we\'ll get the best of both worlds.

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