I was taking a walk on the beach with Jane and we got to talking about making art and the impediments that people seem to meet and how they try to solve them. I said something like “Oh but Art cannot be cloned”.
Jane said “Oh but it can these days”
She explained how with digital art it is actually possible – or at least seems that way – because if she made an image in Blender and someone else did exactly the same things the results would indeed be exactly the same.
OMG!!! This is actually true. If a picture were made in Inkscape and the file was sent to someone else, both people would be showing exactly the same piece of Art. If I were to share the project file for this amazing portrait of Prince (it is purple), everyone who had this file could render this and claim to have made something exactly as world-beatingly amazing as what I done didddly done here. (one might Q if it is indeed art at this point)
The reason that this is the case is that everyone who has this file has exactly the same conditions as I did when I made this piece of art that would make Mikkle Angles cry from his manifest un-Proness.
It only took a few moments for me to realize that this is exactly the strategy that aspiring music-making people are trying to achieve, especially when they want to know what gear and settings were used to make whatever Hit song appeals to them so much they seek to clone it.
This seems logical in itself:
If I have Eddie Van’s Guitar, Amp, Pick, Underpants… it is inevitable that I will write “Jump”, “Panama” and an album called “1984” that becomes one of the greatest records ever.
The serious problem here is that I am lacking Eddie’s brain (can fix that if I Google where he is lazing about today). I am lacking Diamond Dave, altho if I have his spandex I’m sure I will be him. I am also missing the ignored Van Halen, not to mention all the effectively infinite variables that became the “1984” album. Ted Templeman, the record execs, Alex’s girlfriend’s insistence on watching aerobics vids at 5:15 AM, the temperature of the coffee at the diner up the road… All of these things define what became “1984”. Changing any of those elements would change the record. How, or how much, we will never know as we don’t have access to quantum sliding doors. But that the record would be different is established.
Yet every day I still read person after person asking how to get some exact sound on the assumption that if they get the right plugin and right settings they will be able to morph themselves into David Guetta or whoever is da bomb in the scene these days.
That’s head-on, nothing else I swear
If I posted this project file I made everyone could be delivering this exact piece perfectly. Assuming they have Reason and the (sorta) free OTT plugin (I used to prove how cool I is).
For those who don’t have Reason, I could post more detailed screens to let them see more up-close as to how I made this super-pro piece that will win 345 Grammys and 45 Trillion plays on Spotifry.
The problem now is that things are not the same. As a result, everything that everyone does is chasing the impossible. Sure, some Technical Terrie may get in a bee’s whisker of what I did. But is that useful seeing I am the King of this Tune?
What if I lay out another layer of difficulty and this uber-pro track is sent to you missing the vocal?
You are free to add your own vocal. Even if you have the Reason Project File, the moment that you swap your vocal for mine, nothing about that mix is the same.
You can pretend it is is but the interaction of the vocal to everything else in the mix is changed. Swapping your vocal track for mine and using my ‘vocal chain‘ (shudders) will not make your vocal into mine. Matter of fact the settings that helped my voice to shine might make your voice un-shine. Song dies from death by a lack of a thousand plays.
This strategy is completely flawed.
Unless of course you are trying to fail and want an excuse.
This approach is flawed but people keep trying it. They either haven’t realized it or are doing this for some other reason. That is sad either way.
Turn Your Love Around
Art is made from the side. I say this a lot and know that it can be tricky to understand but if you can get that “1984” wouldn’t be the same record if something were different in the lead-up to its release (and rise on radio and in shops), then you are set to understand that the head-on approach of trying to clone some or all of someone else’s record can only fail.
Let’s Get Physical: If I were to receive a track that was exactly the same as the “official” version except the vocal got changed, I would be sure to start again. Ideally, I would delete all the work done and go right back to raw everything and start a whole new mix as Aretha Franklin singing “Jump” is not the same thing at all as David Lee Roth. While the record exes may be afraid and want me to leave everything alone except for Aretha’s part, a whole new mix is the best artistic decision as it takes everything that is Aretha into account in the overall result. Otherwise, if the execs are as fearful as execs often are I would at least be ensuring that Dave’s vocals and any related decisions were muted (if not deleted lest they become a crutch via constant comparison) and start again with what I have. This is now an Aretha song and needs to feel as such or it will fail – and gets tons of terrible press.
Over time I realized: No matter how long I know someone who talks about gear being the solution to their musical woes, nothing changes. Often these people don’t even finish, let alone show, any work. It is like they become stuck in un-sweet honey. Or maybe the honey they were lured into seems sweet to them so they don’t want to leave it. Meanwhile, they become less and less happy as their creative output sours.
I get that “fear is after all the mind-killer”. I learned that from Dune and was reminded by Fear Factory.
The point I am making here is that if you think that you can only do your music when you have a) the right instruments and b) the right techniques, the problem will be that you a) will probably not make any music at all, b) will not commit to anything that you do do as you try to make your output be something/someone else. This means that your song never really gets delivered.
The right mindset approach is to love what you love but know it is not you. I can love Iron Maiden & Judas Priest, along with George Benson & Gary Numan without it being a literal driver of what I do when working on my own music. This lets my music be unique. This lets me solve each unique situation as I have it right there in front of me. I might read about how during the collab between George & Gary a situation arose and was solved x-wise (and it might even be useful to know) but that does not mean that I can solve the balance between my guitar and synth the same way, let alone the same way every time.
Art is not duplicable. This is an integral part of what makes Art powerful. Sometimes powerful art takes a while to be understood but that is not ever a marker of whether it is good or not. To be good it has to be unique.
Have courage and make your own decisions. Cloning = fail so seeing you can do something different you at least have a chance of catching the attention of a few people who dig wot u done.
In case you wondered what that piece above was (seeing that initially, this was to be a vlog not a blog):