So Is It Time to Ditch the Instruments?

A couple months ago a band by the name of Atomic Tom played their song “Take Me Out” live on the NYC subway using just their iPhones. The video went viral and the performance seemed like a fun use of tech gadgets. But is this just a novelty?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say music performed on gadgets will become the norm at some point. Maybe not in the next decade, but what about in the next century? The next 50 years? Twenty years? We already have electronic and dance music that strays from using conventional instruments, so now all we have to do is make the jump to playing all other types of music with electronic gadgets as well.

The new Gorillaz album was composed mostly using apps on the iPad—although they are not a normal four-piece rock group with a guitar, bass, and a person behind the kit, they are certainly more mainstream than many electronic artists that don’t use “normal” instruments. I don’t see why many other artists won’t follow suit with similar production styles, if they are not starting to do so already.

So what is currently stopping people from ditching the instruments? Well, the technology is still ways away from mimicking guitars and violins to perfection. Nothing can replace the sound of a real stringed instrument, although in a couple decades, who knows how good digital modeling technology will be. It will probably be pretty darn good.

There is also the heartfelt connection one has to their instrument that digital gadgets have a hard time competing with. However, just as consumers forgot their tradition of waiting outside of stores to buy a new record, they are also probably willing to forget about conventional instruments (over time).

Moore’s law says that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit will double approximately every two years. Even if this law does not hold true forever, we experienced exponential progress in technology over the last several decades and will experience similar technological growth in the near future. Growth in technology means progress in electronic music potential. The technology will get better and slowly replace regular instrumentation, at least to some significant degree if not entirely.

More and more people will forego learning conventional instruments like the violin, piano, guitar, and bass because they can model those instruments using digital technology. With increasingly cheap recording software at the disposal of the average garage musician, most people will eventually have a band in their pocket ready-to-go and unconstrained by any sort of lack of daily practice. Maybe the moms and dads  of the future won’t be shouting at their kids to keep practicing ‘Für Elise,’ but instead their children will be learning how to sequence MIDI files and picking just the right reverb tail to make their Steinway grand piano modeler sound like its in Carnegie Hall.