Friday, May 2, 2008

Digital Vinyl

I think everyone has everything wrong with vinyl control.

There's the old school, which I'm a part of. We grew up using record players to play and mix (DJ) records. The paradigm made sense (since that's all there was). There's a practical set of people like me who love the idea of time-control vinyl. We get to use the interface we grew up with to control our digital music. And since it's pretty undebatable that music in digital format is easier and cheaper to distribute and sell, this makes the whole collecting-music-to-spin easier and cheaper. Score one for democracy!

I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't try and innovate in this space, but holding on to the vinyl paradigm for the newer generation of dance DJs is silly. This is so for two realities of how we can manipulate music in the digital domain. First, we have non-linear music transport (i.e. ffwd and rewind in a song at the touch of a mouse, in addition to precise cue points). Vinyl has semi non-linear music transport capabilities, but no where as precise as seeing a representation of a song on a screen.

Second, a computer can beat match pretty damn well, probably close to a human's abilities. I know that being able to beat match was the foundation of being a competent DJ for years, and it was the precision of mixing with vinyl that really let a DJ match records effectively. But because (dance) music is so accurate (i.e., locked to an unwavering tempo), it's easy for algorithms to identify a track's tempo and lock it to another one. Let the computer do the hard work.

So seriously, there's no need to look backward to the record player. Give the new school DJ tone manipulating controllers and better interfaces for adding loops and overdubs, or grabbing a sample real-time and manipulating it in pleasing ways on the fly.

That said, I still enjoy spinning records on two turntables. It's all antiquated, but I'm doing it for me :)

No comments: