Why Electronic Musicians are as Good as Other Musicians

Have you ever heard anyone say "electronic musicians aren't musicians"? Have you ever heard anyone say how much easier it is to make electronic music compared to other genres? I'm going to guess you most likely have. It is a common thing people say, ironically, it's often by people who could string two musical notes together. This is more than just a Wolfgang Sonny Skrillzart battle however, as you will find out.

So the first thing that must be addressed first and foremost, is probably the hardest. Every genre is stylistically different, that is, it has different requirements for what makes a quality track. Mozart for example, faced criticisms for his compositions having too many notes, whereas a minimal tech house producer could face the opposite issue. 

Likewise, the guitarists in Cannibal Corpse are almost certainly more technical than The Beatles, but their music may be debated as worse. So, this is where it is very difficult to flat out exclaim that X composers are better than Y composers. 

The above is a very complex piece of music that wows many people. As with much of the exceptionally written classical music that has lasted several hundred years of scrutiny it is truly incredible. Sure many, many of the songs electronic musicians make will be long forgotten in the same time-frame but that's not what music is for. 

Equally, while people could compete over writing the most complex riffs and guitar solos in music, it should be about one thing, the listener. 

In many cases, guitar solos are what the listener requires, but for the case of most electronic music, it's aimed at the clubs and dancers. So this is why compositions are very hard to compare. Mozarts Requiem mass may conjure up the feelings appropriate in that particular incident in his life. But trance music will equally well give you euphoric chills as the builds soar to ecstatic drops; Dubstep will arouse the satisfaction of aggressive basslines hitting harder than expected; future house will even instil a sense of groove beyond what many songs could do before it's conception.

"Its all just presets and sampling other people's work" 

Dude, that's absolutely right, we use presets, some of us exclusively, others use them and tweak them into their own new creations. Now let's look at a guitar. It's one permanent preset. Sure, you can adjust which pickup is being used, there's a tone knob, and a volume knob. But if you have that much of an issue with using someone else's sound, you'd better ensure your guitar is totally unique. Piano's are even worse, basically they're one preset with a few pedals for the note expressions. 

Mozart you foul beast, composing on presets exclusively. Same with every other classical composer (with the small exception of those who designed instruments), they all are using instruments which have been already made to a predetermined sound. 

You may be aware of how synths are versatile machines, playing from the "doots" of Darude's Sandstorm, to the growls of Noisia, to the groove laden whistle's of West Coast Rap. Some composer had to sit down and program those sounds, and then go on to write the songs. 

Producers these days don't just play with presets, they build them and then make music from them. It's the equivalent of a classical composer building new instruments for each orchestral piece (obviously with much less woodwork involved). And trust me, getting a good sound made on a synth can take years of practice and understanding of acoustics.

Now, I can totally see where sampling could be seen as stealing somebody's work, especially if you just sample the whole four minute song and say it is your own (like my song here). The thing is even when people do that, it can create a whole new masterpiece. 

Consider an artist like Amy Winehouse, outstanding voice and music. Have you ever heard her song Tears Dry on Their Own? It's a really great track of hers, well, guess what!

This 1967 track certainly didn't sample her so she must have taken from it. But the thing is, she completely recreated the piece, we listen to her music knowing the focus is on her voice, that's what her music is about. The backing track should not matter to as great a degree.

Other musicians, electronic musicians in particular, like to sample drums. Partly because few people have the capacity to record drums in their own houses, partly because we like the particular sound so much we just have to use it. 

Let's say I sample a kick drum, have I stolen that musician's music? That one single kick sound. That same sound that would be produced if any other drummer played that kick drum. The same sound, that was created, not by the drummer, but by the drum manufacturer.

Can this really be owned?

Sure if I took the full drum recording it would be sort of taking their work but single drum hits, in my opinion are never stealing music. And, if you can't afford your own drum kit (and perhaps session drummer) then you have to make do, this is how it's done.

Pretty much every genre of music is carved by the people who had to make do with so little, think about all the stories of rock bands in the past who had to jam in a crappy garage with terrible instruments and a biscuit tin for a snare. Electronic musicians are doing the same, it's just that technology favours their time more than the rock bands of the past.

Finally before I move away from sampling, I've posted this video before to demonstrate the musicianship of sampling, and how it resembles nothing of the original. This is a video on the creation of Voodoo People by the Prodigy:

Being an electronic musician also gives you full reign on music. As a guitarist and drummer in various crappy (so very crappy) high school bands, I remember having all the ideas for all the instruments and where the song was to go. You have to respect your bandmate's ideas too though. Electronic musicians play every instrument, or at least, they compose for every instrument. This brings a much better understanding of the song.

The other thing is, most electronic musicians also mix their music, something which is never a consideration for bands who record in a hired studio. The one thing mixing has done most for me is teach me how to write music. 

There is nothing worse than mixing a song which just doesn't want to mix. So, by understanding the mixing process you know that it is essential to compose songs that work well together. A song composed so that every element fits well in the mix will always sound better than one where the mixing engineer is having to carve into the effects and EQs to get clarity. 

(If you do play an instrument in a band, I highly recommend reading up on writing music that will mix together well)

So with all the rubbish about people not being musicians it sort of make me think people are a bit jealous, or at the very least, don't understand the process. Compared to all other musicians, electronic musicians are the most up to date and in touch with technology, we can use modern instruments alongside traditional ones with ease and literally pioneer sounds.

And that is why no matter how much they supposedly lack as a musician, the top musicians in the world are frequently electronic music based.