JUMPING DARKNESS PARADE WITH EYAL LEVI: IS GUITAR PRO RUINING MUSIC?
Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a band contacted me about wanting to have an album produced and mixed over here at Audiohammer Studios. They were already pretty big. This next record was to be their huge breakthrough. Everyone had the highest of hopes and dreams for it. The time was booked, down payments were made, and pre-pro began. Then one day, about four months later we sat down to start laying scratch tracks for the drummer and we realized that we were stuck. Why? Well you see… the guitarist had written the album in Guitar Pro and never actually took the time to learn to play his parts. So we used the Guitar Pro in lieu of the scratch tracks. Not that big of a deal. But when it came time to track the real guitars it became a very big deal. It really helps to be able to play your shit when you go into the studio. In that example, rather than spending time working on doing killer work, we spent it on fixing things up. The end result was definitely compromised. And the problem is I’m seeing this happen more and more. Musicians are increasingly relying on digital tools as crutches rather than as aids to their process. Those tools are there to help you. USE THEM. But don’t abuse them.
I Am PRO Computer
I’ve been recording for ten years now and I’ve worked on everything from brand new locals to seasoned veteran headlining acts (See some of my credits here.) I was never part of the tape world. I came in digital. Computers are my realm. So don’t think I’m complaining about computers and plugins ruining music because I’m not. I work on a computer in a studio 12+ hours every single day. Digital tools are an integral part of my day.
But I digress.
What I was beginning to say was that the abuse of digital tools is fucking up music. This isn’t some rant about how in the old days we didn’t have these tools so people had to actually learn to play their shit. Because like my good friend Sergeant D. said in his insightful post about old music – old music generally sounded like shit. I realize that music sounds better than ever today. Recording technology is through the roof. And it’s super easy to obtain. Any jack off with $1k to burn can make a recording now that rivals those from the 90’s that cost thousands. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s good.
There’s No “Shit Don’t Stink” Plugin
You see one thing hasn’t changed. To become amazing at anything, regardless of your toolset, it still takes years of dedi-fucking-cation. By using these tools as crutches rather than enhancers, you are only hurting yourself in the end. If you write your album on Guitar Pro without ever picking up a guitar to actually PLAY THE FUCKING PARTS, what exactly do you think is going to happen when you step into the studio to have it recorded for real? It’s going to sound like shit. And then someone like me is going to have to wipe your ass. And yes, I know how. I do it all the time. And you know what? Sometimes records I work on that have the sloppiest most “13 year old at Guitar Center” level playing on them end up on the Billboard Top 50. So you may argue that it doesn’t even matter and I’m just being an elitist.
Don’t Pay Me To Wipe Your Ass
If you write like this don’t be bummed when your actual playing doesn’t sound godly
Recording this guy is a pleasure. I can actually focus on bringing out every nuance of his amazing playing rather than wiping his ass in Pro-Tools.
When I work with bands who can’t play their own material because they write in Guitar Pro, I spend my time taking it from an F to a B-. This sucks, because it’s not a good use of anybody’s time. On the other hand, what about records that come to us at A- level and our job is to get it to A+? Do you think they would do any less well on the Billboard charts? Probably not. In fact, I wager that it would help the band’s longevity factor. In the age of short ass attention spans, longevity is a scarce and difficult thing to achieve. That is like the Holy Grail for a professional musician. History shows that to ride the wave of a successful trend is far easier than sticking around for the long haul. And who wants to have three years of fun and then have to go back to the real world? Ask any musician who is making bank, scoring tail, seeing the world, and rocking out if they want to get a real job and they will tell you, “FUCK NO!”
Let’s be real here. In order to stick around in music, you need to transcend trends and generations. You cannot just be part of the wave that eventually crashes onto shore. I realize there’s no set recipe for how to survive in music, but I can tell you a sure fire way to not survive: use shortcuts as crutches and never improve and therefore never evolve. It may work in the short term, but you won’t be able to retire off it.
Using Guitar Pro Correctly Is Actually Pretty Rad
I actually use it pretty frequently when documenting music I’m writing. Imagine having to write down your music by hand old school style? HA! Who can even use a pen anymore? Remember those? Or how about trying to remember the music you wrote? Good luck with that, attention span of a goldfish generation. What about just recording your riffs and relearning them later? PAIN IN THE ASS!!! What if you write complex music? What if the exact voicing you wrote is key? Re-learning by ear will ensure that you re-learn your music incorrectly. With Guitar Pro, you can document it EXACTLY how it was played and therefore never worry about forgetting.
What about if you are trying to learn some new shit? Or teach some new shit? Sure – you could write it out by hand, or teach it in person step by step, but what happens after the lesson is over? You can’t hear a piece of paper. And studies show that memory in humans is less than amazing. Think your memory is like a steel trap ? Read this.
Anyways, If you put the lesson in Guitar Pro, it will guarantee that the information stays the same. Ones and zeroes my friends. Document your shit. Quick and easy. How on earth do you think I remembered how to play riffs and solos on Avalanche of Worms after I wrote them? When there’s eighteen simultaneous guitar parts happening and none of them are playing the same thing, I am NOT going to rely on my memory. Or take a full day to relearn it by ear. Again – quick and easy. Digital tools are there. USE THEM.
This Post Isn’t Really About Guitar Pro
It’s about the misuse of plugins. I’m simply using Guitar Pro as an example. I could have used Autotune, or Beat Detective, or EZ Mix, or any commonly used music enhancement tool. The point of this all is simple: put the time in on your instrument, and then use computers as the amazing tools that they are. Don’t skip developmental steps.
Here’s a simple process you could use to incorporate Guitar Pro into your workflow without sacrificing your playing. Pay close attention to steps three and four. They are arguably as important as steps one and two. You need to record what you write so that you can actually hear what you sound like. Listening to yourself while you are playing is kind of like analyzing your speaking voice while speaking. Not a very good practice. Record your ideas. Try these steps. Let me know how they work out for you. Or if you have a different way that has been producing results for you, by all means, share it with us. Good luck!
- Pick up your guitar
- Write something that rules
- Record that something
- Listen back and decide if it’s worth remembering how to play
- Load Guitar Pro
- Document what you wrote with Guitar Pro
- Use the Guitar Pro and your original recording as a reference to actually practice what you wrote
- Insert into your schedule
- Repeat until you have a body of work
- Book some studio time and make a great record!