Technology is evolving at an ever increasing speed. It’s a daily barrage of, ‘out with the old and in the with new.’ Keeping up is often difficult and expensive, especially if you’re drawn in by the latest fad. To help you make some sense of it all I have put together a list of where I believe tech is trending. Which is all towards a computer in various forms. Hope it helps.
All digital keyboards have a small computer built into them that generate sounds. However, these computers are limited and are extremely varied across the many manufactures. What is now in fashion is to bypass the computer of your keyboard and plug into a regular computer via a MIDI cable and make all of your sounds through an inexpensive Apple program known as MainStage.
Of course there are thousands of sounds to choose from, which to be honest most people will only use 3 to 5 sounds…ever. So that’s nothing really new or exciting. But what is unique is that it allows collaboration and expansion. Probably the biggest value is that you can share sounds with anyone who runs the same program and even purchase sounds for specific songs. Want that sound of Hillsong Young & Free? Someone has made a MainStage patch for it. It’s also expandable as it will allow you to use other sounds and extra software known as ‘plug-ins’ to do all kinds of crazy things.
There are some downsides in that it can be complicated if you don’t purchase or download sounds. So there is a bit of a learning curve, however it will be very familiar to anyone who has spent much time in Logic, GarageBand, or a similar recording program. But don’t let that bother you as there is a lot of training out there and you can always hire someone to set it up for you.
Guitars: Boutique Pedals
The deep secrets of how to make a guitar pedal either seemed too ominous to comprehend or was closely held until recently. Now everyone and their dog is making custom or ‘boutique’ pedals. Where there used to be only a few recognizable brands, there are now thousands. But what do these pedals do or sound like? You just have to play them to find out. When so much is heading towards standardization (like MainStage) it’s amazing how this field is swirling out of control into uniqueness. Which may ultimately swing the pendulum back the other way as it is also possible to run your guitar rig completely through MainStage.
Digital soundboards are nothing new, but what is changing is how big the computer is that is running them. Like keyboards, many manufacturers are taking the computer out of the control surface and putting it in a stand alone computer or even a network server. This allows the soundboard to have the enormous processing power necessary to run bits of software known as ‘plug-ins’. Each plug-in has a specific purpose, things like specialized eq, special compressors, effects, automatic volume control, and even live pitch correction. In the recording world these are all the rage and are available at various price points from many companies, Waves.com being the most dominant. Since many of the top sound techs are also producers they have long wanted to use these plug-ins in a live environment as well as in the studio.
Enter the DSP server. Which is basically a very fast computer that does nothing besides process sound. The good news is you can use them as an add-on to many common soundboards like the Behringer X32 or you can buy a soundboard designed to integrate them such as the increasingly popular DigiCO boards (with Waves package). Comparatively, it’s still pretty expensive, somewhere from $2k to $10K, but it is pretty amazing if you know what you’re doing.
SoundBoards: Remote Mixing
It’s not necessarily new that you can run the soundboard from an iPad, but what is new is that many soundboards are now only ran from the iPad or similar Tablet. The soundboard is a rack mounted unit that sits on stage. You plug everything directly into it and off you go. Many even have a built in high speed wi-fi router. Which for the mobil church is must.
It takes a bit to get used to and it can be a bit scary to not have an actual button in front of you but it is well worth it for the time you save. Even more importantly you can mix from anywhere you’d like, for myself that means I can mix sitting in the congregation next to my wife instead of being stuck in a booth.
Recording: Interface, Interface, Interface
Massively popular albums are now being recorded entirely on an interface that costs $1,000 or less. It’s shocking. Products like the Apollo Twin and the Apogee Duet have revolutionized the recording industry. It’s portable, easy, and combined with plug-ins, it sounds amazing.
Human Replacement: Bands and Pastors.
It will be very interesting to see how far people are willing to go when it comes to accepting digital versions of their human counterparts. Many band members are being replaces by Multi-Tracks as are many Pastors by video satellite campuses. While these practices seem to still be on the rise a counter culture is also emerging that wants something tangibly real.