Ever notice how most of the records on the radio pretty much sound the same? Well, a lot of that comes from gear choices: be it the amps we decided to use (two choices right? Fender or Marshall) the mics we decide to use (sm57 on snare right?) and the outboard gear we use on mixes (1176 on vocals, SSL comp on buss, etc).
Even more, a lot of the records on the radio are mixed by folks whose job is to mix records exclusively, and some of these folks tend to favor one specific piece of gear in particular for each instrument. So it stands a good chance that if you listen to the radio for an hour, it is possible that two of the songs had the exact same piece of equipment used on the same instrument, and both mixed by the same guy, even if the songs are by completely different bands, in completely different genres, and years apart. It is a bit incredible.
And this fetishization, or concern for accepted practices and equipment worries me a bit about art. Not that tools are everything, as they certainly are not. But at each stage of the recording process, each group of folks sometimes exists in a culture that has a normative standard for aspiration. So for the guitarists, they might like the ‘Marshall sound’ of bands they like, and then recreate it by using a Marshall amp. The bassist might use their favorite bass players model of bass. And the recording engineer might love the Beatles and run you through a processor the Beatles used.
What happens in this, is the art of music becomes referential in tone. And artistically, style can fall victim to this too. So when we notice that ‘ground breaking’ music is actually just a few percent different than anything else we’ve heard, these factors listed above may contribute to it.
I fell victim to this as well. But when I got back into making my own music, I started challenging myself to try and make new sounds. And alot of that meant using different equipment than what I would normally be expected to use in the studio. And I think thats a great thing, because it takes music back from being a predictable thing with small nuances of difference, to being closer to Art. And yes, the same things plaque the art world as well. But, avoiding these trends is a small step to making a big leap forward in what new music, and new art, can be. And I think that makes the world a richer place.