Louigi Verona Workshop


Linux Audio: Acoustic and Electronic music

Explaining important terms to avoid misunderstanding

In many articles concerning Linux Audio I speak about acoustic music and electronic music and often say that electronic music requires special DAWs and/or features and/or utilities. The need to differentiate comes from my experience that shows that there are indeed at least two principal approaches to making music which are dictated by what type of music you want to get and what technical means are required to accomplish it. However, since words "acoustic" and "electronic" are very broad, I am offering a definition of what I mean in the context of my Linux Audio articles. Words like "very often" and "usually" underline the fact that these definitions cannot always be precise and are generalizing on what I consider to be common cases. Still, I am trying to be as exact as possible.

Note: I got several comments from people saying that they do not agree with my definitions of acoustic and electronic music. However, please note that I am not aiming to give any definitions of acoustic or electronic music as it is. In fact, I could as well just name them Type 1 and Type 2, but it would not be very convenient. Also, while musicwise definitions maybe lacking, from a strictly technical production point of view they are close to the truth.
Anyway, there is really nothing to argue about, as I am simply expanding here the terms I use in my Linux Audio articles. Outside these articles these definitions probably make little sense.

Acoustic music
In my Linux Audio articles by acoustic music I mean music which is:

1. Based on combinations of notes, meaning that the beauty of music and its whole design is defined by what melodies are played. Most music we know is note-based music.

2. The workflow to make this music is dominated by recording takes, meaning that the musician uses a midi keyboard or a microphone to record what he plays into a multitrack audio recorder. If he wants to go back and change something in an already recorded composition, he has to re-record that part over. The tempo sync tends to be done by ear, as the musician plays over the metronome or over the already recorded theme. Such music may also use tempo changes and can be generally played "out of the grid".

3. The amount of instruments used tends to be relatively small, 2-10. In case of classical music the number of instruments can be large, but the underlying workflow is usually the same. The amount of effects used is typically limited. Most of them are basic and are of a sound enhancing nature - compressors, equalizers, reverbs.

4. Typical examples of this music are rock, folk, jazz, various melodic instrumentals, classical, some types of pop music.

Electronic music
In my Linux Audio articles by electronic music I mean music which is:

1. Based more on manipulating sound and building its composition (development). To put it simpler, when it is less important what is playing but more important how it sounds. Very often this music is difficult or impossible to play live, as it might require too high a speed or note range or tweaking of too many parameters at once.

2. The workflow to make this music is dominated by programming or sequencing, meaning inputting notes into a piano grid, editing automation of parameters and manipulating sound with effects. Very often this kind of music is sculpted as it goes and thus requires to constantly go back to already sequenced parts and change them. Such music needs precise tempo sync and many elements rely on automatic synchronization of various instruments and parameters to master tempo. Tempo changes are used, but they are less common and the whole tune is usually written within the grid.

3. The amount of instruments used tends to be rather large, 10 and higher. The amount of effects used also tends to be large. It is not infrequent to have complex chains of effects used on a track to get the desired sound. Effects themselves might need to be complex, such as multi-tap delays, sweeping filters, vocoders and generally effects that have LFOs, programmable modulation, arpeggiation, etc.

4. Typical examples of this music are house, various other forms of so-called techno music, ambient, electronic pop, electronic classical music, usually soundtracks for games which are sequenced rather than played live.

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