Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a feeling that (really) big artists just record their voices, and then studios just synthesizes the instruments. I don't imagine people with guitars, pianos and other things behind then, recording...

I'm not talking about people that have more respect to music, I'm talking about artists that clearly have their songs recorded in big studios that creates everything for them, with a nice beat that people will love and buy. Let's say... Beyonce, for example.

So, is this a reality? Is today's songs more synthesized than recorded?

I'm totally ignorant to music, but I had this curiosity. Thank you so much.

share|improve this question
This massively depends on your market. A good chunk of pop music in the UK nowadays is Electronic in nature so is inherently synthesised. – PreferenceBean Nov 13 '14 at 10:35

No doubt both are used, depending on circumstances.

Having done some recording in both styles (sequenced/synthesized and live-performance) even with my mediocre performance skills and low-quality hardware, I've still often found performing to be less-labor-intensive than sequencing (to my surprise). If you can find any random half-decent instrumentalist it doesn't take that long to stick them in a studio and have them run through a half dozen takes of a song.

That said, it may be the case that each instrumentalist is in their own separate sound-proof room, individually mic'ed, with headphones to monitor the others. This would give greater control to each individual instrumental track in post processing. There's a whole bunch of techniques you can do with a live recording to clean it up. This includes stitching together the best parts of multiple takes, adjusting the volume and panning envelopes, performing time-stretching (to correct misplaced timings) and pitch-correction (which isn't always an obvious autotune effect), adding EQ to emphasize or de-emphasize various frequency bands, adding artificial reverb or chorus effects, and lots more.

OTOH, it really depends on what is being recorded. For a guitar part, its probably easier to find someone to play the part live on a guitar rather than type it into a synthesizer or play a keyboard reduction into a MIDI sequencer. But if you're wanting a string pad, or some background orchestral parts, its certainly much easier and cheaper to play a synth than to rent an orchestra (or even a string quartet).

EDIT: It's also worth pointing out the distinction between synthesized and sequenced. Synthesized music describes sounds that have been created digitally, but such music can be (and often is) still recorded from a live performance on a MIDI controller (such as a piano keyboard), and thus, in some cases, requires the same instrumental skills as playing an actual instrument. Some forms of synthesis even trigger a recorded sound of an actual instrument. Sequencing OTOH is a method of inputting notes by means other than a live, real-time performance.

The point of this distinction is to point out that saying a song is "more synthesized than recorded" is not a meaningful distinction. Synthesized performances are still recorded (as when recording a keyboard player). The opposite of recorded music would be sequenced, where notes are typed into the computer in some type of interface.

share|improve this answer
I'm reminded of this: – Caleb Hines Nov 13 '14 at 14:17

Where do you draw the line between synthesised and recorded?

Acoustic Guitar -> Electric Guitar -> Digital Piano -> Synthesiser Keyboard -> Sampled Loops -> Midi Keyboard -> Midi Sequencer -> Simulated Guitar Amps (pedal or software) -> Musical Software Arrangement

Would a top of the range digital piano be considered synthesised? What about an arp on a keyboard? What about bands like Radiohead that took a few macbook pro's to their gigs with native instruments software because it means they can cut down on gear? James Blake loops live! Blue Monday was heavily sequenced on keyboards (decades ago).

With reference to your point, people who have more respect to music.. There have always been artists that have not written their own music. PRS allows you to see who is on the royalties for a song which gives an indication of ownership of the creative rights. A lot of big names have had some songs written for them, like Michael Jackson. You may also be surprised to see some songs written by the artist, such as Justin Beeber.

If you change the word "Synthesised" for "Unable to replicate live with musicians, with those instruments/software" then its easier to make the distinction between the two categories of music making you are pointing out. No one with musical sense wants to pay good money to watch a glorified karaoke, but be careful not to view technology as a bad thing as it is another playground for the creative mind.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.