As a musician who knows the thrill of physically playing an instrument, I can vouch for the most tried and tested live performance method. Drums, bass, guitar.. nothing beats physical instruments. I believe their success comes from authenticity and unique sonic possibilities that aren’t achievable with electronic instruments. Let me elaborate a little.
When I say authenticity, I mean that live instrumentation really speaks to the skill of each musician on stage. It’s true that electronic instruments can be used in a similar fashion, but they aren’t as consistent as acoustic instruments in this respect. This is because electronic music is very open ended; electronic drums or even entire songs can be programmed in advance and simply played back for a live performance. This practice has proven to be very popular, with EDM acts like the now defunct Daft Punk or Marshmello taking the world by storm.
To be clear, I don’t mean to discount electronic musicians; they are talented and capable musicians just the same. I also can’t deny that acoustic and electronic musicians vary to an incredible degree when it comes to skill. However, where electronic music is more flexible, acoustic live shows require musicians to get up on stage and play in front of people. They have to face their nerves and perform everything for the audience and cameras alike. The mistakes of each band member can clearly be heard, seen, or both. Thus, these performers must practice and be very familiar with their instrument before going on stage to play. This tells me that musicians who can play instruments are uniquely talented.
Experiences And Sounds
Plus, physical instruments create a visceral experience that can’t be matched. Programmed drums are fun, but watching a drummer pound his drums in person is quite the experience! Not only can you hear everything that’s happening before your very eyes, but you get to see how the drummer is reacting too. When I think of a really engaging physical performance, the first person that comes to mind is Stewart Copeland from The Police. There are plenty of videos on YouTube that display his often maniacal style of playing, like this one:
And then there’s the actual sound waves that make up music; electronic and acoustic instruments offer very different things here. To be honest, acoustic instruments are limited. The scope of electronic music is much larger, and new discoveries are being made every day. New trends, new styles, new sounds.. electronic music is constantly evolving, just like all of humanity’s technology.
Still, I believe the best way to achieve acoustic sounds is with real instruments. A computer can’t perfectly replicate a guitarist bending strings or strumming; Take computer plugins as an example. The popular way to create music for many musicians nowadays is through digital audio workstations (basically, software for making music). These programs use plugins that give musicians additional content to work with, like new sounds or tools to manipulate sounds. There are many plugins that try to emulate physical instruments, and they are usually created by session players who physically play everything you hear.
So what am I implying when I say all of this, you might ask? Well, I’m saying that physical instruments (and the experiences they provide) are legendary, and without them, music as we know it wouldn’t exist.