Review: Mortimer Rhind-Tutt, Music Technology from Scratch
Music Technology From Scratch is well named because the title tells you exactly what the book is about. It is also well designed and well written. As long as you understand that this is a book written for someone who knows virtually nothing about how music is produced, you should not be disappointed.
Music Technology From Scratch is designed as a primer that covers a basic introduction to an extraordinarily broad range of topics having to do with music production. The coverage is really remarkable given that it’s only a 140 page book.
The book is divided into two parts based roughly on theory and practice. “Theory” isn’t such a great title for the first section of the book because it is more about a basic introduction to equipment and how it works than to what people might imagine when they think about “theory” in regard to music. Chapters in the first section are devoted to topics such as the basics of sound (including things like how sound waves are transduced to electricty and then back to sound waves, analog and digital, sound amplification etc.), how gear is hooked together and the types of wires that are used, different kinds of microphones and how they work, basic pieces of equipment like mixers, EQ, and compressors, MIDI, and how to set up a computer-based studio at home or wherever. The second part on practice covers recording, mixing and mastering, sequencing, and composing and arranging.
All of these topics are dealt with at an introductory level. If you already know about all of this stuff and know your way around a home or professional recording or production studio, you won’t find much of interest here. If you don’t know about any of this stuff or are good with some of it but still not sure about some aspects of the music production process, Music Technology From Scratch can be very useful.
Music Technology From Scratch is designed to be a teaching aid and from this standpoint it is very well done. Descriptions and explanations are very clearly written and do not assume the reader has the jargon of music production down pat. (If they did, they wouldn’t need this book.) Virtually everything discussed is illustrated with clear, well labeled and easy to understand graphics. This is especially useful in illustrating things like the signal path through a basic mixer or what a patch bay is and how it works. Every chapter is color coded and references to material from another chapter are coded with the color that identifies the chapter where you can find the basic info. As a learning tool it’s exceptionally well done.
At one point Rhind-Tutt’s use of terminology seems a bit odd. The term “digital audio workstation” or DAW is commonly used to refer to a much enhanced software sequencer like Ableton’s Live, Pro-Tools, Cubase, Reason, Sonar or Logic to name a few. However Rhind-Tutt’s discussion of DAWs focuses on the computer and the digital audio interface. He discusses software DAWs in his section on sequencers.
Music Technology From Scratch is a book that is targeted at a very specific audience. If you read articles about music production or reviews of software and gear in magazines or websites like Computer Music, Music Tech, Future Music or Electronic Musician and don’t know what they’re talking about some of the time, or if you have a good understanding of the software end of things but are not so clear about the hardware (or vise versa), Music Technology From Scratch may be very useful to you. It won’t be a book you’ll return to again and again over the years because once you’ve mastered the basics you’ll have gone beyond what Music Technology From Scratch has to offer. Until then, however, Music Technology From Scratch can be a great help moving away from the place where you’re not quite sure what all of this is about.
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