When asking the casual listener what makes a good piece of contemporary music you will hear many different responses. Answers will vary from the lyrics to the smooth rhythm present in a song. One answer that will not come up very often is that the effects used help create a hit song. I would agree that things such as lyrics, the beat, and the catchiness are all vital to a good song but I would also add that the effects and the way that they are used take many songs from mediocre pieces to great works of art. Many times in contemporary music effects are used in such a way where listeners do not even notice them. I believe that the details make a strong song. The details that I will refer to in this post are the effects used throughout different times of contemporary music.
There is a vast number of effects available in todays technological world. Some of the most common are time related effects such as delay and reverb. Delay is used to make a sound repeat over a preset amount of time. Reverb is used to create the effect of room or cave echoing when a person claps or yells. It also tends to make a sound “bigger”. Reverb is very similar to delay but the repeats are faster. Other effects are different kinds of distortion, compressors, wah, phasers, chorus, and whammy effects. The GM Arts website gives a good description of what these and other effects do. The website talks about how the effects are applied to the guitar but the effects will do similar things to other instruments and vocals as well. Click HERE to go to the site.
One thing to remember when creating your own music is that context is key. Less is more in some styles of music but then other styles of music demand more effects to keep the listener interested. For example jazz often doesn’t contain many effects but electronica needs several effects. One great thing about contemporary music is that it is constantly evolving and has been for years. It is ok to push the envelope and try effects in music that haven’t been done before. One band that did this with great results was Pink Floyd. This short video shows how they created one of the sounds that they used in Dark Side of the Moon.
It is important for us as musicians to always use our creative talents to make new and interesting music that people can relate in some way to. I don’t think that the use of effects will slow down anytime in the near future. Through this post I hope that you have discovered why it is important for musicians to understand how and when effects work work and how important it is to keep pushing the limits of your creativity. Although you need to push the limits of what has been done I would also encourage you to love what you create. If it doesn’t sound good to you it probably wont sound good to others. Whatever effects you choose use make sure that they are effective.