Ken Rockwell is "Done With Digital"

Started Jan 22, 2009 | Discussions thread
gdanmitchell Veteran Member • Posts: 7,730
Re: Ken Rockwell is

As a musician by profession, I have to say that your example is bogus.

For the music for which it was intended, the Bosendorfer sounds far better, more nuanced, and more expressive than the electric piano. The best the electric piano could possibly achieve in this context is to "sound as good as the Bosendorfer" - and it will virtually always fall short.*

Digital photography (capture and post processing) can produce results that arguable exceed (and with very little serious argument) at least meet the stands of chemical photography. In most cases, when the format is the same, in essentially all cases the digital capture will meet or exceed the quality levels of the equivalent film options.

A better (though not perfect) piano analogy might be to compare the fortepiano of, say Mozart's time, with the Steinway (or Bosendorfer) piano that arrived many decades later. Progress is not necessarily a bad thing, and the old is not always better than the new.

I like to say that if both chemical and digital photographic technologies had sprung into existence simultaneously in their current states, almost no one would have selected the chemical over the digital.

Clearly, photographers who worked with the older technologies (just like composers like Mozart and Beethoven who worked with previous ancestors of the piano) created astonishing and wonderful work. And, just as clearly, there are some photographers today who continue to produce absolutely wonderful photographic art using chemical (or partially chemical - as in shoot film but scan) processes.


  • Regarding the question of whether the electric or acoustic piano is "better," context is also important. I some types of music the sound of the electric piano is actually "better" and more appropriate. I'd also point out that if one is really interested in the quality of sound that a fine piano like a Bosendorfer can produce, no recording is going to capture that fully - it must be heard live. (In the same way that no printed reproduction of the photographer's actual print will be as good as the original print.)

Kuivaamo wrote:

coolhat wrote:

The subtext is always the same: I shoot film, therefore I am more
thoughtful, emotional, organic and independent than those cold,
slaves-to-the-grind, shoot-fast-and-move-on digital shooters. I find
it insulting; to think of all the great photographers who create
amazing art with digital tools and then listen to some jerk counting
them off as lifeless picture making machines, because they don´t use

There's a flipside, too. This being a digital forum, film users are
being marginalised in every thread that touches the subject. "Oh, I
bet he also drives a horse and cart" is usually the tone. This is a
form of digital snobbery, I guess.

Since you mentioned music, digital vs. analogue is a similar
proposition in that field, too.

A Yamaha electric piano is relatively cheap for what it does. It's
very versatile since it can play many sounds, such as an organ and a
harpsichord. It's also a great tool for learning. You don't have to
worry about microphones when recording, you just plug the piano into
your computer's soundcard. You can even run MIDI into your computer
to run software plugin instruments, further expanding your creative
opportunities. The sounds you can create work well in many types of
arrangements, and they will be clean with little noise since you can
keep everything in the digital domain. With this arsenal of creative
tools you can push your envelope musically.

A Bösendorfer grand piano is an expensive, hulking beast of an
instrument. It's loud, and in order to record it, you need a room
with a good acoustic and a set of expensive microphones. Furthermore,
you need a level of experience and knowledge of the craft to get the
most out of mic placement and outboard equipment. There will be some
hiss, and possibly a few harmonics in the recording thanks to the
analogue recording process. If you make a mistake, you have to start
over since there's no MIDI editing available. BUT - when you want the
aesthetic qualities of a grand piano on your recording, there really
is no substitute.

Few pianists choose to have a Bösendorfer in their home instead of a
Yamaha these days, but can we blame the minority for choosing the
feel and sound of their expensive wooden boxes with only one sound?

-- hide signature --

G Dan Mitchell - SF Bay Area, California, USA
Blog & Gallery:
IM: gdanmitchell

Gear List: Cup, spoon, chewing gum, old shoe laces, spare change, eyeballs, bag of nuts.

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