Music product manufacturers taking things too far?

Derrick from the Scottish borders loves singing with our backing tracks. However, he used to be a keyboard player but has since given it up due to failing eyesight…

Hi Kenny
Although I’m new to singing (8 months or so), I’ve been playing/gigging keyboards for about 20yrs. I’ve had loads of fun entertaining on the keyboards over the past 20yrs but failing eyesight has made me turn to singing so I no longer need to wire up keyboards on-stage & … worse still … be able to see the keyboard controls clearly!  I don’t use any graphics and memorise everything I do to save my sight probs.  … The ONLY way I can now do it as to read a screen is a major prob for me!  HOWEVER, I’m getting a big kick from working to get back in the entertainment scene.  So far I have only sung in karaoke bars (in Scottish Borders + Fuerteventura-Canary Isles –  where my brother + family live) but, my confidence is building to take it the next stage – MP3 backing tracks + me singing so I plan to be a “one man enetertainier” – Great fun!… Thought you might be interested in this feedback from one of your loyal customers Kenny. … If music be the food of love then I intend to become a fatty!
Derrick Dance
(Yup – DANCE … that’s my REAL name ..,. not stage name!).

Hi Derrick

Glad to hear you’re still enjoying your singing and entertaining.

I’m a keyboard player myself and I agree with you completely. I’ve noticed that the new breed of keyboards today don’t do any favours for anyone with eyesight problems. And it’s not just keyboard manufacturers who thrust these small screens etc on to us – mp3  manufacturers are just as guilty.

Years ago, music keyboards had tons of buttons so it was easy to get to know where all the buttons were. Once you had familiarised yourself with the geography of your keyboard, you could then simply “feel” for whatever parameter you wanted to select or make changes to.

This was important, not just for people with eyesight difficulties, but also for live gigging musicians who had to keep eye contact with their audience or were reading music while playing so needed to be able to know where vital keyboard functions were without looking (especially things like fill buttons and where to change the sounds etc).

Nowadays manufacturers don’t put lots of buttons on their machines. They claim to favour a minimalist look with hardly any buttons, but the real truth is that buttons are hardware and hardware costs money to manufacture.

It’s more cost effective to them to install one piece of hardware (like an LCD screen) and then write software in to the chip that controls that screen to take care of all the commands that our old style push-buttons used to handle. And you usually find that all the functions of the keyboard are accessed from that one LCD screen in the centre of the keyboard via a series of confusing menus and pages!

This is a real pain.

For example, changing the rhythm of a song to a rock beat (which we keyboard players used to be able to do by pressing just one button) now involves pressing the screen to bring up the rhythm menu, pressing the screen again to bring up the page where all the 4/4 rhythms are, pressing the screen again to select the particular rock rhythm you want, then pressing the screen again to exit from that menu and going in to another screen to change the sounds for the right hand. And if you want to change the sounds you’re right hand plays from a piano to a guitar, you have to go through pretty much the same series of confusing functions all over again!

And it’s not just music keyboards that get this cheap and confusing “page after page of menus” treatment either.

Mobile phones, mp3 players, iPods, DVD players…in fact just about everything in the electronics world today suffers from manufacturers attempts to keep hardware costs down by reducing the amount of buttons and dials on their products.

I get quite annoyed when I hear manufacturers boasting about their new “cool” touch screens and how much they benefit us, the customers.

What a load of rubbish!

What they really mean is that they’ve managed to reduce their costs by getting rid of all the handy buttons and creating a skimpy product which now consists of a plastic shell, a single circuit board inside with a chip, and an LCD screen). I don’t see anyone bringing the price of their products DOWN because they’ve incorporated a new touch screen in to it do you?!

Oh dear, I’m beginning to sound like one of those grumpy old men who hark back to how good it used to be back in “the old days”.

If you see me in the street, say hello. I’ll be the guy with the eighties mullet hairdo with a mobile phone the size of a brick glued to my ear….!