An Introduction to Music Technology: 2nd Edition, by Dan Hosken
If music technology makes you cower ...
by Chris Loeffler
Textbooks created for university programs are a mixed bag, and often require a strong professor to bring the material to life. That said, they can also can form the core of a learning experience and be tomes of knowledge kept for repeated reference in the future. This gets particularly tricky when the focus of a text is on something as fleeting as technology, which is why I was sent a recently updated, Second Edition of Dan Hosken’s An Introduction to Music Technology and asked to provide feedback for how well it balanced technological advancements with the core subject.
What You Need to Know
An Introduction to Music Technology is a fundamental studies book found in many audio engineering and music-major departments throughout universities. It is written as a coursebook designed to educate aspiring audio engineers in the technology behind modern recording techniques in both consumer and professional capacities.
The challenge with any instructional material about technology is that technology changes; hence the 2nd Edition issue of the book and various author updates around the current state of hardware and software standards in recording. Hosken does a deft job of getting deep enough into specifics that it feels relevant to recording in this moment, but is functionally-oriented enough that the application is more about what is being accomplished than how it’s being accomplished. For instance, plug-ins and software updates are mentioned in broad enough strokes to be not only applicable to the programs described, but also within the general ecosystem of recording software and hardware. In short, the content is around types of gear and technology, not specific pieces.
The section covering EQ, audio plug-ins, and general sound processing is illuminating in the explanation of how these technologies work, but a bit shallow on general application within the engineering processes. As such, the book truly does feel like a part of a series of topics around audio engineering as opposed to a one-stop shop for beginners.
Hosken’s writing style sits somewhere between professorial and technical; wordy enough to feel like an explanation as opposed to a process, but technical enough to build out vocabulary with conversation. There were times when the narrative-focus challenged my use of it as an on-the-fly reference book like a true technical manual.
There is an assumption readers already have a decent background in general recording techniques, leaving readers without any prior recording experience to connect the dots between the “how” of recording and the “what” of the hardware and software tools being described by Hosken.
Read in conjunction with courses around recording, mixing, and mastering techniques, An Introduction to Music Technology can be a powerful foundation for understanding the process of sound capture and processing. There is likely more information in this book than any one student will need, but a quick look at Amazon and various book sites shows that this is the rare college textbook that isn’t being immediately traded in at the end of the term. The wordiness may turn off the completely technical minded, and the specificity may scare off a few true neophytes, but that’s the balance between creating something for a specific audience or something for as broad an audience as possible. - HC-
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.