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Oblivious trailblazers: Case studies of the role of recording technology in the music-making processes of amateur home studio users

, New York University, United States

New York University . Awarded


The purpose of this study was to examine how recording technologies (e.g., Digital Audio Workstations, microphones, etc.) are used by musicians in the process of producing a recording in a home studio environment (i.e., not a professional studio), and how they learned the skills to produce (write, record, and mix) a recording. In the first phase of the study, participants ( N = 104) completed an online survey that asked for basic demographic information (age, gender, race, occupation) and background information on their music experiences (number of years of formal or informal training, software/hardware used in music-making, instruments played). In the second phase, four musicians from the pool of survey respondents were invited to participate as individual cases for in-depth study. Video-based observations, semi-structured interviews, stimulated recall interviews, computer screen recordings and screen shots, photographs, and in one case, participant journals were used to document and examine the process of making a home recording. Models of informal learning practices (Green, 2008) and computer-based composition (Folkestad, Hargreaves, and Lindstrom, 1998; Mellor, 2008) were utilized as guides to analyze the working and learning processes of the case study participants.

Recording technology was central to the music-making of all of the case study participants. The predominant theme amongst the case study participants is that their learning related to recording technology was primarily self-directed or self-taught. Learning how to make a recording tended to be an immersive process with a reliance on experimenting and tinkering, utilizing a trial-by-error approach. Extending the trial and error lineage exemplified by home recording pioneers such as Les Paul, Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) foster and promote a play-based approach to music-making with technology. Click and consequence music-making (a DAW-dependent version of trial and error music-making) encourages taking risks and improvisation. Further, DAWs promote reflexive recording, which entails critical listening, musical thinking, and sculpting with sound. Taken together, the dynamic properties of the DAW provision for a music education situated in an audio culture where musical actions (listening, performing, improvising, and composing) and technical actions (tracking, editing, mixing, and mastering) coalesce into a single action: DAWing.


Bell, A.P. Oblivious trailblazers: Case studies of the role of recording technology in the music-making processes of amateur home studio users. Ph.D. thesis, New York University. Retrieved October 20, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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