In the course of chatting to some of you at the British Music Fair, that old chestnut — badly written equipment manuals — cropped up again and again. As fate would have it, I later bumped into Geoff Nicholls (the drummer with BBC TV's Rockschool series), who recalled how difficult it had been for him, years ago, to grasp the fundamental modus operandi of the first drum machine he had ever encountered. Its owner's manual failed to put over the concepts, and it wasn't until a friend (who knew more about such things) showed Geoff how to chain rhythm patterns to form a song, that all became clear. This set me thinking... How could owner's manuals be improved?
As Gary Checora's comments indicate in this month's 'Sounding Off' (p.96), forward-thinking manufacturers like Roland fully recognise the inherent inadequacies of printed manuals and are trying to improve matters. But software-based products (and that also means virtually all hardware these days) are updated so quickly, that there seems to be little time to produce a new owner's manual documenting all new features, before extra features are added and the manual is out of date!
So why don't manufacturers provide a training video with each new synthesizer, drum machine, sampler, etc, as weil as a printed manual? Surely it is not beyond the bounds of reason for the Yamahas and Rolands of this business to set up a division dedicated to producing training videos for all (or at least, most) of their new products. What better way to gain an instant overview of an instrument than to see somebody running through its major features (selling points) and, more importantly, hear what effect they have on the sound? Didn't someone clever once say that a picture was worth a thousand words?
Potential purchasers simply cannot make a buying decision when faced with the fact that most synths, samplers, sequencers, and drum machines all look, sound, and cost the same. What's needed is a competitive edge, and I think a training video may help manufacturers gain that important edge which will result in people buying their product in preference to somebody else's. Sure, a video may prove costly to put together initially, but the investment could be recouped by dubbing the video into various languages for worldwide distribution, and I'm sure such a video (provided it was done properly) would result in increased sales, also. The same video could even be used for in-store promotion by retail music shops.
All it takes is for one brave manufacturer to make the first move. Think of the potential: you get one video free with your synth; this could be a 'teaser', introducing the major features of the instrument. Users could then be given the opportunity of purchasing more in-depth, step-by-step programming videos (if so inclined); or a 'practical' video, showing how to put together a song using their latest synth workstation, portastudio, etc... the sky's the limit. What does everyone think of the idea? Let me know.
Editorial by Ian Gilby
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