before Cubase

Before Cubase there was Cool Edit. Seems like a long time ago that I was inspired to write and record a number of tunes that came to me in one of those whirlwind moments of inspiration. 19 songs with no VSTs, and more important, none of the input from this fine forum. I listen to each now with a tuned ear for production, God there is some roughness there. And it’s midi for the most part, but I’m singing and that’s what makes my ticket.

I would appreciate some appreciation from anyone who dares to listen to my “baby”. You guys have always given me useful and professional advice, however, it may be too late with this collection. I have loaded a few into Cubase and applied myself and your expertise and mostly have failed to re-create the “feel” of the original. My loss.

There’s a story that goes with each of these compositions, but I will not bore you, yet. Please give a listen and “clue me in”, OK?

I listened to a bit of the second , third and fourth, I’m only responding because you really seem to want feedback. There is character in the bit of each that I heard. Like everyones old catalog ,the decision is whether theres enough to warrant doing the hard work of bringing the songs up to speed and can you keep the intangibles. .

If your goal is to get songs that will impress your friends and possibly generate online sales you may have something to work with here.However IMO when you invest the time to bring old stuff up to speed ,especially when its rough , you’re admitting that you can’t do any better today. And I’ve done this at times.

Mr M:

My goal is to be the best I can be at what I do, which is write music, perform it, and record it. Thanks for the listen and the response.

If you read Nate’s instructional thread, titled ‘What Ever Happened To…’ , you’ll discover that we’re
all actually trying to present ourselves as better than the best we can be, which means we write music,
perform it, record it, edit it, process it, quantize it - then pass it off as our own. :laughing:
Nothing gets by that man! :imp:

Nice stuff there … except those horrible drum machine parts. They are out of context.

How about, if there’s some people involved in the recording, who has passed away?
How about, if it was the special atmosphere during that session, which you can’t create anymore, because the athmosphere was tied on that specific moment?

… but you didn’t have right tools to record/mix the session back then.

IMO it’s fine to use modern (now finally affordable) technology to create new life to those moments.

From my point-of-view, those demos pass the “proof of concept” test, which says the songs are worthy. I don’t think you’d be wasting your time using modern production tools and techniques to frame them in the best light possible. There’s some really good stuff there (lyrically and musically); the sky is the limit for experimenting with arrangements and instrumentation. You should go-for-it.

I’d suggest that you take Nick’s advice about experimenting with arragements and instrumentation. While I agree that
the songs/melodies are pleasing, many of the parts are stiffly played. It’s not just the cheesy quality of the samples
from back when you did this - but the actual performances sound almost quantized and lacking in sustain where it’s needed.
You should consider not just improving the samples and overall sound quality - but I’d take a whole new approach
when redoing the parts. Take the general structure - then start from scratch.
I’d say you’ve come a long way since you’ve recorded this, judging by the songs/productions you’ve posted
here the last couple of years.
Good Luck, Michael.

Before Cubase


I had to read your response a few times but I think you’re listing circustances when its a good idea to re-work old songs. You may have good points but again; from my perspective as a person who has revisited old material many times I believe my point is vaild. When you set out to rework old songs you’re saying that you can’t do any better now. I think artists shouldn’t kid themselves on this. There may be valid reasons for revisiting (like you’re in a slump and you can’t do any better now) but the facts can’t be ignored or else the individual is taking the easy way out creatively. Also ,I point out that I’ve done this. I feel like an expert and I’m not shy on the subject but I’m not saying I have the final word .

Lots of times I have no new ideas and I’ll bring out something from 8 or 10 years ago thinking I’ll update. Its almost always a waste of time. To me, the disciplined song writer has to be his own worst critic and most of all , learn when to move on. Pertainent questions are

If you did it before why can’t you do a beter fresh song now?

Can you really re-create “the magic”?

Is the end result of reviving an older work just going to be a song hat sounds dated?

Some times the answers could be yes and its worthwhile. Mostly however its not This is just how it is for me. I’m interested in the feedback of others; hopefully in the form of a discussion as opposed to an adverserial war.

Mr M, Are you really that prolific and disciplined an artist, putting out one piece of high quality music after another,
that to take a brief step back to rerecord an old favorite would somehow compromise your body of work?
If so, great, but not everyone works that way. Everyone’s creative process is their own. Some aren’t in such a hurry, and that can be an advantage. If there’s not millions of fans eagerly awaiting your next release, and there’s no record exec looking over your shoulder reminding you of your deadline, then we’re free to simply enjoy the process. New projects get done when they get done. We can take time out to collaborate with a friend, or to put a project on the shelf, if need be, to let it incubate.
Quite a few times I’ve gotten stuck on an arrangement - just couldn’t think of where to go to my satisfaction, but then after shelving it and coming back months later(or more, Hi Jet :wink: ), suddenly it all fell into place. I don’t see the need to place unreasonable demands on myself about these things.

I haven’t yet redone any of my old songs that I did on my Fostex 250 back in the 80’s, and probably won’t redo
most of them, though I am, a bit at a time, transferring them to digital.
I have considered doing a few of them, though. Yes, I could do a fresh song now instead, but it wouldn’t take me long at all to redo an old song which I’d like to hear with a quality recording/production - and I can still do that new, fresh song immediately after, right?
As for the ‘magic’ - there were some good performances back then, but it was hard to really appreciate any magic
with those thin sounding, poor recordings. I couldn’t afford to get into a good studio for all my tunes back then.
What’s wrong with finally giving a good old song the treatment that it deserves?

Perhaps, but I think the right question to ask is ’ Do I, the artist, think this is the right time to do this?’
If whether or not it sounds dated is a concern to the artist, then he’s free to modernize the production.
If he’s not concerned, he can simply duplicate the production and save time.

We all have our reasons for our creative decisions. I was compelled to respond to you mostly for your claim that
“If you rework old songs you’re admitting that you can’t do better now”. I heartily disagree.
Granted, it may be true for some in certain circumstances, but it’s certainly not true for all.

I’ve got a new cd nearing the end of the mastering stage. It’s all original songs, but the last song I recorded for it
is my own version of Tomorrow Never Knows. That song’s already been recorded by the Beatles, and a host of others who’ve covered it, but I decided that I wanted to take a crack at it. I like all the songs I wrote for the album, and
I’m certain I could’ve written another good song for it, but instead I decided to do a Beatle song.

It was my own artistic decision to rework an old recording , and I’m very happy with the result.
You can hear it here:

Me too. The creative process is a fascinating topic for me.

I am greatful for the responses.

Mr M
I misunderstood your initial comment:
“when you invest the time to bring old stuff up to speed ,especially when its rough , you’re admitting that you can’t do any better today”
I took that to mean that I could not improve on what I had already done with these songs, not that I could not write, record, etc., something new. I am always working on something new. It’s an addiction.
That part of your comment still confuses me, and has taken the discussion into another area.

What I am admitting is that it has been difficult to apply my much improved recording and editing skills on these older songs. You know how it is when you finally latch onto a song and it becomes a part of you. Getting too far away from the original work, that at one time during its’ creation became "finished, tends to turn me off. A good example would be the Rolling Stones Got Live if you Want It from 1966. I hated that album because it was so far from the beautifully produced albums that came before it. And I am a huge Rolling Stones fan and gave Got Live a lot of chances to redeem itself. No luck.

I agree, totally…except, I guess, more improved tools like being able to actually play those keyboard parts that I have written, arduously I might say, is still impossible. Why do I want to be Billy Joel and Mose Allison?

I love your positive motivation. Always good advice to inspire and push someone to their limits. I have been known to give up too easily and go on to something new. I have also spent countless hours hacking away at a dead horse, figuratively speaking.

You allways have given me god advise and I know to folloow it prety much to the litter. The “cheesy quality of the samples from back when you did this” coment tho realy hurtz. Serially though, you are rite. Better arrangements, better samples, improve the timing, tempo and sustain. Better vocals with more punch and placement. Less effects and more natural talent driven by the need to emphasise rather than cover up or gloss over. I grasp what you mean when you say “whole new approach”, maybe they really would be better in 2/4 time with a slide guitar playing lead. And “start from scratch” is something I can do well. I’m doing now.
Thanks Lenny. :smiley:

I just LOVE the Freudian misspellings! :laughing:

That’s a crazy attitude to take, if I may say…

So, no-one should ever try and have some fun ‘re-interpreting’ old songs of theirs…? Whats this obsession with things having to be ‘better’ all the time…? Why can’t they just be different versions…? And, just to extrapolate, should no-one ever attempt a ‘cover version’ of a classic song…? It doesn’t have to be ‘better’, just a re-mix if you will, in another style/genre maybe, because the song is good - how about that Sinead O’ Conner version of the Prince song ‘Nothing Compares To You’…?

All I’m saying is, I think its perfectly valid for the original artist to revisit older material, to be their own remix artist - a country version, a dance version, orchestral version maybe; whatever, if you believe the core song idea is good (though a little rough the first time round) and the mood takes you, why not have some fun for goodness sakes…? Don’t have to be so precious about these things all the time… :slight_smile:

Back to the topic. Before Cubase (in late '80s) in my home studio there was an Otari MX-5050 8-track reeel-to-reel recorder (without any noise reduction … heck … as a poor student I was not able to invest for something as expensive as 8 channels of dbx), 16 ch simple mixing console (Pearl M160), Alesis Midiverb (mk I), a stereo compressor (with gates) and 2 channels of self-built parametric EQs. Maybe I shouldn’t have remixed this next song of my late band (recorded in 1989) few years ago with Cubase, all these fantastic plugins, all my current outboard gear and my TASCAM DM console, because it just tell’s I can’t do any better nowadays. (Well … I don’t know if the stuff I do nowadays is better or not, but it’s different.)

Doing remakes of old song is great fun, at least for me!
The digitized versions of songs old cassette tape leave a lot to be desired.
It’s kind of the end of the road for those songs, collecting dust on a hard drive-
But now … they’re alive again!!! :sunglasses:
And the standard of what you can achieve in a DAW nowadays just amazes me.
All the tools in Cubase reeeeeally help!
It’s a vitamin injection in your own personal cultural heritage sort of haha.
Hearing those songs as I once envisioned them to sound is worth everything!
Try it … if that’s your sort of thing. Otherwise don’t. :wink:

Indeed. Remixing an old song tells you, how you’ve developed your skills as an audio engineer. Remaking them from the scratch adds the possibility to compare your skills as a musician. What it doesn’t tell you, is the progress you’ve made as a songwriter … but that’s something you can hear by recording your new songs.

Amen, brother!

Since the piling on has started ,this is likely useless. Responses are coming ,not to what I said ,but to the way its been misunderstood especially by Puma0382. I said

“However IMO when you invest the time to bring old stuff up to speed ,especially when its rough , you’re admitting that you can’t do any better today. And I’ve done this at times.”

Maybe thats not clear and my fault . I mean if you have old songs that aren’t good (“especially when its rough”) to me you’re better off starting with something new. To take old songs that weren’t up to speed before and invest time is saying you can’t do better now. Obviously this has gotten away from the OP and the songs posted.

How this has anything to do with remixes of good old songs, covers of other songs that are good, or creative projects using good or decent old material as a basis to experiment with new technology is beyond me. Bad songs are just bad songs. If a person has the time to re-do and re-do and re-do bad or even marginal songs well so be it. I’m just offering one mans perspective.

haha no! not ALL songs, good and bad! I saw the topic took off in that direction but I gave you the benefit of a doubt, because I’m such a sweetheart! From memory I could reconstruct some old songs that weren’t horrible per se but some of what we used to play … just went nowhere and there used to be tapes/files to prove it. The process of recreating them would be a long walk of shame and it just won’t happen :blush: :confused: :laughing:

Thats what I’m saying. I have somgs from band days that I recall fondly but just aren’t that good. At the moment however I’m working up an idea that I’d started a year ago and revisited.

There is an old saying. It has five words. It is crass. It is crude. It is true. Here it is: “You can’t polish a turd.”

I get that. What I don’t get is the quoted sentence above. It seems backwards to my way of thinking. To invest time into an old song that previously wasn’t “up to speed” is saying you CAN do better.