I have spent a fair bit of time in the recording studio over the years, letting other people get on with pushing the buttons and sorting out the leads and fixing the microphone placements and all that other business, but I have found myself on the other end of the mixing desk on occasion. Back at school when Jon (hello Jon!), Pete and I were the triumphant trio of Lothlorien we spent hour after hour bouncing tracks on the trusty Fostex in an effort to get those multitracked sounds that our heroes produced on their state of the art equipment.
The Fostex recorded onto standard cassette tape using a single side only and recasting the left and right channels of sides one and two as channels one, two, three and four of the single side. To get more than four sounds going on at the same time you either had to record more than one thing at once – nearly impossible – or combine existing tracks onto an empty one, bouncing down, though this, once done, could not be undone and, as a minor bonus, you would lose some treble frequencies during the bounce as well. As a nasty kicker, a misjudged click could end up erasing a track rather than bouncing it, which led to the following rhyme being kept near the machine:
So nervously he started up As "engineer elect" And as the vocals bit the dust He knew he should have checked...
Jon stuck all those songs onto CD a few years ago, and for a bunch of sixteen year olds (all the way to eighteen) they were not bad, not too bad at all, though I find that I normally have to be at the far end of a bottle of red to dig up the courage to listen to them these days In many ways I look back at my teen self and pity him his naïvety even if I sometimes wish I still had a dash of his wide-eyed innocence, but that Loth stuff is not too shabby, even after thirty plus years.
These days it can all be done at home with unlimited tracks, no bouncing, and no loss of treble frequencies, as long as you get things right at the start, and while I know the inside of a recording studio fairly well I have yet to set up a fully operational rig at home, although plans are afoot to do this, mainly to be able to produce better audio files than the (already very good) ones that Sibelius is able to churn out. Sib plays everything pretty decently, certainly well enough, one might say, but it is still not human, and while you can tap in some interpretation, which is more than you can do with a drummer, ho ho, nothing quite beats the real thing.
After a morning digging in the bottom of various boxes for leads, plugs, adapters, and hunting around for software, I eventually placed an order for a couple of things I was missing and am now waiting for a few literal missing links to arrive. I plan to begin slowly by getting the music for The Book Of Hours as well recorded as possible, so recording just the piano for starters, and then to think about hooking up the X50 and seeing where we can go from there. All of which gives me an excuse to post John Paul Jones taking an X50 for a spin (he’s also got a pedal board if you look closely):