Case Study: The 15 Year Evolution of a Song

In the Beginning

In the late 1980’s, while I was living in Pennsylvania, I took my first step into the world of multi-track recording. This is when I purchased a brand new Tascam Porta 05, 4-track cassette recorder. Armed with my new 4 track, a bunch of blank cassettes and a couple of cheap Radio Shack dynamic mics, I started my home recording odyssey.

4 track goodnees

Tascam Porta 05

The results were mixed, to say the least. Back in those days, the days before “cheap” Chinese electronics, rack effects were well beyond my meager budget. I had to make do with whatever equipment I had. Here’s an example of one of my early recordings – complete with a cheap Casio Keyboard rhythm track and my Gibson ES-335 switched to the rhythm pick-up, with the tone turned down, substituting as my “poor man’s” bass.

A lucky break occurred when I was able to reconnect with an old friend who just got back into town after finishing up a stint in the United States Air Force. Because he was stationed in Japan, he was able to acquire some very interesting electronics, including a Tascam Porta One, an early drum machine and some cool Boss Pedals. However, there was one device that I really liked – a table top, Yamaha REX 50 multi-effects unit. When I plugged my Gibson ES-335 guitar directly into it, I heard magic. At least my first exposure to late 1980’s Yamaha digital reverb, sounded like magic to me.

Reverb is cool!

Yamaha-REX50

My friend and I ended up collaborating on a few songs, including an early version of my song, “The Swamp.” During that period, he was kind enough to lend me the Yamaha REX 50 device for a week or so. One day, while playing around with the the different reverbs, I got the sudden inspiration for a short instrumental, called “Interlude. “

Here is the original, 4 track version – circa 1989.

 

 

Within a year of making this recording, I started to get away from music production. Eventually, I would lose touch with my friend and later; when I ran into some financial trouble, I ended up selling my old 4 track.

15 Years Later

Fast-forward to 2004. I was living in Seattle and still fascinated by multi-track recording. At this point, I was using my first real Digital Audio Workstation, with Cakewalk Sonar Software. With access to plenty of tracks and more effects – both plug-in and outboard – I felt a new serge of creativity. While many new songs were flowing out of me, some of my older compositions where still nagging at me, including the instrumental, “Interlude.”

With the same Gibson guitar and an assortment of different equipment, I sat down and did the basic tracks for my new version of “Interlude.” For my new version of the song, I added bass guitar and keyboards. The only thing missing were drums. As luck would have it, I was able to hook up with a neighbor named Geoff who was kind enough to add the drum tracks. The newer version of the song, now titled “Electric Guitar Interlude, came into being.

I’m not sure if there is a moral to the story. In looking back at how everything evolved, I realized the equipment we use in our creative endeavors (both physical and emotional) is continually evolving. If there was a lesson here, it would be that we need to stick with our ideas and see them through to the end, no matter how long it takes.

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