The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

Digital Re-Synchronization of Analog Recordings

April 29th, 2010 . by Alexander Fisher

After I finished working on my digitally reconstructed analog recording, Sorry It Came To This, I wanted to write down some of the steps I took to get to the finished project, or at least my thinking on a few of the variables. Unfortunately I was a little brain dead from all of the ‘cypherin’, so I put it off. After I processed my next analog restoration, Mean and Cruel, in a similar manner, I finally decided to write a few thoughts about the whole process, before I forget it all, again.

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The process of reconstructing these tracks is heavily software based and not that much to do with any one of my technical abilities. It isn’t like the old days when you needed better hand-eye coordination for cutting the tape and splicing it back together. Though the process is not completely dissimilar in it’s application.

I think many people could acquire the skills to reprocess analog recordings, with the automatic processing built into my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), Cakewalk Sonar v8.5, under most circumstances. When I reprocessed Sorry It Came to This, I did use some of the automatic synchronizing capabilities of the software. When I began working on the song, using a MIDI drum controller, I recorded several drum tracks based on the rhythm of each progressive mix down during the original analog process.

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After determining the original tempo of the recording, I linked the internal drum synchronization to these original tracks via MIDI processing. I was able to reestablish a common beat between all of the tracks using automated audio stretching through quantization, beat grooves, and also I manually stretched or compressed portions of the audio signal when the software could not properly recognize whether it was a component of the beat or not. Doing this allowed me to replace the original MIDI created analog drum track with a MIDI drum set included with Sonar. Drum samples have improved greatly since these original recordings were made and are nearly identical to a real drum kit. The improvement in beat timing was evident as well.

The amount of synchronization that I had to do on these tracks is directly related to the recording method that I used in Yamaha MT-100 II the beginning. I would record the initial four tracks on my Yamaha MT-100-II multi-track cassette recorder. It was designed to record on chromium dioxide cassettes (CrO2) and I always recorded at the higher speed of 3 3/4 inches per second that it also featured. The reasoning behind using the higher speed is that it enhances the audio quality and reduces the tape noise in the recordings. In addition the Yamaha recorded with dbx noise reduction.

The aural quality allowed using the dbx process was similar in many respects to the quality achieved in a digital compact disc (CD) recording. An advantage would have been the constant stream of audio as opposed to the digital sampling inherent in the CD recording process. Some have commented to me over the years that dbx, because of its use of compression in its methodology, called linear decibel companding, had an effect on the aural envelope, that you could hear. Compression/decompression technologies can be audible if it is used improperly, but I believe that like the opponents of the compact disc originally who thought they could hear sounds going on and off 44,100 times per second, they were a bit delusional as well. It’s probably the same people that complained about the inferiority of the minidisc that are now completely satisfied with the sound of the much,much inferior MP3 player.

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My Newest Recording: Mean and Cruel

April 26th, 2010 . by Alexander Fisher

AlexanderCD1448Like Sorry It Came To This, Mean and Cruel is not a new song or a new recording. I didn’t even redo the drum tracks. I think I could’ve made the drums better in a technological way, but not performance wise.

I haven’t ever written too many “story” songs. I’m not even sure what my motivation was then. But I know Mean and Cruel is about a man from a different time, maybe the American west around 1900, that was just out of control, that no one wanted to try to control, and no one could control. A really bully of a guy.

Go east young man…

Mean and Cruel

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The analog tracks were originally recorded in about 1990 on a Yamaha MT-100 II 4 track cassette recorder using high speed (3.75 IPS) and dbx noise reduction.

I think the acoustic guitar I played was a Yamaha. I played electric guitar on a Fender Stratocaster. The bass was a Rickenbacker 4001. The drums were played on Yamaha MIDI controller pads connected to a Boss Dr. Rhythm drum machine.

I played the analog tracks into my Fostex VF-16 digital multi-track, then transferred the tracks to my computer. I processed the audio with Cakewalk Sonar v8.5 Producer and Sony Sound Forge v9.

Slade – Mama Weer All Crazee Now (Video)

April 20th, 2010 . by Alexander Fisher

album-Slade-SlayedIn the early ‘70’s, several British bands like Slade were being promoted as “The Next Beatles”. Along with T. Rex and David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars, Slade helped front a British “glam” rock music scene that was usually more about long hair, wearing striped pants and knee high boots while playing hard rock music, than screaming girls at airports. Some of their other top 40 hit songs, besides Mama Weer All Crazee Now, included Coz I Luv You, Look Wot You Dun, Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Gudbuy T’ Jane, and Cum On Feel the Noize.

The hard rock band Quiet Riot seemed to make a career out of covering Slade songs in the 1980’s. They recorded this song and also had a big hit with Cum On Feel the Noize. While Quiet Riot’s covers were good, I always preferred the original Slade recordings.

Slade is a sometimes forgotten component of my early seventies musical tastes, along with other rock groups like Bloodrock and Rare Earth. They made some of the best, purest hard rock of their time. They just weren’t very good at spelling.

 

 

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My Newest Recording: Sorry It Came To This

April 18th, 2010 . by Alexander Fisher

This is not a new recording but a complete restoration and re-mix of a song I wrote and recorded in the early 1990’s. It is about people who can’t see the big picture even when they’re looking right at it, and even still think they see it.

Sorry It Came To This

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The Guitars Used To Record This SongI have tried this much restoring and re-syncing analog tracks before, but not with this much success. Check out my blog post My Recorded Cover Songs – 867-5309/Jenny to check out my previous effort. The whole process of using my new copy of Sonar v8.5 to accomplish this deserves a post all by itself. (Coming Soon)

I thought I did an OK job on my previous analog tape restoration job, but there was something that just always seemed a little off beat. I can hear little timing problems here and there on this new project, but overall I don’t notice any real important timing issues. I am now getting the process right, I think. In addition I was able to incorporate MIDI timing and samples with the analog tracks. That is what really saved these recordings.

The analog tracks were originally recorded in about 1992 on a Yamaha 4 track cassette recorder using high speed (3.75 IPS) and dbx noise reduction.

I played lead and rhythm guitar on a Fender Stratocaster and an Ibanez Les Paul. I played the bass on a 1972 Rickenbacker 4001. The drums were a recent combination of MIDI patches and my Korg nanoPad MIDI drum controller.

I played the analog tracks into my Fostex VF-16 digital multi-track, then transferred the tracks to a computer. Then I processed the audio with Cakewalk Sonar v8.5 Producer and Sony Sound Forge v9.

David Ruffin – My Whole World Ended The Moment You Left Me (video)

April 10th, 2010 . by Alexander Fisher

This is one of my favorite songs of all time. This video must have been made for a television show. It is pretty bland and it shows an unenthusiastic, or self-conscious David Ruffin. This song is his first single after leaving The Temptations in 1968. I don’t know how you couldn’t be freaked out being filmed in a large studio like this while trying to lip-sync, all by yourself. I love every non-synced minute of it.

David Ruffin’s dancing in this video proves you can take the man out of The Temptations, but you can’t take The Temptations out of the man.

 

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Peter Frampton – Show Me The Way (video)

April 5th, 2010 . by Alexander Fisher

I was a Humble Pie fan and was aware of Peter Frampton from about 1973 on. I had purchased the studio album this song was on in 1975. As much as I liked it, it didn’t seem to be catching on with my friends so much. Even then, I would not have believed that his following live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, would make him such a household name. Obviously bowing to record company marketing, his next album  I’m In You was aimed at a disco-pop market that really didn’t like his rock and roll style. So no one liked it, even us rockers. I hated the album cover and the title song just stunk. There are some good songs on it, but for myself and my friends, it burst the bubble.

 

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