Digital Decay

Back in 2007 or thereabouts, I recorded some arrangements of pop tunes into Cubase. My idea was to be able to play live with my cello and pre-recorded backing tracks. For various reasons, I only ended up playing a couple of gigs, but I still have the Cubase files. Some tunes are awesome for cello soloing — things like “Lady in Red” and “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”

I still have the files — but they’re quasi-useless. At that time I was using my Yamaha Motif XS for a lot of the tracks. I still have the Motif too, and it still works nicely. But I neglected to take proper notes on which of the Cubase MIDI tracks play which Motif sounds.

Ever heard a piano sound play what was originally a drum pattern? Phil Glass might love it, but it doesn’t sound anything like “Lady in Red.”

Some of the files had audio clips in them — material that I recorded out of the Motif into Cubase as audio, specifically so I could avoid this problem. Also so I could do final mixes (which I still have). But for some reason I didn’t back up the short clips of audio data. Or if I did, the backups were on a hard drive that ended up God knows where. Without the audio clips, the Cubase song files are a lot less coherent or useful.

Don’t let this happen to you, kids! Take proper notes! Make multiple backups!

The good news is, this gives me an opportunity to do new and perhaps more creative arrangements. My previous rendition of “Lady in Red” basically copped the exact sound of the hit single. It was my first experience doing a sound-alike, and I think it came off pretty darn well, because for one thing the original was all synths and electronic drums. (Probably an Akai sampler, but the same premise.) Now I get to try something new.

This time around, I’m thinking more about the electric cello. Easier to amplify — no mic feedback to worry about. And I’ll probably adapt some of the Beatles arrangements that I did last year in Reason. If I decide to tackle the project, months of work lie ahead before I can once more walk like an Egyptian.

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