"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Repairing What is Beyond Repair

We messed up.

We really messed up.

It was late and we'd been working for about an hour, trying to mix the five songs I'd recorded so that I could practice with them and then rerecord the vocals.

We were on "Still Holding Me", using the fourth recording to create a mix.

We'd selected the channel mixer.

We mixed the channels so that the keyboard and vocal parts would be in both channels.  Right speakers, left speakers, the right side of the headphones, the left side of the headphones - all would have elements of both keyboard and vocals.

It worked.

We were left with an image of mixed channels.  Keyboard accompaniment added spikes to the vocal part that had not been there before.  Vocals made the keyboard part thicker, more full.

We pressed play.  It sounded good.

The resident music expert asked me if he could save it.

I said yes.

That was where we messed up.

Really messed up.

The green bar slid across the tiny window, indicating that the file was being saved, when I realized that we had not removed the dead space from the end of the piece.  I needed the dead space gone so that I could practice with this mix more effectively.

He hit "Cancel".

Then I realized that we had forgotten something else.

When we make a mix of a file, we first take the original recording and give it a new file name.  That way we don't save over and lose the original.

Keeping the original was especially important in this instance, as I had planned on rerecording the vocal part.  I couldn't delete the old vocal part and replace it with a new one if the old one was mixed in with the piano part.

The only problem was, we had never given the original recording a new file name so that the original would still be intact.

I silently thanked God that the music expert had hit "Cancel" instead of allowing the file to finish saving.

The music expert saved the mix under a different name, then dragged the original back into the window.

They were identical.

The file had saved anyway.

We had messed up.

We had really messed up.

I realized that there was no way to fix this.  Once a file is mixed and saved, there is no magical "Un-mix" button.

"I can't do anything with this file now," I thought.  "I can't delete the vocal part and put in a new one when the vocal part is mixed in with the keyboard accompaniment."

We had spent several minutes creating this mix, only to hit one wrong button and defeat the purpose of creating it.


I asked him to open the third recording.  It wasn't quite as good as the fourth, but it was close enough.  There weren't any mistakes in the notes, the only problem was that the timing of the third recording was a little worse than the timing of the fourth recording.

I had been so happy with the fourth recording, but now I couldn't use it.  It was too late.

Oh, well.

I silently thanked God that the third recording was good enough to use in place of the fourth.

"We'll have to do it all again," I said.

Then he said something I did not expect to hear:

"What if we could fix the other one?"

I was skeptical, not believing this was really possible.  Still, the prospect of using the fourth recording rather than the third was more than enough to make me want to try.

So we tried.

The resident music expert used his mathematical genius to determine a way to use the channel mixer to "un-mix" the mix.

There was only one problem.

The channel mixer wouldn't let him put in a big enough number.  He needed to input 125, but the mixer only accepted values up to 100.

We would have to play around with it.

We put in the positive value at the maximum, 100.

The negative value was more difficult.

We tried -30.

I was amazed at the fact that so much of the vocal part had been removed from the accompaniment, but it wasn't enough.

We tried -33.

We copied the accompaniment into a different file and listened for hints of the vocal part.

Still not good enough.

We tried -32.

The vocal part sounded louder than it had when we tried -33.

We tried -34.

Close, but the consonants and higher notes could still be heard (or, at least, I could hear them because I was listening for them).

We tried -35.

If the vocal part was still there, which it probably was, it was almost completely inaudible.  I couldn't really hear it.

We hit OK.

The green bar slid across the tiny window again, this time indicating that the computer was processing the channel mix (or "un-mix" in this case).

Then the green bar reached its destination and the tiny window went away.  We looked at the screen.

We had managed to put the file back almost exactly the way it was before.

Isn't it amazing how something can seem so beyond repair, yet can still be fixed?

Thank You, God!

We kept the mix that we had made so that I could practice with it.

This time, we used a different file name.

Pictures are a recreation of the chain of events.

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