Remixing an old demo

Discussion in 'Mixing & Editing' started by sshack, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Dec 25, 2007
    Atlanta, Ga
    I'll preface my question with a bit of history...

    I used to be in a pretty heavy thrash/metal band back in the late 80's early 90's and had cut a demo that all of us members in the band really felt, in the end, that the mix and quality sucked badly. This was the first time any of us had been in a studio, we were all naive teens with stars in our eyes (relatively speaking) so we had no clue so we just accepted it and moved on.

    Fast forward 20 years.

    Most of us lost touch for a long period but recently we've all been reunited through a cool train of events. During our conversations we always bring up the fact that we wished we had a better sounding demo. Well, it turns out that the drummer has found the original "master" reel.

    Enter question: Simply put, is it possible/feasible to have the tape remixed? The primary problem (but boy are there many), is that the guitars have no midrange, so they have no cut...they're just like white noise. I suspect that there will be a good amount of limitations on WHAT can be done based on HOW (well) the tracks were recorded. If the quality of the track sucks, you can't really doctor it up, this I know.

    That being said, I think it was done on a 16 track, so that'd be half inch tape, right? I suppose the next challenge would be finding a place with a machine that could accommodate.

    Lastly, if it can be done, what sort of things do I really need to look for in a studio to make sure it's done properly or at least as best as it can.


  2. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    If you had the original multitrack tape, it's possible. I kinda doubt it was a 16-track on a 1/2" tape, though, unless it was something like a Fostex that tried to cram 16 tracks onto it. More likely be a 1", or possibly even 2" 16-track, depending on what the "studio" was.

    In either case, yes, you'll have to find a machine that will play it. And then, you'll have to set up that machine to play it properly, if it's possible.

    You'd have to pretty much see how each track sounds separately to know whether you'll be able to mix the thing again. If all the tracks have good level, and the tones are OK, you may be able to just remix it down.

    You may have to take some tracks out through external processing. You may be able to dump it all into a computer, and do the mixing and processing there. It all depends. They may have submixed some stuff, at which point you can mix those tracks against the others, but only do so much within them. That "Master reel" may be only a 1/4" stereo mix, at which point your choices are limited to what you can do.

    I'd think the first step is finding out what size and type tape it is, how many tracks, and, if possible, finding out what it was recorded on. Something should have been written on the tape box, shouldn't it have been?

    Sounds like quite a project. Could run into some money. Do you all feel that the expense will even be worth it? If the quality is as bad as you indicate, that's something to consider. Maybe they just made a bad mix from a reasonably good multi-track recording? Maybe they had no clue what they were doing, and the entire thing is sludge?

    Maybe they were monitoring the tape to mix all the levels in real time, which left some tracks low and some high, and not getting proper levels on any? A multi-track tape playback will sound terrible if all the recording levels were set to record at a good level, and played back without adjusting levels. Mixing is done after the tracks are recorded. Is this possible?

    Do any of you recall anything about that event? Any pics of the "studio", or gear? Can you find the guy who did it, and ask what he did to see if he remembers what it was and how? Was it even a "studio", or just someone who happened to have a mixer and tape deck?

    We don't know. You'll have to dig up those answers to see if it's feasible, or even desireable, to pursue.

    Did I miss anything? :roll:

  3. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Dec 25, 2007
    Atlanta, Ga
    Let's see if I can answer some of this...

    *I thought it may be 1/2", but the more I ponder it the more I'm beginning to think that it is in fact 1". I seem to recall damn near 10+/- tracks just for the drums. None the less, I'll find out soon enough.

    *Pretty sure it was a Fostex. I'll have the drummer look at the box and check out all of the specs. I'm sure this can (and hopefully will) tell a lot.

    *As far as how the mix went down, I really have no clue. I do remember that what we heard in the headphones and through monitors during playback sounded just never translated to cassette. Yes, cassette.

    *I don't want to assume what you're definition of a proper studio is, but I can say that there were iso booths, a drum room, plenty of mics, a large mixing console, plenty of outboard gear and a tape machine...all of the things that you would associate with a proper studio. It was in the basement of his house and he primarily recorded contemporary Christian music...having literally (as I recall) never recorded a distorted guitar before us. The reason we chose him was that he was cutting us a deal and he was a pretty nice guy without much attitude; and that meant much to us back then.

    *Regarding the cost to re-mix this; well, there's 5 of us and we've all expressed a certain degree of interest in trying to get it done, so I don't think the money would be much of an issue. I for one would throw a few hundred dollars at it if I thought the outcome could be favorable. A preliminary assessment would be great....maybe pay someone to check it out first. Anyone up for the task? :wink:

    That's about all I can come up with right now. It sounds do-able, but with many potential obstacles thrown in. Thanks for the comments, I welcome any other contributions.


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