I recently pulled out my old recording board from its protective foam-lined road case I’ve kept in the garage for years. The sights, smell, and the familiar feel of knobs and faders unleashed a flood of memories that sloshed my mind back to the day when this Roland VS-2480 HD with 80 Gig hard drive first arrived at my tiny, then newly-wed, apartment so many years ago. What is now an antiquated piece of equipment, was then the latest thing I had ever heard of and it teemed with endless possibilities. At almost three grand plus the cost of an external SCSI 4x CD burner, it was an investment into the next stage of growth in my lusterless recording career.
As I unpacked my equipment, my thoughts quickly turned to some of the technical details concerning the passage of time. First, this unit was designed to work with an old school VGA monitor, which, thankfully, I had kept and hoped still worked. More pressing was the question of if, so many years ago, I had the forethought to also hang on to an old school pre-USB wired mouse (yes that was a thing). They were so prevalent then, but how would I find one now? My concern was quickly put to rest once I unloaded the board from the case and found one neatly tucked away under the soundboard like a thoughtful gift from a wise version of my former self.
I plugged it all in and thankfully everything fired up like it always did. Lights blinked, motors whirled, and you could hear the sound of the internal hard drive quite literally driving hard. Ahh…nostalgia at it’s finest. I had spent countless hours of my life pouring my heart and soul into these pre-amps and EQ knobs, living and dying with each take and every song. Excited to further reminisce, I pulled up a favorite project and pushed the play button only to have my swirling hallmark movie memories turn quickly to embarrassment and disbelief. What was I thinking? A decade or more has passed since I last used this equipment and to say the least, I have learned a lot between now and then.
As I listened to individual instruments, I began to remember how, back then, I didn’t know how to tune drums, which would explain why the snare drum sounded so…so…terrible. I also applied a simple EQ trick I learned a couple of years ago that made each vocal take come alive, about ten years too late. Back then, I didn’t know what an expander was, didn’t know what compression make-up gain did, nor had I ever heard of “quantize.” I also didn’t know much about midi instruments, had no concept of what ‘mastering’ was and could have easily solved many of the technical limitations I struggled against to no avail if I just would have known then what I know now.
But such is life. You give it your best shot, and when you look back, you shake your head and laugh, because, through all the technical ignorance of not knowing what half the buttons did, there were some great and worshipful moments. I remember weeping from the pure emotion and holy anointing on some of these songs. They blessed people and helped move us further down the path of what God was doing. I now find it funny; whether or not I realize it, the same thing is happening now. The knowledge I possess now will be laughable in the years to come, if, and only if, I continue to pursue excellence and remain teachable. For instance, I just learned some things last week that would have made every project I’ve ever worked on better. So being short of a time machine, the only thing you can do is smile, cringe a bit, and move forward because it’s not a failure to have tried and learned. It just means the next time will be better.