Saving Your Best, and Saving Your Worst: Giving Old Instruments New Life

By April 14, 2016DIY, samples & sets

Every songwriter who records their own music has some tracks they don’t love floating around in their past. It’s a right of passage, and part of the learning experience. If hearing some of your old recordings make you cringe, maybe its time to hear them in a new light. Thanks to Ableton’s Simpler Instrument, some bad performances can become some interesting sounds.

If you’re lucky enough to have a good family, chances are you’ll have a few relatives that know of your passion for music, and they will support you in some fun ways. Years back, I received a beautiful vintage Wurlitzer accordion from my 90 year old Aunt Anna, bought at a garage sale. She and her sister were great people to me, anytime they saw any kind of instrument that was clearly an instrument (no guitar pedals etc) they picked it up for me. I wound up with some great stuff. This accordion was a little harder to manage though.

Not only is an accordion really hard to play on its own, but its especially hard to play with a ripped bag. I called several music stores, none of which had a repairman who was interested in trying to fix it. When I finally found someone who worked on accordions, he was an hour away and estimated about 250 dollars for the fix. I was in my early 20s, and accordion money wasn’t exactly in the budget. So I messed with it for a few recordings, and then sold it on craigslist for an amount I don’t remember, but I’d probably be mad at myself now about it.

In the old days, that would have been the end of the story. But with Ableton 9’s Simpler instrument, its easy to take a very poorly played track and make it something fun. With its ability to keep transients, beats, and several nuances in place as it warps the sample to your desired time signature, Simpler is an amazingly fun tool. In the video, I walk you through my process of turning my crummy track into something useful and interesting.

My suggestion to you all is that even if you hate a recording, keep the stems. As a matter of fact, you can learn from my regrets and save the instruments! Simpler is a savior of this specific performance for me. Who knows what exactly will be coming out in the future? Maybe software will be able take a performance and replicate it down to the smallest detail. Back in 2005, I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything with these sounds, now I like it a lot. Time changes everything, and for my old recordings, time shows new opportunities.

Download the free instruments here.