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Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording
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gogo_man
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:44 pm    Post subject: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

Hey everyone,

I wanted to validate some ideas and get some advice on getting into analog recording.

Goal: I want to record an album which will contain vocals/synths/electronic and acoustic drums/bass elements. I hope to obtain a warm and older sound. I am a huge fan of deep house (love the punchy and slightly lofi sound achieved here) and psych stuff (think psych beatles).

I have a fairly reasonable budget for getting all of this done, which means I will be investing in good mics (sm 57, sm58, beta 52a, e609 etc) and have solid and reliable synths and instruments/amps for all of this.

The biggest and most exciting challenge for me is incorporating a reel to reel machine into the recording process. Now I am not an expert when it comes to a recording environment and still have a lot of gaps in my knowledge with regards to how I am going to make this all go down, but I learn best by just getting my hands dirty.
Anyways, there seems to be a few ways to get to a final mix assuming a 8 track tape machine, the two most common I have seen are:

Instrument or Vocals (one by one) -> Tape Reel to Reel -> DAW for mixing and mastering

Instrument or Vocals -> DAW via Audio Interface (with mixing) -> Track master to reel to reel -> Back DAW to digitize (prob wouldn't need a 8 track for this scenario)

From my research both of these seem like plausible scenarios, am I right on this? Any one had any experience with these two methods and if so, any insight with regards to achieving a warm and full sound (vague, I know)? My biggest concern is getting a solid recording wrt to my live drums. That's probably a whole another discussion, but does anyone have any insight with regards to recording drums with a reel to reel in the mix?

I know there are headaches when it comes to maintenance of these machines , but luckily I live close to reliable tech who will be selling me a Teac A-3340S with 6 month warranty, so that alleviates a lot of pain. (prob won't allow for recording drums straight to reel to reel since its a 4 track, but if people report achieving some awesome drums with an 8 track, then I'd probably skip out and go for a fostex 8 track).

Anyways, I know I am asking some pretty general stuff here, but mostly looking for some anecdotes and advise regarding what I am trying to do. I understand that there is going to be a bit of a learning curve . I also get that reel to reel tape != ultra awesome psych beatles record. Figured I gotta start somewhere though.
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kslight
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

You'll want to either record to tape then go to DAW and stay therefor the mix, or vice versa. This is because of sync issues...most machines will drift faster and slower and so won't ever play back exactly the same. But if you had all tracks on tape that you want there, then play them back (while recording to your computer) they'll at least be in sync with each other. If you chose to transfer to your computer in separate passes, the various passes won't sync up without manual editing.

Something to think about.

I personally like some units, like the Tascam 388...has a cool sound to it. 8 tracks, on 1/4" tape at 7.5ips, so pretty cheap to use. Not hifi, but it's got something about it that I like anyway. Also self contained, which is a major productivity advantage. But they have skyrocketed in value since I got into them, so not always easy to find one that's affordable. What I'll do, is record "whatever" to the 388, then transfer to the computer all at once, and use the computer for mixing, editing, and if I need to continue overdubbing (of course on the 388 it's easy to ping pong tracks around so you can get more instruments down to one track if you don't mind sacrificing control).


You might instead consider getting a 2 track machine, so you can print your whole stereo mix to tape, rather than doing it track by track. For a simpler workflow.
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Drone
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

There's also the taking it of the repro idea, which I'd use if I was going for a tape sound.

You record to tape, but at the same time feed the repro from the tape into the DAW. Therefore your tracks have 'tape sound' but are in a DAW already. The tape is just like an effect, once you've recorded the track/take/session you can reuse the tape.
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joninc
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 6:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

gogo_man wrote:


Instrument or Vocals (one by one) -> Tape Reel to Reel -> DAW for mixing and mastering

Instrument or Vocals -> DAW via Audio Interface (with mixing) -> Track master to reel to reel -> Back DAW to digitize (prob wouldn't need a 8 track for this scenario)


Mixing to tape is a lot more subtle than tracking to/thru tape so i'd opt for scenario 1. That said - there's more to it than just the tape.

An E609 is a really modern sounding sculpted mic. You're probably better off with using older dynamics (EV635, RE15, sm57 etc) and ribbon mics (even mid/cheap ones - cascade etc).

I'd track drums to 3-4 tracks and dump to DAW. kik/sn/mono Overhead and maybe a room mic.

This might be helpful - http://www.funkydown.com/downloads/shitty1.pdf http://www.funkydown.com/downloads/shitty2.pdf

I just mixed an album for a band that just went through the electronics of a cheap tape machine for pres into the DAW and it really didn't add anything cool. just lots of ground hum and dullness so make sure your tape machine is rocking and experiment with how hard to hit it so you're getting the best results.

on the other hand i've mixed an album that was tracked to tape and we tried mixing to tape but it was just way too much hiss to have another level of tape involved so we opted to print the mixes digitally instead.

USE YOUR EARS AND DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE - tape can be fun but it's an illusion to think it will make everything sound cool and like the beatles. Those engineers were GENIUSES and using very very great gear!!
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gogo_man
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

kslight wrote:
You'll want to either record to tape then go to DAW and stay therefor the mix, or vice versa. This is because of sync issues...most machines will drift faster and slower and so won't ever play back exactly the same. But if you had all tracks on tape that you want there, then play them back (while recording to your computer) they'll at least be in sync with each other. If you chose to transfer to your computer in separate passes, the various passes won't sync up without manual editing.

Something to think about.

Really good insight. Will keep this in mind.

kslight wrote:

I personally like some units, like the Tascam 388...has a cool sound to it. 8 tracks, on 1/4" tape at 7.5ips, so pretty cheap to use. Not hifi, but it's got something about it that I like anyway. Also self contained, which is a major productivity advantage. But they have skyrocketed in value since I got into them, so not always easy to find one that's affordable. What I'll do, is record "whatever" to the 388, then transfer to the computer all at once, and use the computer for mixing, editing, and if I need to continue overdubbing (of course on the 388 it's easy to ping pong tracks around so you can get more instruments down to one track if you don't mind sacrificing control).


My heart aches for one of these. This was my initial choice, but as you mentioned they are pricey (atleast those that are in good condition) and heavy (so would have to be a local find).

kslight wrote:

You might instead consider getting a 2 track machine, so you can print your whole stereo mix to tape, rather than doing it track by track. For a simpler workflow.


Here you mean just recording to DAW via Digital interface > tape > back to DAW?
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gogo_man
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

Drone wrote:
There's also the taking it of the repro idea, which I'd use if I was going for a tape sound.

You record to tape, but at the same time feed the repro from the tape into the DAW. Therefore your tracks have 'tape sound' but are in a DAW already. The tape is just like an effect, once you've recorded the track/take/session you can reuse the tape.


Ultimately I think this is what I'll be mostly, hard to say though until I get in there and get my hands dirty. Smile
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gogo_man
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

joninc wrote:

Mixing to tape is a lot more subtle than tracking to/thru tape so i'd opt for scenario 1. That said - there's more to it than just the tape.

An E609 is a really modern sounding sculpted mic. You're probably better off with using older dynamics (EV635, RE15, sm57 etc) and ribbon mics (even mid/cheap ones - cascade etc).


Good info on the mics. Will consider older mics. Makes sense to me.

joninc wrote:

I'd track drums to 3-4 tracks and dump to DAW. kik/sn/mono Overhead and maybe a room mic.


So after internalizing all of the info Ive gotten and the article you provided, Im thinking an 8 track might be better. I think one of the biggest things for me is making sure my drums and percussive elements get that analog sound (maybe bass if I can slip that in there too). The idea would be this. Track a whole kit using all 7 tracks. After done bounce to track #8 and also bounce to DAW, then add some sprinkles with other percussive elements and just keep repeating this? (I'm guessing this might be a problem due to what @kslight said about a tape machine never playing back at the same speed, don't mind doing some editing in my daw, but would hate to ruin the integrity of the tracks, also thinking this might overload something that only has 1/4in).

joninc wrote:

This might be helpful - http://www.funkydown.com/downloads/shitty1.pdf http://www.funkydown.com/downloads/shitty2.pdf


That article was amazing. This guy gets me. Love it.

joninc wrote:

I just mixed an album for a band that just went through the electronics of a cheap tape machine for pres into the DAW and it really didn't add anything cool. just lots of ground hum and dullness so make sure your tape machine is rocking and experiment with how hard to hit it so you're getting the best results.


on the other hand i've mixed an album that was tracked to tape and we tried mixing to tape but it was just way too much hiss to have another level of tape involved so we opted to print the mixes digitally instead.


I get what you mean by tracking to tape (mic/line in directly into reel to reel), but what do you mean when you say mix to tape? (Tape out -> mixer/effects -> tape in)?

joninc wrote:

USE YOUR EARS AND DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE - tape can be fun but it's an illusion to think it will make everything sound cool and like the beatles. Those engineers were GENIUSES and using very very great gear!!

I am mostly looking for a little color and warmth to my music. I am hoping tape can do that for me. A dream of mine is to come close to something like the stuff on the Desco label mentioned in the article. That would be awesome!
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kslight
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

gogo_man wrote:
kslight wrote:
You'll want to either record to tape then go to DAW and stay therefor the mix, or vice versa. This is because of sync issues...most machines will drift faster and slower and so won't ever play back exactly the same. But if you had all tracks on tape that you want there, then play them back (while recording to your computer) they'll at least be in sync with each other. If you chose to transfer to your computer in separate passes, the various passes won't sync up without manual editing.

Something to think about.

Really good insight. Will keep this in mind.

kslight wrote:

I personally like some units, like the Tascam 388...has a cool sound to it. 8 tracks, on 1/4" tape at 7.5ips, so pretty cheap to use. Not hifi, but it's got something about it that I like anyway. Also self contained, which is a major productivity advantage. But they have skyrocketed in value since I got into them, so not always easy to find one that's affordable. What I'll do, is record "whatever" to the 388, then transfer to the computer all at once, and use the computer for mixing, editing, and if I need to continue overdubbing (of course on the 388 it's easy to ping pong tracks around so you can get more instruments down to one track if you don't mind sacrificing control).


My heart aches for one of these. This was my initial choice, but as you mentioned they are pricey (atleast those that are in good condition) and heavy (so would have to be a local find).

kslight wrote:

You might instead consider getting a 2 track machine, so you can print your whole stereo mix to tape, rather than doing it track by track. For a simpler workflow.


Here you mean just recording to DAW via Digital interface > tape > back to DAW?


The last example I mean, recording and mixing on computer, taking the stereo mix to a 2 track machine, and then taking it back into the computer.


With the post example below, yes you will have sync issues doing it this way. This cannot be understated. It's not a matter of just realigning the start points...it generally would require many many edits to maintain perfect sync...I've been down this road.
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floid
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:51 am    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

I'm currently recording a batch of songs on a 3440, and embracing the limitations of the format. My typical starting point is
Track 1: drum heart Mic (E/V 666) plus a touch of kick (akg d12) and floor tom (E/V 665)
Track 2: drum o/h (CAD e300) plus room (Shinybox 46c)
Track 3: bass direct thru 2x dbx 163x, hitting tape just a bit too hard.

These are then bounced to track 4 with live elements such as b/vox, organ pads, additional percussion, whatever. The extra elements are mixed VERY conservatively, which usually ends up being just right. I clean the tape path before the bounce, and do it off the playback head. Exactly how hard the bounce mix hits track 4 makes a big difference.
I find the two tracks of drums are usually enough for my purposes, they allow me to set a basic sound that I can vary for different sections. The bass path is designed to exaggerate articulation, which is welcome down the line.
When I move on to the next track, it's always done on top of the bass, so I can do a rough mix and see if the bounce is working in context, rather than prematurely erase a drum track and end up having to start from scratch.
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gogo_man
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 10:12 am    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

floid wrote:
These are then bounced to track 4 with live elements such as b/vox, organ pads, additional percussion, whatever.


Can you help me understand what you mean here (probably makes sense to others, beginner here though. Smile )? Are you bouncing your drums/bass to track 4 then tracking vox/organ/percussion sprinkles on track 1,2,3?
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floid
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

The "sprinkles" (cool term) are part of the the bounce to track 4, performed live and mixed with the taped material. Since drum and bass become second generation, this stuff has a tendency to sit on top and be too present, which is why I mentioned conservative levels. Better to have not quite enough than WAY too much.
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gogo_man
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

floid wrote:
The "sprinkles" (cool term) are part of the the bounce to track 4, performed live and mixed with the taped material. Since drum and bass become second generation, this stuff has a tendency to sit on top and be too present, which is why I mentioned conservative levels. Better to have not quite enough than WAY too much.


So while you are boucing to track 4 you are also recording live to track four at the same time? Is one able to hear what is boucing, while recording over this so everything is in sync and on time?
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:38 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

Yes. My mixer is set up something like:
Channel 1: drum heart
Channel 2: drum o/H and room for drier sections
Channel 3: drum o/H and room for thicker sections
Channel 4: effect return for bass
Channel 5: bass
Channel 6: Mic for shaker and b/vox
Channel 7: organ direct.
Some alternate muting between channels two and three, some fading on channel 4. The mix is sent to track four and monitored on headphones.
Then I check the mix from tape, use channel 8 to record a scratch- ish track over the bass line to make sure what i've got is going to work before changing my mix setup. If i'm happy, i'll record some more bits and bobs on track 1 and then set up a new mix where the material on track 1 is being bounced to track three underneath whatever main rhythm instrument is being performed live (usually acoustic guitar with more b/vox). Then tracks one and two are used for main vox, leads, and whatever else.
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vvv
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 4:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

Damn! That's pretty cool.

Nothing I would do with my ITB setup, but that's pretty Cool
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Drone
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Incorporating Reel to Reel in Recording Reply with quote

I just 3 mic the drums, I've tried it other ways, it always sounds best to me. I dunno if we're psych, I often feel kinda spaced out Very Happy
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