Monthly Archives: April 2015

An experiment in tape-treating

Here’s part of a retro-inspired tune I’ve been working on, possibly for NMRIH.
Even though I had tried for some classic FM and modular synth tones, ThoughT had commented that the production sounded too clean and modern-sounding. Enter the tape recorder.


I had this bad boy back in 2000 when I started college at UM. I had replaced it with a Minidisc player shortly after the semester started and the recorder ended up in storage for almost fifteen years. Discussing ways to give my song an older grunge reminded me of its existence.

This first attempt was done by re-recording the output of the cassette player into my Zoom. The higher synth notes would vibrate the sides of the speaker and distort, not to mention the added noise from the tape player mechanism. Not ideal, but worth trying.


I tracked down the right cable to go out from the headphone jack and into the line-in on the H2 for this next version. I recorded the parts to tape separately, did a touch of noise reduction to keep the hiss from getting out of control, and mixed them down into this.
Before tape:

After tape:

I started to notice a bit of a timing drift on the percussion tracks by the end of the track, which means I may need to treat smaller portions and edit them back into the grid. I doubt I’d use this technique on everything, but it can help add a lot of sonic character, especially when you’re going for an older feel.