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Cut and Splice Tapes - Who still does or did in the past ?
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Royer121
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28th December 2007
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Cut and Splice Tapes - Who still does or did in the past ?

Hey fellow slutz,

I'm currently collecting some information about the history of Editing Workstations. This includes of course the time of analog tapes, which was not mine unfortunately. I got a lot of infos about todays and yesterdays DAWs, but nothing about Analog Editing of tapes.

So I want all of you to gather round and share your stories about tape cutting in this thread.

Perhaps you can tell or give a hint, where I can get some information about the typical approaches of the engineers back in the days.


Did they use tape cutting only for comping the parts or were they already beginning to correct badly played parts ?

Any famous examples of records that were done with the strong use of tape editing ?

Or do you know examples where this was already used in a creative way ?




I say thanks to all who can help.



Greets
Ray
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Before automation it was a fairly standard practice to mix in song sections. Get everything set, learn any fader rides and print each section to 1/4" or 1/2" tape. Then edit the sections together so they run like a song. There were also 'radio edits' that were shorter then the album cuts.

On the multitrack often times what would happen would be to grab the better sections of a few takes to make one master take. So something like the intro and first verse from take 1 the chorus and bridge from take 2 etc. The early Police records were done with the band jaming for longish periods of time on each section and then assembling the song using the best bits. That's part of the reason so many early Police cuts start with a drum fill...

Just about every Beatles record is riddled with tape edits in each stage.
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I grew up splicing tape, all kinds but mostly ghastly jingles that needed to be different lengths for radio ads.
It could be fun at times but I don't really miss it.
For the funniest obvious tape edits check out "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys. Still a great production though.

PG
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As noted, beat-to-beat editing was very important in the analog tape production era -- it was seen as one of the primary advantages of the new medium after WWII.

Even after multitrack production became commonplace, it was typical to do such edits on two track mixes rather than multitrack masters for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the optimal cut angle for a two track was a relatively quiet 45 degrees... but if you cut a 16 track 2 inch master tape at such an angle, there could be some timing issues between from one edge of the tape to the other (depending on tape speed, of course).



In terms of actual technique, the actual cuts were pretty straightforward. You typically used a block with one or more blade guides (often at different angles). The real trick was finding the right edit points, which was typically done by hand rocking the reels with the tape against the PB head -- scrubbing, as it were. No visual grid to cut to, of course. Most dumbass rock and roll was easy to cut -- but jazz and heavily syncopated music could be a bit of a trick. (In school in the mid 80s, our splicing final was a downbeat cut on a reggae track where almost nothing happened on the actual one... so you didn't have a nice fat kick drum that was easy to find, scrubbing. It was something of a challenge, to be sure.)
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Great replies so far, thanks for the Beach Boys Song and the info about multitrack cuts.
That was also one thing I had thought about, but I only had found the typical 2-track cutting approuch.

Also your example with the reggae downbeat song is quite good, since you must have had a good musical feeling to cut such music with very little rhythmical information.

Keep your stories coming... =) its quite refreshing to hear from that era of audio.


Ray
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I used to do 2 track edits & 2" edits all the time ( up until I got my RADAR in around '96 I think )

I used it primarily for overall take editing ( ie comping a backing track from 2 or more takes ) but I also learned how to fix drum timing by chopping out tiny little bits of tape just before late hits - I got really good at judging how late a hit was & cutting out the required amount - it was a real pain in the ass if you got it wrong tho !

There's a dodgy tape edits all over the place if you look closely for them.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_G View Post
For the funniest obvious tape edits check out "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys. Still a great production though.

PG
That's partly because the verses and choruses were done by different engineers at different studios.

Bruce Botnick, one of the engineers on "Good Vibrations" told me about it once when we were hanging. Brian Wilson wanted a different sound on the different sections of the song, so he used different studios, players, engineers for each!

The first time Bruce heard the whole song was on the radio, even though he was one of the engineers. Pretty wild.

But that explains the very obvious edits between sections.
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All the 70's era Yes stuff was massively edited.

The story goes, they would jam the sections of the songs and work out the parts, record them to tape then edit the pieces together to make one (usually big) song.

After that the would keep the mixes in storage to forget about them, come back a year later to see what they though about the songs / mixes.

If they did like the tracks (and I think they usually did because there is very little bootleg material from them, at least that I can find) they would release the album and THEN go learn the parts in order so they could play them live, pretty impressive if you think about it.

A good example of this editing was on "And You and I" from "Close to the Edge." The hand chime they are using gets cut in a few places because they changed the song arrangement with tape edits.
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Strawberry Fields is completely different takes edited together. It's safe to say many Beatle tracks were edited. When I first started we edited the 2" and the 2 track tapes heavily. When we mixed it would just be a couple of bars and then onto the next piece and edit as you go. The funny thing used to be, when a client would see you cut their tape for the first time they would freak out, but once they saw what you could do they couldn't get enough. It taught you alot about what would sound natural and what wouldn't. I remember playing on a classical- rock mass that was recorded in sections and then edited together at the mix, which was strange but given the music worked
I also heard of engineers doing window edits although I never did.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianT View Post
That's partly because the verses and choruses were done by different engineers at different studios.

Bruce Botnick, one of the engineers on "Good Vibrations" told me about it once when we were hanging. Brian Wilson wanted a different sound on the different sections of the song, so he used different studios, players, engineers for each!

The first time Bruce heard the whole song was on the radio, even though he was one of the engineers. Pretty wild.

But that explains the very obvious edits between sections.
Thanks Brian,

I have often wondered about it but I just put it down to wildly different arrangements etc.
There is also the mad bit where it sounds like the tape has been twisted.
Did bruce enjoy the final version?

Cheers

Paul G
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musiclab View Post
I also heard of engineers doing window edits although I never did.

Yes.... I did tape edits back in the day but never did window edits. I know guys out there that were really good at it, that was some crazy stuff.

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Quote:
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The funny thing used to be, when a client would see you cut their tape for the first time they would freak out, but once they saw what you could do they couldn't get enough.
Yes! Happened many times. I'd say we were going to do an edit and the client would nod. Then he would see a razor blade heading for his 2" and absolutely freak!

The big thing about edits was there was no "undo" other than physically putting the original back together, which got harder as more editing got done. Keeping track of the pieces was crucial.

I had the same experience trying to cut 1 drop reggae. One solution was the "ruler trick". You went to an outtake or copy and cut pieces that were exactly a quarter note (or other values) long and used them to measure back from the next identifiable beat.

there are things I miss about tape. Razor blades and splicing tape are not among them.
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26 yrs ago I edited a classical guitar record on a Scully 1/4inch 2track -- piecing songs together from the best takes of various song parts. As I recall most of the pieces were long. It was impossible to play all the way through without any mistakes.

This was classical with varied rhythms. No click track. On retakes the artist would replay the part before the flaw occurred, giving me a nice splice point every time.

We recorded 5 nights in a gorgeous concert hall with AKG 414s into a PM1000 to tape. Then it took a whole week to listen, scrub and splice.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Royer121 View Post

Any famous examples of records that were done with the strong use of tape editing ?

Or do you know examples where this was already used in a creative way ?

Ray
I believe Yes' "Close to the Edge" had a lot of tape edits.

-D
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One of the most edited multitracks i've seen is the 2" for radioheads 'creep' - it looked like it had been put through a shredder & then peiced together for evidence !!
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My 2 favorite examples of heavily edited masters are these 2 classics:
"Kind of Blue", Miles Davis
"Jingle Bells", The Barking Dogs
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I've seen as many as 50 2" 24 track edits in a single 3.5 minute song.

Personally, I enjoyed cutting tape. To be honest, I still miss the smell of tape in the control room. Just had a cool presence.

When you first start off, you're all careful and paranoid. After a while, once you realize how tough tape is, you're just hacking away like a madman, especially at 30IPS, where there's a lot more wiggle room in timing accuracy. Have 2 guys grab a piece of 2" tape and start pulling, like a tug-of-war. No way you can snap it. It's surprisingly robust, especially used at 30IPS.

Coolest is when you get good/confident enough to just use a good pair of scissors. Yup, you just make your marks, hold both pieces of tape in one hand, line it up by eyeball and whack it with the scissors. Razor blades and editing blocks are for babies...... ;-)

Feels good, and never fails to impress the client. Make sure you act like it's about as tough as taking out the garbage, no matter how bad you're stressing. Because paranoia is contagious, and bad for the artists
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He he - yeah I love that smell !
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I still edit with razor blades. But i am just about exclusively an analog guy. It's how I learned, and yes it is a bit of a challenge but I like the commitment aspect. It feels more artistic. Guess I'm just old fashioned. I was just on a film shoot doing location sound in a cave in Indiana, and the Nagra I was using (DAT would never have cut it in that environment) got a little funky after a nasty 16 hour day and spilled a bit of tape, wrapping around the capstan, etc., and creating shall we say a bit of concern. I ended up doing an edit with my swiss army knife and some scotch tape. No dialogue was lost. Now that's FUN! I actually have also edited masters where the bass player played a wrong note in an arrangement that bled onto other tracks: I jujst took the note from another take and popped it in. I have also heard of "window edits" but have never done one. That's maybe a little extreme but I could see it if there was an electronic pop on one track or something like that...
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Funny, this topic is taking me back in time. Thanks for starting it.

Here's a good one.

Back in the day, at another studio in town, they did a lot of narration and VO. There was one lady they had as a client who did teaching tapes. Why, I don't know, since she was not a good speaker.

Anyway, this lady had a horrible habit of smacking her lips, clearing her throat and just generally making odd noises during and between sentences. And of course, once recorded, she wanted them edited out. On 1/4 inch tape.

The poor guy who did this over and over (she was a regular client) finally started to lose it. So he began keeping all the little pieces he cut out, and splicing them together. Over a pretty long period of time, as it turned out.

The resulting tape sounded like a gross-out version of "Attack Of The Crab Monsters" or some other low budget Sci-Fi flick. Just this nasty, smacky, wet and juicy noise that went on and on. If you knew the woman, it was hilarious. The way she looked worked perfectly with the way the tape sounded. Just visualize a chunky lady with horn-rim glasses and a beehive hair-do. Except that she's coming to eat your FACE off.

Of course, the tape eventually made the rounds to the point that the lady heard it, and that was the end of that gig. But I always admired the guy for having the idea and dedication to cut about a zillion little slivers together.

Wish I had a copy.
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I still do a fair bit of tape editing, mainly piecing together old tracks from various tapes and resplicing bad edits but if you want an adreneline rush I would recommend it over bungee jumping any day.

No real need these days though really, but if you want someone that can correctly operate a tape machine then they are going to know how to cut tape.

I still have 200 razor blades and about 4 miles of leader in my drawer.
My ambition is to use it all before I die; In a 14" reel of cut up to fuk leader or I may use it for Xmas presents ribbon.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundbarnfool View Post
I ended up doing an edit with my swiss army knife and some scotch tape.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianT View Post
Coolest is when you get good/confident enough to just use a good pair of scissors. Yup, you just make your marks, hold both pieces of tape in one hand, line it up by eyeball and whack it with the scissors. Razor blades and editing blocks are for babies...... ;-)
Can anyone say Badass?!
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The most famous window edit that I can think of is the extended edit in When The Music's Over by the Doors. The story is that that's how Morison's rap was inserted over the music by a very long splice on the multi track master.

Anybody remember "Dance Edits" these were extended mix using various parts, breakdowns, extended solos, added effects, etc. The producer's desk was usually covered with little pieces of tape with various grease pencil markings. I was personally responsible for a few. I once did a dance edit where the producer wanted a reversed snare drum hit. The fun part was getting it to occur in time. I got it on the second cut...

I've done a bunch of montages, there are a few at my website. Two, The Groove Shakers and the Boogie Chillens were edited on quarter inch tape.

I edited an album of Renaissance street music on a Mitsubishi open reel digital recorder that I had recorded on that machine in Blumlien pair. It was like editing cellophane from a cigarette wrapper and one of the requirements was that a gap had to be left in the splice so that the dropout compensator's wouldn't glitch.
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Don't forget to study Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, which AFAIK is one of the first albums that had sections looped and repeated for creative purposes.
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Sometimes when you'd splice 2track, you'd get a sort of "pop" from the way the instruments landed (kick before the bass, etc), or sometimes from a slop edit (not that I ran into those). A way to help fix this was to flip the tape over and physically rub the splice so the oxide would smear over the edit point. I suppose this is an early version of crossfade.

I highly suggest you practice this before trying to on a session, even if you're splicing tape you made a safety copy of.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianT View Post
Funny, this topic is taking me back in time. Thanks for starting it.

Here's a good one.

Back in the day, at another studio in town, they did a lot of narration and VO. There was one lady they had as a client who did teaching tapes. Why, I don't know, since she was not a good speaker.

Anyway, this lady had a horrible habit of smacking her lips, clearing her throat and just generally making odd noises during and between sentences. And of course, once recorded, she wanted them edited out. On 1/4 inch tape.

The poor guy who did this over and over (she was a regular client) finally started to lose it. So he began keeping all the little pieces he cut out, and splicing them together. Over a pretty long period of time, as it turned out.

The resulting tape sounded like a gross-out version of "Attack Of The Crab Monsters" or some other low budget Sci-Fi flick. Just this nasty, smacky, wet and juicy noise that went on and on. If you knew the woman, it was hilarious. The way she looked worked perfectly with the way the tape sounded. Just visualize a chunky lady with horn-rim glasses and a beehive hair-do. Except that she's coming to eat your FACE off.

Of course, the tape eventually made the rounds to the point that the lady heard it, and that was the end of that gig. But I always admired the guy for having the idea and dedication to cut about a zillion little slivers together.

Wish I had a copy.
I did that too! Except it was a guy, and along with the lip smack were a lot of big breaths. Sounded like a porn movie.
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One big change occured when DAWs came along and were starting to be used in the radio/TV production world in the early '90s.

Previously, when working on a production the engineer was busy cutting 1/4" tape and dealing with either an 8-track 1" or a 1/2" 4 track multitrack deck.

The client/producer had NO IDEA WHAT YOU WERE DOING.
As a consequence they stayed out of your way.

As soon as a DAW with a CRT monitor appeared there was a "television show" showing everything that you were doing.
In other words, it became VERY visual and the client or producer could join in.

For some peole this might have been a good thing, bit I always felt that it slowed things down.

Also... a previous poster said that BEFORE automation people used to mix in sections and edit together the parts.
I have news... even with automation it is common to mix in sections and assemble it later. I do it on every mix session I ever do... even to this day!
Eventually, you get to a place where you can't just hit play and have the automation do all of your moves.
Too much stuff needs to be changed and automation can't do it all.
Automation will help, but it isn't really possible to pull sophisticated mixes w/o working in sections.
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Back in the days before multitracking (I was there), a band would perform several takes of a whole song, then after, the best sections would be spliced together, i.e., the intro from take two, the first verse and chorus from take four, and the ending from take one. Usually there were just two or three cuts, and mostly to get a tight intro and exciting ending.

A trained ear can hear these splices, and they're on most all records ..even the best ones, such as Sinatra's records from the fifties.
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Quote:
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One solution was the "ruler trick". You went to an outtake or copy and cut pieces that were exactly a quarter note (or other values) long and used them to measure back from the next identifiable beat.
The original "grid"!
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"I Feel For You" Chaka Kahn
"Wood Beez" Remix Scritti Politi

have some creative splices!

RIP Arif Mardin.

Also, remixes in the '80's and '90's
There were some famous guys in NYC, the Latin Rascals

An Emerson College student named Hosh Guerili did the craziest edit remix of Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science". It kicked off his career...

In LA, Greg Royal was known for creative edits... he went on to mix Dre's "the Chronic"...

If Jon Gass is lurking, perhaps he'll chime in on the David Bowie "Fame" remix he did.
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Last edited by paultools; 29th December 2007 at 03:35 PM.. Reason: Latin rascals correction and link
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