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Tricks and secrets of recording on a 4-track
Old 10th July 2020
  #1
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Tricks and secrets of recording on a 4-track

sup guys, haven't posted on here for a long time.

in here i'll be sharing some of my "tricks and secrets" for anyone who is recording on a four track cassette recorder and also feel free to share some of your tips and stuff. (NOTE: I'm tired of seeing threads talking about how to bounce on a four track, so don't post em in here unless you think it the technique employed affects the sound of your recording in a special way)


1- RECORDING WITH THE DBX NOISE REDUCER ON AND THEN TURNING IT OFF DURING PLAYBACK/MIXING. I've found that if you use your dbx the normal way (recording with it on and letting it on during playback), a big range of frequencies will be lost (mainly high end) in exchange for less "noise", which is tape hiss.

But if you record(dbx on, then off after playback), say, a drum, you will get a particular sound that feels more compressed. Like a hiss then compression every time you hit the drums. this applies to all other instruments.

What it'll do ultimately is: boost your higher frequencies, and up the tape hiss, which is not necesserally a bad aesthetic for some.
here is an example of a song where i used this technique: https://weathercontrol.bandcamp.com/track/heat

2- Second point connects with the first one.
RECORDING DOUBLE TRACKED VOCALS WITH A MIC THAT IS PLUGGED STRAIGHT INTO THE FOUR-TRACK
. I used to record my vocals with an effect filled amp that is mic'd. Now i've found some cool natural effect by pluggin the mic directly into my four track and singing in it.

Using the same technique said in the first point, I record my vocals with dbx on, then turned off. And i will record the same vocal part on two tracks. the effect is this: solid compression on the voice, a higher frequency voice that sounds apart from all the other tracks but in a well balanced way, also, a light natural flanger-y type voice.

3 - PANNING YOUR GUITARS IN EACH CORNER OF EARS, i.e LEFT AND RIGHT.
during my process of recording post-rock type music, i've found that mixing your guitars apart from each other gives a fuller sound when listened in stereo and is overall more interesting.

This is great for creating what they call "angular guitars" with guitar melodies that make harmonies with each other. it makes the harmonies more noticable.

4- DOUBLE TRACKING.
I've recently got back into double tracking my instruments. First time i did purposfully was with two acoustic guitars doing the same fingerpicking. So basically you record guitar 1 and then you re-record the same guitar part with guitar 2/track 2.

It gives, again, a fuller stereo sound and a flanger type of sound, that is if you don't change your guitar tone for both guitars (because the frequencies of each guitar are slightly different because of "phasing" or slight tape flutter i'm guessing, creating oscillations with each other) What is interesting with double tracking guitars is that you can be kind of sloppy (playing notes that are slightly delayed from the other guitar) but in a way that doesn't negatively affect the tempo or time of the song. Here's a track I did with that technique :
https://weathercontrol.bandcamp.com/track/le-vide

That's it for now, I will keep updating this thread and hopefully yall's are going to share some of your recording "secrets" with a four-track or a reel-to-reel or any analog equipement (like a compressor or anything like that).
Old 4th August 2020
  #2
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That's great, interesting how you can get a slight flange sound even tho it's only one tape

Hopefully Tim Presley will come on here and explain how he managed to make the sounds on 'Cyclops reap' come out of a 4track???
Old 4th August 2020
  #3
very cool. very cool. What genre would you describe "Weather Control" as?
Old 7th August 2020
  #4
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^i would describe it as sand music. like, lo fidelity grains of sand entering your ears.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoePie View Post
That's great, interesting how you can get a slight flange sound even tho it's only one tape

Hopefully Tim Presley will come on here and explain how he managed to make the sounds on 'Cyclops reap' come out of a 4track???
haha hate to say this but cyclops reap is a big inspiration. this guy mastered the sound on a 424. still dont know how he does it. and yeah, flange really comes from double tracking guitars for example; and i stress the fact you MUST have the same tone for both guitars in order to get that "slight" tape flange (without using a flanger pedal)

also, i want to add that, i assure everyone that i know that: if you lose high frequencies by using the dbx, your 4 track must be misaligned... or something.
Old 7th August 2020
  #5
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recorded this recently on a teac 3340s
the record process really is the same but without all the dbx methods i have mentioned before.
https://youtu.be/5pck0CSCKl0
Old 7th August 2020
  #6
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Thanks, cool music.

I don't think this a secret but this is a technique I adapted from the work flow of old days. When a engineer would record a group of instruments on single track and finally filling all the tracks and then mix those 4 tracks to stereo. I am doing the same thing here except that I don't have a group of people to play all the instruments. I am tracking everything myself and recording them first to DAW and then processing (compress, EQ, whatever) them to the 4-track machine. Then finally mixing the 4 tracks with a analog mixer. On this following example the stereo mix was recorded with computer as I was using my stereo reel to reel already as a tape delay.

Happy Crow (including some shaky footage from our family trip to China in 2017)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZlZ0PwfN-4

This was one time only test two years ago but I was so impressed by the improvement of the mix after the 4-track machine and analog mixer. It was so much more 3D.
Old 7th August 2020
  #7
Put your microphones at least five meters away from the source! That is what I learned when I made "Play with Ugandans" last year. A synthesizer made by me where I pitched to analog tape!

1. Don't pitch to analog tape, limit in the air (5 meters) and overdub all the channels when you record. Or you have problems with the analog tape recorder and also with the bass!
Old 7th August 2020
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assman420 View Post
sup guys, haven't posted on here for a long time.
Man, you might dig https://casuallydating.bandcamp.com/album/never-awake ... Casually Dating are my friend Paul and I. He writes the songs and demos everything, and then I help him record, mix and master. He usually likes the vocals burried a bit lower than I'd like but it's part of the charm.

The Never Awake album was recorded and mixed on a Tascam 414 MkII except for "Interlude". All mixes were performed live (duh ) and captured from the 414 into PT with a Rosetta 200.

The track “Mistakes" is particularly trippy. Trying to remember how the hell we got that on-the-brink feedback vocal/guitar delay thing. The album was mixed with a Carbon Copy and another cheap analog delay on the Auxes of the 414 … the Aux returns are stereo jacks but the pedals are mono so we’d fiddle with the plugs/jacks until the sound showed up where we wanted in the stereo field.

One of our fav tricks with the 414 is the DBX can be off/on/sync … sync turns DBX on for ch1-3 but leaves it off for ch4, so we could record with DBX on but expand/blow-out channel 4 on playback.

"'94" and "heck" from https://casuallydating.bandcamp.com/...ht-of-the-soul are also rec/mix 414 MKII.

"'94" we mixed many times and I was never totally happy with the result. I ended up taking the L channel of one mix and the R from another and combining them. The 414 isn’t very stable so I had to vari-speed one of the channels in PT in several sections of the song to keep them in sync. Basically means for the entire song the L/R channels are flanging against each other. Completely breaks all the rules but I love this song and the effect on headphones is satisfying

Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember right now how we got “heck” sounding so ****ed…maybe it’ll come back to me.

The rest of the Dark Night of the Soul record was first tracked digitally into PT and then dumped to the 414 for mixing.

Never Awake was the first album I ever recorded and mixed purely on tape. Not looking at a screen during any part of the recording/mixing process (except PT for mix capture) was a revelation.

Ah, another thing, I always try to master Casually Dating records through some sort of hardware, preferably tube. Never Awake was mastered through a UA Reissue LA-2A I had rented for another project (one channel at a time) and Dark Night was mastered through a friend's CL-1B.

Also really enjoying your songs, great music. Punchier sound on your deck than the 414, but that’s to be expected. Will you be releasing Intimate Weather online at all? Would love to hear the full album.

Maybe you and Paul can connect and play some shows when things are more normal? He’s based in Kingston so not too far down the road…one of the most beautiful human-beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and calling a friend <3

edit: oh yeah, top tip: if you download Never Awake from Bandcamp (free) you receive a bunch of bonus pictures taken at the sessions and three videos of us performing live about a month after they were originally recorded in 2015.
Old 7th August 2020
  #9
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^

man that is really awesome, and thanks for the compliment! i listened to '94 and i really love the sounds on that track! love the vocals, the panning of the guitar and drum machine is really nice too. all the songs i published on Weather Control were all made with a yamaha mt400 (with the exception of a couple tracks on the first album which were made with a yamaha mt1x). but yeah i recently recorded two tracks with the teac and it sounds pretty great.

also, i have listened to the collapse EP and it's really goddamned interesting what you guys have done with that. it sounds like psych avant-garde experimental type stuff. i really enjoyed that one.

and yeah i will be releasing Intimate Weather soon enough, i'll publish it on bandcamp and maybe upload a video of the full album. i have to record some songs first haha (i only have 4 right now).
Old 7th August 2020
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by assman420 View Post
^

man that is really awesome, and thanks for the compliment! i listened to '94 and i really love the sounds on that track! love the vocals, the panning of the guitar and drum machine is really nice too. all the songs i published on Weather Control were all made with a yamaha mt400 (with the exception of a couple tracks on the first album which were made with a yamaha mt1x). but yeah i recently recorded two tracks with the teac and it sounds pretty great.

also, i have listened to the collapse EP and it's really goddamned interesting what you guys have done with that. it sounds like psych avant-garde experimental type stuff. i really enjoyed that one.

and yeah i will be releasing Intimate Weather soon enough, i'll publish it on bandcamp and maybe upload a video of the full album. i have to record some songs first haha (i only have 4 right now).
doh...the power of suggestion. I guess the 414 can also be pretty punchy (Out of Sight from Never Awake is on the cleaner side) but we just abused more than not hahaha...

more about '94: recorded completely live. The drum machine (korg volca) was triggered with midi and processed through ableton (phaser wet/dry automation Paul arranged prior to the take) and sent to a mic'd guitar amp?? maybe direct. Hit record on the 414, hit start on Ableton/Volca, Paul sings and plays guitar live. Done. Can't remember how many takes but 2-3 max and we just used the best one to mix.

The Collapse EP is way more Paul than me.

Tracks 1 & 4 he recorded/mixed with Joe Tavella who had a mountain of cool gear at the time. Pretty sure those were recorded/mixed OTB with PT on a Mackie 1640i. (Joe had all kinds of cool stuff hanging off that thing...massive home-made plate, leslie cabinet, Fulltone Tape-Echo...etc.....) Then maybe the mixes were bounced to two tracks of the 414 at a later date by Paul? Just guessing based on what I remember. Regardless, super cool sounding...

Tracks 2 & 3 use material from sessions I had recorded/started to mix with a project called Not The Moon (Paul-Keys, Soren-Bass, Eric-Drums)... (that EP was never released) ... Paul combined that with clips from his field-recordings done with a mini-cassette memo thing. I think he used Ableton to chop up and mix all of that together.

Track 5 was from an impromptu jam between Paul, Soren and Myself in Ableton mouse/keyboard/some sort of controller at his kitchen table ... somehow that track happened ... pretty sure Paul then bounced the two-track to the 414 as well. There are cleaner versions of that mix somewhere but I think the only released version is on The Collapse.

That's another element of Casually Dating...there are many many alts of mixes and different takes/approaches of songs from different days...many times we've finished tracks and then Paul will come in sometime later with a completely new version. I remember the first time redoing a song with him...Mistakes...it caught me by surprise, huh, we already recorded that song...(the earlier version is on the Welcome Home EP.) Then we did the new version found on Never Awake and I never questioned anyone re-recording anything ever again. Both versions are rad. Hard panning: on the welcome home version I play drums hard panned L and he plays drums hard panned R hahaha.... No tape involved on that EP though.

Thank you also for your kind words. Can't wait to hear your album when it's done :) Obligatory Canadian: Sorry for derailing your thread a bit.
Old 23rd August 2020
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teej View Post
doh...the power of suggestion. I guess the 414 can also be pretty punchy (Out of Sight from Never Awake is on the cleaner side) but we just abused more than not hahaha...

more about '94: recorded completely live. The drum machine (korg volca) was triggered with midi and processed through ableton (phaser wet/dry automation Paul arranged prior to the take) and sent to a mic'd guitar amp?? maybe direct. Hit record on the 414, hit start on Ableton/Volca, Paul sings and plays guitar live. Done. Can't remember how many takes but 2-3 max and we just used the best one to mix.

The Collapse EP is way more Paul than me.

Tracks 1 & 4 he recorded/mixed with Joe Tavella who had a mountain of cool gear at the time. Pretty sure those were recorded/mixed OTB with PT on a Mackie 1640i. (Joe had all kinds of cool stuff hanging off that thing...massive home-made plate, leslie cabinet, Fulltone Tape-Echo...etc.....) Then maybe the mixes were bounced to two tracks of the 414 at a later date by Paul? Just guessing based on what I remember. Regardless, super cool sounding...

Tracks 2 & 3 use material from sessions I had recorded/started to mix with a project called Not The Moon (Paul-Keys, Soren-Bass, Eric-Drums)... (that EP was never released) ... Paul combined that with clips from his field-recordings done with a mini-cassette memo thing. I think he used Ableton to chop up and mix all of that together.

Track 5 was from an impromptu jam between Paul, Soren and Myself in Ableton mouse/keyboard/some sort of controller at his kitchen table ... somehow that track happened ... pretty sure Paul then bounced the two-track to the 414 as well. There are cleaner versions of that mix somewhere but I think the only released version is on The Collapse.

That's another element of Casually Dating...there are many many alts of mixes and different takes/approaches of songs from different days...many times we've finished tracks and then Paul will come in sometime later with a completely new version. I remember the first time redoing a song with him...Mistakes...it caught me by surprise, huh, we already recorded that song...(the earlier version is on the Welcome Home EP.) Then we did the new version found on Never Awake and I never questioned anyone re-recording anything ever again. Both versions are rad. Hard panning: on the welcome home version I play drums hard panned L and he plays drums hard panned R hahaha.... No tape involved on that EP though.

Thank you also for your kind words. Can't wait to hear your album when it's done Obligatory Canadian: Sorry for derailing your thread a bit.
i've never recorded on the 414, only the 424, but it seems like a cool machine
how do you guys keep recording alt mixes of these songs? there's a song that i recorded that is kinda unlistenable because of the guitars that are too treble-y, even though it sounded kinda cool. i tried rerecording it 2 different times, but got discouraged because it lost all of its feel. do you sometime release songs even though they aren't what you were going for?

5 - BE A GOOD EQ-ER

This tip isn't exclusive to four tracks of course, but you should use this to your advantage. I seldom EQ my tracks on the computer (I have learned much more about EQing on my four track than on a parametric eq program; i have better results with the four track eq basically). i am not saying i don't use EQ on the computer, i do sometimes, if i want to fix certain things like peaks that the song has.

This all depends on what sound you are going for, but when i see people post some tracks on other forums, or just by browsing bandcamp, i find that people don't actually know alot about mixing/eq-ing. (I'm not saying i'm good at it, but i know how to make certain tracks sound crispy). Common problems are that their guitars lack alot of mid and some hi's. Bass lack low's and mid's. You don't want a track that sounds dulled down.

Also, are you willing to make your tracks sound cripsier in trade for tape hiss?

I've been on other forums where you read about these old timers saying that the REAL tricks and secrets of recording on four tracks lies in being able to make your recordings sound professional (with 0 tape hiss), and I respect that, but i'm not going for that for 1 reason: i still haven't heard recordings on four tracks that sounded crisp and without tape hiss. I've heard recordings that sounded professional and good, but they lacked that certain sound that i'm going for. all of this is very subjective and just my opinion.

6 - IF YOUR TRACKS START SOUNDING MUDDY...
(maybe someone can pitch in their tips for this)
Either because the tape that you're recording on is old, or just because of bouncing, add to your song!

I know this sounds odd, but if you lose some hi's on a song, try adding other instruments to it, by bouncing tracks. Of course it'll lose (again) some hi's, but atleast everything will sound equal and not unbalanced.

I did this with a song that I was about to give up on, instead, i double tracked the bass AND the drums and it fixed the song (made it sound fuller). I will try and upload the song later as an example.
Old 2 days ago
  #12
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new album coming soon...
recorded this on my TEAC a3340s
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