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songs are on 4-track, but now what?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by the iceman, Jan 5, 2001.


  1. the iceman

    the iceman

    Nov 27, 2000
    I've read a lot of the posts here, but I couldn't really find a straight up answer to my question. My band has recorded a few songs on our 4-track for a demo tape (we're trying to make it better than our last one...), and the songs sound good I guess, but we're still not really happy with it.

    I know there's gonna be some of the "hiss" on the tape because that's what happens with 4-tracks, but I still would like to clean it up a bit and make it sound less "muddy". Adding some reverb would make things better too. We tried going through our PA, but the reverb doesn't sound that great to me (it's a Fender Passport 250). I don't know how else to add reverb (mostly to vocals).

    I would like to do this on the computer somehow, but I'm not exactly sure about what the best way is to go about doing this. One thing I'd like to know is if we should transfer the songs from the 4-track to a regular tape like we normally do, or if we should just go right to the computer. Also, should we just plug our 4 track right into the sound card of my computer or what? And what programs are the best for what I want to do?

    Oh yeah, and we do have one more song we might put on the demo, so does anyone have any suggestions for us when we're recording so the tape sounds cleaner?
     
  2. I've done something like what you've suggested myself. I recommend going straight to the computer if you want to master to it because you don't want to further degrade the sound of your recordings by dropping to more tape. When my brother recorded some songs that we did onto the computer (just for fun to see how it would work) he plugged the tape deck straight to the sound card. Then he recorded them digitally. We used Cool Edit Pro (you can find a trial version of this easily on the internet [or a liberated version as well -- wink, wink, nudge, nudge]). It is really neat because the program itself allows you to add reverb and echo and any number of effects that are pretty good sounding (but you'll have to foole around with it a bit). I think it even lets you do overdubs which is neat.

    As to your question about making your tape sound cleaner, what exactly do you mean? Sometimes you might try using a higher quality tape. I use a Tascam 4 track and it recommends you use only CRO2 tapes in it and the shorter the tape length the better for multi-tracking (As tape length increases the tape within the cassette usually becomes thinner).
     
  3. the iceman

    the iceman

    Nov 27, 2000
    Yes....that's one thing that we probably should have thought of (well I did after we recorded).....a high quality tape to record to. We just used some crappy regular type tape I think, but how much of a difference does it really make? And those tapes are pretty damn expensive though, aren't they? We use a Tascam 4-track too, but I don't know what tapes it recommends. How much do the tapes you use cost?

    I just want the tape to sound more professional overall somehow. I know that's a pretty vague idea, but it's what I'm looking to do. Can you set voulume levels and stuff like that for each individual track with the Cool Edit program? That is an absolute must for me to have because some of the tracks (like the lead/backup vocals) need to be adjusted volume-wise.
     
  4. Well using higher quality tapes is going to be a must for you if you want better sound out of your 4 track. See, normal bias tapes (IEC Type I is what it says on the label) are great for constant listening but their mechanism is not as rigid nor is their tape as sensitive to magnetization. Thus the tape 'wanders' and you get more hiss and dropout (dropout is basically parts of the tape that cannot be magnetized and so have no signal recorded on them). Using CRO2 (IEC Type II High Bias on the label) will greatly eliminate noise and other problems such as that. If you buy the professional multitracking tape from places like Radio Shack, you are right -- it costs a ton. But these tapes are becoming more popular now since they are good even for normal recording and reproduce CD's pretty well. I've actually seen some at places like Wal-Mart (go figure). Just look at the label for Type II High Bias. I actually managed to find mine at a local dollar store called "Everything for a Dollar". They even sell recordable CD's -- a buck a pop. One of the brands I first used was a Fuji Z but I guarantee you that you'll find them almost anywhere-- just ask around.

    About Cool Edit. I believe it allows you to adjust track volumes but I can't remember. It has been a while. You might want to browse around the Net and search for information on this sort of thing. You'll find a ton, IO guarantee it. But once you get onto the computer it really gives you a load of choices for your track...you'll really like it. One thing I remember you could do with Cool-Edit was overdubbing. You could record something and paste it over a part of your track

     
  5. the iceman

    the iceman

    Nov 27, 2000
    Alrighty, I think I'll be picking up some better "type II high bias" tapes pretty soon then. We'll see how much it improves the sound.

    I got Cool Edit Pro (the trial version or demo or whatever)
    off the internet and tried it out, but when I tried to play a file or anything, it said that there wasn't enough memory available to run the application and to close other stuff and try it again. So I closed everything else and tried it again, and it still didn't work. If you have a reason why this program wouldn't run on my 500 Mhz Pentium III with 96 Megs of memory, I'd like to know.

    Another thing, it said you couldn't save files with this "trial version" and that I'd have to buy the actual version if I wanted to save stuff. It wouldn't do me much good I don't think if I coudn't save my files. I don't know what to do now. Ahhh!!!!
     
  6. That's a real drag, now isn't it?

    These digital sound studios are a deal fussy if I can recall. That is one of the reasons why my brother and I decided to do as much work as possible on the tape before we went digital. You're going to find that your sound files are huge (to say the very least on the subject) and you're going to need a lot of working space both on your hard drive and in RAM. I don't really see that you have a computer that's lacking in any way. When I ran that I used an AMD K6/2 (that's a Pentium II equivalent processor) at 300 MHz with 64 Mb RAM. I really have no clue what your problem might be. Did you check the System Requirements before you downloaded it? I know these sound editing programs are getting a bit fat nowadays (very powerful but very big too). As for the saving problem, yeah I recall that. I told you to get the trial version to fool around with i and see how you liked it before doing anything else. There are other programs that you might like better. Try Goldwave if you don't like Cool EDit. But all trial versions have a cripple of some sort so you are going to have to either buy the full version (ungh) or search the Internet "underground" for what I like to call a "liberated" version. You can usual find either a full crack or a serial number that will 'register' your program. I don't much like to do this and it can be time consuming, but some of the cripples on trial software is really absurd anyway, so you're almost driven to downloading a crack to see how the program really works.

    As for your decision to use higher quality tapes, you'll probably notice the difference right away. In combination with good recording technique they can really help your sound. Another tip that you might want to take heed of is to clean your 4-track after every use. This is good procedure as iut keeps the tape path clean and free of and oxides that degrade sound quality.

    I hope I haven't come across as a nagging lecturer in the past few days.... it just doesn't seem that anyone else has paid any attention to your post.... I, like you, am experimenting with these recording things and this is what I've learnt so far.
     
  7. the iceman

    the iceman

    Nov 27, 2000

    On the contrary my friend, I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to answer my questions (no one else has). I think next we will simply try and make a better raw recording on the 4-track, so we don't have to mess around with it so much later with programs or whatever. Good tapes will be the first step.

    As far as my dilema with Cool Edit Pro, I think I have it figured out. I did get the trial version to work later somehow (don't know what was wrong before), but it kinda pissed me off because you couldn't save your files, and plus the program automatically shuts off after 30 mintues and all you were working on is lost!!

    I just couldn't deal with that, so I took your advice and searched around for the uhh, "liberated" version of Cool Edit. I had success, and as I speak right now I'm playing back some stuff I've recorded on it. It seems to work well, I like it already so much just because of the multi-track editing feature alone (hey, I'm new at the computer editing stuff). I'm sure it'll suit my needs. I can't wait to plug the 4-track into it and see what happens. Hopefully this cracked program won't go bad on me or anything, that would suck.

    But I have another question. How do you get the tracks we've recorded on the 4-track from the 4-track to the computer/program? It's probably prettty easy, but I don't want to be stuck trying to put my music into the program when I don't know how. I've heard you just plug right into the soundcard of the computer with a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter, but I don't know if this is right. I'm not even exactly sure which input on my computer is the right one to plug into. Thanks again for your help, I really do appreciate it.
     
  8. Well, I'm glad the program is working for you and am actually happy to hear it has multitracking now. I think the somewhat older version I used was only two track (left and right channel). Anyway, to get to your question. When we did our transfer to the computer we plugged directly into the sound-card with a cable that we had either made or bought (at the time I think we had built the thing). Anyway, I'm pretty sure you can find a stereo cable of 1/8" at your local Radio Shack or therabouts (my brother got ours from his workplace). Then you simply plug the output from the back of your Tascam into one of the output jacks at the back of your computer. It is really easy to find actually. Find the card that your speakers are plugged into. There will be 4 jacks looking something like below:

    IN O IN O OUT O OUT O

    I believe they're arranged like that! Your speakers are plugged into one of the out's but I think actually that you don't really need to know this. I believe they have IN and OUT written next to them. If you've got a microphone plugged in already (some people have this packed with their soundcard) then you can either unplug it and use that jack (to make sure it is the right one) or use the one next to it. Then you can use the Windows Volume Control program to adjust input levels and all that jazz. Then you're all ready.

    After you've finished editing your sound file then you've got some choices. If you've got a CD burner you can put all your demo recordings onto CD which would be really neat. If not you can get your hands on a decent studio tape deck that has the option of using either CRO2's or normal bias tapes (or Metal tapes too, but I've never seen these). Then you can plug into the out jack of your sound card and create a good master tape.
     
  9. the iceman

    the iceman

    Nov 27, 2000
    Alright, I think my friend has one of those 1/8" plug things, so we can probably use that. I pulled out my computer and looked at the inputs in the back of it. There's a mic input, an input with an arrow pointing towards a music note (the music input I'd guess) and an input with an arrow pointing away from a music note (the music output I would assume). So I figure I can just plug right into the music input I mentioned and just record each of the 4 tracks we have recorded and just transfer them to Cool Edit Pro on 4 separate tracks (hopefully this will work).

    I'm having lots of fun playing around with Cool Edit, but it's pretty complicated. I don't know what half of the controls and stuff do. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to mess around for a while longer and get used to it.

    As far as what we're putting it on, I'm definitely going with a CD. I have a burner, so there's no reason why I shoudn't use it. I have a few burning programs, but are there any that you would specifically recommend or anything?
     
  10. Unfortunately, I don't know much about burners. However, I know that there is a way to just burn music files onto a CD so that it can be read by any conventional cd player. Most programs should have that support (I'm guessing).

    I understand that there are a lot of controls in Cool Edit. The best way is, just as you've said, to mess around with it a bit. I don't know how the new version works for recording and if you'll have to record each of the 4 tracks separately (which will probably be the case but shouldn't be difficult).
     
  11. the iceman

    the iceman

    Nov 27, 2000
    Gimli-- I just want to say thanks for helping me out here and especially for recommending Cool Edit Pro. The program is absolutely amazing because I can take out all the tape hiss and noise that we've always had on our demos. It's just like a recording studio (well the effects probably aren't QUITE as good...) and I'm pretty happy with the results I'm getting. We recorded each of the tracks from our 4-track onto the computer (with an rca-to-1/8" adapter) and mixed them separately and then combined them into one file. The sound quality has improved a whole lot, and I think this is how we'll be doing things from now on until we have enough money to pay for real studio time. Thanks again.
     
  12. No problem.... it is really just what I've learned from just pretty much fooling around with my own equipment. You may find that if you build up your equipment you may get your own private studio that will be as good as any professional one. Just have fun!