Music

TWENTY / JPCREGAN

Laboriously Recorded on the Notorious Tascam 388.

I recorded the first three of these songs in the modern fashion (to a computer). Being the musical equivalent of a weekend golfer, I really relied on the digital process.

 

Recording digitally is relatively easy. You can record hundreds of tracks. You just record a ton of ideas then boil them down. It's a lot of cutting, copying and pasting. You basically only need to play things 50% correct. Because you can edit everything and make it somewhat listenable.

Then one night at The Barkley in South Pasadena, my friend Nik recommended I start recording with a Tascam 388 - a relic of an analog tape machine from the mid-1980s. I hadn't recorded on tape since the mid-1990s. Then I started listening to bands that recorded on 388s and started getting a little obsessed with them.They have a really unique sound due to their relatively low-fi engineering.

 

But being a relic myself...I decided to go for it.

 

To my fading ears, recording to tape sounded MUCH better. The only issue - recording to tape is MUCH harder. No more cutting, copying and pasting. No Autotune. It requires you play and sing everything as perfectly as you can play and sing it.  Since it's only 8 tracks, you have to "bounce" tracks to create space to add more instruments. You're combining instruments into one sound. Which requires you to make permanent decisions you cannot take back (there's no undo button on a 388.)

 

A 388 is an imperfect device. 35 year old machines are cranky. It must be coaxed and cajoled into working order. I'm not a car person, but this stupid, temperamental machine became my equivalent of owning an antique automobile...one of those situations where you spend more time making the car run instead of driving it. Result: it took me three times as long to record a song to tape.

But then something surprising happened - I started noticing the benefits of wrestling with my antiquated tape recording device. It was a real Karate Kid "wax-on, was off" moment.

 

Being forced to play over and over forced me to really consider every last note. It hyperfocuses you on every little sound. It actually made me a little less mediocre in terms of writing, playing and singing.

Most importantly to me? It forced me to accept my myriad musical imperfections. I learned to keep takes that just felt good rather than go for technical perfection. It's was messy, but it produced a different sonic aesthetic. 

 

There's a built-in lesson to a 388 I think any amateur musician can identify with: to stop pretending you're recording The White Album, get over yourself, and go with what comes naturally.

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