Keyboard Magazine "In The Studio"
Article # 25
Tape Editing Primer Part 1
By Bobby Nathan
I've put together this helpful article to aid today's musician in the art of audio tape editing. The skills discussed here can be learned and mastered with just a little practice. Here are some of the materials you'll need to work along with this article: Single Edge Razor Blades - Found in most hardware stores. Average cost around $1.50 for a pack. Light Colored Grease Pencils - Preferably White or Yellow. Found in most art supply and stationary stores. Cost a around $1.00 An Editing Block - You'll need an Editing Block for each size of tape you'll be working with (i.e. 1/4", 1/2", 1" or 2" Tape). Edital makes a fine line of two cut (60 and 45 degree angles) and three cut ( 90, 60 and 45 degree angles)editing blocks. Found in Audio/Video stores, some elaborate music stores and in catalogues. Average Cost $50.00. Since this is the most expensive article, choose the tape size that you will edit the most (i.e. whatever tape size you'll be mixing on). Splicing Tape - Again for whatever size tape you'll be working with. Note: Most engineers recommend using 1/2" Splice tape on both 1" and 2" tape joins because of it's ease to work with. Find it in your Pro Audio/Video supply stores or catalogues. Average Cost $1.50 a small reel. A Deluxe Scotch Tape Dispenser - You'll need this to keep your Splicing Tape ready for use. Usually you can fit both 1/4" and 1/2" splicing tape on the same dispenser. Find it in Woolworths or your local stationary supply house. Average cost around $5.00. Leader Tape - I recommend the plastic type, although certain manufacturers recommend paper leader tape with their machines. Check your owners manual. You will need whatever size leader tape as the tape format you will be working with. Find this in your Pro Audio Supply house catalogue. Average cost around $5.00 a 7" reel. Blank Tape - You'll need some Blank tape to experiment and learn on. Any old tape will do. If you don't have any, buy a reel of Shammrock or A Radio Shack special.
You will also need a working tape recorder in the format you'll be editing (i.e. 1/4" or 1/2" tape). To monitor what you're doing a loud clean monitor system is essential! If you don't have access to a loud system a pair of good quality head phones off your stereo system will be great. Note: When editing tape, cranking the volume way up to hear an editing point can result in speaker damage and possible hearing loss!
Okay, now let the lesson begin! Let's sit down in front of our tape machine. We need one more piece of material. We need our Blank tape to have some program material on it. Pick your favorite record Albumn and record about a minute of the intro onto your tape. Play it back to make sure it's there and were are ready.
Head and Tail Leadering
One of the most common tape editing chores is to be able to Head and Tail leader a song. This is done for two basic reasons. The first being that in a studio there is a count off before the start of the tune and usually a background vocalist clearing his or her throat and the guitarist diddling. And the second reason is leader tape is usually a whitish/grey color and since tape is brownish, we can easily find the start of a take.
How to Leader
What we do is play the tape and stop the transport of your tape machine as soon as you hear the actual beginning of the song. Then the tape is hand rocked over the tape heads. This hand rocking is done by grabbing both the left reel ( the supply reel) and the right reel (the Take-up reel) and moving both reels together in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion. It is important to keep the tape taught over the tape heads during this rocking. If the tape doesn't touch the tape heads, you will not hear any sound. If you Tape Deck has a "Tape lifter" mechanism turn it off. Most Tape Decks have an automatic lifter mechanism that lifts the tape away from the heads when the transport is stopped. Most semi-pro decks have a slider that can defeat the lifters and let the tape touch the heads while the transport is stopped. If you're deck doesn't have a "Lifter Defeat" mechanism, you will have to push the tape with your thumb against the heads as you rock the supply and take-up reels together, thus making contact with the tape head.
Now at this point, we shall have to become familiar with the Tape Head layout. Usually there are three heads. The left-most head is the erase head. It erases the tape when ever the transport is in record. The middle head is the record head. It's purpose is to record the program onto the tape. In Sync mode the record head can also playback the program material. The head that is on the right is the reproduce or playback head and this is the head that we use for editing. Note: some decks (Otari 5050B series) have a fourth head. This is because the can play back either 1/4 track or 1/2 track tapes. The right most head is always the same format as the record head. Meaning if the deck is a 1/4" 1/2 track machine, the record head and the right most head will be the 1/2 track playback head and the fourth head (the head in between the record and right most playback head) will be the 1/4 track playback head.
You cannot record in the 1/4 track format and expect to turn the tape over after you've have edited it. In the studio all professional machines are in the 1/2 track format. Which means we never turn the tape over, unless we want backwards effects or want to insert backwards effects by editing. Okay, now we were rocking the reels back and forth. By rocking and listening to the tape we can hear at which point the song actually begins. When we've reached the exact spot, we hold the tape in position over the playback head and with our sharpened grease pencil draw a line on the back of the tape exactly in line with the middle of the playback head. Once the tape has been marked always check your mark by rocking the tape again across the playback head. As you do this watch the mark you've made. The song's beginning should start precisely when the mark reaches the middle of the head. If you have done everything right then you are ready to cut tape. If not, go back and repeat the steps outlined in this paragraph.
The Edit Block
The Edit Block should be placed so that the cut's start at the Top left hand corner to the bottom right hand corner. We are going to use the 60 degree cut (the one closest to being perpendicular). Carefully lift the tape away from the heads by turning both the supply and take-up reels until you have enough slack to put the tape into the block. Place the tape in the bloc with it's back facing up and the mark you made clearly visible. The mark should be lined up exactly with the start of the top left 60 degree angle. After the tape is in place, place your left thumb on the left of the cut and your left forefinger on the right of the cut from above ( if you are lefty, the opposite applies). Hold the tape tightly on the bloc pushing your thumb and your forefinger away from the cut. Cut the tape with a steady even motion starting from top to bottom. Next remove the tape from the block. Insert some Leader tape into the block. Cut the leader tape in the same manner along the 60 degree cut. Leave the portion of leader tape on the left of the cut and remove the excess from the right. Put the tape from the take-up reel (the right reel) back into the block and butt it up against the leader tape. They should butt up perfectly. If they do not, check which one doesn't match the 60 degree cut in the bloc and cut it over. Pull a 1" piece of splicing tape from the dispenser. Note discard the first few inches of a new roll of splice tape. Cut the Splice tape with your razor blade and then put the piece you've cut onto the tip of the left side of your blade. In this way you can use the blade to insert the tape on top the join in the edit block. Get the splice tape over the join first, making sure the join is still butted up neatly, and spread the splice tape out to the left and the right of the join with your finger nail to adhere the splice without any air bubbles. Note: do not be to hard with your fingernail pressure as you can damage the tape. Remove the tape from the bloc, wind a healthy amount of leader onto the take-up real and place the leader back into the edit block. Cut the leader tape on the 60 degree angle and then join it to the tape from the supply (left) reel. Repeat the the same procedure as mentioned above. remove the tape from the spicing block and thread the tape path as normal. Play the tape, the song should begin as soon as the leader ends. Okay if you've gotten this far, stay tuned for Part 2 in next months issue of Keyboard.
Back to Bobby "Guitar" Nathan's Keyboard Magazine Articles Page
copyright 1985 - Bobby Nathan - May not be used without consent!