devices for recording:
I prefer to record spontaneously and often I am very satisfied with the first take.
The effort of using tape-machines is higher than digital systems. Nevertheless the usage of tapes brings a great value to the sound-texture and the amount of saturation. But even the lo-fi sound-quality of a dictaphone steno-type minicassette is worth its money and the machines are very easy to use.
You can often find such recorders and minicassettes on flea markets or cheaply on ebay. Sometimes there is interesting audio-material on the tapes left. The functional rewind button works very fast and accurate, because of the low speed the recorder is working with. The record and play-mode button has a minimal delay when you press it. So you can do experimental stuff with those machines. Very sweet.
This was the gold standard of listening to music over decades. Half of my life I was handling with those tapedecks and cassettes. They were cheap, solid and secure. We used them in the car, at home and on the road, using a walkman. The quality of cassettes can be really good, when you are using the right metal- style. The hundreds of tapes, I heft left from the last 40 years, still work and sound fine.
When I finally could afford a 4-track multitracker, the story of homerecording started with limitless joy and satisfaction. I still love this technique today.
reel to reel
In the past I found several machines on the garbage and others were given to me for free. I even found about 50 reel-tapes on the street on my way home one day. Those recordings were interesting and contained all kind of genres and audio surprises.
I like to play the tracks on reverse or slow down or speed them up. The handling is super-fun, when you are mounting a reel onto the machine. I always feel like I was send back into the past, acting like an engineer working for the beatles or jimi hendrix.
Like in the sixties, it is easy to make tapeloops, by cutting out a short piece of tape, glue it together and bring it back into the machine. The loops are beautiful, when manipulating the tape-speed, while playing it back, or during the recording. These sound-results are nearly impossible to create with a computer audiosoftware.
The most challenging machine is the 8-track Fostex multitracker. The workflow takes a lot of time, but when the right leveling was done, the results are unbelievable good.
DCC und DAT
The DCC- Cassette was a cool hybrid, but a unsuccessful invention. It had the shape of a regular cassette, but had an additional protection cover. To use it, I had to buy the extra digital cassettes and could not use my old ones. I used it from time to time for live-recordings, while touring with my band. The optical out helped me saving the recordings as digital sound-files in the computer.
The tiny DAT-Cassette was the best quality for recording and standard for mastering audio. The handling was easy, but many times I had problems with the machine or the tapes. I needed the DAT for backups or recorded jam-sessions.
The minidisc-recorder was the smallest device I ever had. It did a great job, making field-recordings with a nice microphone. It was possible to set makers to the disc and create funny unpredictable random playback-results.
In the early 90ies, it was like a dream, to have a digital multitrack-recorder at home. I worked hard, to earn the money for a Roland VS1880 16-track recorder. It was such a cool new way of saving time and gaining speed in the workflow, because there were no more tapes in the procedure, that needed to be rewinded and changed all the time. The only problem was to backup and saving of the recorded material. It costed a fortune and it took a long time to make backups onto DAT-cassettes, jaz-, or zip-drives. Unfortunately the data could not be used with my computer, when I had my first blue imac, years later. It took 10 more years when I discovered a webpage for a free program, that transfers the RolandVS data into wav-files. This was incredibly helpful to get back to all those songs, that were almost forgotten. Today, I still like to use this recorder as a very good sounding digital mixer.
In the following years I could also make experiences with smaller harddisc-recorders. They were powered by battery and good for field-recordings or fix ideas on the fly.
I did never bought a new computer. The old generations were much cheaper and were good enough for me, to start learning how to work with the programs. My first computer was a blue imac, which I named Oscar, because I fished it out of my bandmates garbage can, who has thrown it away, even it was still working. There were many free audio-softwares and useful plugins in the internet to start with. Today I use ableton live and the push controller from time to time. This works fine with an iMac from 2010.
The sampling of Loops is always fun. There are several devices I use. There are Loopers for the guitar, Sampler as drum-machines or keyboards that play the files, they had been fed with. There are samples I record from records or resample my own manipulated stuff. I can push colorful buttons, twiddle knobs and have fun with those machines.
mics and monitors
Of course it is necessary to use some microphones for recording-situations and listen back on studio-monitor speakers. It took some time to find a pair of speakers I can trust and work safely on the sound, when I make EQ-changes or mix the stuff together.