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Thread: Mixing with a tape recorder in the 1980s/90s

  1. #1

    Mixing with a tape recorder in the 1980s/90s

    showing my age here but

    i found some old mixtapes of mine from around 1991 or 1992
    and found one (possibly the only surviving one) of my sort of "megamixes" that i used to create using what I had, which was a dual tape recorder
    so you would basically set the tape on standby to record and then toggle the pause button at the right time to insert samples, create loops or transition to the next song
    I dont know if it is widely known what a megamix is, but back then there were megamixes such as "hit the decks" which would switch songs every 15 or 20 seconds.
    normally this was done in a studio using samplers and the likes.

    but these were my attempt at that on a tape deck LOL
    the sound is awful but It's fun for me anyways to listen to 30 years later, so i thought id share it with you guys
    did any of you guys used to do this?

    it was a great way to learn to DJ because I can tell you i knew straight away what to look for the first time i got my hands on a set of decks. namely what i didn't have on this which is volume control/pitch control and crossfader.

    https://vimeo.com/538143796
    Last edited by DJ Matt; 04-17-2021 at 05:00 PM.

  2. #2
    Member Daniel S's Avatar
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    I never made whole mixes with only a cassette deck but I did use one for making edits of tracks and for making stutter effects in my mixes. Only certain cassette decks were possible to use, ones that didn't disengage the tape head when pressing pause, otherwise there would be a slight silent gap. I hade a tape deck that did disengage the tape head when pausing, so when I recorded mixes I always borrowed my dad's tape deck since it was perfect for making edits. I might have a mix or two left from back then but I currently don't have a tape deck to play it back on.

  3. #3
    Moderator pete's Avatar
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    I guess a lot of people would not realise that 30 years ago, having a pair of decks or anything to mix with, was quite rare.
    It was all really expensive. Even the kid whose rich parents bought them the stuff...they didn't know how to use it.

    Back then, if you were into music, you used what you had lying around, because you'd spent all your money on records.
    When I started out I didn't understand what DJing was. I had no decks, or know anyone who had any. But I knew I liked music and wanted to play it.

    I remember buying a hifi record deck with +/- 3% pitch control probably from a car-boot or something.
    I'd link one side of the record deck up to one channel of my amp and the other channel of the amp to a tape deck.
    I'd "mix" between the sources using the balance control.
    Sometimes I was even able to get the tracks at the same BPM. Sometimes even had the bars lined up.

    So yeah when I got my decks. Things slowly started finally making sense.

    But I'm always happy to make the best of a bad setup. Reminds me of the olden days.
    Last edited by pete; 04-18-2021 at 07:49 AM.
    bored, curious, deaf or just bad taste in music?
    finally a mix by me
    and what's this, another shoddy mix...another dull mix

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
    I guess a lot of people would not realise that 30 years ago, having a pair of decks or anything to mix with, was quite rare.
    It was all really expensive.
    yea and in many cases, the best you had was maybe a set of belt drive decks which themselves were very hard to mix on, and to have access to that you felt incredibly lucky.
    unless you had a dj residency, and after a few months of the residency you might be able to save up for some technics

    Quote Originally Posted by pete View Post
    I remember buying a hifi record deck with +/- 3% pitch control probably from a car-boot or something.
    hehe, I learned on a set of turntables that had +2-2 , which I borrowed from a guy one time. this was the first set of turntables i had seen, so i wasnt aware yet that anything better existed.
    so for anything that required more than + or - 2 I had to run my finger on the record keep it in time until the transition had completed LOL


    yea, people probably dont realise how lucky they are now, you have litterally unlimited power on a laptop and even the most cheap and cheerful controllers.
    Last edited by DJ Matt; 04-17-2021 at 07:14 PM.

  5. #5
    I never did that but in the 1960s I used to try to make Buchanan & Goodman style reports using that method and a cheap microphone hooked in the tape deck's mic input.
    Also, I used a portable reel to reel recorder and a record player instead of a dual cassette deck.

    Buchanan & Goodman - The Flying Saucer Pt 1 & 2 (1956)
    4:22


    The microphone looked a lot like this and the tape deck was similar to this...
    0:39

    I can't remember if I held the mic in front of a speaker or if my tape recorder had phono inputs.
    It was long before I ever own a mixer.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by DJ Matt View Post
    unless you had a dj residency, and after a few months of the residency you might be able to save up for some technics
    If you weren't set on a pair of 1200MK2 there was a lot of old used DJ equipment that could be picked up fairly cheaply in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Vintage radio broadcast equipment
    4:09
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  7. #7
    Moderator pete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Windows 95 View Post
    I never did that but in the 1960s I used to try to make Buchanan & Goodman style reports using that method and a cheap microphone hooked in the tape deck's mic input.
    Also, I used a portable reel to reel recorder and a record player instead of a dual cassette deck.

    Buchanan & Goodman - The Flying Saucer Pt 1 & 2 (1956)
    4:22
    holy crap i didn't realise people were putting out stuff like that in the 50s.
    now i know where steinski pinched their ideas, and also where coldcut pinched their samples.

    if you were putting tracks together in the 60s, you were well ahead of the curve.
    but i guess it makes sense that people were messing with sound early on, like on radio stations.

    i think the first mixer came out in the 60s, so mix DJing wasn't really a thing.

    going back to cassettes, i can remember 80s school discos where the DJ would use cassettes to play the latest songs.

    as for DJ equipment being cheap, its all relative. A set of good new turntables and a mixer would cost probably near 1000£, which was the price of a second hand car.
    these days a controller can be had for the price of a meal out for the family.
    bored, curious, deaf or just bad taste in music?
    finally a mix by me
    and what's this, another shoddy mix...another dull mix

  8. #8
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    I guess I'm the exception to the rule. I started DJing in discos back in the 1970's. Within the first year of me DJing, I bought a used pair of Technics SL-1100A's, that I still have. A club I started working at decided to take out those gigantic turntables, and put in some crappy, smaller Pioneer turntables. They had them in a closet, and they thought I was stupid for taking them off their hands for 150 bucks! A year later, some club owner decided not to pay me, so I took their Bozak home after my last set. Still have that too. So for the rest of my DJ career, I had the best setup that money could buy. As far as tape decks. I used a Pioneer RT-707 reel to reel. What that is is a tape deck with instant start, and pitch control, just like a turntable. With a little practice, you can beat mix with it just fine. What I used it for was to make flawless mix tapes. I would do a mix over and over again until I could do it perfect, record that, then I would do the next mix and record that perfect mix. When I had enough flawless mixes, I would go back and splice in the rest of the songs, and have a perfect flawless mix. I would then make cassette tapes and sell those. Today I use Ableton Live to do the same thing. And yes, I still have the RT-707. I don't like to sell anything.

  9. #9
    BanHammer™ Manu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel S View Post
    use one for making edits of tracks and for making stutter effects in my mixes.
    Same here, had a dual tape deck to do things. Also would record chrome tapes in Fe setting, so you could overlap two bits of music.

    Gear was unrealistically expensive back in the old days.
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Manu View Post
    Gear was unrealistically expensive back in the old days.
    Definately.
    Whether you were a Stereophile or a DJ, your dream equipment (new) probably cost as much or more than a new car.

    Now you can buy a decent new controller with the included software for less than a week's pay.
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