Thursday, January 11, 2007

Clear as a Bel...Canto

So a while back I saw this post on Lifehacker on the easy way to digitize audio cassettes. Now as far as purchased music is concerned, I'd rather just re-buy the choice stuff, and forget the dated clinkers of my youth.

However, I do have a bunch of cassettes that are worth the effort, and this week I got just the kick in the pants I needed to spend some time on it. I caught wind of an informal reunion of the Patrick Henry Bel Canto Singers. (Long story short - A competitive vocal group I was proud to sing in from 1990 to 1993)

In the family collection is a set of concert tapes from the years my younger sister and I were in the group (spanning to 1995!). Some of my happiest memories from high school (and indeed my whole life) came while singing in this group, so these are definitely tapes worth saving.

So I dug out the box containing my ancient Tascam Portastudio (overkill, but the only cassette player I still own with a decent transport mechanism) and lined it into my PC, pretty much following the Lifehacker instructions.

Having a real 4-track, even a 13 year old low-budget one, was much easier to deal with than I imagine a walkman would have been, since at least I had dedicated slider pots for the channels and master, and could control the mix a little...

As I'd feared when I first started thinking about this project, the magnetic media is already pretty degraded. That, coupled with the low-budget nature of our production (public school music program anyone?) and the less than ideal mic and production setup from the guy who sold the tapes, made for a pretty ugly audio canvas...
... but at least now I've started the process of archiving this stuff permanently. I managed to get two concerts recorded and cut into tracks tonight, and I'm hoping to have most of the collection done before the reunion, as some CDs loaded with our exploits will make excellent party favors.

I really like the Audacity package recommended by Lifehacker. After spending some time in real studios where the "low end" software is something like ProTools, this is pretty limited, but for what I'm doing, and given the price ($0), I'm very happy!

Here's a couple of the tracks that resulted: (big files, but worth the download if you're a music lover)
Exultate
Love Walked In

1 comment:

JG said...

Thanks for including the examples of your work in the blog! It brought back memories of my work in High School and College in the various choruses and small groups I sang in.

Even today I continue to sing in groups and am now in two choruses, one small group and a vocal quartet. To this day I still can find the joy of tuning a chord with other voices.

The group you sang in sounds quite accomplished, though young. Did your group ever win any contests? The cut-offs and entrances were clear and together, which, for any group is always one of the more difficult nuances to conquer. You must have had a good director.

I also noticed you are located in San Diego, CA. What a wonderful place! Visited there last year and am now considering the location as a possible retirement spot.

Thanks agian for the memory rejuvination!