This weekend I had the pleasure of recording Ian Humberstone (aka Tisso Lake) and his talented band of musicians to 2 inch tape on our trusty old Studer A80 machine. It didn't take long to fall back in love with the all analogue setup.
Aside from minor teething problems, like reaching for the space bar to stop after a take and realising there was no computer on, the benefits of the tape saturation and "sonic glue" quickly remind you of why it's such a great way to work. No staring at a screen to check levels or edits. Using nothing but your ears to listen and enjoy the music. Enjoyable music it was too. Well played and well rehearsed songs with a great vibe and interesting arrangements.
Hopefully I'll be mixing this soon straight from the 2 inch to 1/4 inch tape without switching on a computer. What you lose in the flexibility of modern digital recording with limitless tracks and the "undo" function is replaced by the joy of the depth of sound and the way the tracks easily blend together with little or no extra eq or compression. Obviously not everyone has the budget to buy tape for their session but it's certainly something I'd recommend if you can make it work.
Like anything else, when you spend every day recording and mixing, you start to up your game quickly but also rely on tricks you learn along the way. What going back to basics teaches you though is sometimes it's good to forget it all and just rely on what got you interested in the first place. Listening to music and enjoying it rather than fixing it. Certainly going forward I'll be trying to look less at a screen during tracking and focus more on experiencing the sound being made by the musicians. The workflow and commitment of tape recording can definitely be applied to working in the digital domain. You just have to think outside "the box".
On a closing note we will be buying in some new tape stock soon and will be offering a "use our tape" service soon for a small amount extra for those of you wanting to experience its warmth and wow. Watch this space.
Right, off to turn on the computer for a mix.... I know, I know.....