Analog Tape Week FAQ

We’re turning off the computer* for a week in May.

Did you ever wish you could record in as they did in the heyday of the analog studio? Don’t get us wrong, we like the computer, but sometimes we miss the smell and sound of analog tape, and well, the whole thing is just very different. You can always record to analog tape at Q Division, but for a few days in August we’re going to make it a little easier by setting everything up ahead of time: tape machines, drums, amps, headphones, even instruments; not only that, we’ll waive drum rental AND the tape rental costs.** We’ll be renting out the studio by the day and half day for our SECOND ANALOG TAPE WEEK, where you can track basics to 2” ANALOG TAPE. Are you interested? Drop us a line!

*Actually, we’ll most likely be leaving the computer on so that we can dump your tracks to Pro Tools lickety split, and we’ll most likely run headphones from Pro Tools too – to take advantage of our squeaky clean Hearback headphone mix system.

**So, tape rental is 100% free; however, if you want to keep your work on 2″ analog tape, we’ll pro rate the tape cost and you’ll need a tape flange, which we’ll also have available at near cost.

 

FAQ:

Why are you guys doing this? 

We hear people reminiscing about tape, getting excited about it, but then the reality of working to tape hits: it takes longer and costs a lot more to work in that world. So, we thought it’d be fun to give everyone a chance to work like we used to, before Pro Tools became ubiquitous, while keeping costs down. We’ll eat the tape and drum rental costs, and by making it ANALOG TAPE WEEK, we’ll cut a large chunk of the setup time out of your budget; this way everyone can get a taste of what it was like to work on music with your ears and not your eyes, w/out breaking the bank.

What will be set up and ready to go? 

First of all, the tape machine! It’ll be calibrated for the tape we’re supplying (3M 996), and setup to record at either 30IPS or 15 IPS. 

Second – We’ll have a basic rock drum kit – 22” DW kick, Maryland toms, Zildjan hats, and a selection of cymbals and snare drums. We can tweak the kit as needed, and we encourage you to bring your own sticks, cymbals, snares, pedals, etc. But we’ve got you covered if you’re coming as you are. The kit will be set up in the big room, for “big rock” sounds. While tweaking is encouraged, moving the kit to the dead room isn’t going to be a possibility. If you want dead sounding drums we’ll go old school, and build a drum hut, like we used to be fore we had dead rooms.

We’ll also have an array of guitar amps ready to go – Fenders, Marhsalls, our Matchless, HiWatt, and small combos – Skylarks, Ampeg Reverberocket, and the like. 

For bass we’ll have our B15 and either an SVT or a V4B. For keyboards we’ll use whatever works best – DI’s, amps, rotating cabinets – etc.

In addition, we’ll have our usual collection of instruments available, including our Hammond organ and Leslie, our Rhodes, Wurlitzer, various synths, and Clavinet. (Our Mellotron is only available if you give us notice and we’ve co-ordinated and have plans to use it.) 

Our grand piano is also available, but if you’re thinking you’ll track drums and piano at the same time, please be prepared for bleed, as they’ll both be in the same room. 

How long is a half/full day? We’re thinking 10 am to 4 pm for the morning crowd, and 5-11 pm for the evening crowd, but we’re flexible here. In short – 6 hours for a half day block, and 12 hours for a full day. We’re limiting people to no more than 1 full day, as we’d like to expose as many people as possible to these sessions. Contact us for info regarding rates.

Are there any limitations? 

Because we’re working with (giant 14″ reels) tape, we only have 33 minutes per reel (at 30IPS) or 64+ minutes (at 15IPS), so we’re asking bands to consider the length of their pieces. This just makes it much easier to manage the tape during takes. Average length songs aren’t a problem – but epic songs/pieces  require some consideration.

Can we bring our own 2″ tape?

Maybe! Let’s discuss this ahead of time; we’re able to calibrate the machine for two presets, and we plan on setting it up for 30 and 15 IPS and using NOS M3 996, so other tape formulations would require re-calibration, which isn’t quite in the spirit of being setup and ready to go.

What happens when we’ve got a keeper take? 

There are a few options:

1 – The 70’s – stay on tape! We’ll cut the piece of tape and put it on a comp reel, where you can keep working on it till the song is finished, then you can mix it to 1/2” tape in Studio A like a drug lord rock star. If you choose to keep working to that piece of tape in the future, there could be a modest fee. 

2 – The Aughts method – print SMPTE to track 24, work on the 2″ for as long as possible, then dump to Pro Tools, print a reference mix to 2″, and keep working on tape, wiping previous tracks as you go.  

3 – The teen: dump drum and bass (sure, guitars and keys can also go) tracks to pro tools, and keep working on it in the box (keep in mind that other than dumping to tape, we will NOT be setup to do any Pro Tools work during ANALOG TAPE WEEK), so really if you want to work on overdubs, let’s do those to tape too!

We want to book three days of ANALOG TAPE WEEK. Can we do that? 

We’re capping bookings at a single full day (or two half day blocks), because we’d like to get as many people to check out ATW. 

BUT, we’d be more than happy to discuss an analog (or other) lockout at another date. 

Our drummer has the best taste in brews and ties but drops a beat every once in a while (ok, he also speeds up during fills); can you fix that? 

While analog beat detectors are not just the thing of urban legends (check out Mr. Matthew Ellard, the fastest razor we’ve seen), we’d like to keep tape edits to a reasonable minimum. But, we’ll be happy to keep take 4, but pull the chorus from take 2 or an intro from take 1, and grab the solo section from take 3. But if you think you might not be able to make it through a complete take and don’t like the way your band deploys accelerandos and retards, we recommend sticking to Pro Tools for the time being. You are of course welcome to play to a click – this, and other tricks, can make editing drums in PT easier after the fact.

Can we track an entire album in 1/2 a day? 

Well, you could conceivably do that; we’d recommend this option for bands that have been touring/playing a ton. Also, 15 IPS is your friend in this scenario. Leave enough time to dump said album to Pro Tools; if you’d like to track and keep an entire reel of tape, there would be a tape fee. Finally, you might consider blocking out two half days if you think you’re up to tracking more than one or two song. 

Oh man, we love the idea of not paying for drum rental and saving on setup costs, but we’re really not a tape band. Can we book a block and track to Pro Tools? 

Sorry, but not this week. We’re basically taking the Pro Tools rig out of the room (except for dumping takes). BUT, we’ll most likely do another lockout like this in the future – either Pro Tools based or analog tape – let us know what floats your boat, and we’ll try to plan accordingly.

I’d love to learn more about analog tape, are you guys offering any tape workshops? 

We’re looking into the possibility of offering tape workshops – setup, calibration, preparation, editing, and more would all be covered. Drop us a line and tell us you’re interested in this sort of thing, and we’ll let you know when we offer it. 

I love working with engineer/producer XYX – can he be on our session?

Maybe! We’re reserving the right to staff these sessions with engineers who are comfortable in tape world, but as you know – some of our engineers and alumni engineers have rates for specific things and might not be available for ATW, but as with everything in life – this is subject to change and worth asking Ed about!

Can we bring an engineer for our session?

Sure, but since this is ATW, we’ll be staffing the session with a staff engineer anyway, so we won’t necessarily be able to offer a discount.

I’m an engineer; can I bring a band in?

Yes! But, as we pointed out above, since the nature of ATW is sort of complex, we’ll be staffing the session with one of our engineers too. Please check in with Ed and work out some details.

The fine print – we reserve the right to change any of these terms at any time; you know how it goes – things can change; if we have an overwhelming response we’ll add days, but if you book a day and we can’t fill the space around it with ATW sessions we might ask you to move your dates.