A Box of Demos.

A Box of 4-track Demos

Every time I've moved to a new city or a new apartment during the last 25 years, there is this little box with cassette tapes I never had the heart to throw away. On these cassettes are demo recordings of songs and music ideas I wrote back in the late 80s and early 90s. I've come close to throwing it in the trash many a time, but somehow, I carried it around from place to place, city to city. The quality of these recordings is far from great, and most of them are just collections of riffs, melodies, and maybe a little drum pattern here and there. But a few recordings are complete demos of an entire composition. Like this one of Pagan Shuffle, recorded in 1987:

Finding and Restoring a 4-Track Recorder

Only one problem, though: To play these demos, I needed access to a Tascam 244 Portastudio. This machine runs at double speed, and it has DBX noise reduction. Since I had recorded half the demos on a 244, I needed one for playback.

Luckily, with the help of my dad, I was able to track down the old Tascam 244 that belonged to my old High School. The same machine I had recorded my first few demos on. It wasn't functioning any longer, so they had placed it in storage. My dad picked it up, packaged it, and sent it to me so I could take a closer look at it. Previously, I had found a couple of non-functioning 244s on eBay and bought those for donating parts. The unit also needed a new capstan drive belt and other rubber parts, and I found all of these on eBay too.

After a few days of tinkering and soldering, the unit was back up and running. I demagnetized the heads, gave them a clean, and then transferred all the tapes to digital format at 24bits/96kHz. The whole process took me a few weeks, but it was fun to sit and listen to these old tracks while they were transferring.

Tascam 244 Portastudio

Transferring 4-Track Tapes Recorded at Normal Speed

I used my AKAI GX-75 stereo cassette deck to transfer the demos recorded at normal speed. I first recorded two tracks to Logic Pro, flipped the tape, and recorded the other two (playing backward). Then I reversed the last two tracks in Logic and matched the timing to the first two tracks. A little cumbersome, but it worked.