Digitizing Old Cassette Tapes

It all started with Kevin’s being on an Elvis kick lately.

It’s a recurrent one with him; he really grew up listening to and emulating Elvis. It’s probably one of the major reasons he learned to play and sing. The story is that when he was really little, he used to stand on the steps in his grandparents’ living room and pretend to be Elvis, hips shaking and all. (Too bad we don’t have a video of that!)

So yesterday on the way home from work, an Elvis CD was playing in the car. (I don’t remember which one, and Kevin’s working right now.) The song, “Let Me Be There” came on, and he asked if I knew who’d done it originally.

Olivia Newton-John, of course! Even though the key was all wrong for me, I sang along with Elvis and his backup singers, remembering most every word. As anyone’s who’s played music with me would attest, I must’ve sung this one a lot! ;)

I remembered then that I had recorded the song when I was a teenager at one of those walk-in studios where they put you in a booth with some headphones and play a vocal-less track while you sing. I knew I had that tape somewhere!

And there it was, in the big crate of cassettes that I still haven’t gotten rid of: everything from the Eagles and Madonna to outtakes of my radio station days.

It was summer of 1984. I was still 14, at the beach with my church youth group. The tape says, Songmasters on the Boardwalk, Surfside Beach, SC. I wish I could remember who went with me to that studio that day. (Click here to listen.)

Kevin and I listened, and I noticed myself not cringing where I remembered so well having cringed all those years ago. I think I’m bad now, but I was raw with insecurity back then, so self-critical, so self-absorbed…

There is a faint dialogue long after the music ends. The only thing I can really understand is me saying, “It won’t that good.”

It won’t that good. Haha. I must’ve dropped that subject-verb disagreement along with the redundant hose pipe, cutting off the light, and pronouncing coupon “Q-pon.” ;)

So I sorted through the crate and found a lot of other recordings: some from church, some from band shows, another one of these “studio” recordings.

Kevin and I discussed how to get the music from the tape on the stereo to the computer…preferably with as little outside noise as possible.

After we picked up Atticus from the YMCA, we went to Radio Shack and looked around at the cords. Nothing really looked right.

While I was cooking dinner, Kevin checked out the input/output situation on the stereo and laptop. He said if anything would work it would be a cord with two male ends, one 1/8 inch and the other 1/4 inch.

He took the little converter thingy from his big headphones that makes a 1/8-inch end into an 1/4-inch end and put it on one end of the 1/8-inch cord that runs from my laptop speaker output into the mini-speakers we use all the time. The cord was complete.

And then today, I tried it out.

I plugged the 1/8-inch end into my laptop’s microphone input and plugged the 1/4-inch end into the stereo’s headphone output.

I had to go into Audacity and tweak the preferences, so the recording mic was set to “external” instead of “internal,” and there it was!!!!!

I had to turn down the volume quite a bit, and the quality’s not that great, since the original was very noisy and has deteriorated more over these many years. I’m sure someone with more audio-editing proficiency than me could improve it immensely. For now, I’m just glad to be able to save and share our artifacts.

I’ll postHere is my “Let Me Be There” cover later today…and many more to come!

One thought on “Digitizing Old Cassette Tapes

  1. Pingback: My ’84 ‘Let Me Be There’ Cover | Every Second of Every Day

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