I have messed around with recording music at home pretty much from the day I started playing the guitar. I had a dual cassette deck, which allowed you to do simple overdubs. The built-in microphone picked up almost as much of the mechanical noise of the tape deck as it did pick up the sound I was trying to record. But the enthusiasm made for the lack of sound quality. In this post, we will have a look at some of the developments over the years that made home recording possible, by delving into the short history of home recording.
In the interest of getting into the “good stuff” I won’t go into the history before consumer products, as we are looking at the real home recording, not the wealthy superstars who built a professional studio in their home.
Professional studios were always expensive. The equipment was technical and often fragile as well, so you needed a qualified sound engineer, who not only knew how to operate all the equipment required but also had a good ear. Also, the studio rooms had to be acoustically treated. All of the above put together made for a hefty bill. Most studios charge an hourly rate, and/ or daily rate, which can go up to thousands of dollars.
First consumer multitrack
This made the process of recording music something that only artists signed to a record label could afford. The reel to reel tape machines was the industry standard recording medium from 1940’s to mid-1990’s in the professional recording studio and still is used in many studios. In 1972 TEAC brought out a four-track 1/4 inch tape recorder consumer model 2340, at what was considered reasonable 1000 dollars (nearly 6000 dollars in today’s money.)
The first big development towards more affordable home recording equipment came in the format of Tascam Portastudio which was recording into a compact cassette tape. The Tascam/ Teac 144 retailed at 899 dollars (about 3200 dollars in today’s money.) You were able to record four tracks into it. The sound quality was limited. The cassettes created a lot of his and crackle. But it did revolutionize the home studio. Tascam went on to release many versions, and manufacturers like Yamaha and Fostex made their versions of the famous four-track.
The Tascam Portastudio’s biggest claim to fame came from Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album. The original demos recorded on the Portastudio made it on to the album as Bruce preferred the feeling in the original recordings to the studio versions.
Analogue to digital
In the 1990’s everything changed. ADAT machines made digital recording possible. But at the same time, both Macintosh and Windows became capable enough to manage multitrack recording. There were also other formats, for example, MiniDisk multitrack recorders and many hard disc based recording devices. For a while the battle between these devices and computers was fierce. But with every passing year, the price of home computers and audio interfaces came down.
Today we are moving on to cloud-based recording, where with online tools like Melosity musicians can record and collaborate with other musicians from all around the world. Thanks to connective nature of the internet, musicians can also connect and build their network on the platform.
So this is our short history of home recording. Let us know in the comments what was your first step into home recording.