When I was twelve, I devised a system to make ‘multitrack’ recordings. Though, technically, this would not be ‘multi-track’ as you end up with a two-track recording on each pass, so maybe ‘multi-overdubbing’.
It was the early 90s, and Multi-tracks tape recorders could be purchased, but being twelve I didn’t have one. But I did have a General Electric tape recorder, and a Sony Walkman. So, a trip to Radioshack and a $30 dollars later I had a 4-input line mixer, and a microphone.
The setup went as follows:
1. Record rhythm parts first, so drum track is recorded to tape recorder.
2. Take tape from tape recorder and put into Walkman.
3. Plug Walkman into mixer, and adjust fader level with level of microphone of instrument to be recorded.
4. Plug mixer into tape recorder
5. Hit record on tape recorder
6. Hit play on Walkman.
7. Play instrument to be recorded.
The downside of this is MASSIVE tape noise. Also, this mixer was designed to work at ‘line level’, and as it did not have a preamp per se for mic, it could not boost the microphones signal up to an appropriate level. So overall, the recording was very quiet compared to the tape noise accumulating massively in background.
When my friend, Patrick, got a computer, we did this same technique, but supplanting the tape recorder with the computer, and it cleaned up the tape noise by about 50%, as 50% of the chain did not have it now. But due to still not having a pre-amp for the mics, we still suffered a lot of coloration from thermal noise and the incorrect impedance of the microphone into the computer.
The real breakthough for us was when were loaned a proper PA head, and realized that had a ‘tape out’ section, then all we had to deal with was the tape noise from the Walkman.