In the mid-70’s, I used to sit in our basement “rec room” where our record player and Webcor reel-to-reel tape recorder were and record myself playing a piano, guitar, concertina (think small accordion), and mandolin. Then I’d record old music boxes that were lying around and anything else I could think of. I would cut up the tape and splice it back together randomly with my Radio Shack tape splicing gadget. I never knew what I was going to hear once I put it back in the tape player. Some of the segments played backward, while others were mish-mashed with other sounds. It was sonic bliss.
Fun as it was, I set it aside as I got further into high school and focused on “proper” playing and technique, spending hours practicing Chopin etudes, Bach preludes and fugues, and piano concertos by Grieg and Saint-Saens. I still love classical music and am grateful to have grown up practicing and learning to it.
As the years passed, I never lost the passion for composing music. However, by that time we were in the digital age. Vinyl records had been replaced by CD’s, and tape recorders had become extinct. Things quickly became boring.
Now though, things are exciting again. Mobile devices have become powerful music production tools. I can now go around the house sampling any sound I like, chop it up and manipulate it, and turn it into a sound or instrument I can use in a song. Or I can take part of another song I wrote, chop it up, manipulate the key, and turn it into something completely new. No tape splicing required! I wonder what it would have been like to have this technology back when I was still a kid in my parents’ basement. But then, I wouldn’t have the fond memories of being hunched over a tape machine and splicing tape back together.
Here’s a song I wrote and produced mostly on my iPad. The piano is a sample of my 1930 Kurtzmann grand piano, with the sample sliced up and manipulated. I recorded the vocal narration into my iPhone. Finally the tracks were exported to Logic Pro for mastering. Music + technology = serious creative fun.