If your recording budget is super tight, but you have some killer material you need to record, and there’s nothing around but an old TASCAM Portastudio 414 MKII, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I will guide you step-by-step through the process I used to record my band’s first EP. So if you’re new to recording or are just curious about music production, this post is for you!
Why we chose to record analog
The year was 2006, and we were just starting out. Since we were a DIY band with a punk ethos, fidelity wasn’t as important to us as getting the magic onto that recording. While I was somewhat proficient working with DAWs back then, everything I had recorded up to that point was created using loops and overdubbing, no more than one track at a time. Rather than investing in an audio interface with enough channels to record while playing live, we chose to go the analog route.
The obvious advantage was that it was a cheaper alternative and would save us from living in a box. However, the tradeoff would be audio fidelity and the inability to edit digitally. Since we were a DIY band with a punk ethos, fidelity wasn’t as important to us as getting the magic onto that recording.
If you are looking for a new and improved version of this recorder, here it is.
What is portastudio 414 MKII
The portastudio 414 MKII is an 8-input, stereo-output mixer that records audio to a 4-track “Multi-track Master” cassette tape. It also features a balanced microphone input and a dedicated guitar input.
A four-track cassette is a regular two-track cassette converted with a four-track cassette recorder. These recorders may capture four tracks because they use both sides of the tape as it passes the magnetic head.
How to record a band on a Tascam 414 MKII 4-track cassette recorder
Follow the steps below to learn how you can record a full band on the Tascam 414 MKII.
Get your TASCAM portastudio
Without the ability to record your work, you cannot move forward. I bought a used Tascam 414mkii analog cassette 4 track recorder from eBay for about $70 and a 10-pack of audio cassettes from the local electronics store. Try buying cassettes in 2019.
Have a suitable recording space
We tracked drums, bass, guitar, and vocals in a rehearsal room. And blocked out about 6 hours of time in their largest rehearsal room. Needless to say, we didn’t have a fancy studio space, but the space worked, and the price was very reasonable. The rehearsal studio was equipped with several all-purpose Shure Beta 58A microphones.
Miking the drums
I had to be creative with only 4 “¼” inch inputs to play with on the Tascam. (Remember to get some XLR-to-¼ inch adapters in order to connect the mics to the Tascam.) I knew the drums would require several microphones, but I only had one input to spare on the recorder. To solve this problem I bought a Samson S-mix for $50
I placed one microphone by the kick drum, one above the snare, and the last above the kit. All the microphones were run into the S-mix, and we tweaked the drum mix until we got the balance we wanted.
Miking the guitar
This was an easy one with only one available input. The guitarist had his pedalboard and amp set up. I placed a mic on his amp and ran that microphone to an available input on the Tascam.
Miking the bass
I was pretty ignorant about the benefits of a DI (direct input) box. I was aware they existed, but for whatever reason, using a DI box for the bass did not calculate into my equation at this time. Instead, I ran a patch cable from the ¼ inch output of the bass amp into the ¼ inch input on the Tascam. Please note that this will only work if your bass amp has a ¼ inch output.
Given that vocals are typically overpowered by the sounds of other instruments in the mix, the vocalist needed to have the ability to hear themselves in the mix. Just as important was for the other band members to hear the vocalist to know when the cues for the changes would occur. To resolve this issue, in comes the Samson S-split at $50
By splitting the microphone signal for the vocals, I connected one of the S-split outputs directly to the Tascam, utilizing another XLR-to-¼ adapter. This allowed the vocals to remain balanced in the mix.
The second S-split output was routed to the PA in the rehearsal room and played at low volume. This enabled all the musicians to monitor the vocals while the low volume ensured minimal bleed of the vocals into the other instrument microphones.
We are almost there. Now that we are all mic’d up, we need to ensure the band can hear the mix since we are not amplifying the mix through speakers. The Tascam only had one ¼ inch headphone output. I needed to take one output and make it four outputs. The Samson S-amp solved that problem for about $60. The limitation was that no one could customize their mix, but each member could adjust their headphone volume level.
Record with your portastudio
Insert a blank cassette. Make sure all your input levels are loud enough but not distorted. Click record, and you’re done!
If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “TASCAM 414 MKII 4-track cassette recorder: How to Record” from the 424 Recording YouTube channel.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about this four-track recorder.
What is a tape cue?
A CUE or CUEING. Identifying a certain location on a disc or tape before playing it again, or in the case of MAGNETIC TAPE, before modifying it. Scrubbing is another name for this.
When did the Tascam Portastudio come out?
On September 22, 1979, TASCAM again took to the stage at New York’s Waldorf Astoria for the AES Show to unveil the TEAC 144 Portastudio, the first 4-track cassette recorder in the world.
Can you use a TASCAM as a mic?
Connecting the DR-40X to a computer in USB Audio interface mode transforms it into a high-quality studio microphone, perfect for voiceovers, live streaming, and songwriting. Microphones are built-in and may be used as USB microphones.
So if you want to record your band on this case records, this is how it’s done.
This article covered How to record a band on a Tascam 414 MKII 4-track cassette recorder. Here are some key takeaways:
- A four-track cassette is a regular two-track cassette converted with a four-track cassette recorder.
- The portastudio 414 MKII is an 8-input, stereo-output mixer that records audio to a 4-track.
- To record a band, you will need a good recording space.
So, do you have a four-track recorder? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music recording. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.
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