I don’t suppose I’m the first to do this, and sadly, I doubt I’ll be the last, but it’s one of those things in a studio that, if it goes wrong and you’ve never used such ancient equipment before, you might be tempted to give up at the first hurdle. I was almost persuaded to do that, but I haven’t worked at a radio station for 18 years to be outfoxed by a tape machine!
If any of you are familiar with reel-to-reel machines, you might know that upon loading tape, you must not, must not, MUST NOT get a twist in the tape. If you do, you’re going to hear a lot of garbled stuff – not the recording you’ve just decided to listen to. Oh, it’s still there, but it’s playing backwards, like one of them old turntables we used to like playing around with. With tape, it is an absolute no-no to play it backwards If it does, you must stop the tape and repair it. This can be done, but you do need a lot of patience.
Perhaps you’ve played side 1 of the tape without incident. Now, you’ve turned the spool over and loaded up to hear side 2. Roll the tape on and get – garble!
It’s a bit of a shock when it happens the first time. With a lot of patience and slowly going through the tape, you can respool it to play properly. Now, you might think, ‘Ah well, it ain’t too bad. I’ll put a deliberate twist in the tape to roll it off to the empty spool. That’s actually a brilliant idea if you want a speedy job done, but I tried it, and still got garble when I tried to play side 2 again. The only way to do a proper repair is to listen to the whole tape after putting that one deliberate twist in it so that it slowly spools off while you’re listening to it. This is just in case there’s a second twist that needs correcting.
Luckily, that didn’t happen to me. I finally got back to side 1 without further incident, and was then able to play side 2, this time, without further trouble. I noticed, however that, if repeatedly used, the Leader Tape can get itself in a bit of a snarl right at the start of it. This is due to the repeated snatching the stuff up to the second spool, and attaching it to the tie-in, (the little crack in the plastic spool, which catches the tape to secure it). One quick cure is to snip off any scrunched tape so that the rest of it is nicely straight. Now you’ve again played side one, side two will be properly spooled to be fed out, this time, without the deliberate twist. So snatch the tape to the empty spool and KEEP IT UNTWISTED! Let it begin rolling on, and side 2 should now play without further incident, except for those awesome sounds you were first expecting!
It’s nice to see (and hear!) a repair done, rather than giving up and chucking the tape out. Don’t chuck it, repair it!