(Very) Old School Music Editing

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Storytime
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The biggest failure a DJ can experience is a bunch of people leaving the dance floor. I was a mobile DJ from 1987 to 1994, and one thing a mobile DJ craves is the “short” version of a song, especially a song that has already peaked in popularity (it can be fine to play the long version when everyone on the floor wants to hear it, but once the song has aged, it’s difficult to keep people’s interest). We like to play a lot of songs for people to dance to and enjoy, but sometimes they drag on for five minutes or more, and the attention-span deprived people dancing to them don’t realize that they really only have enough desire to dance to three minutes of the song. A fine example of a song that lasted too long was Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). Personally, I think it ran about 4:45 too long, but that’s just my opinion of most of her catalog. A short version sitting at three minutes would have been ideal. So … edits are key.

In 1988, the only tool at my disposal to make song edits was a cassette deck. I would analyze a tune for places where it could be shortened. This is where it can get tricky. You don’t want anyone to notice that it’s shorter. You just want it to be a seamless and quick enjoyable experience. So I looked for doubled choruses or extended instrumental breaks and such. Once I figured out where I wanted to “splice” things together, I would record the song from CD onto tape up until just past the edit point. Then I would rewind the tape a little and stop it exactly where I wanted the break. Then I would play the CD until the point where I wanted it to pick back up again and unpause it. It was that simple. Primitive, for sure, and it was very difficult.

Professional studios used large tape with reels and splicing blocks. I used an $89 consumer cassette deck. Most of my stuff came out horrible, with the single exception of I Want Your Sex by George Michael. I trimmed it down from 4:44 to 3:23, and anyone not paying attention didn’t notice. If I only had visual digital editing at the time, I feel like I could have done so much! In addition to making short versions, I experimented with making long versions of stuff – remixes, if you will. Again, if visual digital editing existed at the time, I think I could have had some success with that. Not sure what I could have done with that success, but if I was able to do what I did with just a cassette deck, I imagine the possibilities with real editing tools might have been slightly more endless. Oh, a career in music, how slippery art thou.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s