Leader tape/tape storage tips.
Many reel-to-reel tapes are supplied with a length of coloured nonmagnetic tape at the beginning and end of the reel. This tape is known as 'leader' and serves two purposes:
First of all it allows you to wind the tape onto the machine without handling the actual magnetic material. Secondly, it tells you at which end of the tape you're located. Unfortunately, the colour of these leaders changes from one tape manufacturer to another. It's normal practice to use green leader tape at the beginning and red at the end. If you decide to add leader yourself to existing tapes, you should use at least six feet of leader as this will allow the machine to stop the tape in time, when in the rewind or fast forward mode, before the tape flies off the reel.
Many people write down tape counter numbers to help locate tracks on their tapes. This is perfectly satisfactory when using the same machine, and if the recordings are only temporarily stored on that specific tape. However, if you play the tape on another machine the numbers are unlikely to be correct, but by inserting leader between the beginnings and ends of your songs, you will be able to locate them quickly during fast winds.
The colour of the leader should be different to the green and red already used. Many people use white, though blue and yellow are also common. You may encounter problems with some leader tapes, tape machines which have 'magic eyes' (intelligent switches), such as Revox, stop the tape moving when the leader passes in front of the eye. You can overcome this by using either opaque leaders or covering the magic eye with a piece of sticky tape. This will alleviate those annoying moments when the tape stops during a transfer to cassette!
The length of the leader used between songs is variable, this is a personal choice and depends on whether you want a couple of seconds or more between each song. You can measure the leader tape with a ruler and therefore insert accurately timed silences. Obviously this is related to the tape running speed. For example at 15ips (inches per second), 15 inches of leader will give you one second of silence.
After you have spent many hours making a good recording you may want to preserve it for posterity, particularly if it is a master tape (original). As tape is a fragile medium, it requires careful handling and storage. Tape, should at all times, be stored tail-out ie. wound onto the righthand spool, with the end of the tape at the outside of the spool. This means you have to rewind the tape back to the beginning before you can play it.
The reason for storing the tape tail-out, is to reduce the effects of a phenomenon called print-through. High energy tapes with high signal levels recorded onto them are most prone to print-through. The sound, present as a pattern of magnetic particles on tape, transfers from one layer to the next and is heard as a pre-echo of the sound. However, if you store the tape tail-out any print-through appearing on the tape will be heard as a post-echo ie. after the original sound. As the print-through sound is much lower in volume than the original it won't cause too much of a problem.
The effects of print-through build up gradually through time, the longer the tape is stored. If you store the tape tail-out in a room with a cool, stable temperature and well away from magnetic fields; that means away from anything that uses electricity ie. TV, radio, loudspeakers, computers, hi-fi etc, your tape should remain in good condition.
The tape box in which the reel is stored should also list all relevant information relating to the tape inside eg. name of artist, songs, tape speed, track format, noise reduction, EQ, test tones, the fact that the tape is stored tail-out, and not forgetting finally, the date of the recording.
Previous article in this issue:
Next article in this issue:
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!