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Don DelaVega

Recording Engineer

I compare myself to those early record producers who travelled the American South in search of blues songs and rare unknown talents.Yuma University Armed with only a 2-track reel-to-reel recorder, they captured performances from talented artists that otherwise would have never been known beyond their neighborhoods.

We had it a little bit better than that when we recorded American Zen for this album. We had a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder that could record at double speed.

The frequency response of the smaller tape inside the cassette, compared to the 1/4" tape used by those early record producers may actually be a small step backward. However, we did everything we could to maximize the quality of our recordings to achieve a professional product.

Don with Saguaro cactus near Yuma, ArizonaIt's kind of a shame. Most of the tricks we used to record this album do not work in digital recording. This album, LEVEL 1 = Peace Of Mind, will be one of the last old fashioned tape recording analog albums I'll ever make.

We recorded this album to analog tape. Most studios now record directly to digital hard drives.

We mixed this album to analog tape. Most studios mix their digital recordings in the digital computer.

We mastered this album using ProTools digital software to create a digital CD master.

So, 2 out of 3 steps were analog recording.

In analog you can over-saturate the tape by recording too loud. This creates a smooth distortion. It sounds terrible if you do it to a vocal track, but very nice if you do it to a guitar or snare drum.

We recorded everything super-loud on this album whenever we could. Our S/N "Signal-to-Noise" ratio was already limited by the size and quality of our tape. That was another problem. We couldn't get professional cassette tapes in Utah and had to special order them. These tapes allowed us to record even louder still. Professional tapes are super-thick and super-packed with that magnetic-oxide stuff which gives you more stuff to record on.

Don Dela Vega
Recording Engineer
, Shaolin Records

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