Converting Records and Tapes
to MD (Mini Disc) and CD (Compact Disc)
Another Audio Journey
Ethnic Dance Chicago Home Page - Door County Folk Festival Home Page - Mini Disc Page Index
General Information(back to MD index)
Background (back to MD index)
This message started out as a response to two people who had asked me what I thought about Mini Disc technology. It has now grown to this considerable length and keeps growing and changing in scope each year. I received these initial requests in July of 1999, just after the Door County Folk Festival (DCFF). I had made a really big push to get as much music transferred before the 1999 DCFF so that I would not have to lug a ton of records up to Wisconsin as I had done before. I didn't get a lot done for 1999, but I've been working hard on these conversions ever since.
As it were, by July of 1999, I had finished most of the 33s and tapes, but had only made small progress with the 45s and 78s, so I made a decision to take only the 45s up to Sister Bay that year. For the 2000 DCFF, I still had not done a majority of the 45s and 78s, but I made the decision to not take any records at all. Similarly, during 1999 at my Friday Night dance group, I stopped taking records, because it only delayed my switching over to the use of the Mini Discs.
Hey, now it's 2002 and I'm still converting records to MD after inheriting some additional records of all sizes and speeds from some folk dance teachers who retired and gave me parts of their collections. I've done most of the LPs because they're less labor intensive to do.
I was in summer school and also had a summer job scraping vertebrate fossils out of stone for Professor Everett Olsen of the paleontology department. The studying, working and commuting from home kept me busy enough, but for 8 weeks, I spent an average of 8-10 hours each evening recording hundreds of Steve's records onto 5" reels of tape, using single track mono on an stereo machine so as to get as much music on one tape as possible, yet make it rewind able in a reasonable amount of time. Needless to say, recording and cataloging all of that music was quite a learning experience. Running a group with two reel-to-reel tape recorders, about 40 reels of tape and only about 25 records was quite a challenge.
Jumping ahead one year, the next summer, I worked in "The Record Center". Owner, V.H. "Andy" Anderson sold every kind of record that was ever pressed: Country-Western, Jazz, Folk, Pop, Rock, Blues, Classical, Novelty, Comedy, Oldies and even the stuff we kept under the counter in plain brown wrappers like Doug Clarke and the Hot Nuts. The record Center also sold Folk Dance, Square/Contra Dance and Round Dance records. This store was one of the few remaining large records stores where you could still listen to the records before you bought them.
Needless to say here, most of my take home pay went back into the store's coffers. How could I pass up such a deal - records at cost for employees. I got it for me wholesale!. The mark-up on records was in most cases 40%. Over the years at workshops, camps and on other buying binges, I bought more records & tapes. Fortunately, as early as 1968, I started cataloging the dance collection on computer.
When many folks started dubbing their collections to cassette, I strongly resisted the temptation. I was not crazy about creating another set of tapes. I was thinking about the cost and time it would take to go straight to computer disk or maybe CD. I was waiting for the price of music editing or CD's to plummet when I heard about Mini Discs in late 1997 from Penny Brichta. She had been using both MD and DAT for a while at her Israeli Dance Group and recommended that I try it. While I was lugging around 9 cases of LPs, 3 cases of 45s and 6 cases of tapes, Penny traveled light.
After thinking about it over the summer of 1998, I went and bought my first machine. I didn't start recording immediately and procrastinated for a couple of months. One day after lugging my records to and from dancing again, I decided that it would be great if I didn't have to take any records to the DCFF the following year - or to my group every week! If that was going to happen, I needed to start someplace. So one day, I just started.
Recording in mono, I put three classics on one MD - The 3 Folkcraft Macedonian LPs. When I found out I still had room for the Folkraft Bulgarian LP, I was hooked. Next was Pece Atanasovski's LPs. The first three went onto one MD and I had to start a second one for Pece and some other classic Macedonian LPs (including Orce Nikolov).
In subsequent months, I have gone as far as to find cleaner recordings than mine and have replaced those "less than acceptable" tracks on MD with the better quality music. Now that this stuff is all digitized, I can clean some of that stuff up myself with all of the music editing software that's available today at very reasonable prices.
I just bought something called an MD-Mate for a PC that should allow me to transfer music easily between computer and Mini Disc. Who knows what's next.
If you're interested in my response to the folks asking me about MD, read on. If you find new stuff that I can update here, please let me know and I'll do it.
I hope that you find this information useful
and maybe even somewhat entertaining.
By recording in mono, you get between 40
and 60 titles on the disc. That also translates into 4-6 LPs or 30-40 45s.
MD time is same as CD - 74 minutes stereo (or 148 minutes in mono).
Most folk dance stuff is not recorded in stereo and stereo recording would
not enhance the sound. The newer stuff on CD is in stereo,
but if your playback system is not good stereo that can cover your dance
room, then mono should do.
When I first started this project, 1998, there seemed to be only 2 manufacturers of the media - Sony and TDK. Now, there are multiples and deals are plentiful. I used to pay between $8-10 per disc. The price dropped to between $2-$3 in 1999. By the fall of 2000, you could find MDs in quantity for less than $2 apiece. By the spring of 2002, you could buy blank MDs in bulk, on-line for under $1.50 each.
In 1999 and 2000, more pre-recorded music was appearing on MDs in stores, but by 2001, internet stores became the best place to find pre-recorded-MDs. So is that a positive sign?
In 1998, there were only 2 MD deck models (record/play) and 2 portable "walk-man" type models (one record/play, one play only) that I could locate easily at Best Buy and J& R Music. Now, more models with more features are being made available at the consumer product distribution channel (as opposed to the professional recording/music industry channel). There is even a model with built-in variable pitch. The prices have dropped on most models and other manufacturers have started to build MD-units.
MD's have full editing and re-record capabilities without having to purchase special media or software. For CDs, re-recordable and Rewriteable media prices have also come down considerably, and the per unit cost is cheaper than MD. However, there some backward compatibility issues, in that some CD-R or CD-RW media will not play on certain older CD players. My experience is that the editing and re-recording capabilities of MD are more flexible than those of CD.
If you are recording for the purpose of distributing media to or exchanging media with others, then you will certainly find that many more people have the capability to play CDs than MDs (be careful about CD-RWs). While the number of people using MD is growing, it will probably never surpass CD users, probably because CDs came first and consumers do resist change. However, if it is for your own use and convenience, and if issues such as flexibility, size, ease of editing, etc. are more important, then MD might be a better choice.
MD could be an interim solution, but for my money, it was a better first step to digital for me than CD, DAT or computer. With the advent of larger disk drives, I see computer storage, with even better editing capabilities as a next step for me.
For anyone to say that MDs may be obsolete
before long have not noticed more MD equipment being available in the stores.
I don't see this as a sign of near term obsolescence. Lot's of folks
love CDs and are heavily invested in that technology and would not like
to see it replaced by any other technology. This investment may be
more emotional than practical. Click
here for the discussion about: Are MDs widely used?
Now that you're thoroughly confused,
try applying these principles to the evolution of reproducing recorded
Does anybody know if there's a way or a place to recycle old records, tapes, cassettes, 8 tracks, any recording materials, etc.? I mean beyond a landfill. I talking about the stuff that's beyond collecting condition. When I worked in the record business, people used to buy old 78s (and later mono records) for "record smashing" at parties, carnivals and shooting galleries.
By the way, my first big recording project was in 1967 when I copied records onto reel-to-reel for 8 weeks. The folk dance group leader at the University of Chicago was leaving and taking his collection with him and the group and I had nothing. I still have those tapes and will be putting some of that music onto Mini Disc. At various times, I've also put portions of the record collection on reel-to-reel or cassette tape. I never finished, because I knew I wanted to do something digital, and taping was not all that rewarding.
Also, since 1968, I've converted the music
index system from punch cards on 2 different IBM mainframes, to disk and
tape storage on 3 different mini-computer systems, and now to a database
on a PC. Life is just one big conversion!!!!!!!!
Remember the acronym "GIGO" or Garbage In, Garbage Out. If your source recording is of poor quality, the resultant recording on MD or CD will also be of poor quality.
From Eddie Talbot's Home
The only real potential rub for audio enthusiasts is the sound quality. MiniDisc uses a compression technique to fit music on to that small disc. This involves the loss of information in the music that is supposedly inaudible to the human ear. This argument is frequently used against MiniDisc, and in the beginnings in 1992 the critics had a point, but the compression technique (a system called ATRAC) is now so good six years on that only sophisticated electronic analysis equipment can tell the difference between CD and MD - the human ear cannot distinguish (although audiophiles claim to be able to tell the difference, then again these are the same individuals who claim vinyl is better than CD).
here for more details about MD Technology on this webpage. A
more technical story of MD technology can be found at the Mini Disc Community
website. A shortcut to that discussion of MD quality being near CD
quality is at: http://www.minidisc.org/near_cd.html
Remember how stepping on a loose floorboard near a record player could cause a record to track? Remember how "unbreakable" records could still be broken if dropped in certain ways? Remember waiting for tapes to rewind? Remember tapes breaking while they rewind? Now we don't have any of those problems with CDs do we? Try bumping into a CD player while it's playing and listen to it track. Ever try jogging with a portable CD player?
Mini Discs can take a lot of punishment. For some real interesting stories of folks inadvertently dropping MD players from great heights or jogging with them, check out the collection of MD stories on the Mini Disc Community website: http://www.minidisc.org.
There may be some specific industry growth figures available as to the current level of MD usage vs CD usage. I know that usage is higher in Japan and in Europe than in the U.S. I personally don't have the details of this information but I'm sure that you can find it on the Mini Disc Community website: http://www.minidisc.org
In Chicago, in the summer of 2002, there are 7 folk dance leaders that I know of who own an MD player/recorder and are using MD in one form or another. In the Fall of 2000, there were 5 folk dance leaders who were using MDs. In 1997 there were only two and I was not one of them. One of the two got me turned on to it in 1997. The others are late entrants and I don't know how much recording they've done, but I suspect it's not as much as I've done.
This webpage gets about 25-30 requests for information about MD usage. Two years ago I got about 12 requests per year. Is this increase possibly indicative of higher usage or potential usage for MD? Perhaps!
At certain stores in Chicago, whenever there is a weekend sale on Mini Disc media, my experience is that packs of 8 or more MDs are gone by the middle of the second day. So someone other than me is out there buying Mini Discs. Is this indicative of higher usage or potential? Perhaps!
Whatever you decide to do (MD, CD, DAT, Casette
or whatever), just do it and have no regrets. My advice
would be to get started on going digital. Once you've started, you
won't have a lot of interest or justification for changing to a different
media in the immediate future, and that's ok.
I did the 33s first because I could start a side recording and walk away for a few minutes. I used to try putting track marks in between tracks as they were recording, but now I've learned that for me, to record and put the track marks in later is more efficient. I have a lot of discs that are not fully marked (divided into tracks) yet, but I think that marking later is easier than doing it as you record.
I've manually updated the table of contents with the disc name and description. I've named tracks on some of the more heavily used discs, but not all. Since my catalog is computerized, I'm trying to find a source in north america to buy a Mini Disc unit that can be connected to a computer so that I could update the tracks names and disc names via computer. Haven't found such a source yet, but I was close a couple of months ago. I've found folks that have purchased them in Hong Kong. There is a very expensive recording studio model available here, but again it's very expensive.
You can also create discs of your favorite dances. And you can do both - music organized by some characteristic such as ethnicity or difficulty as well as by popularity.
Another thing that this project has done is to re-introduce and remind me of dances that I have forgotten or to music that is great for listening or to use as alternate music for other dances.
NOTE: For an automated way to update the
table of contents of Mini Discs, Click
here for information on Batch Titling for Mini Disc with the WinRemote
Organizing Your Music
I'm following a system I set up in the late 1960s for my records and tapes, that groups them more or less by country. With all of the geopolitical changes of the 1990's, that's getting much harder to do, but it is not impossible to change with a computer. Since countries like Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union have fragmented, my grouping by country has become somewhat irrelevant, but I had made provision for the distinction between several of the ethinic groups and nationalities of those countries so the change was not like starting from scratch.
In terms of retrieving discs, you will learn where the most frequently used music is located, no matter how you physically organize your music collection. It does not really matter whether you use some logical order or a random order. By using the collection, you will learn where things are.
The physical grouping grouping of discs by country makes a lot less sense with MD and CD than it would with records and tapes. There are fewer units to deal with - 260 MDs and 50 CDs as opposed to 200 tapes and 1,150 records. The recording of music on MD or CD by country, ethnic group or by artist is a matter of personal preference.
Cataloging Your Music
Now that the personal computer (IBM or Mac) is accessible to almost everyone who has a music collection of a size worth cataloging, it is easier to save and retrieve information about your collection if you have the information on a computer. Spreadsheets may be easier to learn and understand but I'd recommend using a database for larger collections.
There are many pre-programmed database applications developed to handle music libraries. Some of these programs include options or have add-on modules that allow you to print out an alphabetical index or to print MD, CD or Cassette stick-on labels. If not, they may allow you to export data to other programs that can produce labels. Database applications also allow you to view the data in different ways such as by alpha name, by dance type, by country or by manufacturer's SKU number (if you have entered any of that information into the system). If you have special or unusual needs and also have the technical skills you might consider developing your own specialized database application.
I use a very robust, yet easy to use database program called Alpha4 (for DOS) or Alpha5 (for Windows): http://www.alphasoftware.com. I've created an application to keep track of all information about the music and its source, cost, data acquired, artist, manufacturer information, quality, etc.
I use the print functions to print out a paper alphabetic index and other reports and to set up the files for labeling the MD tracks with WinRemote Software - a task that takes 45 minutes per MD manually but only 2-4 minutes per MD when automated. Click here for information on Batch Titling for Mini Disc with the WinRemote Program
I also use the viewing functions of the database on a notebook computer as an on-line lookup index at dances.
I'll add more to this section later.
For carrying MDs and CDs I've acquired some very sturdy DJ cases specifically designed to carry MDs and CDs. Each MD case carries about 175 MDs in slip cases or flip cases and each CD case carrys about 90 CDs in standard size flip cases. (Click here for information on Mini Disc Storage).
The contrast of what I now have to transport
to the group is ironic. In the old days, I would bring a record player
and a couple of speakers and lots of record cases (sometimes as many as
10) and tape cases (3 or 4). These days, I carry only 4 media cases
(2 for MD and 2 for CD & miscellaneous stuff) and all the rest is equipment
(amp, speakers, mixer, MD players).
Converting Records and Tapes
to MD (Mini Disc) and CD (Compact Disc)
Another Audio Journey
Ethnic Dance Chicago Home Page - Door
County Folk Festival Home Page
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