I currently use a Tascam DP004 to record electro/acoustic guitars, but the Tascam doesn't allow me to copy and paste or shift parts around so that I can build a song. So, I need a simple, quick system to transfer WAVs in order to do this. Once I have the song built I can go to a friend's studio to mix and master. I need tracks for at least three guitars and three vocals. I don't need effects, loops or a drum machine, but I would like to be able to use a bit of reverb. I've been looking at the free programs such as Audacity and Tracktion 3, but I'm confused. I have a PC but I am a medium‑to‑light user and bit of a recording novice.
John Bentley via email
SOS contributor Tom Flint replies: Setting up a system to manage WAV data — using your DP004 and a PC with a suitable software audio editor — should be fairly easy, once you get to grips with the way Tascam's products deal with audio data. The most important thing to understand is that all recordings saved on the 004 can be made readily available to your computer if they are copied into the right partition on the DP004's memory card. By default, recordings are saved to what Tascam call the 'MTR' partition, but there is also something called the 'FAT32' partition and, in order for data to be seen by a computer, WAVs first have to be copied into it from the MTR section.
Copying data to the FAT partition might seem a bit of a pain at first, but at least it means that what is on the MTR partition can't accidentally be deleted by a careless swipe of the PC's mouse. The FAT partition, on the other hand, is treated by a computer like any peripheral device, be it a mobile phone, camera or memory stick, enabling the user to save stuff onto it (such as sampled loops) as well as grab whatever is already there and drag it onto the PC's hard drive.
One drawback of the system is that, even when SDHC cards of 32GB are used, a FAT partition is restricted to 4GB, but that should still be plenty big enough to cope with even the longest compositions.
To get data into the FAT partition, stop the recorder and press the Menu key. From the list that appears on screen, select 'Wave' and press the F4 key to open the folder's menu. Here the individual WAVs of each vocal or guitar part will be displayed. Each WAV can be selected for export by turning the data wheel, at which point another press of F4 will put a tick by whichever track is highlighted. As long as there is enough free space on the FAT partition, all of the WAVs recorded as part of the song composition can be exported as a batch.
While we're on the subject, there will also come a time when you need to back up song data to a computer to free up space on the card. This is almost the same procedure as exporting the basic WAVs, the difference being that the user selects Data Backup instead of Wave from the menu.
The DP004 can be connected to a PC using a USB cable, at which point it should be automatically recognised as a connected device, and the folder structure and contents of its FAT partition will appear on screen. However, my preference is to do away with the USB lead and simply pop the data card out, put it into a USB card reader and connect that to the PC. This is much more convenient if the DP004 is across the room from the computer and hooked up to a mass of guitar leads and effects.
At the computer end, the options are vast, as every audio editor worth mentioning will provide more record tracks than you've specified and will enable you to cut, copy, move and manipulate audio files in ways you didn't know you wanted to until you found out you could! Programs like Audacity and Tracktion 3 should serve all your current requirements and more besides, and there is nothing to lose from trying them and other similar options out, particularly if the software is freeware or available on a free time‑limited trial basis. The one thing to bear in mind, though, given that the plan is to mix on a friend's DAW, is that mix data, such as fades, EQ changes and mutes, will all be lost unless you either both work with the same DAW, or you 'bounce' that data so that it becomes permanently written into the audio files you give your friend. Most DAWs offer a 'bounce' function allowing you to export individual tracks in this way, but a more flexible option would be to use the same software owned by your friend — affordable, cut-down 'LE' versions of most packages are available which would do the job fine. You can then freely transfer projects between your machine and his.
In terms of importing the WAVs into the audio software, most programs support 'drag and drop', where the WAVs are literally dragged, using the mouse, into the appropriate track window, and dropped in place, just as if they were sections of text in a word processor. Alternatively, there will be an 'Import' option in a menu, from where the relevant WAVs can be selected.