Rolling Music Writers' Thread

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mobile phones don't sound particularly worse than landlines to me? more than good enough anyway, it's always more of an issue doing face-to-face i/vs which end up having to be done in some noisy public space

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Sunday, 10 January 2010 19:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

I do the majority of my phoners via cell these days - I put the cell phone on speaker and plop my Olympus DM-20 digital recorder right next to it on the couch. I have perfectly sufficient reception and excellent recordings. Sometimes if the artist is calling me, I'll do it on my land line, but more and more it's cell phone speaker into recorder. Recently I thought I was gonna have to do a Skype interview w/a guy who lived in Berlin but we wound up doing it by email instead (cleared this in advance with my editor).

neither good nor bad, just a kid like you (unperson), Sunday, 10 January 2010 19:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

ugh speaker phone is the worst, you people are savages!

steady mmmobyn (Whiney G. Weingarten), Sunday, 10 January 2010 19:33 (4 years ago) Permalink

In regards to first person discussion, I use it when it seems that my personal experience in the matter will carry some weight. I write a lot of music previews in Portland, OR and I've become known as an authority on metal around here. Since I play music, promote shows and festivals, and write about it, I know that there's a local audience that trusts my words to some degree. So even though I haven't published a book (yet), I feel no guilt in using first person voice when it actually lends something of use to the writing.

I am all ears about more good interview recording solutions though. Sounds like I should jailbreak my iPhone. I like that solution best so far.

Nate Carson, Sunday, 10 January 2010 23:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

I'm more curious about others' steps AFTER recording, especially transcribing in the mp3 age.

Here's my process at the moment:

1. Do interviews on a land line, mainly because that's what I have a jack for. Record on an Olympus digital voice recorder DS-330, which my brother gave me. I should probably upgrade.
2. Download to my Mac using DSS Player, which I have set to automatically make an AIFF copy.
3. Take the AIFF and plop it into Switch, then convert it to an mp3.
4. Label and plop the mp3 into iTunes for safekeeping (and make sure it's set to actually import to iTunes).
5. Put the DSS and AIFF "originals" in a folder for backup.
6. Plop a copy of the mp3 in ExpressScribe for transcription. ExpressScribe lets you slow down recordings, but it's still nowhere near as handy or as good-sounding as a manual cassette tape recorder.

The only good thing about digital transcription is fast-forwarding and rewinding, but I have yet to figure out "hot keys" or buy anything like a foot pedal or whatever, which sucks because I'm planning on doing 100s of interviews this year...

Pete Scholtes, Monday, 11 January 2010 04:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

just make stuff up.

strongohulkingtonsghost, Monday, 11 January 2010 04:59 (4 years ago) Permalink

i mean, i still do my shit on TAPE and still am fighting the move to go digital.

The way I see it, your interviews are the most valuable part of your job, and if I get hit by a car or drop my recorder in a puddle or whatever, that tape is gonna survive. I've heard too many stories about digital recordings just "corrupting" with no rhyme or reason.

When I interviewed Negativland they told me a story of a friend who went to mexico and did a weeks worth of digital recording and then the whole thing just crumbled into corrupted digi-dust

Sometimes artists laugh when I pull out my big cassette recorder, but I've been doing this 10 years and have had exactly one mishap, which was with a wire, not the recorder.

go analog!

ke$nan (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 11 January 2010 05:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

I still use cassettes as well, I swear by it. Has never let me down.

A. Begrand, Monday, 11 January 2010 05:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

Used Skype a few times now and it has worked very well, recording to computer HD. It's a little scary because it's not as easy to trust as tape, but as long as you see the VU meters going, it's recording. Helps to have a headset, the sound quality is outstanding, much better than any phone. Right after I make a copy of the file on another drive. Recording cell phone conversations sucks, period, and I never figured out how to do it with an iPhone.

Mark, Monday, 11 January 2010 05:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

I helped someone on my student magazine's staff run an interview last year, and we just put her cell on speaker and recorded the whole thing using GarageBand. It went fine, but there were a lot of ways it could have easily went wrong, and I could totally see why people would feel safer using a tape recorder or something like that.

kshighway (ksh), Monday, 11 January 2010 05:47 (4 years ago) Permalink

It's true, cassettes are hardy. But I don't do more than one interview on a digital recorder before ripping it to the computer and my external hard drive. And the convenience of organization, searchability, and space is considerable.

Pete Scholtes, Monday, 11 January 2010 06:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

I just archived all my old interviews on cassette into digital format -- but I haven't gotten rid of the tapes because, well, why? Might as well keep the ultimate backup.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 11 January 2010 06:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

still pete, if anything happens from the time you record that interview to the time you get it on your computer...

especially since sometimes you do interviews on the road or at shows and not always at home!

ke$nan (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 11 January 2010 07:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

6. Plop a copy of the mp3 in ExpressScribe for transcription. ExpressScribe lets you slow down recordings, but it's still nowhere near as handy or as good-sounding as a manual cassette tape recorder.

The only good thing about digital transcription is fast-forwarding and rewinding, but I have yet to figure out "hot keys" or buy anything like a foot pedal or whatever, which sucks because I'm planning on doing 100s of interviews this year...

not sure if its the same on mac, pete, but on pc the espress scribe hotkeys are f4 for stop, f9/10 to restart, f7 rewind and f8 ffw... lovelovelove that program...

most notably, the bendable (stevie), Monday, 11 January 2010 08:51 (4 years ago) Permalink

sound quality of digital over analogue is an incredible improvement, tbh, and while my minidisk was scarily unreliable, my cheap mp3 recorder has never let me down yet...

most notably, the bendable (stevie), Monday, 11 January 2010 08:52 (4 years ago) Permalink

i can't believe we're having a digital vs analogue debate in 2010. even a massive luddite like myself has long gone digital.

still pete, if anything happens from the time you record that interview to the time you get it on your computer...

anything could happen to anything! tapes get chewed up inexplicably! someone could step on them! i could be run over by a bus! digital dictaphone puts my mind to rest re: clarity of recording and relative ease of transcribing. if bad things happen i'll deal.

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Monday, 11 January 2010 09:42 (4 years ago) Permalink

I use a horse to get to jobs. There's just too much that can go wrong with the combustion engine.

Doran, Monday, 11 January 2010 09:50 (4 years ago) Permalink

I transcribe my interviews straight from the recorder - don't even import 'em into the computer anymore. And when they're transcribed, I erase the original recording.

neither good nor bad, just a kid like you (unperson), Monday, 11 January 2010 13:12 (4 years ago) Permalink

Speakerphone + Garageband works a treat for me. Just export to Itunes so it's easier to pause and go back.

Stew, Monday, 11 January 2010 14:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

tapes get chewed up inexplicably! someone could step on them! i could be run over by a bus!

Yeah, you joke, but seriously digital recordings can just "go away", if a tape gets chewed up or stepped on you can still salvage it.

ke$nan (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 11 January 2010 14:27 (4 years ago) Permalink

I remember when U2 recorded their last album. They finished, tried to play it back and it had just 'gone away'. Bummer.

Disco Stfu (Raw Patrick), Monday, 11 January 2010 14:31 (4 years ago) Permalink

Just make sure to keep those tapes in their cases. Who knows who's out there roving for binders filled with your interviews!!

kshighway (ksh), Monday, 11 January 2010 14:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, you joke, but seriously digital recordings can just "go away", if a tape gets chewed up or stepped on you can still salvage it.

or maybe you can't. analogue tape is a hella vulnerable medium, and i can ruefully say i've lost interview cassettes on tourbuses, had them doused in liquid and left em in my car on a rilly hot day before, and that's pretty much been the end of that.

is harder to misplace a file on a digital recorder i'd protect with my life anyway.

most notably, the bendable (stevie), Monday, 11 January 2010 14:49 (4 years ago) Permalink

I love my digital recorder. Done a few interviews in noisy restaurants--seriously, at one point someone started vacuuming in front of our table--and I was shocked to find that the audio was perfectly discernible.

I too just transcribe straight from the recorder - use the playback function where the speed is slowed down a little bit (though it always makes me sound like a pothead) and it works pretty swimmingly.

scott pgwp (pgwp), Monday, 11 January 2010 22:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i do have to say the one real drawback to my cassette tape system is that the audio is often a lil wonky

touch me i'm acoleuthic (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 11 January 2010 22:33 (4 years ago) Permalink

Done a few interviews in noisy restaurants--seriously, at one point someone started vacuuming in front of our table--and I was shocked to find that the audio was perfectly discernible.

I interviewed the DJ at a bull riding competition on Friday night while a band was playing in the center of the arena and his voice was perfectly clear.

neither good nor bad, just a kid like you (unperson), Monday, 11 January 2010 22:43 (4 years ago) Permalink

So what model digital recorders are you all using?

Nate Carson, Monday, 11 January 2010 23:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

...not a music writer, but have somewhat similar purposes - I use a Sony PCM-D50.

nothingleft (gravydan), Monday, 11 January 2010 23:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

Olympus DM-20.

neither good nor bad, just a kid like you (unperson), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

olympus ws-210s

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

Olympus WS-100

mike t-diva, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

Sony ICD-UX71 - I really like it. I've also used the Sony ICD-B510F (low end model) which does the job but has a few less features (like background noise reduction and slow playback) that feel essential now that I have the UX71.

scott pgwp (pgwp), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 00:44 (4 years ago) Permalink

I erase the original recording.

I forget what the statute of limitations is on libel, but I'd wait that out. And people might be interested in your actual audio someday (or now!).

Pete Scholtes, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 01:25 (4 years ago) Permalink

olympus vn-3100pc. it works fine but it was a panic purchase from radio shack, when i arrived in LA with two weeks worth of interviews booked, and discovered that my minidisk recorder hadn't survived the flight.

shart in a bag, light it on fire (stevie), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 09:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

I use Olympus WS210s at work.

exploding angel vagina (Scik Mouthy), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 11:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

tapes get chewed up inexplicably! someone could step on them! i could be run over by a bus!

Yeah, you joke, but seriously digital recordings can just "go away", if a tape gets chewed up or stepped on you can still salvage it.

― ke$nan (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 11 January 2010 14:27

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^this, sadly. Over the weekend my PC arbitrarily decided to "lose" the first 20 minutes of my 40-minute St3phin M3rritt interview. Gutted ain't the half of it - every other interview I've ever conducted has been recorded on cassette and is still in immaculate condition, and the moment I switch to Audacity...

Background Zombie (CharlieNo4), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 11:16 (4 years ago) Permalink

I recorded a little less than a half hour of audio on Audacity about five years back and I thought it was going to blow up. So much can go wrong between pressing record and hitting save without the user even doing anything wrong.

kshighway (ksh), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 13:55 (4 years ago) Permalink

Audacity is an amazing program, but it is buggy freeware-- not something I would trust to record an interview. Plus its real strength is multi-tracking.

Mark, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 14:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

Exactly.

kshighway (ksh), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 14:09 (4 years ago) Permalink

i have an olympus 960, which i guess is practically ancient now. (i've had it i think 4 or 5 years.) it works great, i've never had a problem. i'm very aware of the potential to easily erase or lose data, but so far i've avoided that -- which puts it ahead of the various problems i've had in the past with cassettes and microcassettes.

and here's a question on transcription: do most people really transcribe their entire interviews? i almost never do that. i generally know the parts i'm interested in, so i transcribe those first. then if it turns out there's more stuff i think i need i'll go back and pick and choose. the average 60 minutes of conversation has about 5 minutes of really good quotes, maybe 10 minutes if you're talking to somebody especially smart and articulate, and anyway you're only going to have room for a handful of direct quotes as it is.

hellzapoppa (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 14:45 (4 years ago) Permalink

(the obvious exception is q&a's. which is one reason i really don't like q&a's.)

hellzapoppa (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 14:46 (4 years ago) Permalink

i usually transcribe "the good parts" and pick and choose from there

touch me i'm acoleuthic (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 14:56 (4 years ago) Permalink

ditto, who on earth transcribes the WHOLE THING? the process is distressing enough as it is

لوووووووووووووووووووول (lex pretend), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:02 (4 years ago) Permalink

man do i hate transcribing

touch me i'm acoleuthic (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah that's the only way that makes sense to me. i've had some friends and colleagues who for whatever reason feel compelled to transcribe everything before actually getting down to writing -- i guess maybe it helps them to hear it all again -- but that's just so time consuming, especially if it's a full-bore feature story where you've talked to a bunch of different people. i keep pretty good notes while i'm interviewing, so that i can use them as sort of an outline of what's on the recording. (plus i'll write down especially good quotes as i go, if possible, as a backup against something happening to the recorder.)

hellzapoppa (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

We have this argument all the time in the newsroom – that's why notebooks will never go out of fashion. Better to jot down pithy phrases than to waste time rewinding and fast forwarding.

Hell is other people. In an ILE film forum. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

i do LISTEN to the whole tape again, but certainly dont write anything down

touch me i'm acoleuthic (Whiney G. Weingarten), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

I transcribe everything, or damn close to it, but I use a lot of quotes in my features. I like to let the artist speak for themselves a lot and only throw in bits of narrative and/or interpretation between, rather than unloading some huge personal thesis and scattering a few quotes on top to support what I'm trying to put across.

neither good nor bad, just a kid like you (unperson), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:08 (4 years ago) Permalink

I do both. Depends on the interviewee.

scott pgwp (pgwp), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:15 (4 years ago) Permalink

We have this argument all the time in the newsroom – that's why notebooks will never go out of fashion.

when i was a daily beat reporter, i almost never taped anything. just notepad and pen. when you're writing short news articles you can get everything you need that way, and it's a lot faster. but when i started writing longer-form stuff, especially profiles where you really want to give a sense of a person's voice, how they talk and think, i eventually realized i really needed recordings. and one thing i've found is that no matter how good you are at note-taking, you very rarely get direct quotes accurate at anything past about two sentences. you can get the meaning of them right -- and as long as you do that, almost nobody will complain about being misquoted -- but you're going to lose or change some words. (i guess i should say "i" instead of "you," because some people are probably better at word-for-word recall than me. but i bet most people can't accurately write down more than a few sentences at a time while also conducting an interview.)

hellzapoppa (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 12 January 2010 15:24 (4 years ago) Permalink


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