How To Convert Tape To Digital Format

I have a collection of over 200 music cassette tapes, and I have been going through the process of copying the contents of these tapes into digital format and storing them on my computer. This process is fairly straightforward, but it does take time. At the high level, what you need to do is to use a software program to record the music on your computer by playing the cassette tape in a tape player and connecting the tape player to your computer. Then, you can store the music on your computer in your favorite format.

Materials Needed

1. A cassette tape player.

2. A 3.5 mm male-to-male audio connector such as this one from Amazon.

3. An audio editing program called Audacity. You can download this program from the website.

Detailed Steps

1. Plug one end of the audio connector into the tape player, and the other end into your computer.

2. Hit “Play” on the tape player to start playing the tape.

3. In Audacity, go to “Transport” and then “Record”. This starts the recording.

Audacity Record Function

4. Initially the screen will show no sound, but pretty soon you should see evidence that Audacity is recording sound (see below). If you keep seeing a flat line when you are sure music should be playing, check the connection from the cassette player to the computer.

Audacity Showing Recording

5. When one side of tape finishes playing, simply take the tape out and insert the other side. Hit “Play” again on the cassette player to start playing the second side. Do not touch Audacity.

6. When the second side of the tape finishes playing, click on the “Stop” button (see below).

Audacity Stop Button

7. Now Audacity has finished recording your tape.

8. [Optional step] Delete the last few seconds of the recording that is blank by holding down the left button of the mouse and move over the section to be deleted. Once you are happy with your selection, click on “Edit” and then “Delete”.

Audacity Delete Blank Recording

9. [Optional step] Move to the very beginning of the recording. Delete the first few seconds of the recording that is blank by holding down the left button of the mouse and move over the section to be deleted. Once you are happy with your selection, click on “Edit” and then “Delete”.

10. Next, we put labels on the recording. Labels will signal the start of each song.

11. Place the cursor at the very beginning of the recording. Press “Control-B”, then type “1″. Now, the beginning of the first song has a label of “1″.

Audacity Create Label

12. Scroll to the right using the scroll bar at the bottom of Audacity. When you see the beginning of the second song (usually this should be pretty evident, as you’ll see a 5-10 second space that is blank), click on a location that is about 1 second before the next song. Press “Control-B”, then type “2″.

Audacity Gap Between Songs

13. Repeat step 12 until you have come to the end of the first side of the tape.

14. When you reach the end of the first side, there will be a period of time when there is no song being recorded. This period of time represents the last few seconds of the first side when there is no music, the amount of time it takes to switch the tape around, and the beginning blank of the second side. You may want to follow the same direction as Step 8 to remove the blank.

15. Repeat step 12 until you have come to the last song.

16. Go to Windows Explorer, and create the folder where you want to store your songs.

17. In Audacity, go to “File”, then select “Export Multiple…”.

Audacity Export Multiple Function

18. In the pop-up window, click on “Choose” next to “Export Location” to select the folder you have just created. Next, click “Export”.

Audacity Export Multiple Window

19. The “Edit Metadata” window pops up. You can enter additional information on each song. Once you are satisfied with the information, click “OK”.

Audacity Edit Metadata Window

20. There is one “Edit Metadata” window for each label. Repeat Step 19 for all labels.

21. After you click “Export” in the last “Edit Metadata” table, the export starts.

22. In this example, the export will save your file in .WAV format (notice that Export Format was set to WAV above). You may wish to save the entire project so you have the flexibility to do something else at a later time. To do this, go to “File”, and then “Save Project”.

Audacity Save Project Menu Item

23. Once the files have been exported, go to Windows Explorer, and manually change the file name to what you want (usually the name of the song, but you can also use the name of the song plus the artist).

24. That’s it! Now the music in your tape is in digital format, and you’ll be able to enjoy it forever.

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