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Extreme Tape Manipulation:

Make your very own tape record and play it on a turntable!

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Extreme tape manipulation - play audio tapes on a turntable.
AND Floppy Discs Too! This is how it's done!

A turntable playing a tape record.
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Hear an example recorded with no effects:
mp3 recording of my turntable playing tapes
This is from my 2nd Tape Record - no effects:
mp3 recording of my turntable playing tapes

Here's what you'll need:

- a working turntable - yes, that's a record player, kids.

- an analog cassette machine tape head.

- audio tape - analog preferred - cassette, micro cassette, 1/4",... with recorded material already on it (obey copyright laws!).

- sticky tape (mailing tape works nice).

- soldering iron and solder.

- glue stick - I used Elmers All Purpose Glue Stick - $1.99 at Walgreens - to stick the tape to a ....

- thin piece of cardboard (this is what you'll glue the tape to and what will become the backing of your "tape record".

This is my first tape record!
You may have heard of "glue records", that's where glue is poured onto a vinyl record and once dried, the glue is removed from the record and then the glue is "played" on the turntable. OK, if you haven't, that's fine. This is kind of similar, but not.


In order to play tapes on a record player we need to make a "tape record". A "tape record" is made by sticking strands of analog tape to a flat surface which is then put on a turntable. BUT WAIT, you can't play tapes with a needle! Right, so we have to replace the turntable's needle cartridge with a cassette tape head! Now it will play.


Right: My first tape record! Note the white circle in the middle. That's the hole punched in the cardboard that sets like a normal record on the center of turntable. I used all sorts of tape for this tape record. Cassette, micro cassette and 1/4" reel tapes. Some of my tapes had been through my tape destruction process before becoming part of the tape record. I glued the tape strands to the cardboard making sure that the tape covered as much of the surface as possible. And, yes, tape will cover tape, and that's fine. And what if you have extra tape that goes over the edges? Well, glue that to the back of the cardboard to form the foundation of your B-side.
Here's what you do:

This is a 2 part process. One in which, is fun to do all the while keeping the cost to your personal budget down. First is the "hard part", making the tape record. Take a thin piece of cardboard and lay it on your turntable. Push it down until the plastic tip from the turntable pops up through the center of your cardboard. This is your center circle (do not cover this part with tape - see below).

Apply glue to the back side of your tape and then lay the tape strands on the cardboard. Flatten the tape to reduce the amount of friction against the tape head on playback. Repeat the process until you've got most or all of the surface area (with the exception of your center circle) covered with tape (think "paper mache" except that you want to keep as much glue as possible off of the top surface of the tape record). This is the most time consuming part of the process as the tape record above took me about 2 hours to make. Let your tape record dry overnight before use.

Now for the easier part. Get your cassette tape head. I used a stereo head that had 4 contacts on it. If there are no wires attached to those points, solder short, thin wires to those points. Leave the other wire ends bare for the moment.

Remove the needle cartridge from your turntable. Attach the tape head where the needle used to be. You can use decent "sticky tape" to make a temporary fixture. Once your tape head is secured to the turntable arm, connect the wires to the wire sockets on your turntable arm. On a stereo turntable you should see 4 contacts (2 left and 2 right). When you have made your wire connections, you can test your tape head by running a short strip of analog tape across the head. If you've connected your turntable to a playback system, you should hear something from your left and right channels.

Below is the cassette tape head attached to the arm assembly. I used mailing tape to secure both the head and the wires for a temporary fix. Also, I had to bend some metal that was attached to my tape head so that it didn't interfere with the movement of the arm assembly.
The playback of my tape record was erratic at best. Sometimes the head stuck to or snagged bits of the tape. Also, since there are no grooves the arm can't track across the tape record in any reliable fasion. Well, no worries. All I did was just control the tracking myself (along with the speed of the turntable). Anything goes. Forward, backward, side to side, any and all speeds. Think about it as a contribution to the chaos. The mp3 above covers all of that.



Some final thoughts before I create my next "tape record":

- every tape record will be unique and more than likely will never be played the same way twice.
- people will think you're crazy for playing analog tape on a turntable - then they'll know your crazy when they see and hear you do it.
- it's very possible to damage your turntable in this process (do this at your own risk - I'm in no way liable for your broken stuff)
- making a "tape record" out of your tapes will almost certainly render them useless under normal playback conditions
- you can play your tape record at different speeds, and backwards, while sliding the arm right and left - playing parts of tapes, in all directions
- this completely bastardizes tapes to the point that even familiar sounds become unrecognizable!
There's More - Play Floppy Discs on a Turntable!
Floppy Disc Records can be played on turntables too!
My first Floppy Disc Record - no effects:
mp3 recording of my turntable playing tapes
Left: My first Floppy Disc Record (click the image for a larger view).

I glued a bunch of floppy discs to a piece of cardboard and put that on the turntable. My tape head is now more permanently attached using screws and glue as opposed to mailing tape from my earlier example.

The signals on floppies are much lower in level than those on tape so I had to gain up the floppy recordings. Hence, you'll hear some noise. Oh, well.
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