Transfer your music to CDs from tapes and records

convert music

NOTE: after I did this page, I got several questions from visitors, asking for more information. To avoid that, I found "Cassette2USB" which is a very inexpensive tool that takes ALL the problems out of the situation. My friend Keith sells these units for only $77.00, a very small price to pay for taking ALL the hassles out of this work. I highly recommend getting one of these. See Keith's ad a few inches further down this page. Keith's website gives you all the details.

I have one of his units, and find it is incredible! And tell Keith "HELLO" from me, Ken, please.

You can find Keith's site at http://www.cassettetousb.com/?tid=sticksite.


convert music



Here is mine.

No drivers required, software included plus software for burning "Audio CDs." NO batteries required; it gets its power via the included USB cable. Can be used as a cassette tape player, works with Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 and Mac OS X.


These notes were intended only for myself and family but others seem to find them useful too so here they are for everyone.

MOST of us save our music in either (a) WAV files or (b) MP3 files.

WAV files are large but for an "audio CD" to play in most CD players or vehicle CD players, you need "audio CDs" on which the music must be in WAV format. Typically, you can get 25 - 30 songs onto one CD if in WAV format.

MP3 files are MUCH smaller and you can easily fit 200+ on one CD but your player must have the ability to play MP3 CDs and not all of them do. Converting a WAV file to MP3 format shrinks it and does reduce the quality "a little bit" but most of us would never know the difference.

This is what this page will cover:

A. MAKING THE RECORDING (from tape into your computer)
B. BURNING THE "AUDIO" CD:
a. with Nero Express
b. with Windows Media Player (WMP) ( regrettably, WMP is a most "user-UNfriendly tool)
C. RECORDING VOICE FROM AUDIO TAPE
D. A WORD (or two) ABOUT THOSE "midi" MUSIC FILES
E. RECORDING SONGS FROM RECORDS to CD
F. A NOTE ABOUT .WMA FILES


convert music

I wanted to take all my old music cassette tapes and make "audio CDs" from them, to play in my van on trips.

I downloaded the FREEWARE Audacity from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ and the MP3 encoder from http://www.mp3dev.org/. I got the file named "lame-3.96.1." It is a ZIP file. When I installed Audacity, one of the folders it created is "Plugins" and that is where I saved the "lame" file. In Windows Explorer, I browsed to that Plugin folder and UNzipped the lame file. One of the files it created is "lame_enc.dll" and that is the one Audacity needs to make MP3 files. The first time I ran Audacity and tried to "export" a song as an MP3 it asked me where that file was and I browsed to that Plugin folder. It will not be necessary to do that again. If you have problems with Audacity, you can use the forum at http://forum.audacityteam.org/.

An alternative (also free) to Audacity is WavePad from http://www.nch.com.au/wavepad/index.html

A very excellent recorder is GoldWave from http://www.goldwave.com/ but it is not freeware.

The newest free tool in my arsenal is TUNATIC from http://www.wildbits.com/tunatic/. This is an amazing tool but still in 'Beta' so has a ways to go before it is ready for "Prime Time." But it works. You know those old songs you have on cassettes, and you have no idea of WHO sang them and WHAT the titles are? Well, TUNATIC might help. You have to be ONLINE to use it. All you do, after installing it, is set a microphone by the speakers on your computer and as the music plays on the tape deck, and comes out of the computer speakers, you click the button on Tunatic as soon as the song starts, the microphone picks up the sound, and sends it to the Tunatic database. IF it can determine the singer and title, it will tell you. I've seen it make many errors and most of my old songs cannot be identified, BUT, with users getting involved to make their system better, this may well become a fantastic tool. You'll see the tiny Tunatic window a bit further down, in the "A" section below.

My steps are:


A. MAKING THE RECORDING

(from tape into your computer)

convert music

1. Plug the tape player into the computer using this cord; note I put a tag on it to remind myself which plugin on the computer to use (for going FROM the tape player TO the computer, I use the BLUE socket in the computer and the "OUTPUTS" on the tape player)

2. Start Audacity. (Be sure you have the latest version) This brings up this window: (note that by default it is set to record "line-In.")

Audacity

3. Play the tape. You should have a few seconds of silence at the beginning of your recording so click the red "Record" button just before the music starts; you should hear the music coming from your computer's speakers.

As soon as I hear the music start, I click the button on Tunatic also, to identify the song IF I NEED TO IDENTIFY IT.

Audacity

4. Now watch the progress of the recording as the music plays. When the song is done, press the "Pause" button on the tape player so that Audacity will record a few seconds of silence at the end of the recording as well. Then click the "Stop" button on Audacity. Here is how the recording process looks after I clicked the orange "Stop" button when a few seconds of silence had gone by at the end of the song and the "Pause" button on the tape player was pressed:
Note that here I was recording only ONE track, i.e. "mono" and not "stereo."

Audacity

5. When I was done I found that at the beginning, just before the music started, there was a "click" sound; you can see it; it is the vertical line:

Audacity

6. To get rid of that "click" I made sure that the "Selection tool" was active and then simply dragged my mouse left to right over that part of the blue line to "select" that part of the recording and then in the "Edit" menu clicked "Cut" or the button with the scissors icon.

IF the song has quite a bit of noise such as clicks, scratches and vinyl record surface noise, you can use Audacity to get rid of it too. Go back to the beginning of the song with the horizontal scroll slider and look for a bit of such noise; select it and:
Effect | Noise removal, and on the popup click the "Get Noise Profile" button. The popup disappears.
Now click EDIT | Select | All, to select the entire recording.
Effect | Noise removal, and move the slider to the left a bit (trial and error here) and then the "Remove Noise" button; it will take a few seconds.

Before you Export the file as an MP3, be sure to set the "tags" by clicking "Project" and choosing "Edit ID3 Tags."

7. File | Export as MP3 .... and indicate the folder, the name you want to give it and to record it as an MP3 file.

8. I keep my songs in MP3 format to play on my MP3 player (200+ songs per CD) and later burn an "Audio" CD for in the van. Note that if you record the song as an MP3, you are compressing it; losing some of the data. If you then convert it back from MP3 to WAV, the quality will not be as good as if you save the recording as a WAV file and burn your CD with those WAV files.

Audacity

9. Click the black "X" just to the left of "Audio Track" to clear out that song and get ready for the next song.

I keep all my 1400+ MP3 files in one folder on my Hard Disk and keep an '.rtf' file (using Wordpad) for a list of all the songs to make it easy to find a specific song. This way I can search for a song with only, for example, one word of the title. It is easy to make such an rtf file with wordpad if you use the free "Directory Printer" from http://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptdirprn.asp or another from http://www.spadixbd.com/freetools/.

Audacity

This is how my desktop looks when I am doing this job; note Wordpad with my list, Tunatic and Audacity. (in this case, Tunatic could not identify my song)

If you find that you have forgotten to enter the ID3 tags, you might check out this free tool: http://www.snapfiles.com/get/mp3tagde.html

Splitting a long recording into separate tracks:

Several people have pointed out to me that if you do all the above with a whole tape, you get ONE LONG recording, not seperate files; one for each song. A typical question is this one, from Daniel, in Australia who came up with his own solution:

"i have a question, though, about getting some old music formats onto my hard disc and then CDs. my grandfather had 400+ hours of great 1950s jazz and bebop music on reel-to-reel. i now have those tapes and the reel player and want to transcribe them onto CDs for my grandmother. i read somewhere there is a prog that recognises the space between tracks when recording from LPs and cassette, etc, and creates individual track files. but i don't remember the prog or where i saw it. i could do it manually but i really don't want to sit at the computer for 400+ hours and wait for a track to finish, blah blah blah. so, do you know a prog that will let me record the lot and automatically create tracks. i can name them later, no worries. it doesn't have to be freeware but i really want to do this for grams. thanks, if you can. cheers, daniel jenkins metung, australia"

I could not give Daniel an answer so he dug one up. Here is what he came up with and I THANK YOU, Daniel, for sharing:

"i've downloaded the newest version (10) of Magix Audio Cleaning Lab (www.magix.com) and installed it, registered the activation code and dropped in a cassette in the old cassette mastering deck and pushed the "Record" button in the software and voila! it recognised the air space between tracks and created 10 individual audio tracks of jerry jeff walker that i can now edit, name, etc, and record to CD. in my case, i have recorded them as .wav files and converted them to MP3 and will load them all onto DVDs for approx 9 hours of uninterrupted but selectable listening while i'm in the studio.
by the way, the Magix program is only US $29.95 so not really a big budget blower. much like the Aussie SAS, it gets in there, gets the job done and gets out. no fluff and tickle. a simple program to use."
Thanks again, Daniel!

AS NEAR as I can figure out, the only way to do this in Audacity is like this:

Follow these steps to create a separate file for each song or segment of a long recording. This is particularly useful if you are creating a CD, since each file will appear as a separate track on the CD.

1. Click to place the cursor at the start of the first song.
2. Choose ?Add Label at Selection? from the Project menu. If you wish, you can type the name of the song.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for each song.
4. When you are finished, choose "Export Multiple" from the File menu. When you click the "Export" button, Audacity will save each song as a separate file, using the format and location you choose.

Let us hope that the developers of Audacity can build in this much-needed feature. I've encouraged them to do so; maybe you could do the same. You can start at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/contact/

Another freeware tool for splitting long MP3 files is available at http://www.megax.it/megasoft.htm.

Daniel Bricker was good enough to offer this advice: (Thanks, Daniel!)

Hi,
I want to thank you for the info you published on this page.
It was very useful and I succeeded to follow and record my tapes.
When I installed Audacity 1.2.6 I found interesting feature.
Menu Analyze - >Silence Finder;
That labels start of each song.
All that left is Export Multiple? from the File menu.

Playing music on my computer:

I use ONLY the free player from http://quinnware.com/ IT IS FANTASTIC! With proper plugin you can play MIDI files too. This is the main window:

freeware music player

a. with Nero Express: (if you don't have that you can use Windows Media Player; see below)

Burn a CD

1. for this I use the freeware "Nero Express 5" from Ahead Nero at http://www.nero.com/us/index.html It may not be available any longer so if you want it, you should be able to find it on the WWW.

2. You can sort them in Nero by clicking on the headings, e.g. "Title" or "Artist" and you can also drag individual songs up and down in the list.

3. Watch the blue bar at the bottom; don't put too many songs on the list. Click "Next" and follow instructions. Easy. TOO easy!

I did find this site where Nero seems awfully cheap: http://www.softwareoutlet.com/static/nero4406.html but I have no idea how reliable that company is. This software is SUPER easy to use.

4. When you are happy with the MP3 files which you have recorded, and are ready to burn an AUDIO CD for use in your vehicle, for example, start Nero, indicate that you want an "Audio CD," open Windows Explorer, shrink the window to make room for the Nero program and drag the MP3 files to Nero. Then simply drag the MP3 files to the Nero window.

5. When the CD has been burned, you can print a list of the songs on it; at the end two buttons are provided for you. DO NOT choose to "Print" it at this point, rather "Save" it to your desktop. Then open that in WORDPAD (not Notepad) and you can clean it up by deleting a lot of the stuff you don't want.

b. with Windows Media Player (WMP):

You can download it (free) from: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/download/download.aspx

Windows Media Player

I've never been terribly impressed with WMP as I found it to be less than "User Friendly." But it does work. If you want to use it, here are my steps:

1. Put a blank CD into your CD burner; if a dialogue box asks you what you want to do, choose "Do nothing" and close it.

2. Open Windows Explorer to the folder with your MP3 music files and list them with the "Details" view. Shrink it to take up the left-hand side of your screen.

3. Open Windows Media Player and shrink it to fill the right-hand side of your screen. Click "Copy to CD or device."

4. Click "File | New Playlist" and give the new playlist a name you'll recognize at a later date.

5. Under "Now Playing" find the new playlist and click it.

6. DRAG some of the music files from Explorer to WMP. At this point, you should see this.

Take note of how the songs show up in WMP; if the title is not clear (e.g. "Track 1") you will want to make a hand-written note as to the song title.

7. To remove some from WMP right-click on them and choose "Delete from Playlist." To remove several, hold down the "Ctrl" key on your keyboard, left-click the ones to delete, selecting all those, and then press "Delete" on your keyboard.

8. Keep an eye on the number of minutes; when you get close to 80 it is time to stop. Close Windows Explorer and enlarge WMP to fullscreen.

9. You can change the sequence of the songs by right-clicking and "Move up" or "Move down."

Windows Media Player

10. Under "Items on Device" choose "Audio CD:"

11. Near the top-right corner, click the red "Copy" button.

12. If you have listed too many songs, WMP will remove the check-mark from any it has decided will not be copied to the CD. (or it will remove them entirely)

Windows Media Player

13. Now go downtown for a coffee or even TWO cups of coffee; WMP will need some time to burn the CD.

14. When you get back, you should find the CD ejected and ready for action.

15. Note at the bottom it now shows the number of songs on the CD and the number of minutes it will play.

16. Now you'll want a print-out of all the songs on the CD.

(a) With that play list "selected" click "File" and then "Save Playlist as" and give it a name and a place to save it.
(b) The playlist will be saved as a ".wpl" file which you can then open in WORDPAD (not in NOTEpad).
(c) In Wordpad, use the "Edit | Replace" tools to remove all the garbage; read over the list to fix minor errors such as apostrophes.
(d) To the bottom of your playlist in Wordpad, add the number of songs and total playing time.
(e) Save your edited playlist and print it.

17. Your CD will "auto-start" when you insert it into your player.


NOTE: I am looking for a nicer Freeware CD burning tool now that NERO EXPRESS seems to be gone.


ExpressBurn

I DID FIND ONE....... incredibly small file that does the job nicely. FREEWARE of course. It is called ExpressBurn and it comes with a "Help" file. Here is how it looks with Windows Explorer on the left:

The only things I did not like about it:

1. The files are not nicely numbered as you list them.

2. You cannot print out the list nor even copy/paste it into Wordpad

3. There is no indication as to when you've dropped enough or too many songs onto it.

The file size NICE and small and the drag/drop feature is VERY nice.

BUT I was told later that it is loaded with spyware and it is no longer free. Too bad.

It comes from http://www.snapfiles.com/freeware/gmm/fwcdburn.html


Another one that worked fine, at least for pictures, is the freeware one from http://www.silentnight2004.com/ I did not try it with audio files.


I tried all the following and quickly deleted them again: (maybe now they have improved though)

"MP3 CD Doctor 2004" (only 1.01Mb) "mp3cddoctor2004.exe" from http://www.mp3surgeon.co.uk/products.php but it did a very bad job; stay away from this one!

"Easy Audio Data CD DVD Burner" from http://www.cd-mp3.org/ was a complete disaster. It quit part-way through the burning process and I had to re-boot. Plus, it is VERY primitive.

"CD Burner XP Pro" from http://www.cdburnerxp.se/ version 3.0.116 on Jan. 15, 2005; an 11Mb ZIP file and ran it twice; both times it ran into some kind of error and did not make a working CD. A new version 3.5 was expected; on Jan. 15, 2005, no date was given. Very nice GUI.

"DeepBurner" version 1.3 Jan. 15, 2005, 2.54Mb from http://www.deepburner.com/?r=download (Strange GUI) version 1.3.6.168. For some songs it does not show the title in the playlist. This one just hung up when I clicked "Burn Disk." Free version 1.7 was released in October 2005.

"Fire Burner" version 1.02: 727Kb from http://fireresearch.biz.ly/ With this one it is very difficult to see if you have added enough or too many songs to your playlist. It has a confusing GUI and when done it seemed to hang up and not eject the CD even though I had indicated that it should.

"Burn4Free" from http://www.burn4free.com/ (2.22Mb exe file). It would not burn the CD for me; indicated it needed a CD-R (etc) which was exactly what I had in the burner, brand new. No good either.

"HT Fireman CD/DVD Burner" 0.4 from http://downloads-zdnet.com.com/3001-2646_2-10315285.html?idl=n a 1.74Mb file. Froze up when it was seconds away from finished burning a CD. No good.

"BinArtisan CD Burner" 1.06 from ZDNet where I read: "This download includes adware. Adware may record your surfing habits, deliver advertising, collect private information, or modify your system settings." SO FORGET THIS ONE!

"Sunburner", a 2.12Mb download from http://downloads-zdnet.com.com/3001-2646_2-10355431.html?idl=n In the installation process they are, at least, honest enough to tell you that your computer will be loaded with all sorts of advertising crap which you will NOT want. NO GOOD.

"CDR Tools Front End 1.4" from ZDNet, a 1.61Mb EXE file download. This one could not even handle MP3 files so is USELESS.

Burrrn" from http://www.burrrn.net/ This is a 2.18Mb download. This one, when I first ran it, asked for a "Writer" so I indicated that drive E was my CD-R/RW drive. That made it happy. It will not let you stretch the window. On this one, some of the song titles and artists were left blank. As soon as the list was ready and I clicked "Burrrn" that window disappeared and another came up. I had deliberately listed too many songs and this new window did warn me that (some) would not be burned. It did not give me an opportunity to remove my least favorite ones. Then it indicated another error and did not burn the CD. I did not get an opportunity to print out a list of all the songs on the CD. NOT to be recommended. You can move the files up and down in the list which is nice.

BurnAtOnce from http://www.burnatonce.com/index.htm?news is almost 4Mb to download and needs a bit more work on it. May be worth trying out though.

MusicMatch Jukebox: try it at http://www.musicmatch.com.

Scott K. said, "Try iTunes. You don?t need an iPod, you don?t need a Mac. I used to use MusicMatch, a full version of which came free with my MP3 player. I stopped using it for iTunes. http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/ " It is a 20.8Mb download. And it caused me a lot of grief.

Many are listed at http://www.snapfiles.com/freeware/gmm/fwcdburn.html

Another free tool which I have not tried is at http://www.fridgesoft.de/harddiskogg.php To record music from tape to MP3, you'll need to ALSO visit http://www.mp3dev.org/ and get the LAME encoding DLL. Unzip it into the HarddiskOgg directory.

I noted another freeware CD/DVD burner at http://infrarecorder.sourceforge.net/ but I have not downloaded it; if you try it, will you let me know what you think of it?


C. RECORDING VOICE FROM AUDIO TAPE:

ExpressBurn

I have found that the best way for me to record spoken voice from audio tape to MP3 is to use these settings in Audacity so as to minimize file size and yet not compromise the quality of the sound an more than necessary.

In the "Edit" menu choose "Preferences" and use these settings in the "Audio I/O" tab.

ExpressBurn

And these in the "Quality" tab. That's 22050 Hz.

ExpressBurn

and these in the "File Formats" tab. A bit rate of 32 might be good enough; I was happy with that.

Once the recording is done, play to see how it sounds; it may be improved at this point if you:

Edit | Select | All
Effects | Normalize


D. A WORD (or two) ABOUT THOSE "midi" MUSIC FILES:

Many of us have collections of music files in MID format, often referred to as "midi files." The acronym "MIDI" stands for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" in case you wondered.

These are much smaller in terms of file size and they different from other music files in that they have no voices in them. They are not "music" files like other formats; they are a set of instructions to your sound card to produce specific tones which sound like music. Because they are small file sizes, they are often used in websites. I have some 300+ of these MID files and have recorded some of them onto CDs to play in my van. The way I did it was very simple; I played the MID files on/with the computer and recorded them to audio tape cassette. Note the picture at the top of this page; it shows my little paper label on the cord I use; one of the notes is for transferring music from to computer to the tape deck. Then I went through the steps described above to convert to CDs.

And you can convert WAV files to MIDI format with the free tool from http://www.pluto.dti.ne.jp/~araki/amazingmidi/ (I have not tried)


E. RECORDING SONGS FROM RECORDS to CD

I found this part of the process to be a little more tricky. My "Record Player" is a "Turntable" only; it has no amplifier nor "pre-amp" or anything. I tried running the signal through my tape deck but somehow that was no good. I tried using the Tape Deck AND my "Receiver" between the Turntable and the computer but the connections were not available.

Pinnacle Clean

THEN my friend Les Wright came to the rescue. He had just bought "Pinnacle Clean Plus version 4.0" at Future Shop for about C$70. ( http://www.pinnaclesys.com/ ) It includes hardware and software but he could not make it work Nor could his son. I borrowed it to see if I could make it work on my system. I installed the software but found it to be overly complex and the printed guide as well. Besides, it did not work.

THEN I ran the Audacity program mentioned above and ran the signal from the Turntable through the Pinnacle hardware and VOILA! It worked. When done, I used the "cleanup" tool in Audacity to remove some noise and saved the file as an MP3. Surprisingly, the music, "William Tell Overture" which plays for 3 minutes and 22 seconds resulted in a file of only 792Kb and sounds pretty good. Here is a picture of the setup:

Here is another tool you might find this tool useful:

http://www.firebox.com/. Look for their USB Turntable.


F. a note about .wma files:

I ran across this site which has a lot of old "hit" music: http://www.bobforrest.com/JukeBox.htm and clearly some people did a LOT of work to make that list. You can play the songs right off the site and you can download them. If you download them, typically they are .wma files of around 550 Kb. I took a few but wanted them as .mp3 files. I found that Audacity will NOT convert them. My favorite music player, Quintessential (mentioned above) will make the conversion just fine.


Two more links that might be useful:

http://cdexos.sourceforge.net/features.php for a free tool for converting audio file formats to different format etc.

http://www.bonkenc.org/index.php is a converter (free) that Kim Komando recommends.



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