In 1968 I was given an old Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder by a work colleague and I have never looked back!

Initially I was occasionally recording programmes such as Folk on Friday and Hancock's Half Hour off the radio via the small ribbon microphone, purely for my own enjoyment. These were often almost unlistenable too – FM clarity and stereo broadcasting were not available back then.
Grundig reel to reel tape recorder

I have, over the years, built up a large and important archive of field recordings of Hampshire singers, music and mummers plays. Some of them were made on my 1970s Grundig C-430 stereo cassette, others recorded on my Uher portable or my DAT. Great Oaks from little acorns grow!

I, along with Steve Roud and Reg Hall, am the custodian of the Mervyn Plunkett collection of field recordings made by Mervyn during the 1950s and 1960s. These include unique and very important recordings of some of the 'greats' of English traditional song and music, among them Harry Cox, George 'Pop' Maynard, Walter Bulwer and 'Scan' Tester.

I now own some 15 tape recorders of all different types including a professional Revox B77 MkII with 10.5 inch reels that runs at 15 ips and 7.5 ips with a variable speed. I use a Sony TC 366 4-track for the majority of tapes. This is more than adequate for general transfers as most tapes were recorded on domestic tape recorders at 3.75 i.p.s. The variety is necessary to be able to play all the different types of recordings that I am asked to transfer to CD.

I also have a Casio Portable DAT recorder, which I now use for all my field recordings. Bought back in 1993 this brilliant technology is now described as VINTAGE!! I have made over sixty field recordings on my DAT. They vary from an evening of Blues with Pete Harris and Bob Pearce, played in a pub in Winchester to top traditional Irish musicians such as Danny Meehan, Sean Casey, Joe Whelan, Liam Farrell and James Carty recorded in various venues in London.

I take my tape recorder almost everywhere with me, like others might take a camera. I enjoy capturing the moment and being able to relive and preserve memorable events and great music. Sadly these recordings, although very important because of their social history content, are of little commercial interest although I have made 'one-off' CDs for some of the performers.

Before the advent of my first AppleMac computer, purchased in 1997, I used to copy the original to virgin 10.5 ips reels of tape and then 'edit' the tape using a razor blade and splicing tape. A VERY laborious and difficult thing to do. Each tape had to be run by hand back and forth over the head until the editing point was located. Then the tape was chopped through at a 45 degree angle and spliced back together. If the edit was made in the wrong place (very easily done) the whole track had to be re-recorded and done again.
Nowadays all the editing and resoration of recordings is done on my PowerMac G4 using the latest in digital audio recording software. I also use professional noise reduction software – a necessity as the old reels have tape hiss, especially if poorly stored.

Alongside my recording work for my own amusement I am proud to have edited and mastered all the Forest Tracks CDs, as well as restoring/ editing originals to CD quality for John Howson's Veteran label, Neil Lanham's Helion's Bumpstead Gramophone Company and the digitised and edited the initial Masters for the Harry Cox double CD on Topic.

Because I am one of the few people that has the old equipment and knowledge of the material I am in great demand to digitise 'one -off' reels of field recordings and archived concerts.

Paul Marsh with Harry Cox CD

I am currently digitising the complete recordings of the late Ken Stubbs. The collection totals some 20 x 4 track reels of archive field recordings made between 1959 and 1971. It is intended that some selections from Ken's collection are issued on CD-R and the complete collection is put up on the internet as MP3s. This is an ongoing project and will take some time to complete.

Future projects include digitising Mervyn Plunkett's archive and the audio tapes/ interviews of the Roud/Marsh Hampshire Mummers collection. Again the intention is to make these available on the internet in the future.

Although this is a very expensive and time intensive 'hobby' I get great pleasure from using my skills, acquired over the years, to produce a finished item. So I'm sure that I will have plenty of things to keep me busy in the near future.

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