Home Music Games Other

Cool Stuff With: The Tascam Porta One

Part 1: "How I Learned To Love Low Batteries"

In 1979, the first Portastudio, the Teac 144 Portastudio, was released. It created a boom in small bands creating demos, songs and full on albums using it and it's derivatives.
Bands like Ween, They Might Be Giants, The Wu Tang Clan and Weird Al Yankovic created songs entirely with their own instruments and their Portastudios. Usually they would have 4 tracks,
but some models came with 6 and sometimes 8.

Why am I giving this lesson on old recording systems? Well, it has to do with one I recently acquired. The Tascam Porta One. It's a rather
nice small box that eats cassette tapes and craps out your own music. Sometimes it's good and produces high quality stuff, sometimes it's bad and freaks out over having a low battery.

Here is where the fun stuff comes in.

You see, when the Porta One runs low on battery the motors inside of it begin to struggle with the low voltage the batteries produce, resulting in a very bizarre "warbly" sound. The best way
I could describe it is like one of those tweets from @distortedvideos, but slightly slower and with Oingo Boingo instead of memes.
It's very fun to mess around with. I know They Might Be Giants used a similar effect in their song "I'm Def" (listen closely to the bass and John Linnell singing)

The same effect is used for their bizarre and nonsensical "'85 Radio Special Thank You," where John Flansburgh babbles nonsensically about school, subway cars, Tina Turner and skydiving... Lots of "S"'s.

Anyway... When the batteries began to run out, the motors did a cool thing. I tried to get some recordings, but the batteries were too low to even record or play back.


I have been able to recreate the effect by pinching (crab clawing? gremlin holding?) the "Pitch Control" slider and just going ABSOLUTELY HAM on it. It's fun to do, especially while going


into a microphone really loudly. Fun as all hell, especially if you play it back while screwing with the pitch control again. I may use it in some kind of comedic song, perhaps on Road Trip Radio? :O
Part 2: "C Batteries and The Pain That Comes With" is on the next page...

Home Next