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My new record player and vinyl records

13 Apr
my new record player

my record player – what can I say; I’m not a real photographer

Last year, I became intensely interested in what is known as the Great American Songbook – popular music from the 1920s to 1950s – and I read a book by Michael Feinstein called The Gershwin’s and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs and he talks about how he obsessively began to collect all the records he could lay his hands on. Now, of course, I just have to download mp3s and it’s as easy as pie. But sometimes it seems a little too easy. And there is something a little sad sad when Doris Day is reduced to a little file on my computer.

I’d also read in several places that vinyl sounds better than CDs or MP3s, that it had a warmer and fuller sound that was lost when the music is digitized. So, last Christmas, I got a record player.

I could be fooling myself, but I do think it’s true about the sound…or it’s just the idea of playing records that I find so attractive…the nostalgic romance of it. I even like the scratching, static noise that comes with it.

It’s not a hugely expensive one – it’s one of those combinations. I can play records, CDs, cassettes (I do still have some, somewhere), and can plug in an iPhone or mp3 player.

However, the only records I could find in the house were from the seventies and eighties (not even remotely Great American Songbook-ish), so I’ve had to start collecting from scratch. I ordered several, and they sounded pretty good, but they were dusty and I looked up on the internet about how to clean them.

La Boheme (not Great American Songbook, but I like opera), The Sound of Music, and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer Songbooks

La Boheme (not Great American Songbook, but I like opera), The Sound of Music, and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer Songbooks

People who collect records are apparently very devoted, because nowhere could I find nice, simple this-is-how-you-clean-your-records-using-the- things-you-have-at-home instructions. Everything involved special equipment, special soap or special brushes. I finally asked my grandmother and aunt what they used to do and they said they would wipe them off with a damp rag. This seemed to work.

My grandmother let me look through her records and I found many soundtracks of many of the musicals I love and another aunt found several Irving Berlin albums at Goodwill, as well as some classical music and several musical cast recordings.

She also found a musical by Irving Berlin called “Miss Liberty” (1949). This was interesting, because the records in this album were smaller and only contained one song on each side.

I was aware that there were several rpms (rotation speed) for records, but I couldn’t find anything on the”Miss Liberty” records that told me which. My record player had three options that I could change to match the record: 45, 33 1/3, and 78. I once again turned to the internet for enlightenment and came away empty (I seem to lack the knack for finding the right search terms).

However, I somewhere derived the impression that 45 rpms were smaller and 78 rpms were larger (most of my are 33 1/3). I took the first record from “Miss Liberty” and tried it at 45 rpm.

And thought to myself “Gee, that man sounds strange.” He sounded thick and kind of slow. I tried 33 1/3 and the result was similar. Finally, I put it on 78 rpm and thought, “Oh, that woman sounds much better.” I’ve learned a lesson. If a woman sounds like a man, you are on the wrong rpm setting.

Notes:

For an interview with an audio engineer about whether or not records truly sound better than cds, here is a link on NPR.

This is not my record player, but here is Connee Boswell (forgotten, underappreciated, but bluesy, jazzy, lovely singer that Ella Fitzgerald credits as a model) and Bing Crosby, singing “Basin Street Blues” written by Spencer William and made famous by Louis Armstrong.

 

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2 Comments

Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Music

 

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2 responses to “My new record player and vinyl records

  1. Richard Swymeler

    April 14, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Christina, we are elated that you received a record player for Christmas! It’s lovely. You took a great picture of the player and it’s excellent that the player can play all kinds of music formats.

    When you started talking about RPM’s, it brought back so many memories for me of having what we used to call ’45’s’. When we were little, my sister and I couldn’t afford an album, so we would go to the dime store in Ocean Beach, CA called Coronet. They had a huge selection of 45’s and it was fun to be able to bring them home and put them on the phonograph player. (When you played a 45 on a record player, you had to put a ‘tab’ in the middle of the record so it would fit onto the turntable’s pin.)

    I remember how proud we used to feel when my grandad would come over and my sister and I would play and dance to our new 45’s for him.

    As the records got older, they would become scratched, but we never really worried about that as we would love to play them over and over, and sing and dance to the music.

    It is hard to believe that such an interest exists in the old ‘vinyl’ media. I feel terrible that I got rid of so many of the albums that we had collected over the years. Penny’s mom and dad had vinyls of the great musicals of the 40’s and 50’s.

    There was a man down the street from our current house we passed away two years ago. He was in his late 80’s. He actually used to be a radio announcer for KUOW & KOMO Radio. When he passed, he had over 10,000 records in his library. There is a society of vinyl record collectors (all different venues of music) that was called to his home by his relatives to bid on his collection. They spent several weeks doing and inventory and documenting his collection. In the estate action the entire collection sold for over $40,000.00!

    12 years ago, my mom’s best friend in San Diego gifted to me a 1911 Edison Record Player. It only play’s 78’s. You have to hand crank the player with a brass handle on the side. It’s quite a production to get it set-up and ready to play. The cranking allows one good play. This Edison Player actually belonged to her grandfather in Iowa. I have all of the records that he owned and love to play them. I’ll send you a picture of the player to your email. It is amazing how ‘thick’ the records are, as well. They are almost like dishes.

    The Edison player came with a Record Brush. She taught me how to use the brush. When she gave me the player, she took out several of the records and meticulously brushed in a circle to remove the dust that collects. (Mind you, if there is a scratch in the record, it causes the needle to ‘skip and repeat’ – which lends itself to the old phrase: “You sound like a broken record”.

    Thank you for this post which encourages me to take pride and treasure the past’s records that played an important role in creating the digital age we live.

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  2. waldemarsellev8

    August 20, 2015 at 8:29 am

    my record player – what can I say; I’m not a real photographer. Last year, I became intensely interested in what is known as the Great American … pplayerr.wordpress.com

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