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A phonograph record (also known as a gramophone record, especially in British English), or simply a record, is an analog sound storage medium in the form of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove.
The groove usually starts near the periphery and ends near the center of the disc. At first, the discs were commonly made from shellac, with earlier records having a fine abrasive filler mixed in. Starting in the 1940s polyvinyl chloride became common, hence the name vinyl. In the mid-2000s, gradually, records made of any material began to be called vinyl records, or simply vinyl.
So do vinyl records contain gelatin?
Although there are many myths about vinyl records being made of gelatin, none of these myths are true. Vinyl records are actually made of ground-up vinyl powder. This is where the name for the discs themselves came from.
If you would like to know more about vinyl records, please keep reading or check out this video!
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First, we need to establish what sound was, in order for us to record it. Sound is just waves of particles that set off vibrations inside your eardrum. The fascination with sound stems from the famous inventor Thomas Edison. In 1877, he had the prototype of the modern-day record player. His discs were not made from gelatin though. He in fact used a cylindrical shape that had open ends on both sides of the tube and then he wrapped this in tinfoil.
The powder plastic of the vinyl is placed inside a heated mixer and heated until a jelly-like substance is formed. It is then fed into pressing lines on a roller press that already has the correct mm/cm for each disc that needs to be produced. Pressing plants were specialized factories where these Lps were made.
Lp sizes are normally 78(pm) 33(pm) 45(pm) “per minute”
What many people do not know is that the first LPs could only run at one speed which was 78 revolutions per minute. They were affectionately known as 78’s.
These were then replaced by the 33. They were known as 33’s. That is the number of revolutions they played per minute. Singles were known as 45s and could hold one song on each side of the record and when played or spun at 45 revolutions per minute.
In the studio, microphones are set up in very strategic places. The acoustics of the room matter and are an important decision to consider when placing the microphones. The sound technician then places a stool closest to the microphone for the artist to sit on. The artist then proceeds to play his/her instrument while everyone else remains dead still and quiet. The microphone then picks up the sounds and then translates them into various short bursts of electrical current.
These recordings are then fed to a machine called the recording head which is then transferred onto a magnetic tape recorder. The recording head is made up of layers of metal that scientists call an electromagnet or positive charge. This magnet then transmits the electrical current into sound waves that the recorder can then interpret as music.
For different styles of music there are different methods otherwise music would be bland. This is why depending on the tempo of the song will determine the electrical current and which grooved LP is used.
Making A Record
Each stamper is connected to a hydraulic press which stamps it down onto pre-heated vinyl material. This material starts out as pellets, which are formed into a solid hockey-puck shaped disc known as the biscuit. The biscuit is sandwiched between labels on the top and bottom. The biscuit is then heated with steam that is approximately 300 degrees Fahrenheit (148 °C) and compressed with more than 2,000 square pounds per square inch of pressure. The stampers act in a similar fashion to a waffle-iron, with raised grooves that permanently imprint vinyl-material when applied with enough pressure. Vinyl records are made with polyvinyl chloride, commonly known as PVC.
Sound And Science
It would be a different kind of world without sound and or science. Without science, we would stand a no better chance of unlocking the keys to music or recordings or life or any other pivotal inventions that have propelled us forward.
Although Edison is credited for the first implementation of this type of sound recording, it was not his original thought. He simply executed it and made it work and showed the rest of us how to improve upon that original phonograph.
If you think how awkward it must have been trying to move around without knocking or disturbing the equipment or the sound engineer back in the day. We are so lucky today all our recording is automated and we can have pre-set for our favorite effects. For a long time, almost 30 years, sound had not evolved much, most artists were recorded in mono and that was that.
The invention of stereo changed all of that! Now, instead of rigging one system to do the recording job, you now need two and also have them at different timestamps so that the full effect of stereo is fully appreciated.
Wow, the love of music has to be real for those engineers, but I suppose that was the only way to have music back then. To us now it is difficult to understand and even more so to try and explain. The terms used back then are definitely different than the process and terms used today in a recording studio. This was the norm in the 30’s to early 80’s when the record was king. The record player itself is a work of true craftsmanship and ingenuity.
Music is one thing that will remain constant; we will always have one form or another. The record is not made of gelatin as myths would have you believe but ground-up vinyl powder hence the name for the discs themselves. Vinyl is a type of hard yet malleable plastic that can withstand the need and groove pattern.
Recording music in the 30’s to 70’s was a massive task that required full concentration and understanding. We have it much easier now with our pre-sets. The record may not be as popular now, but it is definitely not obsolete. It paved the way for what music is today and deserves our respect. Music brings joy, happiness and everything in-between. Music is the one thing we can agree upon that has made life better and a bit more bearable.
You can make so many friends through a shared and common interest in music and or the music industry. We know ourselves better because of music. Records gave us that. We owe them a lot and they have done a lot to get that respect. It would be hard to envision life with no music. If you ever have the privilege to go to new studios and check out the setup and see how it works, definitely do it! Nothing compares to the process the record recorders had to go through when they first made vinyl. Now that you know vinyl records are not made of gelatin, but vinyl, you can let all of your friends know that they actually are made of vinyl.