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What Is A Vinyl Record ??

Updated on February 7, 2017

In the Groove

The vinyl record is an analog sound medium that consists of a flat disc record that has an inscribed modulated spiral, which usually starts near the outside edge (lead-in) and ending near the center of the record (lead-out). The audio content of the record is contained within the spiral groove which extends for more than a half mile. The groove itself is actually narrower than the thickness of a human hair yet is capable of producing the highest frequencies the human ear can detect, to the fundamentals that are felt rather than heard. The audio recording stored in this is played back by rotating the record clockwise at a constant rotational speed with a stylus or needle placed in the, converting the vibrations of the stylus into an electric signal and sending this signal through an amplifier to the speakers. The normal commercial disc is engraved with two spiral, one on each side of the record.

Just for the Record

Led Zeppelin ‎"Physical Graffiti" Swan Song Records	SSK 89400 2-12" LP Vinyl Record Set,	UK Pressing	(1975)
Led Zeppelin ‎"Physical Graffiti" Swan Song Records SSK 89400 2-12" LP Vinyl Record Set, UK Pressing (1975) | Source

Vinyl was the Most Popular Sound Medium for Decades

Phonograph records were the primary medium used for commercial music reproduction for most of the 20th Century. The flat disc record replaced the phonograph cylinder record for the most popular recording medium in the 1900s, and has gone through many changes since. The record has met with few challengers for this top rank from the likes of the reel to reel tape, the unforgettable 8-Track tape and then the cassette tape.

Although vinyl records lost their long reign of popularity by the late 1980s with the introduction of a digital format or compact disc, records continue to be manufactured and sold today, usually in a limited pressing.

Nazareth "Hair Of the Dog"

Nazareth "Hair Of the Dog" Mooncrest Records CREST 27 12" LP Vinyl Record UK Pressing (1975) Album Cover Art by David Roe
Nazareth "Hair Of the Dog" Mooncrest Records CREST 27 12" LP Vinyl Record UK Pressing (1975) Album Cover Art by David Roe | Source

Black Sabbath ‎"Paranoid" 1970

Black Sabbath ‎"Paranoid" Vertigo Records 6360 011 12" Lp Vinyl Record, UK Pressing (1970) Gatefold Album Cover
Black Sabbath ‎"Paranoid" Vertigo Records 6360 011 12" Lp Vinyl Record, UK Pressing (1970) Gatefold Album Cover | Source

Iron Maiden "The Number of the Beast" 1982

Iron Maiden "The Number of the Beast" Harvest ST-12202 12" LP Vinyl Record U.S. Pressing (1982) Album Cover Art by Derek Riggs
Iron Maiden "The Number of the Beast" Harvest ST-12202 12" LP Vinyl Record U.S. Pressing (1982) Album Cover Art by Derek Riggs | Source

"Houses Of The Holy"

Led Zeppelin "Houses Of The Holy" Atlantic Records K50014 12" LP UK Pressing (1973) Album Cover Art by Hipgnosis
Led Zeppelin "Houses Of The Holy" Atlantic Records K50014 12" LP UK Pressing (1973) Album Cover Art by Hipgnosis | Source

"Home to Roost"

Atomic Rooster “Home To Roost” Mooncrest Records CRD 2 12" LP Vinyl Record UK Presasing (1977)
Atomic Rooster “Home To Roost” Mooncrest Records CRD 2 12" LP Vinyl Record UK Presasing (1977) | Source

AKA Record Albums

The "vinyl record" has gone through many changes over time and generations and as a result has been referred to by several aliases. The terms "LP" and "EP" are acronyms for "Long Play" and "Extended Play" whereas 33's, 45's and 78's are designations which refer to the records rotational speeds by revolutions per minute.

Along with different rotational speeds records were made in different sizes 7" 10" 12". Typically a 7" record would be a 45 rpm speed, a 10" would be either 33 or 78 rpm and a 12" would be 33 rpm but of coarse there are exceptions to every rule. The term phonograph record is a hold over from the early days of the flat disc record. Records have been made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC since about 1949, and as such they are referred to as a vinyl records or just simply vinyl.

The term record album originally referred to a set of 10" 78's coupled together and housed in a "photo album" style booklet, usually containing art work on the front side and on the reverse information about the recordings resulting in a nickname the "record album" which has stuck, for decades until they were just refereed to as records ... These are the more popular aliases for the "vinyl record", there are certainly hundreds more that hipsters and disc jocks alike have used over the life and time of the record.

The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated"

The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" Sire Records PRO-A-3193 12" Vinyl Record Single 3 Track Version (1988) Promotional Issue Only
The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" Sire Records PRO-A-3193 12" Vinyl Record Single 3 Track Version (1988) Promotional Issue Only | Source

Eagles "On the Border" 1974

Eagles "On the Border" Asylum Records 7E-1004 12" LP Vinyl Record, US Pressing (1974) Cover Art by Native American Navajo Artist
Eagles "On the Border" Asylum Records 7E-1004 12" LP Vinyl Record, US Pressing (1974) Cover Art by Native American Navajo Artist | Source

Gentle Giant "Octopus" 1972

Gentle Giant "Octopus" Vertigo Records 6360 080 12" Vinyl Record, UK Pressing (1972) Gatefold Album Cover Art & Design by Roger Dean
Gentle Giant "Octopus" Vertigo Records 6360 080 12" Vinyl Record, UK Pressing (1972) Gatefold Album Cover Art & Design by Roger Dean | Source

- No bones About It

The Anatomy of a Record

There is an area about 0.25 in (6 mm) wide at the outer edge of the disk, called the lead-in where the groove is widely spaced and silent. This section allows the stylus to be set at the start of the record groove, without damaging the recorded section of the groove.

Between each track on the recorded section of an LP record, there is usually a short gap of around 0.04 in (1 mm) where the groove is widely spaced. This space is clearly visible, making it easy to find a particular track.

Towards the label center, at the end of the groove, there is another wide-pitched section known as the lead-out (dead wax). At the very end of this section, the groove joins itself to form a complete circle, called the lock groove; when the stylus reaches this point, it circles repeatedly until lifted from the record.

the catalog number and stamper ID is written or stamped in the space between the groove in the lead-out on the master disc, resulting in visible recessed writing on the final version of a record. Sometimes the cutting engineer might add handwritten comments or their signature, if they are particularly pleased with the quality of the cut.

"Are You Experienced"

Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced” 1967 Track Records 612001 12" Vinyl Record (1967)
Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced” 1967 Track Records 612001 12" Vinyl Record (1967) | Source

Records Have Standards Too

Vinyl record standards for the United States follow the guidelines of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The inch dimensions are nominal, not precise diameters. The actual dimension of a 12 inch record is 11.89 in. (302 mm), for a 10 inch it is 9.84 in. (250 mm), and for a 7 inch it is 6.89 in. (175 mm).

Records made in other countries are standardized by different organizations, but are very similar in size.

Cream "Disraeli Gears"

Cream "Disraeli Gears" Reaction Records 593 003 12" Vinyl Record UK Pressing (1967) Album Cover Art by Martin Sharp
Cream "Disraeli Gears" Reaction Records 593 003 12" Vinyl Record UK Pressing (1967) Album Cover Art by Martin Sharp | Source

Aerosmith "Permanent Vacation" 1987

Aerosmith "Permanent Vacation" Geffen Records GHS 24162 12" LP Vinyl Record, US Pressing (1987)
Aerosmith "Permanent Vacation" Geffen Records GHS 24162 12" LP Vinyl Record, US Pressing (1987) | Source
Meatloaf "Bat Out Of Hell" Cleavland International Records 34974 Picture Disc Vinyl Record
Meatloaf "Bat Out Of Hell" Cleavland International Records 34974 Picture Disc Vinyl Record

Picture Discs, Colored Vinyl or Just Carbon Black

For the most part records are pressed on black vinyl. The coloring material used to blacken the transparent PVC plastic mix is carbon black, which is the generic name for the finely divided carbon particles produced by the incomplete burning of a mineral oil based hydrocarbon. Carbon black increases the strength of the disc and renders it opaque. Polystyrene is often used for 7" records. Some records are pressed on colored vinyl or with paper pictures embedded in them known as "picture discs". These discs can become collectors' items in some cases. Certain 45-rpm RCA, RCA Victor or RCA Red Seal used red translucent vinyl for extra "Red Seal" effect. During the 1980s there was a trend for releasing singles on colored vinyl sometimes with large inserts that could be used as posters. This trend has been revived recently and has succeeded in keeping 7" singles a viable format.

How Vinyl Records are Made

Why is Side 1 Paired with Side 6 ??

The Auto-Changers

When auto-changing turntables were commonplace, records were typically pressed with a raised or ridged outer edge and label area. This would allow records to be stacked onto each other, gripping each other without the delicate grooves coming in contact with other, thus reducing the risk of damage. Auto changing turntables included a mechanism to support a stack of several records above the turntable itself, dropping them one at a time onto the active turntable to be played in order.

Many longer sound recordings, such as complete operas, were continued across several 10-inch or 12-inch records for use with auto-changing mechanisms, so that the first record of a three record set would carry sides 1 and 6 of the program, while the second record would carry sides 2 and 5, and the third, sides 3 and 4, allowing sides 1, 2, and 3 to be played automatically, then the whole stack reversed to play sides 4, 5, and 6.

P.S.

David Bowie "Space Oddity"

Smashing Pumpkins "Space Oddity"

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I make no copyright claims on the video content or images of drawings, paintings, prints, or other two-dimensional works of art contained with-in this article, the copyright for these items are most likely owned by either the artist who produced the image, or the person who commissioned the work and or their heirs. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

Keep It In The Groove -- Let Us Know You Were Here Too !!

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    • profile image

      chickadddee 8 years ago

      My husband and I still play our phonograph records every chance we get.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Very informative lens -- I wonder how many young people today know what a phonograph really is? 5*****

    • Fox Music profile image
      Author

      Fox Music 8 years ago

      This Beatles Test Pressing in Aluminum

      Pictured Here is Currently at Auction on eBay (11-10-2008)

    • profile image

      stevie10772 8 years ago

      Isn't it sad that this has to get explained? LOL Sadly, my large collection was harmed in a flood - BooHoo!

      Thank you for this wonderful lens!

      Stephanie

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 7 years ago from London, UK

      I had no idea that vinyl records were still being produced. This has been a nice walk down memory lane for me.

      You have been featured on 100 Lenses for my 100th Lens

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 7 years ago from Vermont

      I know a few savvy guys who started adding to their record collections in the late 80s and they love their vinyl albums. Progress - my new car has no tape player but does have a radio with CD player and a cute little jack for my MP3 player.

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 7 years ago

      We LOVE our vinyl records - this lens is a wonderful educational resource. 5* and a fav!!!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 7 years ago from Canada

      I just stopped by to wish you, and those who surround you with love, a very merry holiday season. Many blessings in the New Year.

      Ladymermaid

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      I feel very nostalgic when it comes to record. I wish I had the space to start a collection again.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 6 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      I am old enough to remember phonograph records. I once had quite a collection of them. I can't remember what happened to them -- a yard sale, probably. Pity.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Those were the days, cant's believe we stacked them! Great information!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I have a few, but I was so hard on them, I doubt they would be worth anything.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We used these all the time I was growing up.

    • Fox Music profile image
      Author

      Fox Music 23 months ago

      Thanks MargoPArrowsmith - I have seen some pretty bad records over the years - The proper care and maintenance of records is really a common sense procedure. once we understand and appreciate those conditions or circumstances which contribute to record wear and deterioration, we are in much better position to do something about it. - Keep It In the Groove !!

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