Why you should start listening to vinyl records

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My Vinyl Record Collection! (2016) ...
My Vinyl Record Collection! (2016) | Emily Underworld
LightField Studios / Shutterstock.com

Vinyl record sales figures have been rising for years and for good reason. There’s something about listening to music on vinyl that just doesn’t seem to have an analog in the digital realm.

Listen to albums instead of just songs

For most of our music listening, we’ve stopped listening to entire albums of songs like people used to. While it’s nice to be able to instantly recall your favorite song or listen to a playlist of possible favorites, it can rip songs out of their intended context, weakening them as a result.

With a vinyl record, it’s possible to jump into a song by locating the correct groove on the record, but it’s certainly not easy. This almost forces you to listen to an entire album, listening to the songs in the order intended by the artist. This gives a flow to the music that would otherwise be lacking, and you may even like certain songs more or less because of the songs that surround them.

A single vinyl record can hold around 15 to 20 minutes per side, with a maximum of around 22 minutes. This means that a single disc will not have more than 45 minutes of music. For anything else, you’ll need a double album: two single discs packaged together.

This gives you more options. Don’t have more than an hour to listen to a full double album? Play just one record and you’ll begin to appreciate those songs more. Do you want to know an even better album? Play one side at a time.

Of course, to get the most out of your records, you’ll want to listen to them carefully, rather than just letting them play in the background. It helps if you have a quality stereo or great-sounding headphones.

Read the liner notes

You may not realize it when listening to a single song in isolation, but artists put significant effort into every aspect of a release. This means more than just the music, as this level of detail is often included on the packaging.

Services like Spotify and Apple Music can now show you the lyrics alongside a song you’re listening to, and if they don’t, you can probably find the lyrics in Genius. That said, there may be some benefit to reading the lyrics from the lyric sheet that came with the disc.

Some vinyl releases are basic, but given the popularity this is not that common. Instead, artists spend more time on the vinyl release, adding liner notes with details about the record that you may never find online.

Also don’t forget the credits. Especially with today’s productions, you might find an artist who consistently contributes music or lyrics to the works of another artist he loves, helping him expand his musical horizons.

enjoy the artwork

While looking at the packaging of vinyl records, we have to mention the artwork. Artists spend a lot of time and effort creating or collaborating on album artwork that most people only see as a roughly one-inch square thumbnail on their phone.

The cover of ELO "Unexpectedly" 1977 album.
epic records

Even if you tap on the album art to inspect it more closely, most music services don’t offer a way to get a good look at it. A vinyl record, on the other hand, gives you a detailed copy of the artwork that is just over a square foot in size.

With albums that I listened to digitally for the first time before buying the vinyl, many times I noticed details in the artwork that I had somehow missed countless times before. Looking at artwork while music plays is another great way to increase your immersion in an artist’s work.

Vinyl is an experience, not just a sound

Listening to an album mindfully, putting aside connected devices and anything else that takes your attention away from the music, isn’t for everyone, but it can be an amazing experience. It’s a great way to listen to music for the first time, or to re-listen to an album you’ve listened to more times than you can count.

Even log hunting can be fun. You don’t have to be a collector to keep an eye out for great deals at music stores or even garage sales, but this can be a great way to grow your music library on the cheap.

If you have a stereo system or headphone setup that you love, you’re most of the way there. Just pick a turntable, grab a few records, and start listening.