Topic 5: Sound Recording Origins
Topic 5: Sound Recording Origins MC 101-740
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This 4 page Study Guide was uploaded by Destiny Giebe on Monday February 22, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to MC 101-740 at Southeast Missouri State University taught by Frederick Christopher Jones in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 24 views. For similar materials see Mass Comm & Society in Journalism and Mass Communications at Southeast Missouri State University.
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Date Created: 02/22/16
Sound Recording: Origins People started experimenting with sound recording in the mid -‐ 19th century, but they struggled to get it right. One French inventor, Leon Scott de Martinville, made a sound recorder using a piece of hog’s hair as a recording needle. I just wonder how many other types of animal hair he used before he settled on the hog. Anyway, he could make a sound recording but he never figured out how to make the sound play back. I doubt many people lined up to buy that invention. EARLY INVENTORS Thomas Edison built the first practical sound recorder and player, the phonograph, in 1877. His phonograph recorded sound on a wax cylinder, which was rotated against a needle. The grooves in the cylinder caused vibrations in the needle, producing sound. This sound was then amplified by a cone-‐shaped horn. However, Thomas Edison didn’t initially envision the phonograph as a device for playing music. He thought it would be used in offices, either as an answering machine or a dictating machine. Ten years later, Emile Berliner made a major breakthrough in sound recording. His 1887 invention, the gramophone, played flat records on a turntable that more closely resembled the modern record players. These flat records were the primary reason why sound recording developed as a medium for music. These records could easily be mass-‐produced -‐ Edison's cylinders could only be produced a few at a time. So if a singer had a million-‐selling phonograph cylinder, they would have to perform the song 250,000 times! This Edison phonograph Album covers sure have The original gramophone, from 1896 played music changed. Listen to an excerinvented by Emile recorded on wax cylinders. from an early phonograph Berliner. Click on the image recording. for a larger picture. SOUND RECORDING INNOVATIONS There were still imperfections with these early record players, which were slowly worked out over the next half -‐century. One major improvement was the introduction of electric record players. Old record players had to be hand -‐cranked -‐ so if you wanted to listen to your favo rite Hank Williams album all day, your arm would get quite a workout. Record companies also made the shift to 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records. Old records used to play at 78 revolutions per minute. Because these records spun so fast, you could only fit 3 or 4 minutes of music on each side. Long musical works -‐ like a Beethoven symphony -‐ would need about a dozen records to cover the entire piece. The slower playing 33 1/3 records (called "LPs" for "long-‐playing") fixed this problem, allowing over 20 minutes of music on each side. The next major advance in sound recording was audiotape. Audiotape had an enormous impact on the industry -‐ both artistically and economically. Three of the primary benefits were: • Sound editing • Multi-‐track mixing • Audio cassettes Artists that recorded on records couldn't edit their music, which meant they had to settle for their best single take. Audiotape could be cut and spliced back together, which allowed the artists to cut together pieces from their best performances. Performances and songs could also be altered all together, giving musicians more freedom. Artists had other musical limitations in the old days. They had to record their music onto a single source, which caused a host of problems. Let’s say the voice was recorded too softly on the recorded song. If you tried to raise the level of the voice, everything else would get louder as well. Multi-‐ track mixing solved this problem. Today, producers can isolate every sound source -‐ controlling the volume and sound quality for each. Audio cassettes opened up new markets to the sound recording industry. Because of their small size, tape players could be placed in your car (imagine trying to stick a record player in your dash). Portable tape players became popular, and all of the coolest guys in the 1980s walked down the street with a boom box on their shoulder (okay, I take that back...nobody was cool in the 1980s). Some people felt that audio cassettes would replace traditional records -‐ but that didn't happen. Of course, something else came along that did. Compact discs were born in 1970, with the advent of digital sound recording. With this process, music is converted into binary code -‐ which is essentially just a bunch of 1s and 0s. This code is stored on a disc, which can be read by a laser beam and converted back into music. It took several years for CDs to reach the marketplace, which was unfortunate, because I was forced to spend most of my childhood listening to those idiotic 8-‐track cartridges. CDs started hitting stores in 1983 and in four short years, CD sales had already doubled album sales. By the early 1990s, albums were basically off the market. Of course today, CDs are being replaced by digital music files. Digital music files like MP3 are the most popular format, because they are easily accessed on the Internet and then transferred to an MP3 player (such as an iPod). Plus, it is really easy to download songs for free -‐ but crackdowns by the Recording Industry Association of America have convinced more music lovers to go legit. Music producers often use audio mixers with Inside the control room of a recording more than 100 tracks -‐ allowing much morestudio. Check out one of the coolest studios creative control. in the world -‐ Abbey Road.
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