Exploring Music's Complexities

How to Make a Vinyl Record

Vinyl Comeback

Ever wonder how music gets onto vinyl?   It all started in 1877 when Edison picked sound waves out of the air and scratched them onto tinfoil cylinders that were read by a needle and played out loud.  The final evolutions created acetate and finally vinyl.

So how is a vinyl record produced?  The process begins in a studio.  Here musicians work with engineers to record and mix the album. In addition to adjusting volume levels, mixing engineers decide where in the stereo spectrum to place each instrument. Music is recorded and played back in a stereo field, meaning there are left and right speakers and sounds can be placed accordingly. Mastering prepares the music to be reproduced.

Master or Father Album

Once the album is Mastered the vinyl is ready to be “cut” using special tools.  The main tool is called a cutting lathe. This tool physically carves the grooves into an aluminum plate covered with cellulose nitrate (a lacquer similar to nail polish).

The Mastered album is taken to a cutting studio where a machine transfers the auditory energy of the recording into the physical movement of a needle on the lacquer. The lacquer is now a finished record.

The Stamper or Mother

In order to stamp out duplicate records this music must be transferred onto a lacquer. First the lacquer is sprayed with a mist of silver and lowered into a bath of chemicals mixed with nickel nuggets.   The nickel then bonds to the silver to produce a negative plate called a “master” or “father”.  The resulting nickel plate then is returned to the electroforming bath to create a “mother” plate called “stamper”.   Stampers are negative versions of the original recording. The mother is the copy that is used to produce between 500 and 1000 records. The finished record back is sanded and a spindle hole is punched in the middle.  Sanded, centered and shaped the vinyl record is ready for its cover.



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