Thanks!! I shall read that with interest!
For anyone who is interested in how sound (and subsequently music) got to be able to be recorded and played back on demand, here is some interesting information taken from a lecture for grade school music students I put together when we were forced to teach virtually. Forgive the writing style, as it's for 8 - 12 year old kids, and here is a little of it, edited for content...
....Once Heinrich Hertz and other figured out how sound and other energy travels in the form of waves making things vibrate in sympathy, then the science of energy waves was better understood, and it didn’t take people too long to figure out that sound wave energy could be recorded, by having the energy in a sound make a sharp object like a needle or pin vibrate as it’s being drawn through a soft surface like wax, and in the process, scratch into the wax a representation of the sound wave. Reverse the process and have the needle trace through the line in the wax and the needle will vibrate from the line’s oscillations. Amplify the needle’s vibration and you can hear the sound of the line’s oscillations.
Learning to make the process reliable and repeatable took quite a while, but it was perfected enough to announce it to the world. Do you know who was among the first people to record sound and be able to play it back? Explore this link: First Sound Recordings EVER
While you may not have heard of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, he is the very first person credited with this discovery. Other people whom are perhaps more famous like Thomas Edison were working hard on this process too, as well as perfecting the machines to play the recordings. The needle traces the groove cut into the disc, and the sound that needle makes is amplified, and we can hear it! These machines are called gramophones, and were the forerunners of what some of you may know as a record player or phonograph. While there are not as many in homes now as there used to be, many people still have phonographs and records. Do you have a record player in your home? Here are some pics of different kinds of records.
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Below are links to audio clips from the very beginnings of recorded sound. This is Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s recording he made with his Phonoautograph in 1860!! Although it's nearly impossible to decipher, it’s the French folk song “Au Claire de la Lune”.
It took another 28 years before others like Emile Berliner were able to get things more intelligible:
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star from a Berliner record from 1888
Then they tried music (this one's been cleaned up digitally).
The Lost Chord by Arthur Sullivan 1888
All of these recordings are entirely mechanical - no electricity was used to make them. The sound that makes the cutting needle vibrate was collected through a horn which concentrates the sound energy. Look at the picture of the musicians playing into the recording horn back in the days when all records were made acoustically. When the recordings were played back, the sound energy from the vibrations cut into the wax disc or cylinder are amplified by mechanical means too - the same way the sound energy was concentrated by the horn is now done in reverse, and the sound energy is amplified by the horn and we can hear it.
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INSERT BY ROSS: While this might be old news to us ancient folks, the kids (some of whom have never even seen or heard of a physical record) find it very interesting.
Once the inventors got the recording and playback of sound to be more reliable, they worked to standardize the process so that it could be marketed and sold to the public to use in their homes. Things took off, and by the early 1900s, gramophones and their records were extremely popular. One of the standardizations the inventors agreed upon was to make the records spin at a fixed speed so that different records from different companies could be played on different machines. The speed that was generally agreed upon was 78 revolutions per minute (RPM). This became very popular, and the old records are now known generically as “78s”. Many of the machines and records produced in the beginning are still around and functional today. There are a lot of people who collect them, even me!! I have a gramophone from the 1920s and many 78s in my home.
Let’s watch and listen to people recording and playing old records. RECORDING A WAX CYLINDER https://video.link/w/Y4Ksb
It all sounds kind of tinny, doesn’t it? Well, the technology was in its infancy. As records grew more popular, people started asking for better sound, and the engineers were already working on it. Sound recording became “Electrified” in 1925, when inventors started adapting the technology of microphones to make recordings.
When engineers figured out how to make a cutting needle vibrate from electrical impulses (such as those generated by a microphone), they realized that they could improve the sound on records. This happened in the early 1920s, and by 1925, the first commercially produced records using electricity were available.
Microphones are one of the most important technological advances in sound and music ever, and their basic technology is still in use today around the world. Microphones were first invented in the 1860s, and by the beginning of the 20th century, their use was quickly adopted. Here’s some history and info on The Microphone
Let’s compare the sound difference using two different recordings of the same song by the same band.
SOUSA - STARS AND STRIPES 1911 ACOUSTIC RECORDING
SOUSA - STARS AND STRIPES 1926 ELECTRICAL RECORDING
The first recording was done with a single horn, acoustically cutting the record. The second was done with a microphone, sending an electrical impulse to a cutting needle. As you can hear, there is a DRAMATIC difference in the quality - the electrical recording has significantly much fuller tone, more dynamic range (louds and softs), and just sounds a whole lot better!! As well, by the mid 1920s, gramophones were being replaced by electrical machines that used the new technology of microphones to have the needle capture the sound energy in the record’s grooves and send it as an electrical impulse to an electric amplifier which played the sound through a loudspeaker. This is the basic technology we still use today. As you’ll hear, things started sounding a whole bunch better! The difference is like night and day, or black and white to full colour images!!
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Now everyone up to this point had gramophones in their homes - they still sounded fairly tinny, as they used all acoustic amplification - but the move was on to get better sound at home - so let’s listen to the same record being played on two different systems - a gramophone (mechanical acoustic playback) and an electric record player with amplifier and loudspeaker. The electrically amplified record has much nicer sound, and the amplifier has controls over the tone.
Duke Ellington 1931 "Limehouse Blues" on a gramophone
Same record, played on an electric record player
INSERT BY ROSS: This is where we start seeing Jukeboxes - as the record companies and their affiliates started to try to monetize further the enormous upswing in popularity of records.
As things advanced in the quest to make recordings sound better, microphones improved along with the gear that they were used with. All of the recordings we’ve listened to so far were made with only a single mic or device gathering the sound. It was hard to balance the sound - some instruments were a lot louder than others, and therefore had to play farther away from the recording equipment so their sound didn’t overload the sensitive machines. When electrical recording technology arrived, the use of multiple microphones to balance the sound was explored, and soon recording engineers had “mixing consoles” where the quiet sounds could be balanced against the louder sounds. As well, a new technology came to light - magnetic imprinting, both on iron wire and iron oxide tape. Tape became the best choice over wire, and was the top standard for recording for many years. This medium is now commonly known as “audio tape”. Tape was a lot quieter than a disc, and could capture a much greater range of sound energy - from much softer sounds to much louder sounds. For this reason alone, recording to audio tape quickly replaced the technology of recording directly to a disc. As well, tape could be reused and and repaired - if the artist made a mistake, they could just record it again using the same tape. As well, if the artist made two recordings of the same song on two pieces of tape, and they liked the way they played the 1st half on one, and preferred the 2nd half of the other performance, the tape could be cut and spliced together making a best version. This is called Editing. After they had perfected the recording, the recording engineers played the tape into a cutting machine and cut the record disc (using electrical impulses of course) to make copies to sell to people to play on their record players.
As the technology improved, the engineers realized that they could record an orchestra to tape and have a soloist come in at a later time and perform along with the recording of the tape, and add a new part. This is called OVER-DUBBING or MULTITRACKING, and really set the stage for modern recording.
Famous clarinettist Artie Shaw is credited for the first overdubbed solo on a record in 1949. His band recorded the song on one day, but Artie had to go to the dentist for a toothache, and came in a few days later to overdub his part.
Let’s hear that very first commercially released overdubbed record:
ARTIE SHAW - "LOVE FOR SALE"
As well, the orchestra was recorded using multiple microphones to balance the sound through a mixing console. Microphones over the string section, one in the piano, a few over the band. All expertly blended together to sound just right!! What a difference in sound quality in just a few decades!
Another fascinating part of all this is the quest for stereo sound (ongoing since about 1925, but a completely different part of my school presentation that I lead up to here):
How many of you can pinpoint where a sound is coming from with your eyes closed, just by hearing it? Humans have two ears and we can hear in multiple directions, which adds greatly to our sense of depth and space. All the music heard and referred to here has only been recorded for playback through one speaker or horn... as in the beginning, record players and radios typically used only one loudspeaker. It seems that recording music was still evolving and had a long way to go... and the race was on...
Next time we’ll look at how recordings evolved to have the music seem to be coming from all around you when you listened - something that we take for granted now, but was all new way back when. Someone had to figure it out!!
INSERT BY ROSS: and they did. Alan Blumlein who worked for EMI in Britain was really the father of Stereo, although many experiments were tried with multiple mono players, but they were impossible to syncronize, and expecting the public to pay for them was ludicrous. Blumlein figured it out:
The Birth of Stereo
OK, sorry for the long post everyone, but this is one of my passions in addition to old C bodies... sometimes we need to learn a bit more about the people we get to know in our hobbies - I know I've enjoyed learning about Mike's passion for jukeboxes, and now you know a bit more about me... I hope you found this fun!