Sales numbers for vinyl records have been surging 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
In most of our music listening, we’ve stopped listening to entire albums of songs the way people used to. While being able to instantly call up your favorite song or hear a playlist of potential favorites is nice, it can rip songs from their intended context, weakening them as a result.
With a vinyl record, it’s possible to skip to a song by locating the right groove on the record, but it certainly isn’t easy. This almost forces you to listen to an entire album, hearing the songs in the order the artist intended. This gives a flow to the music that is missing otherwise, and you may even find you like certain songs more or less due to the songs surrounding them.
A single vinyl record can hold around 15 to 20 minutes per side, maxing out at around 22 minutes. This means a single disc won’t have more than 45 minutes of music. For anything else, you’ll need a double album: two individual records packaged together.
This gives you more options. Don’t have an hour-plus to listen to an entire double album? Play just one disc, and you’ll start to appreciate those songs more. Want to get to know an album even better? Play them a side at a time.
Of course, to get the most out of your records, you’ll want to listen to them intently, instead of just letting them play in the background. It helps if you have a quality stereo or some great-sounding headphones.
Read the Liner Notes
You may not notice when you hear a single song in isolation, but artists put significant effort into every single aspect of a release. This means more than just the music, as this level of detail often goes into the packaging.
Services like Spotify and Apple Music can now show you lyrics alongside a song you’re listening to, and if they don’t have it, you can probably find the lyrics on Genius. That said, there can be something nice about reading the lyrics from the lyric sheet included with the record.
Some vinyl releases are barebones, but given the popularity, this isn’t all that common. Instead, artists devote extra time to the vinyl release, adding liner notes with details about the record that you may never find online.
Don’t forget the credits, either. Especially with today’s productions, you may find an artist who consistently contributes music or lyrics to works by another artist you love, helping you expand your musical horizons.
Enjoy the Artwork
While we’re looking at the packaging of vinyl records, we’ve got to mention the artwork. Artists put plenty of time and effort into creating or collaborating on album artwork that most people only ever see as a roughly one-inch square thumbnail on their phone.
Even if you tap on the album artwork to inspect it closer, 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 a little over a square foot in size.
With albums that I first heard digitally before buying the vinyl, I’ve had many times when I’ve noticed details in the artwork that I’d somehow missed countless times before. Looking over the artwork as the 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 your connected devices and anything else that takes your focus from the music—isn’t for everyone, but it can be an incredible experience. It’s a great way to hear music for the first time or to revisit an album you’ve heard more times than you can count.
Even hunting for records can be fun. You don’t have to be a collector to keep an eye out for great deals at music stores or even yard sales, but this can be a great way to grow your music library on the cheap.
If you’ve got a stereo system or headphone setup you love, you’re already most of the way there. Just pick yourself out a turntable, pick up a few records, and start listening.