Building A Vinyl Collection

Building the Perfect Record collection
So, you want to start spinning records, eh? Maybe you've already picked up a few treasures  that are the envy of your friends, and now you want to get serious about building that collection into something more glorious. Well you've come the right place for that. Time to get yourself initiated.

Buying Records is an Investment in yourself
Truth is, there's no right or wrong way to collect records. Any dolt could tell you that. But given the fact that you're likely to spend time and money on this hobby, we feel you should take your first record pretty seriously. Think about it, one thing that'll define your whole experience in a huge way is the first record you loved. It's the same as your first car, your first gaming console, your first baseball bat.

The smell, the feeling, the artwork on the cover and the way it first sounds when the needle first touched down on it's glorious vinyl surface. It'll pretty much define your relationship with vinyl altogether.

Maybe you'll go to an indie music festival, end up having the best time you can humanly remember, and really wanted to remember that night for the rest of your life, because it brought out everything in yourself that meant something. They might be selling vinyls at the door or gate if it's an outdoor event and you'll just know you have to buy one of those gems to relive that single moment in time.

Or say you were big into The Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" and want to keep that memory alive every now and then. Your musical interests might go back even further in time to the the Beat Generation, even if you're young. And let's face it, Charlie Parker will never lose his relevance. Some like to slip on a record which tells a story. A literal story, involving a poet like Jack Kerouac reading "On the Road". Then of course, there's the whole pull factor of limited editions.

Limited editions rule
If you're into limited edition records where, for instance only a couple of thousand have been pressed, then you're the perfect candidate for starting a record collection. That can be an expensive route in the short term but you'll have two good reasons to hang on to them for the long term. And in the days of eBay and second hand record stores, it's possible to find something worth holding onto.

Either way, you should give some thought to the direction of your collection. Each piece represents the genre of music you're in love with. The art of the collection has a lot to do with the art on the cover. Nothing beats a full collection of Beatles albums, and when things get a little hard in life, there's always Jack White or Nirvana, best listened to on vinyl of course. There's no question about it.

Some Templates for Beginners
Of course there are many different tastes and any kind of advice that limits you to a particular genre would be defying the whole point of this article. That said, there are a couple staples in each genre if you need to find some direction for your collection: What pop collection would be complete without Michael Jackson's Thriller, Prince's Purple Rain, or the already mentioned Beatles' Abbey Road?

Rock n Roll, Indie and Folk have their mainstays too, not least of course is Nirvana's Nevermind, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon, David Bowies' The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust or Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde.

For modern fans, there have been more than a few high points of modern listening. Take Daft Punk's Homework or MGMT's Congratulation. The great thing about these albums is that they're feel like they should have been released on vinyl to begin with. And that takes us to one of the important points of vinyl collection: Building a world of essential classics of our times is for some of us at the heart of it all.

The Joy of Obscurity
The trouble with lists and advice columns on collecting vinyl in general is that they're often so darn prescriptive. So moving steadily on from these generalized pointers, let's get onto one of the more exciting aspects of vinyl is collecting.

Deciding on which pieces to collect is hugely personal, rather like building up a composite artwork. And that's the point of many indie shops around the world which have sprung up to cater to the very particular itch that many vinyl owners have developed: To find and curate unique music that many people have never even experienced, or will have a hope of ever owning. Indie bands as far away as Edinburgh, or as close as Portland have a special space in that market, with independent shops – both online and physically - holding vinyls that cater to a new level of customer.

Many of these are specially pressed vinyls made specifically for the task of pleasing those among us who have moved beyond the basic stereotypes of music. Music is after all a personal experience, and there's much to be said about keeping a collection that expresses the unique facets of your personality.

Some Points to Ponder on
Record collecting, whichever way you look at it is an art form. But since it's more than anything an expression of your love for music, the best place to start is with the stuff you can't live without. Your record player is one of those things. After all, music will never be remembered quite the same as a collection of digital information. Record collecting is about the joy of living, and it's one sure way to warm up your apartment or give put a musical spell over your room that your future great grandchildren will probably still dig. Like a collector of any art, you'll have your own way of going about things, and as long as it adds joy to your life, you'll know you're doing things properly.

Looking after your records is actually pretty simple (provided you keep at it), and many regard it as part of the magic of keeping a legendary collection. Chances are, if you own a sizeable vinyl vault, you'll be using the right cleaning materials already. Not everyone does though. And if you've mistakenly thought that tap water will do the trick, there's much more to learn. So stick around.After all, this is probably the one major part of your life that's not stored digitally.

Storage and Passive Care
Much comes down to you treat your records when they're not in use. This part is usually simple, but if you do it properly you'll be rewarded for decades to come. This involves some obvious pointers like keeping your vinyl out of the sunny windows and heat sources like amplifiers, and humid areas of the house like bathrooms or kitchens, presuming they don't have an extraction fan, are a definite no. Be wary of areas that are just hot or humid in general. If you're new to the game, you may not have known that records should never be stored horizontally in large numbers. If you really need to though, stacks shouldn't exceed 15-20 in number.

Then there are the obvious points: records should be kept in their sleeves when not in use. This comes down to the war against dust is, but it doesn't have to be a struggle. One fool-proof method is to store them in plastic sleeves. If you find that comes off as tacky, the cardboard sleeve should fare just fine. It also generates less static.

Guarding against static

Static is the other area you'll need to guard against. The paper sleeves which records are shipped in tend generate plenty of it. It pays to invest in some polyethylene lined sleeves for your most favored records.

Handling your records
If you're staging a romantic dinner and have been cooking all evening, remember keep those oily paws off the fine grooves. If you want your records and stylus to be playing like they did a year from now that is. For general handling though, the place you hold the record matters too: The labeled area and outer edges are safe-zones for those fingers.

Before and after slipping on a record, a carbon fiber brush is handy of removing any micro-particles that could've landed on your favorite LP between taking it out and replacing it inside it's sleeve. Another great way to remain dust-proof is to buy a record player with a lid.

Record Cleaning
No matter how meticulous you are about record storage, a good cleaning now and then will benefit your vinyl, keeping the sound just as crisp and clean as it should be. If it's an older record or you've just let it become dusty as hell through lack of discretion, there are a number of tried and tested ways of restoring it to it's former glory provided it's not been scratched. Any grime that invariably comes with second-hand records should be dealt with immediately so as not to damage your stylus.

If you want to simplify the process, there are plenty of cleaning machines available that will save you time, but assuming you're more hands on, there are some classic methods of record-cleaning that will be available for as long as records are around. That said, cleaning machines are also available, which will make the load lighter. 

Cleaning Machines
Although automatic record-cleaning machines tend to be expensive and space-consuming, that doesn't mean you can't save time and money by buying a compact and trusty manual cleaning machine. Especially if you have a massive vinyl collection, this will turn a day's cleaning into a couple of hours. The Spin Clean Record Cleaner is one fine example of this, and it works using the same mixture of cleaning solution and distilled water.

The Classic Cleaning Method

Before you start to clean, always use a dry carbon fiber brush to take off any loose dust particles. Some cleaning solutions include this as part of the package, such as the Clear Groove Record Cleaning Solution for instance. If you don't brush before applying the wet cloth (the next step), dust can become lodged inside the grooves.

Next, apply your cleaning brush with record-cleaning solution. You might choose to dilute with some distilled water (Again, never use ordinary tap water as the minerals will cause the vinyl to degenerate). Now gently wipe the grooves, going with the grain, for obvious reasons. After a few swipes, check the cloth for any dust deposits and rinse them off before restarting the process. The cloth shouldn't be sopping wet, so just wet it enough to pick up those finer dust particles. While you're cleaning, be wary of getting any water on the label. This can cause smudging.

Now stack your records vertically and leave them to dry in an area of the house that isn't too dusty.

Stylus Maintenance
This is the point where the needle hits the groove, so it's crucially important to maintaining a healthy library.As we mentioned before, keeping your stylus clean and properly aligned will have a direct effect on how long your records last. This is because a badly maintained stylus can end up scratching your records. Keeping your records clean in turn, will effect the longevity of your stylus, so it's this cycle you need to keep an eye on, and fortunately it doesn't require a lot of work provided you don't let things get out of whack in the first place.

A few pointers are worth bearing in mind here:

- Never use a worn-out stylus.
-Ensure that your stylus is clean and free of grime at all times.
-Make sure you've balanced your stylus in accordance with your cartridge's requirements.
- Be sure to allign your cartridge properly.
-Set up your anti-skate counterweight properly.

Summing it all up

In a nutshell, record-maintenance is all about keeping the physical connection between record and stylus crisp and clear. Records are still the most magical form of music-appreciation, and caring for your record collection won't require heaps of work if you take care of regular maintenance.