On Ripping Vinyl, Pt. 2: Disc to Cloud

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When you make up the mp3 files, you will have to Export them in the new format. You will need to have certain information ready at the end, and you need to collect it before you start. You will get to type this in, over and over, because, at least in my copy of Audacity, it won’t let you paste anything in. This is possibly the most onerous part of the whole ripping business, and it’s just repetitious.

What you will need are:

  • Name of track (40 character limit)
  • Name of artist/composer (you get to choose) (40 character limit)
  • Name of album (40 character limit)
  • Track number (it ignores leading zeros)
  • Year (copyright year)
  • Genre

There’s even a space for Notes. I usually note what the original record’s catalog number was, since it’s generally pre-ISBN.

Genre is the most humbug, because it’s a drop-down menu in no order whatever. It has a zillion finicky choices in some genres, say, all the difference dance sub-sub-genres now out (which you are hardly going to be transferring from vinyl to digital, puh-leez), but everything from 1900 back to the beginning of time is “Classical” unless you go for “Other.” I don’t necessary like calling Baroque or Modern “Classical,” and my medieval or Renaissance music sure isn’t Classical. This leaves a lot of stuff in Other, including Sumerian music. You’re just stuck living with this, because whoever put the list together had a reallly narrow and under-educated view of music. As it happens, I’d like to be able to break down Soundtracks into Classical Soundtracks, Jazz Soundtracks, Rock Soundtracks, Modern Soundtracks, and so on, let alone have an Early Music area. Don’t get me going on the cultural myopia of the genre World Music, with no breakdown even by continent.

Okay, pau rant.

So have that ready.

On the back of old manuscript pages, I scribble this down, then list the tracks (need those names) with the supposed length if available. If it isn’t on the back of the album, it will be on the label of the record. This will keep you from cutting tracks in half that have a silent spot (the last few tracks on the second side of Yanks OST was just humbug), unless you want to. If it’s a 3:23 track and you only have 1:42 at that silent spot — that’s not the end of the track!

Now listen to the project/side. Note (write down the time) where the cut actually starts (often ten or fifteen second in), and stop it. Then use the length of the cut that you wrote down to estimate about where it ought to end, and jump forward to catch it. You can’t base this on a visual of “oh, the line flattens out here.” A sustained note may not be visible, but if you cut it off, it will sound like you’re missing the end of the track. Write this down. You mark the end, use the slider to go back to the beginning, Shift Click to highlight the whole cut, Copy, bring up a new file, and Paste it in. Double check audibly to see if you got everything. Export as an MP3.

Use your note of when the first cut ended to find where #2 begins. There’s no reason to save the crackles between cuts. Some albums were made with almost no separation between cuts. This is when it gets fussy. Take more than you need, and in the new file just trim a tiny bit at a time until you get the beginning right. If you trim a tad too much, you may have to Delete All and Paste anew, but with a better idea of where to cut. Then you go get the end right.

You may also be able to use this to separate what had been joined cuts on a CD or MP3. Say, the Basil Polidouris OST for Conan the Barbarian, where you might want to have “The Orgy” separate from “The Kitchens.” Note that you can do this for your own use even if you get the music from MP3 download. These processing programs don’t care what the source is, as long as you first transfer it to their sort of working file.

Think of it like Adobe Photoshop has its own working file format for when you’re layering, &c, and then you Export as a GIF or JPEG to actually use it somewhere else. Equally, when you bring in GIFs and JPEGs, you can work them as Adobe files, then Export as anything you like. You bring in MP3s, work them as AUPs, then Export as what you want.

Really, I think these programs only get Byzantine when you’re recording live music and processing it for publication. I found ripping vinyl to MP3 easier than programming my microwave. Okay, maybe I should find the microwave’s instruction booklet, but that puppy isn’t intuitive. In this case, intuitive means “like the controls on the reel-to-reel and cassette decks I’ve used” combined with “like using a standard graphic program.” There doesn’t seem to be as much standardization between microwaves. This program has gone for as much familiarity as possible.

I suggest just giving yourself time and space to fool with things and screw them up and erase them. Like so many programs, you learn most by just playing with the features and seeing what they do.

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