An owner's manual for a music collection

Last updated 09:04 14/05/2012

Weekend Reading I was reading The Drumset Owner's Manual: A Heavily Illustrated Guide to Selecting, Setting Up and Maintaining All Components of the Acoustic Drumset, by Ronald Vaughan. Riveting stuff, obviously. But having recently become obsessed with the selection of music books at Wellington Public Library, I am on something of a quest to read every music book that building (temporarily) houses - well, at least every one that I haven't already read.

It's part of the new budget obviously, rather than simply buying every book I want to one day read. It helps in saving space at home too.

But the reason I mention The Drumset Owner's Manual is the opening line - the reason for the author writing the book. He says "if you buy an acoustic drumset (or any component of it), there is usually no owner's manual". And so that was his motivation, that was his mission: to write an owner's manual for drum enthusiasts. I play the drums - from time to time - and I finished the book. It was useful, I could see the point of it. I picked up one or two tips.

But that opening line got me thinking that there aren't really owner's manuals for stereos, for music collections. There are instructions for setting up the components, there is a warranty perhaps. There are some simple cleaning and care instructions too - quite likely. And your LPs, tapes and CDs might have some cleaning/storage instructions.

But what are your rules for your music collection? It's your collection, so you make the rules, right? What would be in your owner's manual?

The reason I ask this is that I've had friends visit who seem to worry about touching any of the music. We Crateshave a lot of records in the den - it is essentially a music-listening room with couches, bookshelves, CD rack, crates of LPs and a stereo. No television. But I like to think that my music collection is there for anyone and everyone. If people want to thumb through the records and help themselves, or make a request at least - that's fair game. That is to be encouraged. I think of it now as more of a library than a collection.

I will definitely put on music at most opportunities, but I'm not trying to impress anyone, or challenge anyone. I'm not trying to dictate - to be the Stereo Nazi. I think I'm just more acutely aware of the small holes of silence raining through when the music is (temporarily) over. By that I mean that since I'm the one putting the record on or pressing play on the iPod I know how long the playlist will go on for, or when it's time to change sides or play something else. And I'm so used to having music on - both in needing to listen to music, in wanting to listen to music (and the actual work-like need to, in terms of getting through the review copies that arrive; keeping up).

But there aren't really any rules for playing music or listening to music in my house.

Soon, hopefully next year, I'll have two turntables set up side by side with a mixer, meaning anyone who visits can cue up the next record, jump in at any point anMy Rega Planar 3d play what they want, dictate the flow. Currently we have the turntables but don't quite have the space allocated to set this up. It might require spousal sign-off also. But it's something I'm pretty keen to make happen.

And that's because I reckon a record collection is to be shared. I've spent thousands of dollars collecting records. And where I've exchanged review-CDs for records I can also say that I have spent thousands of hours listening to utterly horrendous music by people with friends and family who have been far too kind and encouraging - and my prize for doing that dirty work is being able to slowly build up a collection of the records I do want to listen to.

We have, increasingly, friends with small children. We have a child of our own. So maybe some record-player rules will be implemented one day - but I'm pretty happy with the open policy for now.

Oscar is six months old now - and for the past couple of months we have been making a record part of bathtime. We have a bit of a boogie with him beforehand, mum and dad both involved, usually. Oscar cracking up, cackling at our appalling dancing. We take turns holding him and we've been playing Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Young MC, Smashing Pumpkins, Tour of Duty II soundtrack, RockVinyl Ruleset Juice & The Moon, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tricky, Massive Attack, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Gene Clark and whatever happens to be near the stereo.

He'll be able to play whatever he wants one day - with the only rule I can see (for now) being about the handling of LPs and the record-player. Beyond that, it's all stuff that can be replaced, can be fixed or repurchased.

I only really have one rule so far: the sealed LPs stay sealed unless I open them or unless I'm around to see someone open them. That's all. Apart from that - music should be shared. And LPs can be loaned, they can be trashed with time - and then replaced.

About five or six years ago I was visiting extended family in Christchurch. I was invited around for a Sunday meal and the head of the family was in a flap about what music to put on. "I feel like I have a famous author in the house and there's just some trashy magazines lying about instead of fine literature." He was, in part, joking but there seemed to be some real pressure to the situation, some stress that he was feeling as he wondered whether it would be acceptable to play Norah Jones' debut or David Gray's White Ladder without me judging him and his collection. All the while I was standing right behind him, probably judging him and his collection.Handle With Care

He should not have worried. My stereo plays plenty of abysmal albums - including many of the things I love most in life. And of course all of the horrific albums that have been forced on me too. A music collection doesn't need an owner's manual at all. Right? Or do you have rules? Do you have a private collection? Do you have music that other people are not allowed to touch? Are you the one that operates the stereo? Or is it open-house policy for you?

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17 comments
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diggity   #1   09:16 am May 14 2012

One thing I do not understand is collectors who purchase a limited edition album of their favourite band and NEVER play it. What is the logic? If you love the band so much that you are willing to pay extra very a special version why would you not play it? You are betting on the album being worth more in the future and are treating it like an investment when, chances are, you are a collector and will most likely never part with the record before climbing the stairway. And if the record is such an investment, it will likely gain value even if played, for example a 'modern' release TOOL Aenima in used condition goes for around $900NZ. And think about it, you are going to treat it well as you respect it. My one rule - Records are to be played and enjoyed with the habitual commitment of watching it spin and flipping it in excitement for the next half.

dan   #2   09:40 am May 14 2012

I don't have many rules

1) Don't skip a song half way through. The only thing worse than an awful song is half an awful song followed by another half of an awful song. Unfortunately this happens at parties at our place all the time.

2) At least try and listen and open your mind. I listen to a lot more variety than my friends and some of them will instantly complain 2 seconds into a song because it's a genre they're unfamiliar/uncomfortable with. One of my friends always complains that my music is too depressing (she thinks anything that's not sickeningly upbeat is depressing), annoys me to no end especially when it's actually just mellow or moody music

Doubtful Sounds   #3   10:47 am May 14 2012

I gave up policing my CD collection from my toddler, they seem to be magnetically attracted to them, taking them off the shelves, making stacked towers etc. My vinyl on the other hand is a no-go zone for her. Somehow it feels like it has more innate value (probably emotionally) and would be harder to replace, expecially all those 12"s, limited pressings etc. One rule I have is to never put an LP back in the shelves out of alphabetical order, that can drive a man to tears of frustration when looking for something at a later date. Another rule is to always smell a new record as you take it out of the cover from the first listen, new or secondhand - yeah, this is getting weird.

Andrew_Love   #4   11:16 am May 14 2012

as a 7 yo, to my eternal shame, I discovered my grandads 78's in the shed and with some delight found that as a frisbee they made terrific shattering explosions when they hit a tree. Subsequently I have ruled my 45's and LP's off limits to my children - the wife has already banished then to the man cave. No doubt my grandchildren will find out the aerodynamic qualities of CD's - I wonder how they will trash the cloud?

Dr Zoidberg   #5   11:43 am May 14 2012

Speaking from experience, you may have to put all your records in another room once your child is crawling/walking? Otherwise I fear you will end up with an extensive collection of unplayable, saliva-coated vinyl disks.

His Lordship   #6   12:28 pm May 14 2012

I only have two hard and fast rules when it comes to my music collection:

1) CDs get put back in their cases when taken out of the player. No ifs, no buts.

2) If my ipod is on a shuffle, you do not interrupt the shuffle or skip tracks.

luke   #7   01:02 pm May 14 2012

The only real rule I have is the sorting of the collection - sorted alphabetically by artist, and each artist's releases in chronological order by release date.

My 6 year old son loves the record player. I let him flick the switch to lower the tonearm onto the record and he gets a real kick out of it. When his hands are big enough to be able to handle a record I'll teach him how to do it carefully.

He asked me a couple of weeks ago if I was going to give him my collection when he's an adult. I told him definitely not, but I would get him his own record player when he becomes a teenager and he can start his own collection then (much of which I will undoubtedly not be a fan off, but that's ok).

Lo-Fi Sheriff   #8   01:39 pm May 14 2012

I sort by kiwi, indie, reggae/dub/, soul blues gospel, 90s, 80s, 70,s and sixties and and in no alphabetical order.The kiwi goes in kiwi regardless if it liam finn, jakob or salmonella dub. I purchased around 50 avergage 7 inch records for 10 bucks that I say are my 5 year olds and he puts one on every morning.He has learnt to handle them, clean them and has no problem flipping a 12 inch and cueing it up for me now with ease with out any problems.I started him at around 3 and half and he has never looked back.He is very proud of his multiple copies of dave dobbyn(poor fella) and always thinks any 45s I bring home are for him!!lets the kids spin the vinyl guys,they get the hang of it really quickly and also are the envy of all their buddies!!!!

Simon Sweetman   #9   02:37 pm May 14 2012

@ Dr Zoidberg - yes, a lot of baby-proofing to be done but the records are, at least, in their own room. With doors that can be shut. It'll be an adults-only room for a while I think.

Steve   #10   03:59 pm May 14 2012

When our first child came along we were living in a home with polished wooden floors. A short time later I came home to find our two-and-a-bit year old pretending to be a quadruped of some sort, hands planted on two uncased compact discs, using his legs to propel himself across the shiny surface. I had a go myself & it was quite fun, but my CD & vinyl collection were carefully stored on higher shelving after that.


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