Well for this edition let's just chat about 'Record Store Day'!

 Lots of questions over the past few weeks around...What is it?...What's available?  Can you...?

Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. The first Record Store Day took place on April 19, 2008. Today there are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica. 

This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl releases are made exclusively for the day.

A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a stand alone brick and mortar retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation.  (In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths)

There are literally 100's of titles covering all genres in all vinyl formats.  Everything from Neil Young - Decade reissue to The Cure - Greatest Hits to The Offspring - Offspring to Red Hot Chili Peppers picture disc to Prince singles to Johnny Cash children's album!  You can check out the complete list at www.recordstoreday.com.  At Forch's we have ordered a significantly large selection of these titles covering all genres to ensure we have something for everyone in fact several somethings for everyone!

Unfortunately we cannot reserve!  Just one of the rules to be a Record Store Day participant and have the pleasure of access to these great limited edition titles, making them available to you and capturing the spirit of the day.  Feel free to peruse the list though and let me know what you're excited about to ensure I have ordered it!

Insights you may find of value...

Why an independent (indie) record store?

In last months issue of Forch's Vinyl Notes I briefly mentioned that one of the great pleasures of enjoying music on vinyl is finding music on vinyl!  Whether previously enjoyed or new records the hunt for great music, a cool sleeve or a rare find can be so much part of the overall experience.  Without question in today's market there are all sorts of ways to find music and music on vinyl but none so cool as the independent (indie) record store.

Since I've opened the store I've been asked dozens of times by customers, colleagues, interviewers and such why a record store?

My simple answer is...get back or get to the music buying experience.  Making you're listening choices should be part of the overall experience of enjoying the music you choose to listen to.  For those of up who grew up with a record store as part of our life, the buying experience and the memories associated with the music we listen to our endless and meaningful.  For younger folks who haven't yet had the experience of the 'flip through' or casually hanging out in a record store they are catching on and getting it. 

It is so cool to watch and be part of conversations happening in store among people of all ages, across ages and that may or may not know each other.  Whether about an album, band or genre as they see what others are looking at, asking for or find that sets off a trigger, being in a record store the commonality of music takes down barriers!  A record store is a great opportunity to find favorites but discover new favorites through hearing what's playing, seeing what's available and conversation.  Only an indie record store can offer this.

The premise behind Forch's is to provide a vibe of going to your friend's place and flipping through their album collection.  Browse, listen, chat in a comfortable, spacious and organized space that is cool.

Setting up your turntable for the best sound as well as managing wear on its components and your vinyl.  In the time I've had the store this has been a frequent topic of conversation with not only those new to vinyl but also those that grew up with it.

1. Level your turntable. Back to front and side to side. A small inexpensive level will assist with this.  This is step one to your stylus riding accurately in the vinyl grooves.

2. Level your headshell when applicable.  A detachable headshell can have a little play in the connection mechanism so you want to ensure it is level after it has been attached and tightened.  A small round level gauge is a great tool for this and can also be used to level your turntable.  Available in store.

3. For 1/2 inch mount cartridges it is also recommended to align your cartridge with a protractor to get the most accurate groove alignment at the start of a record and at the end. Don't nescessarily assume that square to the headshell is the best position.  You can buy these (available in store) or print one off at home!

4.  Set an appropriate tracking weight. Where equipped with an adjustable counterweight on the back end of the tonearm, a tracking weight appropriate for your stylus should be set. If you don't know the recommended tracking weight it's generally easy to find with a quick internet search... just search your cartridge brand/model followed by 'tracking weight' and you should get a hit... most likely from the manufacturer or dealer that would have accurate specs.

To set the weight, start by moving the counterweight back and forth until the tonearm hangs freely and level off of the arm rest. Your tonearm is now at a '0' tracking weight.  Place the tonearm in the armrest and secure.  Set the counterweight counter to zero at the marker on the tonearm (the 'counter' will move independently of the weight so adjust only the counter not the weight). With the counter at '0', dial the weight forward to the required tracking weight.  Some like to set the weight mid point of the tracking range...I generally start on the lower end and dial forward (add more weight) if I feel it's not tracking fully in the groove or jumpy with movement close to the turntable. 

4.  Set your anti-skate if applicable. General rule of thumb is to set to match your tracking weight. You may want to look up your turntable and/or tonearm online and see if there is any recommended anti-skate setting to tracking weight ratio. 

This may sound like a lot but for the amount of hours and years of great listening ahead it is well worth the bit of time it will take and the minimal spend to ensure your stylus rides accurately in the groove for the best sound and longevity of you're vinyl and stylus.

For those who have been curious on grading of vinyl records from a physical quality perspective, here's some pretty standard grading descriptions you can follow.
Mint (M) - Perfect in every way.  Never played, possibly even still sealed.  Can be worth significantly more than the Goldmine price guide Near Mint value.

Near Mint (NM or M-) - A near perfect record showing no obvious signs of wear.  The record cover should have no creases, folds, seam splits, cut-out holes or other noticeable defects.  The same applies to any inserts, such as posters, lyric sleeves, etc.  Basically it looks as if you just bought it new and removed the shrink wrap.  Near Mint is the highest price listed in the Goldmine price guide.  

Very Good Plus (VG+) - Record will show some signs that it was played but taken good care of.  The record surface may show some signs of wear and have slight scuffs or very light scratches that don't affect the listening experience.  Possibly slight warps that do not affect the sound and the label may have light ring wear or discoloration.  Record sleeve may have slight signs of wear and/or marred by a cut-out hole, slit or corner cut indicating it was taken out of print.  Inner sleeves will have some slight wear, lightly turned up corners, or a slight seam split.  If not for a couple things wrong with it, this would be Near Mint.  Generally worth 50% of the Near Mint value.

Very Good (VG) - Surface noise will be evident when playing, particularly in soft passages and during songs intros and fades, but does not overpower the music.  Groove wear will start to be noticeable, as with light scratches (deep enough to feel with a fingernail) that will affect the sound.  Labels may be marred by writing, tape, etc.  The same applies to record sleeves.  However, it will not have all of these problems at the same time, only two or three of them.  Generally worth 25% of Near Mint value.  

Good (G), Good Plus (G+) - A record in Good or Good Plus condition will play through without skipping but will have significant surface noise, scratches and/or visible groove wear.  The sleeve will have seam splits and possibly tape, writing, ring wear or other defects.  Generally worth 10-15% of the Near Mint value.

Poor (P), Fair (F) -.  The record is cracked, badly warped, and won't play through without skipping or repeating.  The record sleeve is water damaged, split on multiple seams and heavily marred by wear and writing and inner sleeves are seam split, crinkled.  Generally worth 0-5% of the Near Mint price.

Lots of comments and questions lately regarding static!  The dry air brought on by the cold season can easily elevate static issues with your vinyl.  A few tips you may find helpful.

Use a No-Static brush prior to playing your records.

Replace inner record sleeves with Anti-static sleeves.

Some vinyl enthusiasts like to use an anti-static gun such as the MiltyPro Zerostat 3 Gun.  The Zerostat 3 is highly rated for its ability to improve the sound quality of records by removing static.  All of the above available in store.

The other tip I'd offer is adding humidity to your room through the use of a humidifier.

Vinyl care and cleaning!  One of the most frequent questions - let's start with basic day to day care.
1. Use cleaning brushes... I recommend three:
- A no-static record brush to take care of light dust particles etc. using it pretty much every time you play.
- A velvet record brush...this is for when you may need a little heavier clean and applying a cleaning fluid for finger prints, etc..  Can certainly be used dry and lightly enough for the day to day dust particles as well if you prefer only 1 record brush.
- Stylus brush...this one seems to be the most over looked.  A stylus brush will safely remove dust, hair, etc. that is picked up by your stylus...and yes this will happen regardless of how clean your vinyl is.  You may or may not wish to use a cleaning fluid.

2. Use your inner sleeves...they provide protection from rough outer sleeve surface, dust and in some cases static.

3. Keep away from heat sources and moisture/dampness.  Heat can warp vinyl...lightweight or heavyweight.  Moisture and dampness can create mould on covers and inner sleeves and can transfer to your vinyl.

One of the great pleasures of enjoying music on vinyl is finding music on vinyl!  

Whether previously enjoyed or new records the hunt for great music, a cool sleeve or a rare find can be so much part of the overall experience.  The flip through, the crate dig...whatever the terminology it's cool.

With this in mind, I seem to be fielding lots of questions, particularly around used vinyl as to what you should look for.

For quality purposes you're checking the vinyl for imperfections. Scuffs and surface marks can be quite common and may or may not effect play. Scratches and nicks depending on the depth, can effect play and have audible flaws...cautiously a light touch with your fingernail can give an indication of depth and noise potential.  If the album looks like a hockey team has skated over it be wary!  Even very sought after and rare albums in rough shape are just that, and worth very little if anything at all.  Although rare, mint looking vinyl can have noise whether from dirt in the grooves, static, etc...some things are just visually undetectable.  The only true test is to play.

Missing inner sleeves is a caution not just for the easier access of dust and dirt getting in the sleeve and on the vinyl but the rougher surface of the cardboard sleeve can leave surface marks.  Other surface marks (almost staining) are caused by a record being stagnant in a sleeve for a long period time.  Whether paper or plastic moisture in the air can cause the inner sleeve to stick to the record leaving a mark.  I'd say the majority of this is visual only and not audible but can be at times.  Dusty or dirty records can hide marks so look carefully beyond the dirt...however only use a proper brush or cloth to move dirt to avoid grinding it into record.  Good lighting helps significantly.  Once cleaned these can be great finds.  

Oh and don't forget to look for warps.  Certainly not the only cause, but very common currently to find crates, boxes, etc. of records stored improperly for a long period of time resulting in warped records.

The other elements to consider when looking at value is the outer and inner sleeve condition and whether add ins such as posters, lyric pages, etc. are in tact or even there...depending on your purpose for wanting, this may or may not be as important.  And then of course one can always be looking for particular pressings that may be of greater value, complete a collection or a nice to have.  Whether identified by label, catalogue number, country of origin or sleeve design there's some pretty cool varieties of the same album out there.

At Forch's you're welcome to check out any of the previously enjoyed vinyl, visually and audibly  at our listening stations.  All our previously enjoyed records are cleaned prior to going out...unfortunately not enough time to play them all...but we stand behind them.