Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Converting Vinyl to MP3 - An Easy User Guide

My wife sent me a link to this blog that had a Radio Shack commercial on it covering this subject. I had discussed this issue earlier in the year, and wanted to share my experience for those of you who wanted to do the same. I just wish I could post this info somewhere the people who were really interested in doing this could get it. Feel free to link to this, if you can.

If you have a turntable and an amp, the only thing you need to convert your vinyl to mp3 is a computer with a soundcard and freeware called Audacity. There is also a LAME 3.97 file you will need to download. Put this somewhere so you can point to it when Audacity asks for it.
You will also need a mini (1/8” jack) to RCA (red & white) cable (You may already use one of these to connect your iPod to your stereo, or they are available from Radio Shack for around $6) and a soundcard in your computer. Now that you have all these things, you can do this very easily.

Before you start this project, understand that it's going to take a long time, because you have to play all of your records at least once. One thing that might help you is friends, relatives and your neighborhood library. Did you know that some libraries actually have a pretty extensive CD collection? Before you decide to transfer that copy of Def Leppard's "Pyromania," you may want to see if one of your friends has a copy, or check your local library. While my library has the latest KEANE CD, it does not have the above-mentioned Def Lep record. Or any Go-Go's. What a travesty.

Getting Organized
1. Hook up your turntable to your amp, like you normally would. Don't forget to use the ground.
2. Hook up the cable with the mini jack. You want to hook up the red and white jacks to your TAPE IN or RECORD. The mini jack needs to go into the audio input jack on your soundcard. That looks like this on my computer:

Note, plug the black cord into the blue jack. This is an early picture. The other cord is for speakers, which you will also need, but I hope you figured that one out.

You may have to dig out your sound card manual or go online to find which jack is the audio input of your soundcard. Plug the mini end of the cord into this.

At this point you have the hardware set up. I also recommend that you get a big bottle of record cleaning solution. You're going to need it, and a clean record is going to give you the best recording, because the noise reduction and pop removal functions of Audacity are just "okay" at best. More on this later.

Software Setup

1. When you download Audacity, you will have to go to preferences to set it up for stereo recording, and then change the values to get the best (read:highest) bit-rate available. So go to Edit, Preferences, and set your stuff up under the following tabs:

Audio I/O
Under the Channels pulldown, select 2(stereo)

Default Sample Rate should be put to the highest selection. There is an "other" button. I don't know what this means. I know that my mp3s that I get out of here are 128 mbps, which suits me fine.

There are other things you can change, and the Audacity Help website through the software can explain this to you. This is just the quick and dirty to get you set up.


Singles take more of your time to do, because you have to pause in between sides, but whole albums are better because you can actually wash the dishes or do other household chores while one side plays.

Put your record on. Hit the record button. This isn't like making a tape where you didn't want the scritch or the time before the first song. You will edit all that out later.

Between sides, press the PAUSE button. If you press stop, you’re done with that file.

Labeling Songs and Exporting to MP3

Once you’re done with both sides, go back to the beginning and mark the beginnings of each song. To do this, use the selection tool (it looks like an I, sort of) and click to where you want the beginning of the song to be. You can use the Zoom tool (magnifying glass) to zoom in (right click) or out (left click) on the song to be more precise in your location selection. Then go up to the menus, select Project, Add Label At Selection. A text box will appear. Sometimes, you can start typing, other times you have to use the selection tool to click on the text box. For some reason, on the computer I use in the basement, the lower case Z will not work.

Sometimes I forget that I had side 1 going, and get down to the basement about 5 minutes after its done. Just record the second side, then after it's all done, as you're labeling, you can select the dead air and hit the delete button. Make sure you delete the area before you add a label, or it screws up the labels where the dead air used to be. For example, I can label all the songs on side 1. Then, there's a huge space between the end of the last song on side 1 and the beginning of the first song on side 2. Select the area you want to delete (making sure you don't cut out the fade from the last song on side 1 - turn the volume up and listen), delete it, then continue labeling the songs on side 2.

Once you get done labeling all of the songs, go to File, Export Multiple, and the software will open up another menu. Select mp3 or wav as the format. It will then ask you for the Artist and Name of the Album. You can also put year of release and any other info you want to add to each file. When you hit "okay" it will place the files in a directory you specify. The software will divide your files up nicely.

It should take you about 2 hours to initially set things up and get your first recordings. I save all my files to a directory, by album name, then make a data disc using Nero. I can then transfer the files to my iTunes on my upstairs computer by importing each file. I then have all the vinyl saved neatly on CD-ROM.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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Guilty Metal Pleasure - Krokus' "One Vice At A Time"

As I may have mentioned ad nauseum, I lived in Germany from the summer before I entered 7th grade until February of my Junior year of high school. During this time, I had various friends who influenced me musically.

One guy I hung out with in 7th grade was Gilbert. I don't remember his last name. Gilbert's favorite bands were Rainbow and Deep Purple. Deep Purple was Gilbert's dad's favorite band, so I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree in his case.

I told Gilbert I was interested in AC/DC, since my friend, David Cizek, in Oklahoma, had gone around the playground at recess making the sounds of the percussive guitar at the beginning of "Back in Black" until it was firmly planted in my memory (when I actually heard the song for the first time, I sort of recognized what he was doing).

Gilbert told me if I liked AC/DC, then I should pick up Krokus' "One Vice At A Time." He said, "It sounds exactly like AC/DC."

He was right. I reviewed this album on Amazon. So you can go there if you want to read it.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I heard about this tool while listening to WXRT on the way home from Chicago on Saturday.

Basically, it looks at your iTunes and then gives you shows in your local area (which, obviously, you can adjust). Looks like there are a lot of good shows coming up in the near future in Chicago, including the Drive-By Truckers on October 22, which also happens to be the night before my birthday.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Steelers Go Lame

The Steelers have hit an all time low. In an attempt to get people to stop mentioning how they paid off the referees to help them win Superbowl XXXIV, the Steelers have provided a distraction in Steely McBeam.

Apparently, this is not the first time the Steelers have had a mascot. The mascot was named by a fan, who cited the name was not reflective of the Scottish heritage of western Pennsylvania, but the number of McDonald's products consumed by those living in the Pittsburgh metro area.

I've heard that the Steelers are discussing the possibility of developing a cheerleading squad, as well.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

United Countries of Baseball

Adam sent me the photo you see next to you. We figure it's painted on the wall of some Nike or other sports store.You should be able to see the full size if you blow it up.

I'm wondering how accurate it really is. I find it hard to believe that all of Wisconsin is full on Brewers country. I know it works that way for the Packers, but not necessarily the Brewers.

And that Cubs country could be as easily as large as the Cardinals country. The Twins also have a contingency in Indianapolis. I know this because I was driving through Indy one night, looking for the White Sox game, and found a Twins game. I had a friend once tell me, who used to live in Indy, that there was a HUGE amount of Viqueens fans there, so it wouldn't surprise me. Unlike the Brewers, the Twins have actually been a decent team.

Maybe Florida is full of Marlins and Devil Ray fans. I sort of think the Braves have more of a stronghold over the northern section, from the panhandle to Jacksonville. Just because they were the only team in the deep south for years.

I don't know about a lot of those other places. Maybe some comments would be helpful.

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