Introduction To Collecting And Listening To Shellac Records
What’s a 78?
78 rpm shellac records were made from the 1890’s to the late 1950’s. They are heavy,
easily broken like a china plate, hence their old slang term “platter.” The records
were made of materials such as clay or limestone dust, held together with shellac,
a compound derived from bug secretions! Getting them to sound right today is a real
challenge, because they were once subjected to hundreds of pounds per square inch
of pressure from the old steel needles of wind-
My collecting began in June of 1968 in the Seattle Goodwill, where I bought a suitcase full of old records because they were cheap and looked cool. In high school, I got a collection someone found in the attic of a building at an abandoned whaling station, and I got a large case full of records that once belonged to the doctor who birthed me. And it’s gone on from there, in antique stores, at yard sales, and from Ebay and auction houses.
What’s the Appeal?
What’s the appeal? Well, imagine 80 years from now some folks discovering a stack
of 45's of Beatles hits, and immediately appreciating the energy and inventiveness
they are hearing. It was like that for me, hearing my first Bix Beiderbecke jazz
record or hearing Victor Herbert conducting his own “March of the Toys.” My collection
specializes in post-
Most of the tracks on this site are of the pop and dance variety, because they are
infectiously fun to listen to, with sappy sentimental old songs thrown in, and a
good sampling of historic jazz, always from my collection, and always mixed and restored
in my little studio using advanced computer software. But some of the tracks (see
the photo below) come directly from a real 1920’s wind-
My Personal “Holy Grail” Wind-
In my first summer in Idaho after retiring, I took a break from painting and repairing
our house and went out exploring nearby mining towns with my friend Travis. In a
shop in Wallace (the town where Dante’s Peak was filmed) my friend pointed me to
a large object in the far corner. There sat a fully-
Naturally I found a way to buy the thing. It took five men to get it into my van, and three of us to get it out. Four guys working on our new floors moved it into place in our living room, using refrigerator straps. So… a selection of the tunes on this site come from that Grafonola, direct to you with no noise reduction whatsoever, and very little sound shaping. You’ll hear whatever that Grafonola is capable of out of its 12 feet or so of twisting wooden horns.
The Columbia’s sound volume can be immense, and it’s controlled only by the size
of the steel needle used, or by closing one or both of the doors. But by placing
a microphone in front of each of the two internal horns, a full, almost stereophonic
sound is recorded, due to the difference in distance from the needle and sound box,
and a slight variation in response between the two hand-
Tim’s Signature 78 rpm Restoration Mix
However, the largest portion of the music on this site comes from a modern digital
turntable with five different styli at my disposal, run through a battery of sound
shaping options in my Acon Digital “Acoustica” software. My trademark mix is similar
to the sound that a state of the art tube amp and speaker system in the pre-
Welcome to Tanignak Shellac (Tim’s Old Record Collection)
For full songs and downloadable .mp3 albums,
Pop Jazz and Dance
Classic Jazz and Blues Tunes
Sentimental and “Salon”
World War I Songs
Country and Western
Classical and Instrumental
“Sacred” and Gospel
Humor and Novelty
Two Approaches to Recording Antique 78 rpm Shellac Discs:
Top: A few of the battery of screens used to adjust and repair antique 78’s after the sound has been transferred to digital using a modern USB turntable equipped with special styli selected for each record. Often, the selections can be made to sound clearer (with more bass and clearer vocals, for example) than would have been possible on any of the equipment available when the record was made! Although far superior to the original sound, it is not “authentic” in that it is not what people would have originally heard.
Right: The 1926 Columbia Viva-
Demos Demos Demos
Two Demos of Acoustical (horn) verses Electric (microphone) Recordings
Nell Gwynn Dances excerpt: 1916 Victor military band acoustic and 1927 Victor Orthophonic electric recordings. Note that the military band is in a different key than the orchestra. Dynamic range, fidelity, and depth are all improved in the second example.
Painting the Clouds With Sunshine – an unusual nearly identical arrangement of a 1920’s pop tune, one recorded acoustically (Velvet Tone label) and the other an electric (Broadway label). Other than the second disc being more worn, it has much more oomph, and a band recorded electrically can be much larger than the one squeezed in front of a horn!
Two Before and After Demos of Sound Restoration
My Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now – a great, “hot” dance tune with the Jean Goldkette
Orchestra, around 1928 (Victor Orthophonic). The unedited disc starts over with the
computerized restoration. The restoration is not noise free, but it restores clarity
and that legendary VE (Victor electric) punchy sound. My mix mimics a mid-
Shaking the Blues Away – another great “hot” band, this time Paul Whiteman. Sometimes
a wonderful disc comes only in thrashed condition, and until you find a less-
A Comparison: Grafonola versus USB Turntable Special Styli, and Software
You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Ted Weems Orchestra, VE disc. Recorded from a mic’d wind up phonograph, compared with the same disc recorded from a digitally transferred modern turntable. See the photos above for the recording setup and the software panel.
Here are two takes of part of a song, played with a steel needle on a Columbia Viva-
The Grafonola version is slightly off-
NOTE: there are a few songs posted at Collection One and Two pages already. Use the links at the top of the page.
Call these demos a sample of what’s coming! When the “Collection One” and “Collection
Two” pages are completed, there will be albums-
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