Diggin’ for Vinyl is a cultural phenomenon that has to do with finding vinyl gems within stacks and stacks of wax for the purposes of collecting, spinning or sampling. Everyone has their own theories and methodology for diggin’. Given the current state of technology with everything being so computer and iOS based and so many people doing internet diggin’ on YouTube and such, I thought this would be helpful for those that are venturing into diggin’ for the first time. Bear in mind that as a Beat Maker diggin’ in one way or another is as important as those 16 pads themselves.
Here are just 5 Tips to consider when Diggin’ for Vinyl
1. Know what you are looking for…
In Diggin’ for Vinyl, one of the most important things you can do is to know when Diggin’ for Vinyl is what you are looking for. It really can’t get much more simple than that. If your favorite song is sample based and you want a similar sound, find out what samples were used in that song and dig deeper into those elements. Chances are you will find that the artist sampled within has a load of gems that you may be interested in. With this knowledge you can blaze trails to your nearest source of vinyl with specific knowledge of what you want to dig for.
What I learned about myself was that I like jazz orchestra and big band samples so i knew when I started digging that I wanted loads of the stuff. I found that I really like Stan Kenton so I made it my business to buy as much Stan Kenton as possible. This led to finding other similar artists. Before long I copped a slew of this sort of music. Because of that I could always pull out some obscure piece of $0.99 to $2 wax to chop.
2. Dig everywhere (not just record stores, thrift shops, pawn shops, co-workers closet, auntie’s garage, Craigslist)
Don’t bother being a “dig-snob”. Dig everywhere you just never can tell where the next gem will come from. Vinyl is everywhere, not just record stores but at thrift shops, pawn shops, co-workers closet, auntie’s garage, Craigslist, Ebay and on and on and on.
Go to the local thrift shop or the not so local pawn shop. You can come up on a good grip of wax that way. The best part is that most folks may not be in the know about these spots. Keep an eye out for garage sales. Truth be told these “off the beaten path” spots are gold mines, at least in some cases.
Try also mentioning your affinity for old records to family, friends and co-workers. You’d be surprised how many people are hording old stacks of wax in closets and garages. Even better they have no clue what to do with them and they’d love for you to take them off your their hands.
Online is another place that you may consider Diggin’ for Vinyl. If there is a specific record that you are looking for take to any number of exclusive record stores online. Also, don’t sleep on Ebay. Proceed with caution here though. Sellers are notorious for inflating the price on records that some famous producer caught a hit from. If a certain record was ever said to be used by say Pete Rock, J Dilla etc. chances are the price skyrocketed to premium status. Another thing about Ebay digs is that you have to watch the shipping and handling fees. The shipping and handling costs can totally kill a good deal. The reason for this is that a seller can charge his shipping fee as per the chosen shipping method but that little term “handling” is code for “I shall wring your wallet dry for having to package this thing and then drive down to Fed Ex or UPS after work or on my off day. And I can do it because I get to choose the handling fee that suites me.” So just beware of that little gotchya.
Similarly, diggin’ on Craigslist can yield wild fresh stacks of wax in lots by the dozens or by the crates. Many have come up on hundreds of records on Craigslist this way. I once saw a seller that posted 8 crates of mixed genre records, mostly old soul and golden era hip-hop, for $250.This is not an abnormal occurence on Craigslist but the catch is that the score is usually predicated on a local pick only sort of deal.
Now that you know you should keep an open mind and dig everywhere, I have one bit of caution. “Be careful where it concerns your health.” Diggin can be a dirty dirty adventure. People leave these records in all sorts of dark and dirty places that have been ground zero to things like floods and such. This is “mold and spores-ville” for sure. Keep a stash of surgical masks, plastic gloves and Purell. Also, when all is said and done, be sure to clean the records in a well ventilated space.
3. The dollar bin is your friend.
I’ve gone to the Good Will thrift stores in the dead of the winter in the most desolate of locations to find wax for cheap. In contrast I’ve gone to the “so-called” best dig spots and found less gems and the records were more expensive. This isn’t always the case but you should be conscious of where you are, what prices are and what your intentions are in the places where you choose to dig. Some cats are collectors and they want the best, most pristine copy of a record still sealed. That’s cool but you may not want to spend the $20 to $100+ for a collectors joint. If that is the case dig else where.
I’d rather buy 10 blind (records that I’ve not heard of before) $1 records and find a few samples within those than to spend $30 on a known record with tons of already used samples. Of course, this is very subjective. You may have your own views on this. But I once heard Madlib say “there is something on every record.” Why not get your fingers dusty in the dollar bins and build your vinyl library up. If you get good enough you may find spots where the dollar bin is the best bin in the store.
4. Find a label or artist that you like and go ham. get it all. find out all about their labels, their players.
Similar to #1, when Diggin’ for Vinyl, the idea is to know what you are looking for. But to further that thought, we want to drive it home that you can’t know enough about the artist or label that you dig (pun intended).
You may for instance recall a recent post regarding RZA and his partnership with Stax Records to release a 24 song epic project of songs from Stax’s vault that RZA sampled at some point in his career on many of his classic joints. This is the prime example of someone who obviously had a label that he loved. I’d be willing to bet once he realized he was a Stax head he went all out looking for all he could dig up from Stax Records.
Going even deeper, you may find that your favorite label or artist worked with certain artists or session players. Many of these session players were obviously shared across many albums and studio sessions. If you dig them on one artists songs, you may dig what they’ve served up on other projects. Chances are they were all in similar circles and played in the same era’s that your favorite artist or label thrived in. Many of these session players and even engineers likely went on to be apart of other projects of their own. You may find that you like their music projects as well. Then what do you know, you’ll have those a-ha moments like, “Wow they were doing work with so and so on so and so’s label for so and so’s album that so and so sampled 30 years later to make that one joint that I love”.
The idea is to “dig deeper”… there is an abundance of wax out there.
5. research research research (databases, books, your favorite artists favorite records)
Research research research. This may sound lame to some but research is so necessary. for those that see diggin’ as a hobby, I’m certain you already have this on lock. But for those that just want a quick dig to flip, if research isn’t your thing you may want to holla at my guy Alkota over at http://hiphopdrumsamples.com/pages/samples for his diggin services. This may be helpful if you just don’t have access due to living in rural areas.
Otherwise, if you plan to dig at that vinyl convention heading your way or if you plan to dig at the nearest rare grooves spot, you’d better do your best to educate yourself on whatever it is that you think you may want. There are tons of books, databases and other resources dedicated to vinyl and record history. Do your research. It could save you time and money.