Stromberg Picks: 11 tips to step your digging in the crates game up
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It is no secret, as many of us here at strettoblaster, I am an addict of the digging in the crates game for a while now, and the thing I absolutely enjoy about it is the fact that I face a never ending research, an ever-expanding database of styles and genres, and a still growing appetite for the perfect beat. Throwing waxes I don’t know ish about it is the funniest part of the chase. Nothing easier to those who know how to rock, like someone said. And once you are caught up in the web, you’re done.
But what about beginners? What it is like when you approach the matter? How to move your first good steps into an unxeplored and so big world? Try and error for sure is the best teacher, but as long as we face such a critical economic situation nowadays, every penny is important, so not much mistakes are allowed to ensure your budget. But, aside money, it’s also good to follow some rules to avoid carry garbage home. That’s why I feel like to share with you some 101 techniques to enter the game and make yourself happy while discovering and chasing that black gold. Let’s put it like this.
Look at the covers.
Obvious, but rather important. Literally, often you can judge a record by its cover. The first thing you see and sometimes the only you can listen to, also if you’re in a thrift shop or a flea market, and don’t have a portable turntable with you. Depending on the genres you search for, important informations are to be retained: look at what you see and you’ll usually have a first feeling of what you’re about to cop or not. Odd enough, many heavy diggers would start this way their trip into diggin. For instance, as simple as this, black faces and funny dresses on covers, it means that it could be a funk band or soul. Weird faces, weird sounds, and so on. Though the rule it isn’t always applicable, it works helping you shape your search, as covers was used to set the mood and the tone of the record.
Be aware of labels.
I mean both record labels and store manager labels. In the first case, the most important, once you discover or check the sound of a label and their musical outfit, try to explore same label’s different issues once you scoop them. Many houses back in the days tried to specialize, and even majors were organized in different departments with sublabels, to give a special focus to different sounds and market segments. Plus, many of them had an easily recognizable design, so if you’re not good with name, logos will help. As far as store managers labeling their stock, be on the lookout that often they tend to exagerate and overgrade quality or type of music you’re evaluating while checking the record. The kind of information store people put on records sometimes can be mischevious, just to sell, same way it can happen over some internet sales, where you are fascinated by a record “filled with loops and drumbreaks”, and you have like two seconds of a wack drums and a static infected fuzz guitar half loop. So be careful with labeled easy wins.
Check out the personnel.
Aside the artists or the band, and the label, make sure to have enough room in your mind to retain some informations regarding the backing bands, musicians, producers, engineers, recording studios, even the cities where the record has been made can be an important gauge, and so on. All these infos can easily be spotted on the back cover, and once you have a minimum knowledge about it, you can use the same path for label, just chase producers and musicians you like over different outfits.
The coming years and past.
Changes in taste and sound in the last century or so can be grouped more or less equally for different musical genres, consistent with introductions and innovations of new technologies and tools, as well as, being the music a means of communication and expression, the social and cultural revolutions of which this is an expression. Therefore, you can easily think about scooping different records of different kind looking at years these have been made, for quality in sound, inspiration, instruments used and overall impact.
Trust your ears.
Often share their interests and tastes with other lovers more experienced, or just follow record guides, can be fruitful, others harmful. In fact, it can often be influenced in the choice of this or that record, or for their rarity or for the alleged talent of this or that musician. Always trust your ears, and don’t be fooled by any else.
Welcome the unexpected.
Following the above tips, don’t be afraid of experiment or pick up some pieces you don’t strictly know about it. In other words, try to follow your sense for good music and curiosity, it will lead to satisfaction, if well balanced.
Give yourself a cost limit.
With the evolution of taste, and the multiplication of their crates, there is sometimes a problem in the acquisition budget. More refined tastes, they look more expensive discs. A friend of mine, and big digger, told me once that he has always had a golden rule, which has never prevented him from amassing a substantial collection in quality and considerable in quantity: never spend more than thirty bucks for a album. Which means that to be above that disc overvalued on ebay, you just have to dig deeper and better. With price limits, and a better perspection of spots and places to dig.
Underestimate to overbuy.
A proper mental habit while digging is a certain plus, too. Do not display never too sure of your research or of your digger status and knowledge in front of a shopkeeper or his clerk. Often it is better to go for the curious ignorant bargaining for prices than for diggers or collectors. Prices may rise or go down in a moment, and regular records you don’t really know about it become the hottest ish you may never heard of. Or viceversa. Lower profile, higher results.
Be aware of record’s real quotations.
Direct consequence of the above tip. Once I got myself almost fighting with a guy who pretended to sell me a record twice its value because of a price he saw on the internet. Unfortunately, I didn’t had the record, and, even worst, I didn’t kick the shit out the guy, though I was hardly tempted. Real talk here: don’t get fooled by internet prices and quotations for records. Sometimes you can find a good bargain, sometimes it’s the best way to get tricked. Try instead to chase a record guide for yourself, a real book, some legit tools to help you in your researches. You have good stuff for different genres, just google it and enjoy.
Dust your fingers in the dirt.
Dollar bins, thrift shops, flea markets, junk shops, neighborhood fairs, second hand shops. Every dusty and neglected spot can hide lost gems. Or garbage. But if digging is your pleasure, maybe you won’t find shit, but will pass happy hours digging.
Look closely innersleeves, sealing and wax conditions.
Before you finally say yes to the seller, of course after all the above steps, two or three final measures of a technical nature never hurts. First, if the disc is sealed, always check the type of seal. If the back cover has a seal vertical, you’re going to buy a reprint, if the seal is horizontal, it is probably a first printing. If the seal is missing from the center back seam, or there is a clean total wrap, your dealer has probably done all by himself, and at that point you should ask him directly what it is. Also check for the innersleeve, if it is too white and clean, it’s probably a reprint, if it is yellowed a first print but it isn’t a rule, however. Instead, always check if stuff is too brown, or if there are patches of mold, who move easily from there to vinyl. Finally, check that the vinyl grooves are not damaged, scratched, or marked deeply. According to this last important detail you can haggle over the price, to be evaluated according to the conditions of the cover. There is a grading scale for vinyls, from 1 (poor conditions) to 10 (a perfect and unplayed record), so the above gradings are equivalent to: Mint-10, Near Mint-8, Excellent-7, Very Good Plus-6, Very Good-5, Good-2.
Hope this simple tips will help you discovering more and more gems, increasing your record collections and spending happy hours diggin’ for that perfect beats.
Out like everyday all day.