Rich Wilhelm

A Short Treatise on How to Listen to a Large Record Collection

In 1979, music, record collecting, records, Uncategorized on May 19, 2016 at 1:50 am




Everybody likes a good treatise, right? Treatises are so much nicer than manifestos, which can come across as quite bossy, you know?

Unless, the manifesto is Roxy Music’s 1979 album, Manifesto. Many people may, in fact, enjoy listening to Manifesto more than they’d enjoy reading any given treatise.

Sadly, Roxy Music never recorded an album called Treatise.  If they had, then at least we could compare Manifesto to Treatise to decide which was the better Roxy Music album.


This is a treatise about how to approach listening to a large record collection. It’s not some kind of big deal statement, like a manifesto might be. It’s really just a set of suggestions. As it happens, I am listening to Roxy Music’s Manifesto while writing this treatise, but that is largely a coincidence.

I have been collecting record now for more than 40 years. I do not remember a time in my life when I didn’t have at least a few 45s and an album or two to play on a toy record player. Clearly, I enjoy experiencing recorded sound as it has been preserved on vinyl and  (to a lesser aesthetic extent) compact disc. But sometimes my brain can go into vapor lock simply trying to decide what to listen to at any given time. At these times, having a systematic approach to listening to records can be helpful.

Here are some strategies for listening to a large record collection.

  • Listen to what you want. This is the ultimate no-brainer, right? Just listen to what you want. Provided you can figure out what that is.
  • Listen to what you listened to in high school. Have you ever met someone who listens exclusively to what they listened to in high school? Or maybe college? You could go that route.
  • Listen to the same favorite records you always listen to. If I had to, I could probably list 40 or 50 records that I return to often and just listen to them for the rest of my life.
  • Focus on a certain year. Pick a certain year–say 1979and focus on listening only to records from that year, at least until you think you’ve gotten that year figured out.
  • Focus on a certain artist. Listen to everything you’ve got by one particular artist. Then move on to another artist.
  • Focus on a certain genre. This is all well and good, but pinning certain artists/albums down to one specific genre can be slippery business.
  • Roll your 20-sided dice. Use a chance operation to determine what you listen to at any given time.

These are all just suggestions. If this were more of a manifesto, I’d boldly tell you how I plan on approaching this conundrum. But given that it’s a treatise, I’m just going to put this out there and let readers decide for themselves what to do. Meanwhile, I may occasionally check in to report on what my recent listening habits have been.



  1. How many vinyl albums (approximately) do you own? Judging from your photos, it’s an impressive number.

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Patrick F. O'Donnell

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