In the acoustic process, the sheer energy
from the sounds played or sung into the recording
horn caused the diaphragm to vibrate which in turn
caused the stylus to cut into the disc or
cylinder. The best early records were of such
penetrating sounds as whistlers, military bands, and
certain vocal and instrumental soloists.
A singer stood three
to four inches from the horn and on high notes moved
back, or was pushed back by the engineer, to
minimize vibrations. For the same reason, a
handkerchief was often lowered in front of the horn
when a cornet soloist, four to six feet away, hit
high notes. For accompaniments, the upright
piano was elevated about three feet with its back as
close to the horn as possible.
crowded around the horn, with the louder brass
players on bleachers at the rear. Because
stringed instruments didn't carry well, scores were
often rearranged - bassoons substituting for cellos;
tubas for double basses; and stroh "violins" for the
Meeting the growing
demand for recordings was a problem. In the
early 1890s, it was possible to duplicate cylinder
recordings only by repeating the performance.
Even with three machines recording at a time, for
instance, a singer had to repeat a single section 30
times to produce even ninety copies. By 1902,
however, Edison had begun to mass-produce molded
cylinders. Mass production was simpler for
disc manufacturers: Copies were easily stamped
from a matrix made from the wax master.