Music Lesson: LP and EP

There are many words used synonymously with “album” [see: record, release, LP, CD, EP, etc].  I never thought about the difference between these terms until I started purchasing vinyl records. Suddenly, it became difficult to distinguish conversationally between having something on an actual 12″ album compared to a CD or collection of mp3s. 

Friend: Did you get anything good at the record store?
Me: Yes, I picked up the new Girl Talk album.
Friend: Oh isn’t it great? I got it on iTunes last week.
Me: Yeah it’s good, but I meant that I got the LP.
Friend: Oh, I never buy CD’s anymore.
Me: No, I mean I have the actual record. Like, the vinyl record.
With all of the confusion, I thought we’d use this week’s music lesson to define and differentiate between two important terms: the LP and the EP.
LP stands for long play, and traditionally was used to describe a 33 1/2 rotation per minute, 10 or 12 inch vinyl record. These records are called long play because they are larger and fit more music than an extended play record, or EP. EP’s hold significantly less music because they are only 7 inches in size, and are played at 45 rotations per minute (though 33 1/2 is sometimes used). In simpler terms, an LP record is the full studio album you are used to seeing in record stores or boxes in your parents basement. EP records are the small singles you’re likely to find in an old juke box. Due to their sizes and speeds, LP’s are sometimes referred to as a 12 inch or 33, and EP’s a 7 inch or 45.
So, if you’re not a budding vinyl collector what does this mean to you? As previously mentioned, with all of the crossing of record terms these too have spilled over into the digital front – and aside from sizes and speeds, they mean the same thing. When an artist releases a full length studio album, it’s an LP. Periodically, they may also come out with a three or five-track release, and there’s your EP. Some EP’s are used to promote a certain single from an album, and the other tracks may be remixes or b-sides. Others are simply an artists gift to us between studio releases. When checking upcoming album releases, it’s important to note whether something is a full LP or an EP, and whether they are new tracks or remixes of an album you already own. Simple terms like these may seem insignificant, but they help you to be a more informed music consumer.
Today’s song of the day is off a somewhat recently released EP from the Decemberists, entitled Always the Bridesmaid, which anticipates their March 24 LP, Hazards of Love.

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