The duration of a vinyl side

The duration of a vinyl side

Mar 20, 2020

The duration of a vinyl side

A question we often receive when talking about vinyl records is the duration a record can hold. We may think that the answer is simple and that there is a universal rule to follow, but it is more complicated than that. What’s the record format? 12”, 10” or 7”? At what speed is it playing? 33 rpm or 45 rpm? What is the music genre pressed on it? Reggae, rap or hardcore techno? Many variables must be taken into account to calculate how long to press on the record. In this article, we will try to clear this out for you!

All of those numbers are recommendations to enjoy the most optimal sound possible. Indeed, the more the grooves are spaced, the better it will sound. Grooves will also be wider depending on the music genre, we can classify 3 separate categories:

  • “Standard” music (reggae, pop, rock, etc…)
    • “Technologic” music (techno, dance, rap, electro, etc…)
      • “Extreme” music (metal, hard techno, etc…)

Two historical vinyl formats

Nowadays, the vinyl industry is mostly pressing two record formats, the 7” and the 12”. Historically, the 7” was made to promote singles. It is generally played on the turntable at 45 rpm (round per minute).

vinyl thirty three rpm

A 7” 45 RPM vinyl record.

With this configuration, the record can host approximately 5m07 per side for “standard” music, 3m01 for “Dance” music and 1m54 for “extreme” music, leaving enough space for 1, or 2 songs if those are relatively short. This difference can be explained by the amplitude of the sound spectrum, which depends on the genre. To put it more simply, the richer the music frequency is and the higher the sound level is, the more space the groove will take up on the disc.

Even though it is not really common nowadays, some 7” can be played at 33 rpm, lengthening the duration to 6m55, 4m05 and 3m34.

The 12” is the most popular and well-known format when it comes to vinyl records. Historically, it was suited to hold albums and therefore, more music than his little brother the 7”. It usually plays at 33 rpm (round per minute). The 12” can hold around 19m23 for “standard” music, 11m27 for “dance” music and 7m12 for “extreme” music.

vinyl ennio morricone

A 12” 33 RPM vinyl record.

Since the beginning of disco music, we find some 12” records that play at 45 rpm, which allows to press 1 song per side and spread the grooves as much as possible. This is called a 12”-maxi, and its invention is due to chance. This format has been used a lot in electronic music and is really appreciated by DJs.

The vinyl track sequencing is also quite important, sound distortion is more likely to be present at the center of the record. It is advised to put a calm song at the end of each side.

The 10” is not very common nowadays but it can still be produced by factories / some pressing plants. We have listed its characteristics just below!

A summary of the recommended durations

“Standard” music (rock, pop, reggae, etc…) :
vinyl 7” (18cm) 33 tours : 06min 55sec 45 tours : 05min 07sec
vinyl 10” (25cm) 33 tours : 13min 37sec 45 tours : 10min 05sec
vinyl 12” (30cm) 33 tours : 19min 23sec 45 tours : 14min 21sec

“Technologic” music (techno, dance, rap, electro, etc…) :
vinyl 7” (18cm) 33 tours : 04min 05sec 45 tours : 03min 01sec
vinyl 10” (25cm) 33 tours : 08min 03sec 45 tours : 05min 57sec
vinyl 12” (30cm) 33 tours : 11min 27sec 45 tours : 08min 28sec

“Extreme” music (metal, hard techno, etc…) :
vinyl 7” (18cm) 33 tours : 02min 34sec 45 tours : 01min 54sec
vinyl 10” (25cm) 33 tours : 05min 03sec 45 tours : 03min 45sec
vinyl 12” (30cm) 33 tours : 07min 12sec 45 tours : 05min 19sec

Maximum duration per side without taking care of the sound rendering:

45 rpm (7") : 5 minutes
33 rpm (7") : 6 minutes
45 rpm (10") : 10 minutes
33 rpm (10") : 17 minutes
45 rpm (12") : 12 minutes
33 rpm (12") : 22 minutes