Difference between an Extended Play (EP) and Long Play (LP) record

Difference Between an Extended Play (EP) and Long Play (LP) Record

Although Long Play (LP) and Extended Play (EP) are two terms that are originally associated with the two- or three-decade past golden days of music (the times of the vinyl records), a number of artists adopt these terms as a suffix for their album name even nowadays. Buzzle explains what LP and EP really mean, and what their present-day relevance is.
An Interesting Piece of Trivia
All vinyl records in the USA are manufactured according to the standards specified by the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America). That being said, the sizes of different kinds of records, in inches, do not translate to the actual measurement of the diameter, but are sort of trade names adopted for convenience. For example, a 12" LP record has an actual diameter of 11.89 inches (302 mm), and not 12 inches.

The era of gramophone records prevailed for a long time before the advent of digital audio recording, and was characterized by the recording (and replaying) of audio in its analog form.

Even gramophone records have undergone a very fair amount of evolution since their first inception. Good examples of this are their transformation from shellac records (used in and before the early 1900s) to vinyl records (post 1945), and the development of records that supported stereophonic sound as opposed to the previously used system of monophonic audio recording and playback.

With the invention of Long Play (LP) in 1948 and its subsequent widespread use, the audio industry was completely revolutionized. The LP format for records covets quite a significant spot in the history of music recording and playback, as it literally became the standard for music albums. When one thinks about music albums, however, another popular term, Extended Play (EP) comes to mind. This is slightly different from LP, and a lot of people often wonder about the difference between them. We have all the answers here as we have explained the LP format in detail and clearly marked the differences between LP ad EP.

Everything You Need to Know About Long Play (LP) Records
The '78s'
Before vinyl records came into use, the ones made of shellac, which is a kind of abrasive wax, were the prevalent format for musical recordings. These discs were typically 10" or 12" in size, and rotated at a speed of 78 rpm (revolutions per minute). In the post-WW2 days, shellac records began to be called the '78s' to distinguish them from the newly introduced vinyl records, which came in similar sizes.

A "78" could hold around 4 or 5 minutes of music on one side in the case of a 12" disc, and up to 3 minutes in the case of a 10" disc. Obviously, for longer music tracks, this limitation called for frequent disc replacement, and the idea of recording or listening to an entire album from a single disc was entirely unheard of.

Vinyl Records and LP
The practice of manufacturing records made of vinyl was adopted because of the material's low cost (it is basically a plastic called PVC), and also because vinyl was less susceptible to breakage than shellac. Vinyl records too, were manufactured in sizes similar to their predecessors.

Since the 1930s, the project of developing records and record players that could achieve longer playback had been undertaken by a number of record companies, but unfortunately because of the Great Depression, most of these attempts had to be put aside. Finally in 1948, Columbia Records, with the release of their first microgroove Long Play (LP) record, heralded the commercial viability of this format.

Technically speaking, the recording of music on discs is achieved by etching the audio signals on to the tiny grooves present on both the surfaces of record discs. LP records contained grooves having a size of the order of millimeters, and hence, they had a much greater capacity to hold music than previously prevalent records.

One side of a 12" LP record could hold up to 22 minutes of music, which meant that the entire disc could hold up to 45 minutes of music. A 10" LP disc could hold up to 35 minutes of music altogether. These discs rotated at a speed of 33½ rpm.

Apart from soon becoming one of the leading standards in the music industry for recording full albums, LP discs proved to be ideal for classical music because of their increased capacity as compared to their forerunners, the 78s. They were also commonly used for Broadway musicals.

The '45s'
This name was given to another kind of vinyl record that rotated at 45 rpm. These discs were developed and manufactured originally by RCA Records. They were produced in many different sizes, with different music-holding capacities:

The 12" 45 rpm disc that could hold up to 15 minutes of music on one side were direct competition for 12" LP records.
45s were also released as 7" and 10" discs. The 7" 45 rpm records were also known as single records, as they commonly carried singles released by artists. They could hold up to 5 minutes of music per side.
The 10" 45 rpm records, on the other hand, were called Extended Play, or EP records. Their music-holding capacity was around 10 minutes per side. EP records could hold more than a single track, but less music than a full album, owing to its reduced capacity.

Long Play (LP) Albums Vs. Extended Play (EP) Albums

The terms LP and EP have a slightly different meaning when looked at from the point of view of the format for a music album, as opposed to that of the physical media (gramophone records) used to store music.

Kind of Album
In music album terminology, LP is synonymous with 'full album', and is longer than both a single and an EP.
An EP, in terms of music albums, refers to an album that is not as long as a complete album, but comprises more than a single track.
Specifics of Physical Media
Originally, the term was only associated with albums recorded on gramophone records. In the days of vinyl, 12" LP records were used to hold the album. Since CDs are more in use nowadays, LP is also used to describe an album released in a CD.
When it comes to vinyl, a lot of different types of records were used to carry EPs. 10" 45 rpm, the 7" 33½ rpm, or the 10" 33½ rpm vinyl records were used to hold EPs. In the 70s and 80s, the trend adopted by artists, of releasing EPs like they released full albums, became very popular.
The Music
A typical LP is 8-12 tracks long, depending on the length of each track, and the physical media being used. Sometimes LPs may include additional tracks like intros, outros, skits, and the like, and this is especially common in rap/hip-hop LPs.
The typical length of an EP was half the size of a full album, although this varied. An EP could be original songs, or they could be remixes of the artist's own, or another artist's music.
Distribution Method
An LP represents the full creative work that the artist wishes to sell. It is not generally released as a promotional tool, and definitely not distributed free of charge over the Internet.
In the present-day situation, EPs, much like singles, are released as promotional tools. They are often distributed online for free, or are given to record companies by artists who want their talent to be discovered by producers.
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