The Invention that Changed Everything

A curiosity of early musical recordings from the 1890s through the 1920s is that there are thousands of recordings featuring obscure musicians but there were no recordings by some of the musical masters of the time.


Because the microphones of the time were primitive. They were only designed to pick up extreme frequencies, so the sounds of the banjo and tuba were in and so were singers with booming voices, like Caruso, Al Jolson and Bessie Smith. Meanwhile, certain instruments like the piano were too quiet to be recorded, so great artists like Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and Tony Jackson were left with zero recordings. A real shame!

The invention of the electric microphone (1924) changed everything. Out went the old style and in came a more subtle, sophisticated music era. Crooners like Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra emerged and became even more popular than the bands that accompanied them. Phased out of pop music were the sounds of the banjo and the tuba. They were replaced by the modern guitar and stringed bass.

(Thanks to the Elements of Jazz Course by Prof. Bill Messenger.)

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One Response to “The Invention that Changed Everything”

  1. Viva DeWinter Says:

    Where can I buy this 1920’s microphone?