An album may be recorded in a recording studio (fixed or mobile), in a concert venue, at home, in the field, or a mix of places. The time frame for completely recording an album varies between a few hours and several years. This process usually requires several takes with different parts recorded separately, and then brought or "mixed" together. Recordings that are done in one take without overdubbing are termed "live", even when done in a studio. Studios are built to absorb sound, eliminating reverberation, so as to assist in mixing different takes; other locations, such as concert venues and some "live rooms", allow for reverberation, which creates a "live" sound. The majority of studio recordings contain an abundance of editing, sound effects, voice adjustments, etc. With modern recording technology, musicians can be recorded in separate rooms or at separate times while listening to the other parts using headphones; with each part recorded as a separate track.
Album covers and liner notes are used, and sometimes additional information is provided, such as analysis of the recording, and lyrics or librettos. Historically, the term "album" was applied to a collection of various items housed in a book format. In musical usage the word was used for collections of short pieces of printed music from the early nineteenth century. Later, collections of related 78rpm records were bundled in book-like albums (one side of a 78 rpm record could hold only about 3.5 minutes of sound). When long-playing records were introduced, a collection of pieces on a single record was called an album; the word was extended to other recording media such as compact disc, MiniDisc, compact audio cassette, and digital albums as they were introduced.
The LP record (long play), or 33 1⁄3 rpm microgroove vinyl record, is a gramophone record format introduced by Columbia Records in 1948. It was adopted by the record industry as a standard format for the "album". Apart from relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound capability, it has remained the standard format for vinyl albums. The term "album" had been carried forward from the early nineteenth century when it had been occasionally used in the titles of some classical music sets, such as Schumann's Album for the Young Opus 68, a set of 43 short pieces.
When 78rpm records came out, the popular 10-inch disc could only hold about three minutes of sound per side, so almost all popular recordings were limited to around three minutes in length. Classical-music and spoken-word items generally were released on the longer 12-inch 78s, about 4–5 minutes per side. For example, in 1924, George Gershwin recorded a drastically shortened version of the seventeen-minute Rhapsody in Blue with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. It was released on two sides of Victor 55225 and ran for 8m 59s. Deutsche Grammophon had produced an album for its complete recording of the opera Carmen in 1908. German record company Odeon released the Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky in 1909 on 4 double-sided discs in a specially designed package. This practice of issuing albums does not seem to have been widely taken up by other record companies for many years; however, HMV provided an album, with a pictorial cover, for the 1917 recording of The Mikado (Gilbert & Sullivan).
By about 1910, bound collections of empty sleeves with a paperboard or leather cover, similar to a photograph album, were sold as record albums that customers could use to store their records (the term "record album" was printed on some covers). These albums came in both 10-inch and 12-inch sizes. The covers of these bound books were wider and taller than the records inside, allowing the record album to be placed on a shelf upright, like a book, suspending the fragile records above the shelf and protecting them. In the 1930s, record companies began issuing collections of 78 rpm records by one performer or of one type of music in specially assembled albums, typically with artwork on the front cover and liner notes on the back or inside cover. Most albums included three or four records, with two sides each, making six or eight compositions per album. When the 12-inch vinyl LP era began in 1949, the single record often had the same or similar number of tunes as a typical album of 78s, and was still often referred to as an "album", as they still are today. With the advent of the long-playing record (LP), a 33 1⁄3 rpm microgroove vinyl disc introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, the term was adapted to a single disk which held as much programming as at least four 78s, obscuring the metaphor. The term was extended to other recording media such as Compact audio cassette, compact disc, MiniDisc, and digital albums, as they were introduced. As part of a trend of shifting sales in the music industry, some observers feel that the early 21st century experienced the death of the album.