If you’re interested in music, you may have seen the phrase liner notes before. But what exactly does it refer to? And what are liner notes for?
What Are Liner Notes?
Liner notes are pieces of paper included in the sleeves of LP record albums and the cases of CDs. They are also found in cassette tape cases. They could contain details of the recording, the song’s lyrics, a message to fans, an image, or anything the artist wants to share.
Liner notes may have started with LPs, but they were continued into the age of cassettes and CDs. The notes are quite extensive in LPs, usually the same size as the record sleeve. They typically take up at least the front of one piece of paper, if not the front and back.
The notes might be expanded into a booklet depending on the recording artist and the production company. This style is still common today with contemporary LPs and the new editions of older albums. When it comes to CDs, more often than not, the liner notes are composed of multiple pages that you can flip through like a booklet.
Origin of Liner Notes
The original liner notes were inspired by programs handed out at musical performances of all varieties. These notes would tell the audience who the performers were, what songs they would sing, and in what order. You can still receive such programs at professional concerts, which are most common at operas or classical orchestra performances.
Liner Note Materials
Depending on the album you buy, liner notes may contain any, or all, of the following. They often featured factual material, such as where and when the album got produced, song titles, lyrics, the artists who performed each song, the instruments used, the producer, and anyone else who worked on an album.
The liner notes are also likely to include one song per page, especially if they got included with a CD. The song title gets followed by the complete song lyrics, which many music lovers enjoy having access to. For classical music, or that which is recorded in a language that the listener may not know, the liner notes might include a translation in multiple languages. For example, an opera in Italian that’s translated to English, German, and French in the liner notes.
Digital Liner Notes
In the age of digital music, liner notes are something of a relic. Today, more listeners download music online than ever before. Plus, with the advent of streaming platforms, there’s no need to seek out and pay the individual artist. Despite these immense changes in the ways listeners acquire music, liner notes have survived in a digital form.
Depending on your streaming platform, you may or may not have access to digital liner notes along with the album. These notes include credits for individual tracks displayed in an interactive menu rather than in a booklet.
What Are Liner Notes? Final Thoughts
Liner notes are a traditional element included with a physical CD, LP, or cassette. They can be booklets, single sheets of paper, or one piece folded in half. They usually contain all the most important information bout an album, Including but not limited to:
- The musicians’ names
- The instruments used
- Which artist played on which song
- The song titles
- The song lyrics
- The producer
- Names of anyone else who worked on the album
- Translation of lyrics in another language
- The dates, times, and locations where the album was made
In some contemporary liner notes, recording artists can use liner notes to express another element of their creativity. They might include pictures of the band, drawings, sketches, pictures of the original lyrics, and even messages to the fans, thanking them for their time.
While liner notes might seem like a thing of the past, they are still in a new digital form. Although less accessible to listeners and not always obvious, it’s still possible to access everything you need to know about an album, including the lyrics, within digital albums.