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What is a Take?

As in motion pictures, a “take” is each successive attempt at capturing a performance. For example when Billy Murray recorded “Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis” his first recorded attempt was called “take one” and the next “take two” and so forth.

Often the artist would come back again, sometimes the following week, sometimes several years later, and re-record the piece, always with the same matrix number and consecutive take numbers. For example, on August 11, 1903, members of Sousa’s Band recorded matrix B-241 for Victor, take one of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Three days later they returned and re-recorded the same piece, also using B-241 as the matrix number, but this time, it was take two. The following month, on September 4, they returned and recorded take three of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Sousa’s band eventually got up to take sixteen of this famous Sousa march, which was recorded on December 13, 1912.

Why so many takes? Oftentimes, especially in the very early days of mass producing records, the components used in pressing the discs would wear out, necessitating the return of the artist. In the case of this famous Sousa march, it is not clear as to why so many repeat performances and many recorded quite close together. Of the 16 takes of matrix B-241, 12 known to have been issued.