Taking Inventory: Music Disc

It’s the vinyl countdown!

When I first started playing Minecraft, about a decade ago, one of the many things that made me fall in love with the game was its music. The gentle piano and synth tracks created by German musician C418 were the perfect accompaniment to hours of mining and construction. 

The best thing about Minecraft’s music is that unlike other games, it doesn’t play constantly. Most of the time you only hear the in-game sound effects, but very occasionally – perhaps just as you’re cresting a hill at sunset, the music will gently fade in and for a moment everything will be perfect. 

Then a creeper sneaks up behind you and HISS and BOOM and the moment’s ruined. But there is a way to get that magic back – by intentionally triggering music with our item of the week – the music disc.

Music discs were added to Minecraft in Alpha version 1.0.14 in July 2010, alongside chickens, eggs, and jukeboxes. Minecraft did have music before that, of course, but it would only play randomly. This was the first time players could trigger it themselves.

Originally only two music discs were available, but today there are thirteen different discs to acquire – cat, blocks, chirp, far, mall, mellohi, stal, strad, ward, wail, 11, pigstep, and 13. All were created by C418 except for pigstep by Lena Raine, which was added in the Nether Update.

Want one? A few of them can be found in chests in dungeons and woodland mansions. Pigstep can only be found in chests located in Bastion remnants in the Nether. 

But if you want to collect all thirteen, then you’ll need to take a more dangerous approach. Creepers are big music fans, and carry music discs around with them which will drop on death, but only if they’re killed by an arrow fired by a skeleton or stray. That means putting a creeper in between you and a skeleton who’s still close enough to be able to hit you – not an easy task.

If you can do it right, though, you’ll be rewarded with a random music disc that can be played on a jukebox block.

In the real world, we started storing music on discs in the late 1800s and we’re still doing it today. In early 1877, French poet Charles Cros and American businessman Thomas Edison independently invented machines that could record sound and reproduce it on a circular disc or cylinder. 

Originally these discs were made of paper covered in wax, then tinfoil, then rubber, then Edison invented cylinders made of pure wax – which remained popular all the way through to the early years of the 20th century. But around the turn of the century, Edison’s cylinders were challenged by discs made of celluloid and shellac in the music’s first “format war”.

Shellac discs, which were made out of a natural resin secreted by tree bugs living in India and Thailand, won the first format war. These discs lasted far longer than wax and sounded better, so they remained popular until the 1950s and 60s. This was despite the invention in 1931 of a synthetic plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – better known to music fans as vinyl.

Vinyl records lasted even longer than shellac did, and were lighter and sounded better too. But they were expensive, so it took until after the Second World War – when oil became relatively cheap, before they began to be produced in huge quantities.

Vinyl records were superceded in the 80s by cassettes, and the 90s by CDs, then in the 00s by MP3s and in the 2010s by streaming music. But the popularity of vinyl records among DJs, because you can directly interact with them to scratch, beatmatch and slip-cue, kept the format alive – and today millions of vinyl records are still being sold every year.

So next time you’re deep in combat with a creeper and a skeleton, and through a lucky fluke the creeper dies to the skeleton’s arrows, you’ll want to keep hold of the music disc that drops. People are likely to be listening to them for a long time yet.

Written By
Duncan Geere