Fact Check

Can a 'Record-Reading' Man Identify Music by Examining Record Grooves?

He was said to have the ability to identify, almost flawlessly, orchestral music from Beethoven to the present.

Published Nov 8, 1996

Updated Aug 25, 2022
Woman composing at home. Madrid, Spain (Getty Images/Stock Photo)
Woman composing at home. Madrid, Spain (Image Via Getty Images/Stock Photo)
A Philadelphia doctor named Arthur Lintgen could identify the contents of phonograph records merely by examining the grooves.


Dr. Arthur Lintgen, a Philadelphia physician, could — within prescribed limits — determine which works of classical music are present on a phonograph record by "reading" the record's grooves. His ability is not the result of any trickery — he performs the feat by combining a thorough knowledge of classical music with the technique of determining the structure and dynamics of a piece of music by examining the spacing and pattern of the grooves.

Lintgen, an ardent audiophile and classical music devotee, first developed his ability to "read" records after being challenged to try it at a party in 1977. He is able to identify, almost flawlessly, orchestral music from Beethoven to the present. He performs this feat by examining the spacing and contour of the grooves on a record; from this examination he can determine how many movements a piece is divided into, how long each movement is, and the relative loudness and percussiveness of the movements. Drawing upon his encyclopedic knowledge of classical music, Lintgen can accurately identify which work fits the patterns suggested by the record grooves.   


Holland, Bernard.   "A Man Who Sees What Others Hear." The New York Times.   19 November 1981   (p. C28).

Seckel, Al.   "The Man Who Could Read the Grooves." Los Angeles Times.   19 October 1987   (p. B3).

Time.   "Read Any Good Records Lately?" 4 January 1982   (p. 88).


Update [May 23, 2007]

Update [Aug. 25, 2022]: Updated formatting.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Read More

a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.


Ad-Free Browsing on Snopes.com
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime