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Kinda OT: Off-Pitch Recordings


ITGITC

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How is it that some older recordings, reissued on digital media, are off-pitch with the standard A=440?

 

Just where in the process did this occur?

 

Tom

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I remember reading that for some of the Beatles recordings it was on the multi-track tape ... sometimes to brighten the voices.

 

I think these were off-pitch on the original LP's as well though ... are you talking about situations where the digital remaster is pitched differently than the vinyl?

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I've heard it on newer recordings too. When I try to play along, it makes my piano sound out of tune. :mad:

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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I remember reading that for some of the Beatles recordings it was on the multi-track tape ... sometimes to brighten the voices.

 

I think these were off-pitch on the original LP's as well though ... are you talking about situations where the digital remaster is pitched differently than the vinyl?

 

In general.

 

I've read there are various reasons why the pitch may not be A=440; on vinyl as well as digital remasters.

 

I thought that perhaps someone here knew for sure.

 

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Tom, the reasons vary. Sometimes it was done intentionally, sometimes accidentally. When it was done intentionally, I believe the digital versions tend to leave it as such. Otherwise, they decide whether to correct it in the remaster. Kind of Blue is a famous example of this. Look at the Release History section.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kind_of_blue

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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I remember reading that for some of the Beatles recordings it was on the multi-track tape ... sometimes to brighten the voices.

 

On the old records, Billy Joel and Elton John sound like members of the Chipmunks. I know they have aged some, but live they sound like Paul Robeson singing Ol' Man River. :laugh:

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Back in the vinyl era, sometimes it occurred during mastering/sequencing, to ensure that they didn't run over the available time per side.

 

As has been mentioned, sometimes things were sped up to increase the 'energy' of the track.

 

In short, there's no single reason for this. :)

 

Yup! And that is exactly why I asked the forum.

 

I'd love to hear the various reasons why a track may have been pitch-altered. There are lots of guys here who may have the inside scoop, and I was hoping they would share. :)

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I googled for words like CD, reissue, speed, pitch - and there's a lot of geeky web pages out there comparing all the remasters in minute detail for Dylan, Beatles etc. Plenty to read if you're interested!

 

And, as others have said, it seems the consensus from the pages I read is some pitch issues were due to equipment inconsistencies, some due to deliberate speeding up to stop things dragging.

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There are ways to adjust the playback speed to pitch nowadays. With the right equipment, you can even play a track back at half-speed without changing the pitch, and adjust a track to 440 if you want to.

Of course, the original recordings often sound great unless you try to play along with them. 440 is just a convention; it's not etched in stone!

Can't you electronic keyboardists just adjust 440 to 439 or 441 at will, anyway?? Sort of hard to do that with an acoustic piano, I guess, LOL.

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I'd be surprised to find that there are digital remasters where the originals were on-pitch but the remasters are off-pitch.

 

It's not unusual for older originals to be off-pitch, for the reasons mentioned above:

- inadvertently, due to instrument tuning in the studio

- inadvertently, for technical reasons (eg, tape speed mismatch)

- intentionally, to affect the sound

- intentionally, to affect the duration

 

or due to any other strange idea that might enter the producer's head.

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I'd be surprised to find that there are digital remasters where the originals were on-pitch but the remasters are off-pitch.

 

It's not unusual for older originals to be off-pitch, for the reasons mentioned above:

- inadvertently, due to instrument tuning in the studio

- inadvertently, for technical reasons (eg, tape speed mismatch)

- intentionally, to affect the sound

- intentionally, to affect the duration

 

or due to any other strange idea that might enter the producer's head.

 

+1 I'm not 100% sure but i think The Doors remasters are off-pitch, the debut that is or is it just light my fire? haven't listened in a while. :confused:

"The purple piper plays his tune, The choir softly sing; Three lullabies in an ancient tongue, For the court of the crimson king"
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I've heard it on newer recordings too. When I try to play along, it makes my piano sound out of tune. :mad:

 

that's why we have tuning adjustment available in keyboards.

The 440hz A is a conventional thing not an absolute.

 

 

p.s.

some may record like this to make it harder to copy their

tunes :grin:

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Without claiming I "have" the subject (as some people seem to think) or invented the ideas I'm sure there are various interesting sides to this, including different tunings and of course the at least centuries old debate, about the concert grand A being tuned to 339Hz or 444Hz or probably somewhere in between.

 

When (re-)mastering and even while recording album tracks there are quite a few pitch changing effects possible, apart from the above-mentioned tape-recorder inaccuracies such as temperature, dirt on the parts, the flanges being full or empty, small differences between multi-track machines, temperature influences and tape stretching (from the many times the various tracks are being used on the same piece of tape).

 

To counter reverberations, to mellow the tone, to compress various parts of the spectrum in a pleasing way, and even multi-tracked harmonics from a single instrument can give impressions of different tunings or actually be de-tunings, easily.

 

During mastering and (unfortunately in some cases) re-mastering it appears to me a lot can have happened to the materials on the original master tape or master DAT (for CDs). Some of the FFT-based waveform, spectrum and otherwise noodling with parts of the songs and the stitching of all this "work" is often completely aside from decent processing and may well have tuning effects.

 

And finally: a (practice) piano has an evolving tone which can certainly not be related to any specific frequency over the whole course of the envelope, and even more so the frequencies of the harmonics change with time, and the higher and lowe tuning of the bass and treble side probably has effect on the A-440 too. And the interference from the tones being together with a(n) (older) produced recording with a real piano is bound to have interesting tuning effects.

 

Theo

 

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Thanks Theo.

 

I'm using electronic keyboards; not an acoustic piano. Of course I can adjust the pitch on these keyboards.

 

My question pertains to why some recordings, usually older recordings, aren't pitched at A=440 - even though they are from the same artist's album - a Greatest Hits compilation, for instance.

 

Theo, you have many good explanations (below). However, I would think that an artist would want to keep the pitch at the original frequency he recorded it - unless the decision was to deliberately alter it.

 

So, if upon listening to the master tape, the artist discovered that the pitch was altered in some way, I think he would have said something to the engineer like, "Why"?

 

Otherwise, it was deliberate. And this is not only the crux of my question, but where the responses could get interesting.

 

I was hoping for anecdotal responses - actual experiences - from guys who have been in the studio and perhaps made these decisions for themselves.

 

Thanks!

 

Tom

 

 

When (re-)mastering and even while recording album tracks there are quite a few pitch changing effects possible, apart from the above-mentioned tape-recorder inaccuracies such as temperature, dirt on the parts, the flanges being full or empty, small differences between multi-track machines, temperature influences and tape stretching (from the many times the various tracks are being used on the same piece of tape).

 

To counter reverberations, to mellow the tone, to compress various parts of the spectrum in a pleasing way, and even multi-tracked harmonics from a single instrument can give impressions of different tunings or actually be de-tunings, easily.

 

During mastering and (unfortunately in some cases) re-mastering it appears to me a lot can have happened to the materials on the original master tape or master DAT (for CDs). Some of the FFT-based waveform, spectrum and otherwise noodling with parts of the songs and the stitching of all this "work" is often completely aside from decent processing and may well have tuning effects.

 

Theo

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Actually, a much more recent example (and completely different reasoning) would be Heart's "Alone" - from the 1986 Bad Animals release.

 

The single version is literally 1-1/2 steps up from standard. Reasoning? MTV insisted the track be shortened for their rotation, and there really wasn't anything available to cut out of the song, so they sped it up.

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Many times, the speed was changed during mix-down intentionally. Listen to Zeppelins Houses of the Holy. Some of the pitch alterations are subtle (like Song Remains the Same, which changes Plants voice timbre a bit), whereas No Quarter is a bit more drastic (1/2 step down to increase the creepy factor, and again, really changes the timbre of Plants voice).

 

Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower records have pitch fluctuations everywhere. I used to think it was that they tuned the guitar to whatever sounded best for that song. Judging from the quality of the vocal tracks (which exhibit no timbre changes due to vari-speed), I think that still may be the case, or that they altered and fixed the tape speed before adding vocal tracks. Trowers Bridge of Sighs changes pitch on every song.

 

Of course Prince, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Beatles and Lindsey Buckingham used vari-speed as an intended effect in the recording process, some for instruments, others (Prince and Bucking in particular) to create vocal sections.

 

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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I've heard it on newer recordings too. When I try to play along, it makes my piano sound out of tune. :mad:

Maybe your piano is out of tune.

Nope. Not that much.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Actually, a much more recent example (and completely different reasoning) would be Heart's "Alone" - from the 1986 Bad Animals release.

 

The single version is literally 1-1/2 steps up from standard. Reasoning? MTV insisted the track be shortened for their rotation, and there really wasn't anything available to cut out of the song, so they sped it up.

 

What about The Doors, any info on that? I swear i've heard so many different pitches on the studio version that it scares me.

"The purple piper plays his tune, The choir softly sing; Three lullabies in an ancient tongue, For the court of the crimson king"
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Of course Prince, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Beatles and Lindsey Buckingham used vari-speed as an intended effect in the recording process, some for instruments, others (Prince and Bucking in particular) to create vocal sections.

 

"Tell me who in this house know 'bout the quake!" - vs - "Bob?!? Ain't that a bitch."

 

And yeah, those songs are among the very few that really lost something when he played them live, because his voice wasn't properly munchkinized or Lurched. Which is odd, because I thought the technology to do that in real-time was commonplace by the late '80s.

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I've not been around in recording studios when a major act would do their production, though I've certainly been in the type of spaces and of course heard the result over the radio, records, cassettes, tapes, videos and CDs and lately analyzed a number of recordings and from the things I've read and heard I'm sure there's a lot of track processing going on, and I know for a fact that live there are a boatload of Lexicon and similar quality effects applicable to do a whole lot with the sound.

 

Pitching isn't necessarily the same as Donald Duck type of things, also the effect of playing with the harmonics of sounds and intelligent reverbs effects can have serious pitch implications. Pitching the multitrack tape without changing the ultimate pitch of the tracks can be done to get different results though effects units, like you record a piano, play back a few notes lower, add reverb, and play the result back normal. That at least changes the perceived sample frequency of the effect, which was certainly still an issue in the 80s.

 

Sometimes CDs have been processed and I have the impression (can't prove it but certainly make it credible) at times that happens by crudely adding parts of a track at another point of the track with slight detuning. I think artists and studios of the good kind have devised many tricks to prevent the obvious processing of their material.

 

Lastly, resampling is an issue to, depending on the (re-) mastering studio, going from the DAT masters to 44.1 requires a long filter, which possibly is sinned against by "other types of processing". There are ways to include long FFT based effects in the signals to find a lot of the original back, but when you don't do that, pitch may have suffered like a bad sounding mp3...

 

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When I saw this thread, I thought it was about old Johnny Cash records. Usually, it was that the guitars were out of tune, not Johnny's voice. All and all, it sounded bad. :rawk:

 

Mike T.

Yamaha Motif ES8, Alesis Ion, Prophet 5 Rev 3.2, 1979 Rhodes Mark 1 Suitcase 73 Piano, Arp Odyssey Md III, Roland R-70 Drum Machine, Digitech Vocalist Live Pro. Roland Boss Chorus Ensemble CE-1.

 

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Actually, a much more recent example (and completely different reasoning) would be Heart's "Alone" - from the 1986 Bad Animals release.

No thank you for reminding me about this shit sandwich. :sick:

 

Hey, my cover band plays that "shit sandwich", and it's actually kind of fun, as I play the supporting keys (synth strings) and do the vocal harmonies. Aping the exaggerated movements from the video makes it comical (you know, throw head back dramatically and slam down on those chords)...

 

You gotta have fun with stuff. That's all I'm saying.

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