From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad
Thornton Hagert wrote:
> In response to Dave Lewis' recent message "I Heard the Voice of the
> Chipmunk" - about recording speeds, I have noticed instances of
> recording companies deliberately recording at other-than-playback
> speeds, for various reasons. The following examples come to mind;
> if I check them more carefully, this message will never be written.
> Edison 51056, Broadway Dance Orchestra "Russian Rose", plays
> back in the key of F but was clearly performed in Eb and recorded
> "slowly". See my notes for the Smithsonian album DMM2-0518, "An
> Experiment In Modern Music" Paul Whiteman at Aeolian Hall. How
> often did Edison do this ?
> Okeh 40675, Cookie's Gingersnaps, "Love Found You for Me"
> plays back in the key of B natural (which seems unlikely) Why the
> speed-up ? I don't know. (I haven't checked the others recorded
> at this session.)
> Vocalion 1108, Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra,
> "Forevermore" plays very slow (I forget what key); the song was
> published in C, and the orchestration in Db which is the key that
> Guy Lombardo recorded it. My guess is that Vocalion wanted the
> recording to fill the whole record and so recorded it at a faster
> I'd be interested in other such examples.
----- directly to this request I would quote the practice of the VTMC that
recorded at 76 rpm but recommended reproduction at 78 rpm. This was confirmed
by Victor staff to the Gramophone Company who were reluctant to adopt this,
because they were very satisfied with recording at 78 rpm. The first instance
I have found was W. N. Dennison who was temporarily working for the
Gramophone Company ca. 1911. The second instance is Raymond Sooy while
restructuring the Gramophone Recording department in 1921, who insisted (and
apparently was followed as in his other recommendations). This was to obtain
the uniformity that permitted the matrix exchange between the companies.
I have in a previous publication speculated on the reasoning behind this
practice, and I can only surmise that it is a question of "stagger-tuning"
the acoustic recording and reproducing systems. Due to the absolute
dimensions used in soundboxes, stylus bars, etc., which were definitely of
the same order of magnitude in both recording and reproduction, some
resonances that had created large excursions of the groove at recording would
excite resonances in the reproducing system at the same frequencies, and that
would increase wear terribly. Victor was always very conscious of the
longevity of their records, much more than the Gramophone Co. Also, a wear
test was really the only quantitative way they could measure the quality of
recording. The upward change in speed would move the disturbing frequencies
upwards, and possibly out of some fairly narrow resonances at reproduction,
creating both a broader sound and less wear. I have never checked when Victor
ended the practice and went for 78 rpm at recording.
The need for longevity was also behind Victor's groove-broadening ("ironing-
out") process and their slow-speed re-recording with a "better" groove shape.
I seem to have noted that while the Heritage series (red vinyl) obviously has
much less noise, they are in many cases using modified grooves, i.e. not
directly derived from the original negative. This creates an "unnecessary"
distortion--at least to our point of view.
----- the traditional way of making a recording fill more of the surface
available was to decrease the groove pitch--for instance Tamagno's Esultate.
----- However, the fundamental question, that of Dave Lewis and his
chipmunking is: is it not proven, then, that we cannot rely on re-issues but
need constant access to the originals, or at least calibrated re-recordings
The easiest is obviously to have a reference transfer made at a trusted known
speed--that is all that is required, and we can work from that. In 1982 I
made a 7" vinyl calibration record that was supposed to be put on top of a
record to be transferred, and it contained a calibration track (and some
other nice features). The intention was that the turntable would be started,
the tape recorder would be started, the pickup playing the calibration track,
the pickup moved out of the way, the calibration record being lifted away by
means of a small piece of wire cemented to the label, and then the real
transfer could begin. This way a calibration track would precede the
transferred recording on the tape. The frequency of the calibration track? It
was calculated to be 10 times the rpm of the turntable, in other words, at 78
rpm it gave out 780 Hz, suitable for a frequency counter. In use of the tape
as a secondary master, the content could be de-chipmunked by changing the
speed of the tape recorder, and the tape rewound to the calibration track,
which was measured by the counter and would give the rpm of the original
record at the de-chipmunked speed. This way, the actual transfer rpm is
completely immaterial and may be chosen for good tracking--we can still get
at the rpm, just as if we had access to the original record. This way avoids
a lot of arithemetic. Two US archives have this record, but they may have
forgotten. They are more likely to remember Emory Cook's well-tempered record
(which was made for 33 1/3 rpm, however).