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ARSCLIST  June 2009

ARSCLIST June 2009

Subject:

Re: Recording Speed

From:

Steve Abrams <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 24 Jun 2009 18:30:17 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (260 lines)

I don't believe you.  A little thought would show that this is impossible. 
The difference between 440 cycles and 465 cycles corresponds exactly to one 
semitone, in which case the music is transposed into a higher key.

A great deal has been written about the history of the standards for pitch.

I'm not going to get into this subject here except to make one point which 
is almost universally ignored.  If a record does not sound right at 440 
cycles, transfer engineers try it at 435.  However, the pitch of 435 cycles 
is defined with respect to a temperature of 15 degrees centigrade, which is 
about 59 Fahrenheit.  The pitch of 440 cycles is defined with reference to a 
temperature of 20 degrees centigrade or 68 Fahrenheit.  If you correct for 
the differences in temperature there isn't much difference in the standards. 
Also, pitch is inversely proportional to humidity.

Another point worth making is that the pitch of an orchestra tends to rise 
as it warms up; for example, in the course of an Act of an opera.  Transfer 
engineers tend to edit out this significant factor in issues of live 
recordings.

If you look at Moran's determination of pitch for Victor electric recordings 
you will begin to get an idea of how much variation there is in practice.

I suggest reading the chapter on pitch in Michael Henstock's biography of 
Fernando de Lucia.

In general, a difference of half of one per cent is not noticeable.  A 
difference of one per cent is tolerable.   Two per cent is unacceptable.  It 
changes the character of a voice, especially an operatic voice and is two 
thirds of the way to a quarter-tone.  Strangely however, there are some 
records which are difficult to place in the correct key.  For example, Ward 
Marston couldn't make up his mind about a group of Patti's recordings and 
transferred them both ways.

Those of us who are interested in early vocals can outdo audiophiles in 
crankiness by matching both the temperature and humidity of the original 
recording venue.

Steve Abrams



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Malcolm Smith" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 4:26 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Speed


> In the late nineteenth century Adlina Patti threatened to go on  strike in 
> London if tuning to 465 was continued at the Opera house!  Perhaps this 
> was the first attempt to standardize pitch for singers.  She was the one 
> singer there at the time who had the clout to do  this. Early records and 
> accounts would suggest that the effort only  worked in London. There are 
> references, if my memory serves to 421  1/2 in France and I've also read 
> complaints that the orchestra in  Vienna's opera house was especially 
> sharp. We've all witnessed the  first violin in orchestras providing a 
> pitch for the tuning of the  string section. Simply pitching early 
> recordings to 440 doesn't  always work though it's a place to start. The 
> other problem is that  early records often are not a constant speed from 
> beginning to end. I  won't do more than suggest it but the way organs were 
> tuned brings up  a whole different aspect of this subject.
>
> Malcolm Smith.
>
> On Jun 23, 2009, at 2:04 PM, Steven Smolian wrote:
>
>> Usually A=440.  From 1916 on, certainly 440 in the US if newer  musical 
>> instruments were used. The Navy recognized 440 that year,  followed by 
>> the National Bureau of Standards then or the year  following- I forget 
>> which. This may have been abetted by our  impending entry into WWI. 
>> Years ago I gave an ARSC talk on this  subject, not published.
>>
>> Thus all US military and reserve bands were to use 440 and replace 
>> instruments if they were incapable of or, perhaps, awkward at,  tuning to 
>> this A.  The "Charles Ives" effect of bands playing at  different pitches 
>> (his "Three Places in New England") may have been  limited to amateur and 
>> municipal bands without funds to reequip  themselves.
>>
>> I'm convinced that this brought a bunch of older band instruments  into 
>> the surplus market at much reduced prices.  They may have gone  to hock 
>> shops or been given to servants (in those days, many even  lower class 
>> households had them.)  I've long assumed the funky  sound of some early 
>> jazz bands on record was a result of this  technology transfer.  I once 
>> mentioned this to Guther Schuller who  disagreed, but I still think this 
>> aspect of musical history needs  further exploring.
>>
>> In the early 1960s I talked with a fellow at Steinway who tuned the 
>> pianos at the Victor Studios.  He told me that he worked on pianos  used 
>> at the time of Caruso's recording sessions to A=440.  Caruso  died in 
>> August, 1921 so that gives a "no later than" date.
>>
>> Starr Piano Company didn't make Steinway-quality instruments but  one 
>> assumes they took sufficient care with Gennetts to present  their studio 
>> instruments in tune, seeing the records as, in part, a  promotional tool. 
>> I have an H&D Gennett which advertises their  pianos rather than records. 
>> I'm not sure at what pitch (from the  pine) Wisconsin Chairs resonated 
>> to.
>>
>> Steve Smolian
>>
>>
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Don Chichester" <[log in to unmask]>
>> To: <[log in to unmask]>
>> Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 4:25 PM
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Speed
>>
>>
>>>
>>> I have one of those 'dog whistles'.  8>)
>>> I guess I was referring to a reference tone, not a pilot tone.  Tuning 
>>> A.
>>> What was that frequency back in the 'teens?
>>> Don Chichester
>>>
>>> In a message dated 6/23/2009 4:16:34 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
>>> [log in to unmask] writes:
>>>
>>> From:  Don Chichester <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Re: pilot tone. Is this what is  recorded on some Euopean acoustics
>>>> back in the early 'teens? If so,  what is their pitch?  Don  Chichester
>>>
>>> A pilot tone is recorded  continuously with the entire recording from
>>> beginning to end.  It is  sent into a resolver which steadys it which
>>> will restore the recording to  original pitch and undo any  variations 
>>> in
>>> speed that might have happened  during recording.  It will be either
>>> filtered out of the sound  recording, or is recorded 2-track out- 
>>> of-phase
>>> and will disappear when  played with a full-track mono head.  This 
>>> allows
>>> the tape to be synced  with the film which is assumed to run at a
>>> constant 24 frames per  second.  What you might be referring to is a
>>> reference tone like what  I mentioned with the Sarasate records  where a
>>> tuning A was played in a  separate band at the end of the side.  I 
>>> don't
>>> know of any others --  maybe our European collectors do.  Unless  you 
>>> are
>>> thinking about the  high pitched chattering that sometimes is  recorded 
>>> on
>>> wax master discs that  get too warm.  Since these are heard  especially 
>>> on
>>> early Victor  Orthophonics, they are often called "His Master's
>>> Dogwhistle".
>>>
>>> Mike  Biel  [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>>
>>> In a message dated 6/23/2009  2:58:27 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
>>> [log in to unmask] writes:
>>>
>>> From:  Doug Pomeroy <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Thanks Mike.
>>>> I was  most confused by George's reference to "the counter", which
>>>> appeared  with no explanation that I could find.
>>>
>>> It was hidden away a few  sentences earlier, at the end of the second
>>> sentence of the part I'm  reprinting below.
>>>
>>>
>>>> > 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.
>>>
>>>> It is much simpler  than I thought. Doug
>>>
>>> I believe as turntables with internal speed  counters became more 
>>> common,
>>> George backed away from mass producing the  little calibration  discs, 
>>> but
>>> now more than ever with digitization of  recordings being made  without
>>> documentation of rotational speed, this would  be a quick and easy  way 
>>> to
>>> supply a notation of rotational speed in just  one extra step. If all
>>> records had been made with a reference tone like the  Seresate  records,
>>> things would be so much easier!
>>>
>>> While we are on  the subject of using known frequency tones to 
>>> determine
>>> speed, the ARSC  presentation of the Early Sounds project  explained 
>>> that
>>> Leon Scott's  Phonautograph continuously recorded a tuning fork tone
>>> alongside of the  sound, which now enables the constant speed  playback 
>>> of
>>> these hand-driven  pre-tinfoil recordings. This is now called the 
>>> "Pilot
>>> Tone" system, and is  still used to synchronize sproketless- analogue 
>>> tape
>>> sound with motion  picture film. I don't think this has ever been
>>> discussed, but not only did  Leon Scott apparently invent sound
>>> recording, he also apparently invented  the Pilot Tone speed  resolution
>>> system.
>>>
>>> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>>
>>>> Date: Mon, 22 Jun 2009 11:23:26 -0700
>>>> From: Michael  Biel <[log in to unmask]>
>>>> Subject: Re: (Fwd) [ARSCLIST] Fwd:  Recording Speed
>>>>
>>>> I understand what George is saying partially  because I've seen him
>>>> do it and I am lucky enough to have one of his  calibration discs.
>>>> In case Doug and others still do not understand it,  Doug's snip
>>>> cut out the important info and left in material that has  no
>>>> meaning without the snipped part.
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> In 1982  George commissioned a 7-inch pressing made of a 450 Hz.
>>>> tone cut at  45.0 RPM. That disc can be played at any RPM and a 
>>>> frequency
>>>> counter  will show a reading that is 10 times that RPM. (Play it  at 
>>>> 73.7
>>> RPM
>>>> and it shows 737.0 Hz. 78.26 shows 782.6 Hz. Etc.) If you have a
>>>> frequency counter handy, you can find what rotational speed you are
>>> using. BUT,
>>>> if you include a few seconds of that calibration disc  played on the
>>>> same turntable at the time of your transfer of the  record you are
>>>> working on, then later on that frequency can be read  with a  counter 
>>>> and
>>> at any
>>>> time you can establish the rotational  speed you used. It's like an
>>> audible
>>>> strobe disc that has the  unique ability to be recorded, and it  is as
>>>> accurate as your frequency  counter is. Sure, you could use a normal
>>>> test disc of, say, a 1000 Hz.  tone, but George's disc is more 
>>>> directly
>>>> readable without using math  to have to determine percentage of 1000
>>>> Hz. whatever tone you  used.
>>>>
>>>> Mike Biel [log in to unmask]
>>>
>>>
>>>
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