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ARSCLIST  February 2021

ARSCLIST February 2021

Subject:

Re: [EXTERNAL] Re: [ARSCLIST] Speeds

From:

John Haley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Tue, 9 Feb 2021 12:28:29 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (161 lines)

You have to check the pitch of every old recording.  There is no other
way.  There are even plenty of LPs that were produced at an inexact speed.
The same is definitely true for tapes of all kinds as well, including
certainly master tapes.  And it seems like most cassette machines were
inaccurate as to speed.

The easy way to check pitch is just check it against an electronic
keyboard, or if you don't have one, a piano that is in tune.  A = 440 is
generally reliable for most non-classical music.  With classical
recordings, sometimes you need to research prevailing tunings for the
location where the recording was made.  E.g., London orchestras have
historically been 440, but Vienna is 442 or 443 (pianos in Vienna are tuned
to 442).  The electronic keyboard I use allows me to reset A, so it is easy
to adjust.  American orchestras vary, and 440 is not uniform.

As for transpositions, they will generally be up or down a half step, more
rarely a whole step (operatic tenors are where most whole step
transpositions are more common, especially caught in live performance).
Very few classical singers would or do transpose upward for vocal comfort.
I can only think of Battistini.

Moving a half step up or down (in error)  drastically changes the sound of
a human singing voice.  For familiar voices, it is fairly easy to be
suspicious when the voice doesn't sound "right."

Gary's point about keys of brass and wind instruments is sometimes a good
clue.  Also, occasionally open strings on bowed string instruments are good
clues.  Dance tempos in pop music recorded for dancing (a huge number), can
also be clues.  E.g., a foxtrot or tango that is too fast is really awkward
to dance to, and most bands who regularly play(ed) for dance crowds
understand/understood this.  Likewise rumba.

The issue is really important.  Even a small pitch error really changes our
responses to a piece of music. It changes orchestral tone, as well as for a
host of other kinds of ensembles, and it can definitely change the
emotional response we have to a recording.  In years past, correcting pitch
could be challenging.  With today's software, there is no good excuse for
releases to be off pitch.

Best,
John Haley



On Tue, Feb 9, 2021, 11:31 AM Gary A. Galo <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hi Paul,
>
> John Bolig's book Caruso Records is a good general guide to the speeds of
> Victor acoustic records, whether you're interested in Caruso or not. His
> 1904-05  Victors are at 78, 1906 things settle in to 76.6, then in the
> teens speeds drop, mostly to 75. But, there are exceptions and, as Dennis
> notes, you really have to listen and check pitch.
>
> Also, common musical sense is necessary. On old band records, note the
> keys that transposing instruments are playing in. If the speed you're using
> has B-flat trumpets, cornets, and clarinets playing in keys like C#, F#,
> forget about it. Drop it a half step and you'll probably have it right. I
> have no idea what your musical background is, so forgive me if I'm telling
> you something that you already know. Transposing instruments do not sound
> the pitches written on the page. B-flat instruments sound a half step lower
> than written. So, if a B-flat cornet is playing a written C, it's actually
> sounding a concert B-flat. Putting transposing instruments in plausible
> keys can be big help in determining playback speeds, especially for more
> popular forms of music.
>
> Classical works are easier because scores are readily available and
> orchestral players are trained to transpose, if necessary. One orchestral
> trumpet player may choose to play a given part on a B-flat trumpet, while
> another will choose a C trumpet, or the conductor may ask them to play a
> certain instrument based on the sound they're looking for. The player will
> transpose their written part at sight, if necessary.
>
> So, for a lot of classical music, the "plausible keys" method won't help.
> But, for old band records and other popular music, it can often help. Also,
> make sure that the pitch is on an actual note relative to A=440 Hz, and not
> somewhere in the crack in between. Aida Favia Artsay made a strong case for
> A=440 from the turn of the century onward, especially in the US. But, some
> orchestras do play a bit higher as time progresses. Once you get into
> electrical recording, you can check the frequency of the power line hum.
> This is easy to do with iZotope Rx software.
>
> I hope this long diatribe helps, and doesn't open as many cans of worms as
> it closes!
>
> All the best,
> Gary
>
>
>
> Get Outlook for Android<https://aka.ms/ghei36>
>
> ________________________________
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <
> [log in to unmask]> on behalf of Dennis Rooney <
> [log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2021 10:49:37 AM
> To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: [EXTERNAL] Re: [ARSCLIST] Speeds
>
> This message did not originate from SUNY Potsdam or one of its trusted
> senders. Do not open attachments, click on links, or provide your
> credentials if the source is suspicious.
>
>
> Dear Paul,
>
> Many ideas about speed have been offered, but the fact is that there is no
> absolute speed for either acoustic or electrical recordings made before
> 1932. Turntable speed and pitch were adjusted in mastering for various
> reasons. The only reliable guide is the pitch of the recording. Vocalists
> often used transpositions that favored them. This introduces a guessing
> game that is resolved only with some expertise. Practically no instrumental
> recordings are played in other than score pitch, the principal exception
> being dance band arrangements. Unless your investigations produce an
> extremely high or low speed, if it sounds right then that's the correct
> playback speed.
>
> Ciao,
>
> DDR
>
> On Tue, Feb 9, 2021 at 1:30 AM Paul Stamler <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> > Hi folks:
> >
> > May I tap the collective wisdom once more?
> >
> > It's pretty well-known among the restoration community that Victor made
> > their acoustical recordings at 76.6 rpm (or close). But I've also been
> > told, by people who seem to know what they're talking about, that the
> > earliest Victors were cut at a slower speed, approximately 72 rpm. I had
> > the occasion to work on a 1901 recording, and I did it first st 76.6,
> > then again at 72, and I must say that the slower ob\ne sounded more
> > natural; the voice has less of a Donald Duck effect.
> >
> > So my questions are two:
> >
> > 1. Is this at all accurate? Were those early Victors truly cut at about
> > 72 rpm?
> >
> > 2. If so, then can anyone suggest an approximate date for the changeover
> > to 76.6 rpm? In other words, up to what recording date should I assume,
> > for my first efforts, a speed of about 72 rpm?
> >
> > Peace,
> > Paul
> >
> > ---
> > This email has been checked for viruses by Avast antivirus software.
> > https://www.avast.com/antivirus
> >
>
>
> --
> 1006 Langer Way
> Delray Beach, FL 33483
> 561.265.2976
>

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