I don't know what it is that you don't believe. I'm not making up the  
points in my comment which your response suggests. This is somewhat  
rude though you might not intend it to be. Like everyone else, I've  
struggled with the problems involved in playing old records. I would  
add that it was not uncommon for arias to be transposed years ago.  
Older opera companies often have transposed versions of arias. Very  
early records sometimes are performances of these transposed versions.

  The problem is compounded by the fact that very few singers sing  
true sharps and flats. Melba seems to be one who does. An early 19th  
century singing teacher who wrote a book on the subject, sorry, I  
don't remember his name, taught singing from a keyboard with extra  
keys for true sharps and flats! The business of pitch and early  
records is complicated.

Malcolm Smith.

On Jun 24, 2009, at 10:30 AM, Steve Abrams wrote:

> 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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