That Lucia Sextet is actually from Feb. 7, 1908 and, despite the label stating a speed of 82, that record is at score pitch (D-flat major) at 78.26-rpm - an oddball, indeed! Favia-Artsay, Bolig and Marston are all in agreement on this (as am I). 


-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Dennis Rooney
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2018 5:12 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording Process in 1920s

Dear Terri,

I hope that what you learned from the posts in answer to your query is that there is no such thing as a standard playback speed for any disc medium.
Speeds have been published by makers, whose own products confounded that "standard".

In a day when almost all phonograph motors were mechanical, there was easy adjustment of speed to bring a recording either up or down to what was perceived as correct pitch.

All cutting lathes had adjustable speed. Lathe operators, when cutting a disc, would often employ a non-standard speed if they calculated that the material recorded was too long to be successfully recorded at standard speed. Also, the use of a non-standard speed would also produce a physical product with a fuller appearing side. The assumption was that the careful listener could adjust the speed to his preference.

As examples of non-standard speed recordings, aside from various examples already cited, are the HMV Sarasate violin recordings, and the famous 1907 Victor recording of the Lucia sextet, "Chi mi frena", which suggests on its label a playback speed of 82 rpm. Many, many other instances exist. In the electrical era, American Columbia engineers constantly recorded at non-standard speeds for all of the reasons already cited, e.g., the Gershwin piano solos are all at speeds other than 78rpm.

In addition to deliberate speed "errors", there are inadvertent ones that must be noted. The governor on the lathe occasionally would fail and speed would change either abruptly or gradually over the side of the record.
Stokowski's Victor Philadelphia Orchestra recordings from October 1927 are particularly prone to this.

The only way to detect the correct speed of a record is WITH YOUR EARS. Do not rely on any published or "suggested" speed for any record made before 1940.

Happy listening,


On Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 11:09 AM, Terri Brinegar <[log in to unmask]>

> Hello All,
> Can anyone tell me if recordings in the 1920s were transferred to disc 
> at exactly the same speed as they were recorded? In other words, if 
> someone is singing an “F” pitch on the recording, is that the actual 
> pitch sung or could the engineer possibly speed it up somehow, thus raising the pitch?
> Not sure if that was possible back then.
> Thank you!
> Terri Brinegar
> PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology
> University of Florida
> [log in to unmask]
> [log in to unmask]

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