DCC Archive pitch questions for Prof. Hoffman

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Paul L., Nov 2, 2001.

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  1. Paul L.

    Paul L. New Member Thread Starter

    Questions, questions, and more questions. Except for compliments, all you ever get is questions.
    Steve, I'm wondering what you do as far as getting tapes played back at the right speed. And rather than let you off easy, and have you say you match the original LP, let's say you have two versions of an LP and they are slightly off from each other. What do you do?
    I have a Dinu Lipatti CD from EMI in which the Enesco Sonata, which should be in D major, and even says so in the title, sounds like E flat major. The source is a radio broadcast. Now I don't know if this was released on LP at the wrong speed or not. How do you think it got this far off in pitch? I brought it down a minor 2nd on SoundForge (5.88%) and now everything sounds fine and the piano sounds like it was played by a mortal.
    Further, more in line with popular music, do engineers adjust speeds of their machines on each song they remaster? If you take, for example, the rare original Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and compare the pitches to the CD, some are faster and some are slower. I'm not talking huge amounts, but if you sync some up, some others are off by 0.3% No big deal, granted, but why are they off at all? I've also compared dubs of truck tapes to released live albums, and if you use the truck tape as the standard, some of the released cuts will be right on, some slower, and some faster. What gives?
    Further further, what do you do in the case of, say, Highway 61 Revisited? If you had been allowed to put out the mono mix, would you have put it out faster, as it was released, than the true-pitch stereo version?
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host


    Tape speed is tricky. Did the engineers mean to speed something up or was it an accident? That's the main issue.

    I have been going through some Dobie Gray master tapes. When I got to The 'In' Crowd" and songs like that, I saw notes in the tape boxes in engineer Larry Levine's handwriting:

    "One wrap", or "Two wraps", or "Three wraps".

    What the heck did that mean? So, I asked him. He looked at me blankly for a second and then his engineering partner Stan Ross chimed in:

    "You remember, Larry. Masking tape!

    Ah, yes. One wrap of masking tape on the cap and pinch roller sped it up a smidgen, two wraps sped it up more, etc.

    So, in THAT case, I did the same, 'cause the three-tracks were all at normal speed; too slow.

    In another case, where the tape is just off due to a crappy machine, I MIGHT correct it, if we aren't all used to hearing it that way for 30 years.

    I always do it with classical or jazz recordings. I use a piano I have upstairs, or a electric pitch checker...

    If I have two LP's that are slightly off, I just adjust to the actual key the music is supposed to be in.

    In the case of mastering engineers adjusting speeds, that hardly ever happens. Once in a while.

    It's the mixing engineer that gets the speed the way the client wants it.

    Tape machines are always off from each other. Can't be helped.

    In the case of the Dylan, I would have used the stereo straight, and then I would have tried to figure out why the mono was off. If they wanted it that way, so be it. If not, I would have fixed it.

    Remember, you have a first generation tape to start with. That is mixed once, and the speed goes off. A dub is made of that on another machine, and the speed of the dub is off. If a dub is made of THAT copy, well, you get the idea...

    Does this help?
  3. RetroSmith

    RetroSmith Forum Hall Of Fame<br>(Formerly Mikey5967)

    East Coast
    Funny story about Pitch and speed:

    The Dave Clarks Fives biggest hit in the USA was "Over and Over", their only number One.

    When they played the mono mix back it seemed to lack energy and drive.
    So, engineer Adrian Kerrige wrapped scotch tape around the capstan, and the speed AND pitch of Mike Smiths voice went up and all agreed that it was perfect. On the harmonica solo, at the very end, the master slipped on the scotch tape and bent the last note of the solo, giving it a "Scotch Vibrato" . This was all captured because they were making a tape copy at the new speed to present to Epic.
    And thats the version we have today!!
  4. Paul L.

    Paul L. New Member Thread Starter

    Thanks, Steve. Fun story.

    I would guess that if on a CD some songs are slightly faster and some are slightly slower than the LP version, that it's a matter of assorted tape decks in the equation. Maybe particular songs remastered on different days and something was different. Because I can't imagine anyone noticing if a given song is, say, one second off over the course of five minutes. Not enough to be an artistic decision, in other words.
  5. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Well I'm one of those people who do notice it and it drives me up the wall! There are several hits that just aren't right on CD.

    "Someday We'll Be Together"-Diana Ross & The Supremes-the mono mix is STILL too fast on every CD to feature it. The speed of the stereo mix is also correct for the mono single.

    "Boogie Shoes"-KC & The Sunshine Band-The single was faster but it was much slower on the original LP from which it came. It has yet to appear at it's recorded speed on CD. When Rhino remastered this album when they aquired the rights to the T.K. catalog they used the WRONG speed again! They also used questionable tapes. Bill Inglot did NOT remaster it, but it's still Rhino!

    "Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)"-GQ-It is waaay too fast on a Priority CD compilation released in the late 80s. BUT, it is also the only CD that uses the correct 45 RPM single edit of the song. Sigh! I could write a book on songs with the wrong edits on CD! And, most of them are Rhino's fault!

    The whole "Ladies' Night" CD by Kool & The Gang is too friggin' fast! The LP was slower, and I won't even get into the
    soundof it! I'll just say it's awful! And, the artwork is wrong. The CD is worthless! Why didn't they remaster this years ago when they were refurbushing their catalog? Why?

    [ November 02, 2001: Message edited by: Grant T. ]
  6. Doug Hess Jr.

    Doug Hess Jr. Active Member

    Belpre, Ohio
    I agree with you. I bought Ladie's Night on 45 when it came out. It JUMPED out of my stereo with super sound and the bass was superb! I can't find that sound any place else- album, CD, compilation.
    P.S. I've got a web page where I would be happy to put your list of songs and why the version released is wrong-- my favorite example of that is "Brandy" by Looking Glass. The 45 is faster and the mix is different than on the album. ALMOST every release I've heard, except for the one on the SONY LEGACY "Rock Artifacts" collection is the album version sped up-- and most of the time they don't even bother to do that.
  7. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    BUT, the 45 of Ladies' Night WAS speeded up and EQ'd different than the original LP. The Mercury/Chronicles' Kool & The Gan best of CD is the only place that uses the correct tape of "Too Hot". That whole LP was bass heavy too. It sounded great. It would be nice to see Steve Hoffman do this album but I don't think it's what DCC wants to do.

    The single version of "Brandy" was intentional, as was the LP version. Many times they speeded up a mix to make a song sound more exciting and to help shorten it up for radio.

    I would be very interested in helping you out with that website. It would be a great recource for collectors. I know the guys at BSN would like it because several of us have been talking about putting out a book detailing single versions.
  8. Jeff H.

    Jeff H. Well-Known Member

    Grant, I couldn't agree with you more about the CD version of "Ladies Night". That CD was put out by Polygram's Special Markets label Rebound who was infamous for putting out substandard reissues of classic albums. Another example was their horrendous reissue of Quincy Jones' "Walking In Space"(which has thankfully been remastered since). One of these days they'll get around to doing that Kool & The Gang album right. Definitely one of the best albums from the JT Taylor years.
  9. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    BUT, the Rebound CD was just the same version Polygram used in the initial run of the CD. Apparently, the decision makers at Polygram, now UNI don't realize/care that the "Ladies Night" CD is WRONG.
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