Why are some songs/albums "out of tune"?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by braveheart, May 25, 2019.

  1. braveheart

    braveheart Member

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    ...just wanted to play along with "everybody wants to rule the world" ...and it's totally "off key"

    the same with Bryan Adam's "Thought I'd died and gone to heaven"....
    whole album is ok...

    .....but that song:eek:ut of tune!

    Why....and that are just examples?
     
  2. Markdude

    Markdude Member

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    Tape speed variations and everyone tuning by ear are common reasons.
     
  3. soundchaser59

    soundchaser59 Silver Supporting Member

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    And some deliberately detuned. You'll find some that are a perfect half step lower than standard.
     
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  4. GibsonMarshallguy41

    GibsonMarshallguy41 Member

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    I read that Hendrix would often not bother to tune to any exact pitch. he would typically just make sure that him and Noel or Billy were both in tune to each other.
     
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  5. Scafeets

    Scafeets Silver Supporting Member

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    Since both those songs had keyboards in them, the obvious answer is tape speed. A lot of times, the tape was slowed down for the singer to more easily hit the notes, then brought back up to speed with no concern if it was in pitch. In the case of Tears For Fears, it could be they sped it up to get the song down to a Top 40-radio-friendly 3:10 run time.
     
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  6. stevel

    stevel Member

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    A number of reasons.

    First, sometimes people just "tuned up" (not specifically high, just tuning to each other) in the studio without any kind of reference. They weren't trying to tune to 440, so they tuned the guitar by ear, and then matched the bass, and it may have all been a little flat or sharp.

    Second, if there was a piano present, and it either hadn't been tuned or had drifted away from 440, everyone would just tune to that. There may be other instruments used in a recording whose tuning is impossible or impractical to change and those instruments that can change tune to it rather than trying to part the seas to shave the keys on a Marimba or something.

    Third, Tape machines don't always run a true speed and it's possible that even if someone recorded at 440, that the tape dragged or ran fast when mastering. Same can happen on turntables, cassette tapes and so on. It is even possible to change speed and pitch because of sampling rate so even digital files can have issues.

    Fourth, Producers would often intentionally change the speed so the song ran a little faster or slower because they felt it needed more energy or to be "broader" and things like that.

    Fifth, a lot of other people might decide to change the pitch for various reasons - the primary one being to make the song shorter so a DJ can get more songs in per hour and more importantly, MORE COMMERCIALS. If you ever hear an ad on the radio with someone talking the "disclaimer" stuff at the end super fast and you wonder how they can talk that fast - it's been sped up - to get more information into a shorter running time. Today we can alter the speed without altering the pitch (so voices don't sound too "chipmunky") but some people don't care to do that. Some people might also tempo-match songs in a play list and in doing so, change the pitch as well.

    Jenny (867-5309) is a great example.

    IIRC, Steve Miller's "Jungle Love" is also out.

    Final note: Consumer grade Turntables and Cassette Decks were very often not built to run at the speed they should. My turntable when I was a kid actually ran fast enough that when I learned Van Halen, I didn't have to tune to Eb. The reason why is, people would put 5 records on the spindle, and each would drop, adding weight to the turntable. If the first record ran at proper speed, then by the 5th one the belt could barely turn it and it would run obviously slow. So instead, they made it run fast so that maybe the 3rd record stacked on there would finally run at the proper speed. This is why nicer turntables had a strobe and adjustable fine tune speed so you could get the record to run at exactly the right speed it was supposed to - since record weights varied a bit (and why "master recordings" were a specific weight in grams!) and didn't have tall "auto drop" spindles on them because it was expected you'd only play 1 record at a time.

    Nowadays, since most of us are playing digital files, any pitch shifting is likely in the original recording, but I'm sure companies still time-shrink songs to fit more in and some may not be savvy enough to use an algorithm that doesn't affect the pitch as well.
     
  7. Raygun Gothic

    Raygun Gothic Member

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    How would tape speed make it "out of tune"? It would affect the pitch of the song, but not make the instruments sound out of tune. Unless you're talking about altering the speed of one specific track.
     
  8. porcytree

    porcytree Member

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    So.…..if you record say 5 songs in perfect concert pitch but on one of those songs the tape speed is slightly slower or faster than for all of the others, when you play back the tracks that song will sound slightly out of tune compared to the others
     
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  9. Mickey Shane

    Mickey Shane apolitical Silver Supporting Member

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    Plush and Evenflow are like that too.
     
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  10. Oriondk

    Oriondk Member

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    I downloaded a CD to my computer of Andy Timmons “Resolution”. When I tried playing along with the download is was out of tune, but I could play along with the CD just fine.
     
  11. Baxtercat

    Baxtercat Member

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    We were just talking how we learned electric guitar.
    As a kid I grew up playing along w/ FM rock stations.
    Had to learn to tune and retune quickly.
     
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  12. TubeStack

    TubeStack Supporting Member

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    It seems the thread topic is more songs being “not A440,” rather than “out of tune.” As in, the instruments on the track are all in tune with each other, but the entire track has been sped up/slowed down to be higher/lower than A440.

    As far as instruments actually out of tune with each other, Zep’s The Rover comes to mind.

    Lots of 60s/70s rock (which I love) sounds out of tune to me now; my ear seems to have gotten used to auto-tuned, perfect tuning of modern recordings.
     
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  13. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Some compression schemes can affect pitch too. Download an AIFF or WAV (PCM) file of the track and see if it's out of tune compared to your CD. If so, they've done something to it when they digitized the file, or worked from the masters.
     
  14. Raygun Gothic

    Raygun Gothic Member

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    Out of tune is two instruments, one playing A = 440hz and the other playing A = 430hz. Slowing a tape down affects the pitch of the note, say A = 420hz. That is off-pitch.
     
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  15. Raygun Gothic

    Raygun Gothic Member

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    Yes, I think people are mistaking out of tune for off-pitch.
     
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  16. CharAznable

    CharAznable Member

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    “No Quarter” is a quarter step flat. Intentional to thicken up the track.
     
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  17. rhyming_orange

    rhyming_orange Member

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    It might have been mentioned already, but the easiest way to overcome this when you’re trying to learn a track is to use a program like Amazing Slow Downer or Riffmaster to alter the speed of the recording until it sounds right with your guitar.
    I’ll sometimes do this with Hendrix when I’m playing a Strat with floating trem and I don’t want to go through the hell of re-tuning from standard to a half step down and then back again.
     
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  18. porcytree

    porcytree Member

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    Yeah that's what I meant …. brain took a leave of absence for a while there.:confused:
     
  19. Bluesful

    Bluesful Supporting Member

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    Get yourself Transcribe!

    Brilliant tool for correcting those issues to be able to play along to/transcribe.
     
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  20. TwoHandsTenThumbs

    TwoHandsTenThumbs Silver Supporting Member

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    As others have posted, not being tuned to A=440 doesn’t mean out of tune. If the instruments are in tune with each other, the concert pitch standard is frankly arbitrary...as long as it is compatible with the mechanical limitations of instruments.

    A=440 is a fairly modern construction. People who play early music are often tuned quite a bit flatter, A=415, to approximate the standard of the era.

    Even in a contemporary setting, many orchestras today tune to a different standard. The current trend is often sharper than A=440. The N.Y. Philharmonic and several prominent European orchestras have adopted A=442.

    Wind and string musicians can readily adapt, and pianos can be retuned, but instruments with fixed pitch - like some tuned percussion - need to be adjusted to accommodate said standards, like marimbas. Organs, which arrive at pitch as a product of additive frequencies, can generally fit in with the A=442 standard without sounding much more “out of tune” than normal, which generally has audible movement that falls short of the characteristic audible “beating” associated with out-of-tuneness.

    As far as actual out-of-tune playing in ensembles, many vocal performances reveal relative pitch deviations from subtle to extreme, as do instrument solos. A lot of out-of-tune guitar bends. A classic example involving slide guitar is Duane Allman’s outro to Layla. Not so much in cents, but in audible fractions of steps. Not subtle. Not to creative effect like wide vibrato. Just flat-out, out of tune.
     

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