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Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

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Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby songwriter » Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:09 am

I realised yesterday looking at the official YouTube video for the new song 'Paloma Faith - Only love can hurt like this' that it has been recorded out of tune by about 50cents up. This means that unless you have a keyboard that can be tuned by cents you cannot play along! I found this out when teaching it to a singing pupil and I've never come across it before.
What would be the reason for doing this?
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby The Elf » Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:14 am

Many reasons, from cock-up to preferring it that way. I've trodden those paths and all between!
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Sam Inglis » Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:53 am

It used to be fairly common for tape masters to be sped up a little bit if the producer or label felt the song needed more urgency and excitement. That would raise the pitch slightly. Perhaps something similar was done here.
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:44 am

The producer got bored with the song. The engineer turned up the "excitement" knob. It got a bit faster, a bit higher. "That's it!"

Chorographers do this too. They feel their dance steps look too "easy". So they want the music faster...and faster... False excitement.

You don't have to look very far for a media player with a pitch control. I use Transcribe! Perhaps someone can suggest a free one?
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Jun 21, 2014 10:44 am

The producer got bored with the song. The engineer turned up the "excitement" knob. It got a bit faster, a bit higher. "That's it!"

Chorographers do this too. They feel their dance steps look too "easy". So they want the music faster...and faster... False excitement.

You don't have to look very far for a media player with a real-time pitch control. I use Transcribe! Perhaps someone can suggest a free one?
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:09 pm

Two wombats for the price of one!
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:01 pm

Huge Longjohns wrote:Two wombats for the price of one!

Yeah. If the two-for-one offer doesn't take off, I'm considering a poster campaign featuring my bare backside.
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby djangodeadman » Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:58 am

In this day and age, of course, speeding up a recording (or indeed slowing it down) needn't necessarily involve changing its pitch. So perhaps a more likely reason is to make it easier for the singer to sing, if the key is slightly uncomfortable for them.
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Billum » Mon Jun 23, 2014 11:15 am

Maybe it was recorded intentionally at a different reference to A=440Hz, e.g. see this Ra Natural Tuning approach.

I wouldn't put it past Paloma to try some weird and wacky stuff like this.
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby damoore » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:07 pm

You will hear some 50's R&B songs be around 50 cents sharp (A number of Fat's Domino records, for example, if memory serves). I think have read those were sped up to make them punchier though I don't remember where and can't find a reference quickly on the net. You know they are sharp rather than flat because the piano is clearly being played in Eb (and anyway the chart is in that key)

On the other hand, metal bands, in particular, sometimes like to tune down for tonal reasons, and don't always do so by full (whole or half) steps.

In general, pitch has been getting steadily sharper since at least the time of Mozart.

So recordings not at A=440Hz are not uncommon.
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:10 pm

damoore wrote:In general, pitch has been getting steadily sharper since at least the time of Mozart.

So recordings not at A=440Hz are not uncommon.


Yes, a lot of my original Mozart pressings are quite sharp :-)
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby alexis » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:20 pm

damoore wrote:You will hear some 50's R&B songs be around 50 cents sharp (A number of Fat's Domino records, for example, if memory serves). I think have read those were sped up to make them punchier though I don't remember where and can't find a reference quickly on the net. You know they are sharp rather than flat because the piano is clearly being played in Eb (and anyway the chart is in that key)

On the other hand, metal bands, in particular, sometimes like to tune down for tonal reasons, and don't always do so by full (whole or half) steps.

In general, pitch has been getting steadily sharper since at least the time of Mozart.

So recordings not at A=440Hz are not uncommon.

I'm old enough to have had to replay vinyl records over and over to learn the songs on the piano ... then years later when I play the songs with others, find that I am playing 1/2 step sharper than they are. Lady Madonna in Bb, for example. Not being that great a pianist, my muscle memory was much stronger than my transposing skills at those times, leading to a lot of frustration!

I just figured all those 60s engineers were sucking on laughing gas while mixing or something ...
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby alexis » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:21 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:
Huge Longjohns wrote:Two wombats for the price of one!

Yeah. If the two-for-one offer doesn't take off, I'm considering a poster campaign featuring my bare backside.

That wasn't you??
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby damoore » Mon Jun 23, 2014 2:47 pm

Exalted Wombat wrote:

Yes, a lot of my original Mozart pressings are quite sharp :-)

In those days getting the Ox to walk round at the right speed was a constant problem.
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby Emmet » Thu Jun 26, 2014 9:33 am

Del Shannon's runaway was sped up a semitone or so to give it a bit of whoomp. Give it a google
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Re: Why would you record a chart song out of tune?

Postby permanent_daylight » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:25 am

A few Radiohead songs are tuned down, on OK Computer, the most prominent is No Surprises, which they did because, given its slow pace, wanted even slower. This was a while ago so changing speed without pitch would sound worse than today, and is easy on a reel to reel which i think they used. But why not change the pitch nowadays if its under a cent, the result on a whole track is surely preferable to the artifacts of just speed, if not objectively surely sometimes it just sounds more natural, (or less natural sometimes).
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