Towards the Proper Pitching of ‘78’ rpm Records.
It is widely known that ‘78’ rpm records
were recorded at differing speeds. Indeed, Columbia, Brunswick and others had a standard of 80 rpm in the early and mid
1920s. Which does not mean to say that 80 was always observed! And many very early discs were recorded much
slower. Of course, if we just want to play the record and hear it, we do not
have to get all neurotic about having the speed exact; but sometimes it is
important to have it right – perhaps for a CD reissue. There is much variation,
for example, on the Winner Records, one of which is on the above turntable.
They tended to be cut quite fast, and though I have not done any work on
Winners, it has been said that 83 or even 85 rpm is needed to get some of them
to play true. And the packets of early vertical-cut centre-start Pathés
recommend, blithely, that the record should ‘be heard at a speed of 90 to 100
rpm’. What are we to do?
These two web pages were originally
written in 2002 as a general guide, following my own amateur experiments. I was
simply setting down some notes for my own elucidation; but thought they might
prove interesting to others. In 2002, video was not possible, so audio samples
and some commentary was used, in the form of RealPlayer files. Now, taking
advantage of mp3s and YouTube, the pages have been re-written.
Please note that both these pages are
concerned solely with U.S. and
British Dance and Jazz bands in the 1920s and early 1930s. With other material,
the same principles apply, but there are many extra variables, which often make
pitching difficult or even impossible. On these pages, we stick to things
familiar to us!
There are two pages because one would be
over-long, and they were written in different styles… Just click the links to
Part 1: Basics, plus analysis of two Original Dixieland
Jazz Band sides. Written in a humorous vein…
Part 2: The later 1920s, when different key changes make
things easier. Rather more seriously written.
Page written 1st January 2010.