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 go there:



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.