Why Are The Pro's Off-Key a Lot?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by ZenG, Jan 7, 2014.


  1. ZenG

    ZenG

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2013
    So I've got lots of cd's that I jam along with....

    Tune the bass up with the tuner before I start......

    Then as I go through the tracks and songs it seems half of them are slightly off-key and my bass sounds "off"...

    Don't want to retune for every darn song......

    My cd player doesn't have "pitch correct" on it....but even if it did I'd be "correcting" for a boatload of cuts.......

    What gives at the recording studios?
  2. friedtransistor

    friedtransistor

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    Dec 9, 2013
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    Nebraska USA
    I noticed this when going through a tab of Ride the Lightning by Metallica. The bass is about a quarter tone off. I read somewhere that's it's because the bass line was recorded seperately, and had to be sped up to match the rest of the mix. Other than that, idk why songs sound out of tune. I notice it a lot more with acoustic tracks than rock or metal, although with some metal, the tone is so scooped you can't even hum with it without drowning out the notes.
  3. Tennesseemick

    Tennesseemick Supporting Member

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    I'm not a strong "by ear" musician-- maybe because studio recordings have never matched my tuned instruments. I often figured the band members did odd turnings for a variety of reasons until I realized it was me.

    That said, I've played my versions of songs that I was sure sounded nothing like the recording until my buddies recognized the song for what it was supposed to be.
  4. 10cc

    10cc

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    Oct 28, 2013
    The songs could be sped up or slowed down during different stages of the recording which can throw the entire song into a different key. That's my guess. Especially if the original recording is a older one reprinted on compact disk.
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  6. Greevus

    Greevus

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    Apr 15, 2009
    You gotta tune TO the recording. Each tune you are playing to. Sometimes tuners aren't exact, the playback isn't accurate speed, intonation can be slightly off, etc. Find a part that you know, and then play along. If you need to, adjust those notes slightly, then retune the other strings to them. This will help your ear tremendously. There are lots of bad tabs too.
  7. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Supporting Member

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    Try learning the studio version of Rush's Xanadu.
  8. friedtransistor

    friedtransistor

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    I believe I have Xanadu in my Rush songbook, lemme look... Uh, nvm. Working man for W and YYZ for Y, but no X. Now I really want to look up the song... What's different about it?
  9. mellowinman

    mellowinman Perfect for Breaking the Ice at Naughty Parties Supporting Member

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    As a cover player who has had to learn a lot of stuff, I will say there are a lot more songs that are ON key than off, but there are plenty that are off. In the case of late sixties/early seventies music, a lot of times they sped up the tape to make the vocal smoother, or just liked the sound a bit better. In other cases, they just plain weren't careful.

    In the case of more modern stuff, I'm not sure why it's off. As I said, I sure play to a lot of recordings that are dead on!
  10. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

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    I seem to remember it was pretty sharp.


    Everything on the Meat Puppets' second album is a semitone sharp. Makes playing along a total hassle.
  11. friedtransistor

    friedtransistor

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    Unless you have a capo. Which I should get someday, be fun to play Higher Than Hope as it should be, instead of only playing half the intro. I wonder what it'd be like to have ten fingers on my left hand, so I wouldn't need to fork out the money for a capo...
  12. Matt Lake

    Matt Lake Supporting Member

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    I noticed that too. They are off just a little. Some tuners tune to 441 or 442 cycles per second instead of 440 per second for a regular "A" note. I've never used it so I don't know why it's there.
  13. ffutterman

    ffutterman Talentless Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

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    I've been working on playing Pearl Jam's Ten start-to-finish in one go, and I ran into this problem. I can do pretty much the whole album by switching between my 12-stringer and my fretless, but I have to use a special Evenflow bass because it's apparently tuned drop-d and a quarter sharp.
  14. NYCbassist

    NYCbassist Supporting Member

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    There's a ton of off key stuff that I have learned. Most Tom Petty, Stones, Rush's Xanadu of course. I put them all in a list on Spotify and then practice them all in woodshed session once a week.

    I actually tune flat knowing that the Band will play them 1 fret lower than where I learn them.

    This can be challenging but You need to be able to transpose on the fly IMO.

    When I jam to radio I literally bend every note for songs like these but it can be tough on the frets.

    I believe the Zoom B3 has pitch shift but there's on true solution. Fretless. I just need to find a keeper like maybe a '70's Fender Fretless P-Bass.
  15. Tupac

    Tupac

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    May 5, 2011
    As my ear has been growing it has just startled me how many songs I've been playing to for months/years without knowing they were a quarter step off. I'm pretty sure Therapy off Infectious Groove's first album is a quarter step off. Funkentelechy is a quarter step off.
  16. hdracer

    hdracer Supporting Member

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    If you listen to a lot of Motown or Stax recordings they are all "off"

    That's because everyone tuned off of the old piano sitting in the corner.
  17. Mushroo

    Mushroo

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    Common rookie mistake: playing out of tune with the rest of the band, then saying, "what? my tuner says I'm in tune!!"
  18. Biggbass

    Biggbass Supporting Member

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    Quite often, in the studio, the final mix is sped up a bit to add energy to the track. This will of course, raise the pitch of the track.
  19. Roy Vogt

    Roy Vogt Supporting Member

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    Even Conn Strobo-tuners weren't too common back in the day, so the musicians may have tuned to a studio piano. It's also not uncommon for analog 24 track (or less) recordings to have been sped up or slowed down for "feel" reasons. In guitar bands you tuned to the lead guitarist wherever he happened to be (Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn tuned 1/2 step down, for example).
    Yep, there was a whole world before tuners and Pro Tools! Hard to imagine, but true! :D
  20. Slade N

    Slade N sunn #91 AZ Bands #? Supporting Member

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    if an instruments set up is off that will effect pitch...theirs and yours/ours
  21. Fletz

    Fletz Supporting Member

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    Just play 'em on a fretless ...

    :bag:

    JK - I've noticed the same thing on songs pre-1985ish

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