12/24/2013 11:01 AM
I’ve been listening to some of the great pop music of the ’60s and ’70s, and noticed some of the songs have a sort of bright sound with what I can only describe as extra “presence.” I’ve wanted to do covers of some of these tunes, but I noticed that some of them are a little bit to a lot sharp. Was it standard back in those days to tune a little differently to give a different timbre?
Charlie, it’s more likely that what you’re referring to was the practice of mixing down to a 2-track tape deck with its variable speed set a little bit slow, like 2 percent or so. Then when it ran at normal speed, the tempo was a little faster, the pitch a little sharper, and the rhythm a bit tighter because a hit that was off by a few milliseconds would be off by somewhat less. Furthermore, the formant and timbre would be somewhat brighter overall. It was also possible to create the same effect by running a multitrack with variable-speed capability a little faster during mixdown.
Although most of today’s DAWs don’t have the equivalent of variable speed, during the mastering process you can reproduce this effect easily with a digital audio editing program like Sony Sound Forge. Look for a DSP pitch-shift option, then raise the pitch by a couple percent. Do not select anything that preserves duration, as that will affect sound quality—speeding up tempo is a natural result of transposing the pitch upward. Try this on some of your songs, particularly ones that seem to lag a little bit, and you’ll probably hear the sound you want. THE EDITORS