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Donato – Mañana sera la mia

El Espejero published a wonderful story about how the orquesta of Donato probably came to an end by the love affair between his three singers.

Then on the Facebook Group: Today’s Tango Is… Paul Bottomer asked about the correct speed of “Mañana será la mía”, Donato’s last recording with Horacio Lagos and his wife Lita Morales.

The version Paul uploaded on Youtube is the same I found in my collection and is almost perfect tuned in key E, but sounds too fast.
Playing in E is not so common in tango, while D is a very common key in tango. This indicates that it is probably 5.6% too fast. Correcting it makes it 2:52 long. (The Club de Tango version is 2:55 long, probably more or less at the right speed).

Listen to the uncorrected fragment, then the same fragment corrected:

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Especially the voices sound more natural at the corrected speed.

Download here my retuned Donato – Mañana sera la mia.

From major to minor

How strange the change from major to minor” – Ella Fitzgerald in “Ev’ry time we say goodbye”

Minor and major keys of 203 tango scores
To retune tangos to their original speed and pitch, I often check the original score to see in which key or keys it is. The key indicates which scale is used. Scales have different numbers of flats and sharps, shown in the key signature. For every key signature there is one major and one minor scale. For example one ♭ is F major or D minor. The final chord or bass note of a piece can help determining which one it is.
I selected a sample of 203 tango scores to analyze keys and major and minor key change (modulation) in tango. Modulation is a change to another key: for example C major (C) to C minor (Cm) or to A minor (Am).

Are all tangos in minor?
Most tangos have a minor and a major part. These are mostly verse and chorus (refrán or estribillo), but Guardia Vieja tangos often add a third part called Trio.
Of the sample of 203 scores, one-third start in major and the other two-thirds start in minor.
Of all tangos starting in major, two-thirds modulate to a minor part while one-third is completely in major. Of all 203 scores 11% are completely in major; 1 out of 9 tangos.
Almost half of the tangos starting in minor have no modulation but stay in the same minor key. The other half of the tangos starting in minor has a change to a major key.

68% starts in minor:

  • 31% starts in minor, no modulation
  • 37% starts in minor, modulation to major
  • 0% starts in minor, modulation to another minor (only “Naipe”)

32% starts in major:

  • 8% starts in major, no modulation
  • 21% starts in major, modulation to minor
  • 3% starts in major, modulation to another major (only 7 scores)

Wild or subtle minor-major modulations
Let’s first stop the babylonian confusion in modulation names:
Same base note (C major and C minor): relative key = Paralleltonart (Ger), tonalidad homónima (Sp), tonalité parallèle (Fr)
Same key signature (C major and A minor): parallel key = Varianttonart (Ger), tonalidad relativa (Sp) relative majeure / mineure (Fr)

A wild change to a key that has totally different notes (a remote modulation) almost never occurs in tango.
Relative modulation is a subtle change to the relative major or minor key. Every major key has a corresponding minor key which uses exactly the same notes of the scale (e.g. A minor and C major). They use the same scale, only starting from another note. Because the relative major and minor key use the same sharps or flats, this change is not indicated by a different key signature. Only examining the chords reveals this relative major-minor change.
Most common in tango is parallel modulation: C minor to C major, D minor to D major etc. This parallel modulation is more noticeable because in the new scale three notes are altered (e.g. e turns into e-sharp). It is also very obvious in the score because the number of flats of sharps changes, requiring another key signature.

How does it sound? All those words: Let’s hear how it sounds. An example on my piano:

Relative modulation (two times A minor cadence & two times C major cadence)

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Parallel modulation (two times C minor cadence & two times C major cadence)

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Type of modulation in sample of 203 tango scores:

Modulation
share
 
parallel43%e.g. C minor to C major, new key signature
relative13%e.g. A minor to C major, same key signature
other modulations 5%
not modulated38%

As you see, most tangos use a parallel modulation but there are also many tangos that have no modulation and thus no minor-major change.

Sometimes a new part starts modulated, but the new key is used only for a few bars. This is no real modulation because it is not established by a cadence of chords belonging to that key (e.g. Vendrás alguna vez).

Tangos in major
Tangos in the sample that are only in major, without modulation are:
Boedo, Cambalache, Como dos extraños. Don Esteban, El retobao, Esta noche de luna, Melodía porteña, Nada, Nido gaucho, Nueve puntos, Pero yo sé, Por la vuelta, T.B.C., Tarareando, Uno, Vendrás alguna vez.

Tangos that modulate from one major to another major key:
Bajo Belgrano, El entrerriano, Retirao, Tierra negra, Tierrita, Tinta verde, Un copetín.

The real thing: audio examples of modulation in tangos

First two examples of relative modulation: Gardel singing Confesión with Canaro in 1931
ConfesionBm-D

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Another relative modulation: D’Arienzo – Compadrón – Héctor Mauré – 1942
Compadron Min-Maj Score

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A parallel modulation is most common in tango and often more noticeable.
The first example is Di Sarli “El Amanecer”, Instrumental from 1942:
ElAmanecerCm-C

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The second parallel modulations is Calo – Al compás del corazón, with Raúl Berón in 1942. Part A is in minor, but the last bar (singing the “os” of “adiós”) is already in G major:
Score Al compás del corazón

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Tanturi – Mozo guapo, calmate

On her Tango Investigation Agency (TIA) Facebook page, Trud Antzée (tangoimmigrant blog) came up with Tanturi’s “Mozo guapo” that is published on CDs at various speeds, tuned somewhere between Am and Bm.
Which version is correct? It’s important to sort it out because it’s not about marginal errors but about substantial, notable differences that you can hear and feel when dancing. Should the Mozo guapo (handsome guy) calm down?

The original score (see below) is in A minor (Am) with a second part in A major, written by Tanturi himself in 1941. He recorded it in February of the same year. However, on CDs we hear something between Am and Bm. Playing in Bm is very very rare in tango (and with 5 flats quite difficult), and there is no reason to think Tanturi changed his mind and wanted the piece played one semitone higher.
Since tuning of the (Germany-made) bandoneons at that time was the same as current tuning, tuning is is not the cause of the problem. It is the rotation speed of the disks (shellacs) that was not exactly at 78 rotations per minute (see homepage for more explanation).

I found one copy in my collection tuned exactly in A of which I don’t know the source. [update: Jens Dörr told me that the CD Buenos Aires Tango Club/Serie Orquestas/Tanturi&Laurens ORQ 249 has the correct speed].
I checked four other versions published on CDs, which are all too fast, with some differences, and calculated the required correction:

  • Two versions just between A and B. Tuning: B -47 cent (=A +53). Speed: 114 bpm.
    CDs: Tangos De Mi Ciudad BMG/Tango Argentino + Natucci
    Correction: -3.15%
  • Two lower-quality versions with a tuning closer to B&#x266d than to A. Tuning: B -21 cent (= A +79). Speed: 115 bpm.
    CDs: Cuatro Compases El bandoneón/EBCD 048 + Muñeca brava/Magenta
    Correction: -4.61%.

The correction brings it back to Am and the resulting speed is 111 bpm.
A correction of -4.61% is quite big, but let’s listen to the version that ‘only’ needs -3.15% correction and the retuned copy:
In both examples, first you hear the uncorrected fragment, then the same fragment corrected.

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Not only the voice sounds better, with a more natural vibrato, but also the violins and other instruments.

Download here my completely retuned Tanturi – Mozo guapo.

Mozo guapo Score

Di Sarli – Cosas olvidadas, in a hurry

NIL maennlichen 521950_10151804463110619_550283408_n
Last weekend, we were DJ-ing at Maramount, a wonderful tango marathon in the Swiss mountains. We would take over from DJ Jens-Ingo and we had a chat about some special things we wanted to play. Jens-Ingo told me he was going to play Di Sarli’s “Cosas olvidadas”. He had noted that it sounds incorrect, especially the singing. He retuned it with reduced speed and pitch, which sounded much better. I checked my to-do list of most off-tune tangos, and indeed, this tango was there, among hundreds of other suspects.

The original score (see below) is in G minor/major. Two flats indicate that the key is either B major or G minor. The notes and chords show that the first part is in G minor and the second in G major (see wiki page flats/sharps & keys).

I found seven versions published on CDs, all of them too fast, with some differences:

  • Two versions just below the middle between G and A (G +44)
    CDs: Natucci and Club Tango Argentino
    Correction: -2.53%
  • Three versions with a tuning just above the middle between G and A (A -42 cents)
    CDs: Sus Primeros Éxitos Vol. 1 BMG; Grandes éxitos Con Roberto Rufino; Grandes del Tango 12+1 Di Sarli CD 2 – Lantower
    Correction: -3.33%.
  • Two versions closer to A (A -26 cents), the fastest/highest versions.
    CDs: El señor del tango (El bandoneón) and “Duelo Criollo”, both produced by Magenta.
    Correction: -4.22%.

Listen to this fastest version and a retuned copy:

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Not only the voice, also the violins and the overall articulation and sounds much better.

The two versions with a better tuning are also the ones with better sound quality: Natucci and Club Tango Argentino.
But they are still much too fast and should be 2.53% slower.

Download here my completely retuned Di Sarli – Cosas olvidadas.

Cosas Olvidadas Score

Troilo – en esta tarde gris, your voice comes back to me

Y hoy es tu voz que vuelve a mi, en esta tarde gris
your voice comes back to me, in this gray afternoon.

Last week, we played a retuned version of Troilo’s En esta tarde gris for the first time at a milonga, Los Locos in Amsterdam.
I had analysed the speed of this song because I felt there is something wrong with how the singer Francisco Fiorentino sounds, the violins sound too sharp and the whole piece sounds overly excited for a “tarde gris” (gray afternoon).

With the method described in a previous post, I found that the tuning (pitch) of the version from the CD El Inmortal “Pichuco” – El Bandoneón was more than halve a tone too high (+54 cents). This means the correct tempo is 3.05 percent slower than on this CD.
Other versions are also tuned around the middle between A and B, but closer to A.

Listening to the retuned version, at first, we had some doubts. Doesn’t it take all the energy and passion out of the song?
I double checked. The score is in A minor. Correcting it upwards, to B, makes it faster and makes it worse. In 1971, with Roberto Goyeneche, Troilo also plays it in A minor. The key A minor must be correct.

Canaro with Francisco Amor plays it in Bm, not one but two semitones higher, I think because that fits better with Amor’s voice. This is no reason to think that Troilo’s version should be in Bm, because from A to B would require almost 12 percent speeding-up.

In general, I am finding that the tango music is almost always played in the key in which it had been written. And in the few cases that it is transponed to another key, it is more than one semitone higher or lower. This is important when we try to restore the music to the original key, pitch and speed.

Back to the milonga, how was it? Fortunately, when we played the retuned version in the milonga, it sounded very good. People who danced it reported that it still has its energy but that the voice sounds much better and more natural. Listen for yourself:

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The version from the series Obra Completa en RCA sounds better. I retuned and edited it. Download my retuned Troilo – En esta tarde gris.

Speed correction for other versions:

  • Nattuci: -2.62 %
  • Su obra completa en la RCA: -2.18 %
  • Remi: -3.13 %

For an complete English translation see www.planet-tango.com/lyrics/tardegris.htm.

En Esta Tarde Gris partitura crop

Biagi – Cicatrices, painfully slow

“With Cicatrices, there was something wrong,” said Sebastian, returning to our DJ booth after dancing this tanda, last weekend in Paris.
“In that Biagi tanda, Cicatrices is too slow or the next song is too fast.”

Falgás singing
As usual, I was skeptical, and the next day, when the rain was pouring too much water into our espresso’s, we sheltered inside the café, opened our laptops and started listening to Andrés Falgás singing about the Cicatrices (scars, the marks left after a wound has healed). Falgás smears the words over the staccato and rhythmical pulse of the instruments. Very slow indeed, is it unnaturally slow?

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With the method described in my previous post, I found that the tuning (pitch) of the song was 42 cents too low;
the song is written in G minor but we hear a note halfway between F# and G. This means that the transfer of the song is 2,4% too slow on this CD (Biagi, Sus éxitos con Falgás y Ibáñez, Reliquias).
I applied this correction of 2,4% to the speed and tuning of the song, and we started listening:

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Yes! The scars are still very painful, but the voice sounds better. Indeed, it was too slow.

Here you can download my retuned Biagi – Cicatrices.

Tempo on other CD’s
The tempo of Cicatrices on others CD’s is incorrect as well:

  • Natucci: 2.1% too slow
  • Lagrimas y Sonrisas 1993 EMI Odeon/FM Tango: 2.0% too slow
  • Los Clásicos Argentinos: 2.4% too slow
  • Remi: 2.5% too slow
  • TangoTunes: 1.7% too slow

TangoTunes
The TangoTunes version is 1.7% too slow. Better than the rest, but still, it’s a pity. TangoTunes is a very interesting project, carefully transferring vinyl and shellac records to a digital format.
It is important to listen and compare the versions with a good sound system. Their version of Biagi – Cicatrices is much better than all the other versions. Brighter, deeper, fuller. Less cleaned-up. Very nice. I think they are doing a great job. It’s a lot of work, and in the correct tempo it would be even better.

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Cicatrices2p

Di Sarli – El ciruja: a bit too slow, or much too fast?

cents-distance-explanation
Background
Earlier, I have posted a six page article “Lost in History – the Keys of Tango Music“. A short introduction and discussion can be found on facebook. To fully understand why and how I retune my tango music, you will need this background information. To sum up: Analysing the tuning of tangos I found that most tango’s published on CD’s are off-key, not in tune with a tuned instrument. The tones are somewhere between two keys. This is a result of transferring the old 78 rpm (rotations per minute) discs at the wrong speed. The correct speed is hard to find, since many discs have not been made at exactly 78 rpm, but perhaps 76 rpm or 80 rpm.
To find the correct speed, I check the freqencies and calculated the off-set, from which the speed correction can be derived. How much offset (out of tune) a tone is can be expressed in cents. The distance between two notes (e.g. A and B) can be divided in 100 cents. The off-key tone A with a deviation of +50 cents is exactly between A and B. An A +70 cents is the same tone as B -30 cents.
Now, after all the theory, I want to apply my findings to my music and check the results. It is a laborious process and I hope to present some more results here later.

El_cirujaDi Sarli – El ciruja
El Ciruja is short for Chirugien, here referring to a man using a knife for fighting. I my collection are copies from three different sources (one “restored”). They all have a small gap on 1:40 and are off-tune.

Mind the gap
First, I need to repair the gap at 1:40 that makes you stumble: I refill it by slowing down half a second by 33% which adds 0.22 seconds.

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Finding and restoring the original speed and pitch – take your time
I found that the key of the three versions is A but with an offset of -30 cents. That suggest that it is too low and hence too slow. Speeding it up with +1.7% brought it back to the original and very common key A. I thought. Till I found the original score, written in 1926 by Ernesto de la Cruz “for my friend and maestro the eminent Minotto Di Cicco” (Di Cicco made some wonderful recordings with his orchestra).
The original score of El ciruja starts in A major. A major has 4 flats (on the piano 4 white keys are lowered to the next black key) and is rarely used in tango. And then, in the second part of the tango a change to 7 flats! I often wondered why one would use that since you could write the same notes as 5 sharps. But it makes sense because it is a change from A major to A minor, adding 3 extra flats.
This implies that my finding that the recording is in A but 30 cents too low turns into: the recording is in A but 70 cents too high (the distance between A and A is 100 cents, 30 cents below A is the same pitch as 70 cents above A).
From a pitch that is 70 cents too high, it can be calculated that it should be played 4% slower. Four percent! For me that changed a song I didn’t like into one that I like.
Listen to a short fragment and just press play on the other version to compare. Enjoy!

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Update
Koos Volkers and Alberto kindly informed me about a gap-less version, published on the Euro Records album “Tangueando te quiero”.
It has a better sound quality, although it is even more off-tune: A -10 cent, almost an A instead of an A flat. It is 5.1% too fast and too high.

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el ciruja 2pages