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.
Di 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.
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!
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.