Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


robert johnson slowed down

GUEST,j.m. 27 Jun 05 - 09:15 AM
C-flat 27 Jun 05 - 11:04 AM
Max 27 Jun 05 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,Jon W. 27 Jun 05 - 11:23 AM
BanjoRay 27 Jun 05 - 11:26 AM
alanabit 27 Jun 05 - 11:39 AM
PoppaGator 27 Jun 05 - 12:37 PM
Big Al Whittle 27 Jun 05 - 05:16 PM
Le Scaramouche 27 Jun 05 - 05:50 PM
Mark Clark 27 Jun 05 - 06:38 PM
Roger the Skiffler 28 Jun 05 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,Jim Ward 28 Jun 05 - 05:08 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 28 Jun 05 - 05:24 AM
GUEST,belfast, sans cookie 28 Jun 05 - 07:36 AM
GUEST 28 Jun 05 - 01:26 PM
GUEST 28 Jun 05 - 02:46 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 28 Jun 05 - 05:10 PM
PoppaGator 28 Jun 05 - 05:23 PM
M.Ted 28 Jun 05 - 06:13 PM
Devilmaster 28 Jun 05 - 06:55 PM
Devilmaster 29 Jun 05 - 03:10 AM
Le Scaramouche 29 Jun 05 - 04:59 AM
GUEST 29 Jun 05 - 06:40 AM
PoppaGator 29 Jun 05 - 09:01 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST,j.m.
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 09:15 AM

I've just read an article suggesting Robert Johnson recordings are played too fast. The original recordings might have been up to 20% too quick. Various reasons were given including innacurate recording equipment but one implied it was done deliberately to make Johnson sound younger and more upbeat than his real delta sound. There is a cd on the market with 24 tracks slowed by 20%...............any views on this ?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: C-flat
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 11:04 AM

Well I can think of a few guitarists who could do with being slowed down 20% so as the rest of us can get somewhere close to their style!!
This could be a way of making a few extra bucks for the labels?

C-flat.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Max
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 11:10 AM

It was unlikely to be purposeful. I've seen discussions on the equipment used at that time and it seems make the most sense to me as result of the machine.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST,Jon W.
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 11:23 AM

I doubt the "younger, more upbeat" thing has any basis in reality. The "youth" market didn't happen until 20 years after Robert's death.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: BanjoRay
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 11:26 AM

Have any of you tried slowing him by 20% in a slowdowner to see what he sounded like? I suppose you'd have to drop the pitch by the same amount as well.
Ray


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: alanabit
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 11:39 AM

Even at the speed I can hear him, I am amazed that anyone anywhere could play slide acoustic guitar slowly, with such incredible control.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: PoppaGator
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 12:37 PM

At least one of Mississippi John Hurt's original (i.e., 1920s) recordings was deliverately speeded up because in its original form it would not fit on one side of a 78.

I forget which was the song in question, but blues revivalists familiar only with the record (before MJH's "rediscovery") had a hell of a time learning to play the piece at speed. When they finally saw and heard John in person, they were surprised at how slow he played this particular number ~ John said, "that's how I've always played it" and then explained about the recording decision.

For details, see Dave Van Ronk's Mayor of McDougall Street.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 05:16 PM

yeh and if you play it backwards it says, robert is dead


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 05:50 PM

If you play it backwards the Devil takes him back home and returns his soul.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Mark Clark
Date: 27 Jun 05 - 06:38 PM

Maybe… but back in the day the process of speeding it up also raised the pitch. Given that every Johnson tune has been analyzed and carefully tabbed over and over by a myriad of expert and amateur guitar players, don't you think someone would have noticed that his guitar was always tuned 20% sharp?

      - Mark


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 03:54 AM

Thread creep: this Wednesday (tomorrow), BBC Radio 2 10pm BST a 6 part series on Robert Johnson.

RtS


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST,Jim Ward
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 05:08 AM

It is well known in the recording biz and amongst "78" collectors that a very high percentage of recordings made before standardization came in around 1945, were not at 78rpm. Many companies had there own speeds, usually somewhere between 74rpm and 80rpm. Bear in mind that in those days players would have a "Speed Control" at the side of the turntable and one could adjust it to whatever speed sounded right.
In the vinyl days, transfers from "78's" were usually made at 78rpm without bothering to check the correct speed. In more recent years however, more thought has gone into trying to get it right.
A variation of 20% is very unlikely. Up to 10% is the norm. Another reason for recordings that played too fast were that it was an easy way to fit a song lasting, say, 3.5 mins onto a 10" record that could only accomodate 3.25 mins. Many artistes were asked to speed up their performance, but if they refused, slow down the recording blank by about 8% and problem solved.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 05:24 AM

Re Poppa Gator's note that one of John Hurt's recordings was deliberately speeded up to fit onto a 78rpm disc. As far as my understaning goes this must mean that John had to play it faster in order to acheive this. Recordings at that time were made directly onto blank discs. "Mothers" were made and subsequent shellac pressings were therefore replicas of the original disc.
Speed variations were often a problem, some of the Bristol sessions from 1927 suffered. Anybody familiar with the re-issues of Norman Edmonds "Train on the Island" will realise that there was a problem which has only recently been corrected by Yazoo on their re-issue of the track. It now makes it possible to play banjo along with the track without falling over your fingers.

Speaking of Yazoo, does anybody have any idea if Rich and Sherwin at Yazoo have any more re-issue albums lined up.

Hoot


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST,belfast, sans cookie
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 07:36 AM

If I'm doing the mathematics right, increasing the speed by 20% would raise the pitch by about two and a half tones. In guitar terms, the equivalent of putting the capo on the fifth fret. Does this mean that 'Kind Hearted Woman', (in the key of A, if my memory is correct) was actually played in E? I don't really believe it.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 01:26 PM

Can anyone be sure that Johnson always tuned his instrument to concert pitch? It is posssible that as a solo performer he perhaps would be satisfied if the guitar was "in tune with itself" but microtonally higher or lower than concert pitch. Bluesmen, to compensate for the heavy strings of the times would tune down a whole tone, a half tone, a tone and a half, to make fingering easier and to allow string bending and because they liked the lower sound. And to take the strain off a dodgy neck. And then they could always capo up.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 02:46 PM

My understanding of Van Ronk's repetition of John Hurt's story is that MJH played his song exactly the way he would normally play it, that it was too long to "fit" on a single record, and that therefore the recording engineer "sped it up" (i.e., slowed the recording process so that fewer inches of "groove" would be used, causing playback to be quicker ~ and higher-pitched as well).

Whichever song was affected ~ I haven't gone back to Dave's book to look it up ~ I seriously doubt the change in speed/pitch could have been anywhere nearly as high as 20%. A 5% to 10% speed-up would make a complicated arrangement quite a bit harder to play/imitate, while not making the pitch so absurdly high that the recording technician's intervention would be obvious.

Now, keep in mind that I'm discussing what happened with a John Hurt recording, not any of Mr. Johnson's, but the analogy should be pertinent.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 05:10 PM

Can somebody with a copy of Van Ronk's book enlighten me as to which track he is referring. Personally I think this sounds like a piece of modern folklore like Muddy Waters painting the Chess studios when the Rolling Stones dropped in.

Bearing in mind that MJH's recordings were made 30 years or so apart, I would think that it would be quite natural for his playing to change somewhat over the years despite him feeling that he had always played it that way. Many folks slow down slightly as they get older.

Hoot


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 05:23 PM

Hoot ~

I'm at work and the book is at home; I'll try to remember to look it up and post the quotation here. (Also, sorry that I hadn't noticed that my cookie hasn't been set all day until now.)

To me, the story is entirely plausible and doesn't seem at all like a fabrication. Early recording technology was less than exact when it came to speed, not unlike early moving-picture recording technology, where the results are quite obvious. And, as Jim Ward noted, there are plenty of known incidences of "speeded-up" and "slowed-down" recordings.

Also, John Hurt (a strictly solo artist) was known for his lack or regard for concert pitch, concerned only with keeping his guitar in relative tune to itself, so the absolute key of a given recorded performance would not offer any hint as to whether the recording speed was altered.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: M.Ted
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 06:13 PM

For what it's worth, the Robert Johnson recordings as "traditionally" released, are not anywhere near any standard pitch--Recordings on field machines may have been of an eratic speed, but studio recordings made at the time generally were true to pitch, as evidenced by the fact that you can play along with many 78 recordings if you are properly tuned--I have tended to think that when a recording didn't match pitch, it was because the recording and playback speeds were not the same, rather than that anthing else.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Devilmaster
Date: 28 Jun 05 - 06:55 PM

Look at this logically from the timelines and the people who knew Robert, and there are some doubts IMO.

RJ died round 38 or so. If my info is correct, King of the Delta Blues Singers was released in 62.

There were still many people who had known RJ and who were still alive in 62. Johnny Shines rode with RJ for 1 to 2 years in the mid 30s and he lived till 1992. Howlin Wolf played with RJ and lived till 1976. Son House lived till 88.

All these blues greats have heard RJ live, and would have had a chance to hear the recordings before their death. These are the ones who gave us most of the stories of Robert. Odds are that they would have brought that point up when the first album came out in 62. Since this is being talked about now, it could just be a marketing ploy to sell more records.

All my opinion, of course.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Devilmaster
Date: 29 Jun 05 - 03:10 AM

to be fair, I went looking for an article or something along those lines, and scored a hit....

Robert Johnson - Steady rolling Man

This article goes through the theory, has some clip examples, and of course, as I look at the page, they are selling the album of slowed down songs for 4 pound.

Eh, I can do that with my own CDs and cooledit - which I did for crossroads.... to me it sounds just like a slowed down song.

I still have my doubts - only because it has never been brought up (afaik) till now.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 29 Jun 05 - 04:59 AM

Perhaps it is true for some songs, perhaps not, but can you really tell today?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Jun 05 - 06:40 AM

I read somewhere - years ago - and i don't recall where, that the King
of the Delta Blues Singers LP had artificial reverb added to goose the recordings up a bit for modern (43 years ago!) ears, and that the
King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol 2 was dry, free of reverb and more faithful to the original recordings. I've heard 78's of Johnson and to me the SOUND of them is noticeably better than any of the reissues. I also think that all of this stuff is typical White Boy
Nerdism writ large. But it is interesting. Have you ever listened to any of the recordings of James Blood Ulmer?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: robert johnson slowed down
From: PoppaGator
Date: 29 Jun 05 - 09:01 AM

Back to Mississippi John Hurt (this is for you, Hoot):

The song in question was "Frankie's Blues," one of only two MJH selections included in the landmark 6-LP set Anthoogy of American Folk Music.

From page 189, Dave Van Ronk's The Mayor of MacDougal Street:

"Spike Driver's Blues" was one of two songs by John that had been included on the
Anthology. The other was this gorgeous piece of fingerpicking called "Frankie's Blues." It was a beautiful arrangement, and when those albums came out in the early 1950s, we all immediately set ourselves to learn that thing. It was incredibly fast, though, and after a week or two I dropped by the wayside. A few persisted, and my friend Barry Kornfeld, for one, disappeared into his chambers and emerged six weeks later, blinking like a mole, and he had it. Note for note, just as clean and fast as on the record.

When I first saw John at the Cafe Yana, there he was playing "Frankie's Blues." However, I noticed that it was a lot slower than on the record. Of course, he was a good deal older, but it also struck me that it sounded better at that tempo. I wanted to ask him about it, but I wanted to be as diplomatic as possible ~ I didn't want to just say, "So, Pops, can't cut it anymore, eh?" Very tentatively, I said, "You know that 'Frankie' thing you played..."

Apparently I was not the first person to have asked, because John intervended and saved me any further embarrassment. He just smiled and said, "Oh, you want to know why it's so much slower than on the record."

I said, "Yeah..."

He said, "Well, you know, that song was so long that they had to speed it up to get it all on one side of a 78."

All I could think of was Barry, sidelined with acute carpel tunnel syndrome.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 7 May 12:54 AM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.