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I have a problem.
Back i the old analog days I really liked to change the speed of the recorder when it was time to do overdubs on the bgvocals. ( the old ABBA-school) I really liked the sound you get when you do the overdubs +/- 10%.
Nowadays I mainly work with Cubase SX (PC)... and I wonder if there is any easy way to do the same thing on my DAW?
I'd be very happy for good ideas here?

The only way I've been thinking of, is to do it by bouncing a mix to my A-DAT XT20 and record the vocals there... and then export them back to my DAW.
But then I will only have 7 takes to work with.
It would be much easier if I could do it all in my DAW.
Is there any helpful plugin for this?


realdynamix Sun, 05/18/2003 - 20:22

Originally posted by David French:
Sorry to jump in, but i've never heard of this trick and i'm curious. How does it work and what does it accomplish?

:) Well, lets say we had a session. Then someone say's let's add a piano track. Somewhere along the way the instuments were slightly detuned on all of the tracks in respect to the piano. Just a few ticks, but enough not to match. Rather than tune the piano out of norm for the session, the vari-speed would allow the speed of the recorder to be adjusted ever so slightly, changing the pitch of all the recorded tracks to match the piano.
Once recorded, the speed is restored with everything in tune.

This can also be used to allow a singer to hit a note that he could not hit in the range of the tune. The speed of the cue track is lowered by a sufficiant amount, which slows everything down, including the tempo. The singer sings, hits his high note in his comfort zone, then the whole thing is brought back to speed, all on key.

You can use this for special effects too. If you slow the speed down a lot, and cut a guitar riff, with the guitar also transposed lower, when restored the riff is even faster still.

I have used vari-speed to cut back-up vocals and make them sound female by slowing the speed way down, cutting the tracks, and when speed restored Ta! Da!, female back-up singers.


Ethan Winer Mon, 05/19/2003 - 06:01


Excellent response and overview.

> cut back-up vocals and make them sound female

Right, think Lou Christie. And even small steps can give a nice change of timbre, and make you sound a few years younger.

When I was in college 100 years ago [1970] I had a semi-pro studio and an Ampex 4-track AG-440. I also had a big Bogen audio power amp with a 115 VAC tap on its output transformer, specifically to control a tape capstan motor. For a class project I recorded myself singing all four parts of a Bach chorale, using varispeed - both up and down - to reach the soprano and bass parts.

I still have that recording, but it's way too embarassing to share publicly! :D


falkon2 Mon, 05/19/2003 - 06:13

Originally posted by Rick Hammang:

Originally posted by David French:
Sorry to jump in, but i've never heard of this trick and i'm curious. How does it work and what does it accomplish?

You can use this for special effects too. If you slow the speed down a lot, and cut a guitar riff, with the guitar also transposed lower, when restored the riff is even faster still.Ahaha, is that legal?
*whips out notebook*

anonymous Tue, 05/20/2003 - 16:08

Thanks for all the input...
and Kurt, I run Cubase SX... so I will look into it deeper. (I'm quite new on Cubase)
Those tricks are really useful when you're working alone with just one singer. The tracks will be "richer sounding"... Even the Beatles did a lot of varispeed recordings (especially on John Lennon's songs)
... just listen to the vocals on Strawberry Fields.

RecorderMan Thu, 05/22/2003 - 07:36

Other "Classic" uses of vai-speed:
1. Vocals: ala John Lennon. Lower speed when recording gives a "brighter" more youthfull tone on playback.
2. HEAVY drums. Cut basic drum tracks with pitched raised. On playback, the pitch of the drusm is lower.
3. BGV's / HandClaps, ect. Multiple passes with pitch raised and lowered for each pass...acts like adding a harmonizer...helps seperate and add depth by having each part a little bit way from the others.

falkon2 Thu, 05/22/2003 - 21:29

You could always slow down to a ratio that makes the pitch drop by a set degree... That way you could easily calculate the number of semitones you need to drop. Remember the (log2(x) X 12) rule where x is the factor of varispeed

For example... speeding up the track 2 times the original speed yields - log2(2) X 12 = 12. What's played is 12 semitones higher.

Other factors:

x = 0.5, semitones = -12
x = 1.5, semitones ~~= +7, or a perfect 5th up (7.019550 semitones to be exact)
x = 1.333, semitones ~~= +5, or a perfect 4th up (4.980450 semitones to be exact)

Useful ratios to get target pitches:

        semitones  |  ratio
(8ve down) -12 0.5
-11 0.529732
-10 0.561231
-9 0.594604
-8 0.629961
(5th down) -7 0.667420
-6 0.707107
(4th down) -5 0.749154
-4 0.793701
-3 0.840896
(tone down) -2 0.890898
(semitone down)-1 0.943874
(*grin*) 0 1
(semitone up) +1 1.059463
(tone up) +2 1.122462
+3 1.189207
+4 1.259921
(4th up) +5 1.334840
+6 1.414214
(5th up) +7 1.498307
+8 1.587401
+9 1.681793
+10 1.781797
+11 1.887749
(8ve up) +12 2

Edit: Fixed formula, added hard data.

falkon2 Thu, 05/22/2003 - 22:41

Hmm... All these fall under a broad technique category called "stretching audio".

There are three basic types of stretching:

1) Preserve Tempo (pitch shifting)
2) Preserve Pitch (classic stretch - faster or slower playback without changing the key the song is in)
3) Preserve neither (what we're discussing here)

The problem with the first two is that for it to be physically possible, the sample has to be sliced up into many bitty pieces, modified, then pasted back together to preserve one of those two variables. This usually results in flanging, a rhythmic beating, whining, or a combination of the three. Even the best software or hardware dedicated to such tasks will leave audible artifacts, especially with sharp transients such as those in drums.

The third type, which preserves neither, doesn't need to chop up the audio stream - it simply elongates/squashes the entire thing horizontally and interpolates/dithers the stream so that the correct number of samples per second is maintained. In the digital realm, this can often butcher signals with frequencies higher than one quarter of the sampling rate (closely related to Nyqist's theorem), but at 96/192kHz, this problem disappears. And of course, that particular problem doesn't exist in the analog realm except for high-end roll-off at drastic ratios.

Ethan Winer Fri, 05/23/2003 - 07:32


> but how is this different to using pitch shifting?

Pitch shifting these days often uses algorithms to change the pitch without changing the tempo, and vice versa. This always adds artifacts that range from mild to rude. Pure "vari-speed" simply speeds up or slows down playback, which is glitch free and maintains the relationship between pitch and tempo.


anonymous Fri, 05/23/2003 - 14:21

And Kurt, by decreasing speed you can sing "fast lyrics". :D
Well... there are many thoughts about this.
I don't want to do a "pich-shifter-thing"...
So I guess I'll have to stretch a background track(Preserve neither pich or tempo) record the vocals to that track... and stretch them back (Preserve neither pich or tempo) ... I just thought there would be an easier way..... some things were just easier with the old analog tapes. ;)
Thank you for all the support.

One more thing: One of your (Kurt's) favourites "Long, long, long" by the Beatles is really a good example of nice sounding vari-speed.

anonymous Fri, 05/23/2003 - 15:39

Davey Johnson... the guitar players that played with Elton John? If so, I agree... I really liked the stuff they made in the 70's.....
And I'm also a true George-fan... I really miss him. Do you like his last album?
Some people say that they can hear that I'm a big Beatles fan in my songwriting. What do you say Kurt? ...hmmm... I'm just trying to get some critique for "End of Evolution". :D
No varispeed on that track, but some reversed vocals.

KurtFoster Fri, 05/23/2003 - 18:54

Yes that's the one. That whole band EJ had was superb. I just love Nigel Olsen’s drum sound. Captain Fantastic is a favorite album..
I haven't heard Georges last CD but many of his records are faves.. Devils Radio is a super ct.. Clapton plays some single notes on there that are killer.. Kurt