How rare is it that recordings are sped up or slowed down after recording, by a few percent, during the mastering process?

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Not that rare. The producer felt a little extra energy could be gained by raising the speed and/or pitch a little. Or there may be more pragmatic reasons, making changes to fit in with the pitch or speed of what precedes or follows.

  • 1
    You mean that tracks are often changed to match the tempo of another song in a DJ mix? I meant individual song recordings. ... The producer can choose to change the speed of the recording that the artists played at, there is not taboo agains that, I should definately foresee that, when programming chord recognition program , the keyof A can be arbitrary adn not 440khz? I am wondering what kind of error level i would get ina chord recognition program if i presume that all recordings are in universal digital tuning standard of A=440. – com.prehensible Apr 13 '16 at 15:08
  • That wasn't what I meant, but it could also happen. – Laurence Payne Apr 13 '16 at 17:04

This used to be common before the days of digital - often the record company would complain to the producer that a song is too fast or too slow and the option would be to vary the tape speed on the master.

  • John Lennon often had his recordings slowed down a bit to lower the pitch of his voice --he felt he sang too high. And KC (of the Sunshine Gang) used sped up instrumentals as a signature part of his sound. – Chris Sunami Apr 13 '16 at 16:10
  • Why only before the days of digital? Faster doesn't HAVE to mean higher now, but there's a lot of nostalgia for the "old ways" in the recording world! – Laurence Payne Apr 13 '16 at 17:06
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    Even with the current pitch shifting algorithms, it's not so easy to pitch shift in the digital domain without loosing quality and adding artefacts - particularly if the track has a lot of acoustic guitars, cymbals or vocals. – dazzathedrummer Apr 14 '16 at 12:54

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