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I have the album Live at Woodstock in digital format. I noticed that everyone in Hendrix's band is (seemingly) tuned to some pitch between Eb and E.

I've heard some various, uncited sources that they were actually tuned to Eb, but the recording was played too fast on a record player which increased the speed and subsequently the pitch. I don't have access to the vinyl.

It's probably a slight difference in playback speed from the speed it was recorded at. This would be a particular problem if you are dealing with old recordings, live in a country that uses PAL, or both.

http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/cellar/249395-woodstock-hendrix-tuning.html#post4997246

It's E flat boys. The difference is in video, vinyl or digital whatever your listening to. I have a strobe turn table and when it is set proper everything is E flat.

http://www.mylespaul.com/forums/cellar/249395-woodstock-hendrix-tuning.html#post5000403

Yet it's clearly not Eb in the digital 1999 release of Live at Woodstock.

Could be that the speed of the recording is off a little causing a change in pitch.

http://www.strat-talk.com/forum/stratocaster-discussion-forum/223284-woodstock-hendrix-tuning.html#post1250476

Some circumstantial evidence:

  • Hendrix's other live recordings seem to all be near exactly Eb (Monterey, Filmore East, etc.)

  • The tempo of most of the songs seems to be faster than any other recordings of the same song (e.g., "Fire").

Is this "recording speed" theory truly the case? Or is it simply a result of precise, but inaccurate tuning?

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    Could be either. It's difficult to draw a conclusive answer. It would not be the first time that a weird mastering error changes the pitch of a recording - The Beatles fell victim to this lots of times. Try a forum specifically for mastering geeks, e.g. Steve Hoffman's, maybe. – Some Dude On The Interwebs Apr 1 '15 at 17:10
  • @SomeDudeOnTheInterwebs Thanks for the forum recommendation, I'll try there. I just find it curious that Kramer didn't correct this for the remix released in 1999. – nanny Apr 1 '15 at 17:13
  • If you spend some time on that forum you'll end up with a rather bleak view of mastering engineers and (especially) label managers. Especially from 1999. – Some Dude On The Interwebs Apr 1 '15 at 17:15
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    What makes you think that when the band went on stage that they were concerned about being exactly in tune according to some external standard? As long as they were in tune with each other, they did not care about anything else. It is the same with all bands everywhere, all the time. Furthermore in the 1960s there were no tuning devices for use in live performance other than a metal tuning fork and the performers' ears. – user1044 Apr 1 '15 at 18:46
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    @WheatWilliams I don't think that at all, and nowhere did I imply that I do. In fact, it was always my understanding that this tuning was the result of exactly what you describe, until I read some comments about the record speed. – nanny Apr 1 '15 at 19:32
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Back in the 60s, unless there was an instrument that couldn't easily be re-tuned, i.e. piano, organ, etc, featuring in the set, all guitars were tuned to each other, probably using the first one that was in tune. It wasn't that important, as long as everyone was at the same pitch. Occasionally a piano was used, and the band would have to tune to whatever that was. So somewhere between Eb and E was common. Horns could be tuned to within a semitone, so no problem there.

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    Thanks, I've heard this before. I'd like a more specific and concrete answer, though. – nanny Apr 1 '15 at 17:56
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    It happened a lot. I remember playing a gig, two bands on, and at the end of the night, both bands decided to play together the no. 1 for that week. Key sorted, it was horrendous. Only after the gig did I realise why. The two bands were a demi semitone out with each other!. Didn't make any difference when one band was playing - why would it? – Tim Apr 1 '15 at 18:34
  • Considering the conditions at Woodstock it is not surprising that the tuning would not be in some traditional standard pitch. I mean they just jammed. Van Halen has tunes recorded like Ain't Talkin Bout Love that are tuned in between E - Eb. – r lo Apr 2 '15 at 3:16

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