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FZ Speeding up solos  
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oofers
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Post 2018-06-07 16:08   [Quote] 
Charles' book is so amazingly thorough, that I've decided the best way to read a chapter about an album is to have the album cued up to check the numerous references he includes about the tracks.

So I'm doing this for SY. I knew that Rat Tomago and the SY Tango were, of course, solos extracted from performances of Torture and Little House, respectively. But Charles even gives the times of the edits. So I thought I'd compare to the 1978 Berlin tape.

I was shocked to see that FZ sped up the recordings for the album. With my keyboard, I played along with each from the Berlin tape, and of course they are pitch perfect (thanks flambay).

But the extracted solos as SY tracks run sharp, almost up a full semi-tone! This sort of surprises me. FZ would manipulate tape speed for special effects (sped-up vocals, trombones, etc), but I never knew he just upped a tracks running speed wholesale. I assume the reason was to make the track faster, punchier. SY Tango is about 10 bpm faster than Little House.

What I also find interesting is that these two solos are transcribed in the FZ Guitar book at their correct pitches. So the transcriber, Richard Emmet, either altered his guitar's tuning during the process of transcription, or turntable / tape speed. (I can not imagine how people used to transcribe from vinyl. Impossible to isolate/slow down a snippet of a tough passage!)

And as result of this rabbit hole I went down, I learned for the first time that Steve Vai didn't do the whole FZ Guitar book himself! I has just always assumed it was all him, and had never noticed Emmet's name in the book before.

There's always so much more to learn with FZ. And The Big Note is shining a thoroughly enjoyable big light on all of this.

So a couple of question now that my curiosity is piqued:

1) Did FZ speed up the solo tracks like this a lot? I'd imagine the Guitar albums may be full of them.

2) Who is Richard Emmet? Just a fan that transcribed in his free time? Someone FZ hired specifically to do so?
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drdork
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Post 2018-06-07 18:29   [Quote] 
oofers wrote:
So the transcriber, Richard Emmet, either altered his guitar's tuning during the process of transcription, or turntable / tape speed.

More likely, he worked from a cassette dubbed from the original tape, not from the LP.

oofers wrote:
(I can not imagine how people used to transcribe from vinyl. Impossible to isolate/slow down a snippet of a tough passage!)

If you dubbed it to reel-to-reel tape, you could play it at half speed.

oofers wrote:
1) Did FZ speed up the solo tracks like this a lot?

The classic example is You Are What You Is.

oofers wrote:
2) Who is Richard Emmet? Just a fan that transcribed in his free time? Someone FZ hired specifically to do so?

He was one of several copyists employed by FZ. According to David Ocker:

Quote:
At one point there were 5 copyists working for Frank simultaneously. Besides me there was Richard Emmet, Adam Stern, Gene Bowen, Tom Nixon, Art Jarvinen (the "Art" of "When You Were Art" who also did some 2-piano transcriptions of Franks big orchestra pieces and who I'm still in close touch with), and a guy named Lee something (whose last name I've forgotten) - hmm - that's more than 5, I know, but there were never more than 5 at one time.


Richard Emmet wrote an article entitled My Time With Frank Zappa. Don't miss his story about the day Diva didn't want to go to school.
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pbuzby
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Post 2018-06-07 18:53   [Quote] 
The original SUNPYG LPs were sped up (except for the last side), as was YAWYI around the same time. On CDs SUNPYG runs at correct speed although YAWYI has never been speed corrected on an official release.

As far as I remember, the Vai transcriptions of FZ's solos were at correct original pitch.

All tracks on Guitar and Trance Fusion run at correct speed.


Last edited by pbuzby on 2018-06-07 18:57; edited 1 time in total
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pbuzby
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Post 2018-06-07 18:54   [Quote] 
drdork wrote:
oofers wrote:
So the transcriber, Richard Emmet, either altered his guitar's tuning during the process of transcription, or turntable / tape speed.

More likely, he worked from a cassette dubbed from the original tape, not from the LP.


In his interview with Society Pages, Emmet said specifically that he was given a tape and that the LP was not out yet.
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rubbershirt
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Post 2018-06-07 19:46   [Quote] 
oofers wrote:

And as result of this rabbit hole I went down, I learned for the first time that Steve Vai didn't do the whole FZ Guitar book himself! I has just always assumed it was all him, and had never noticed Emmet's name in the book before.



I can’t remember the issue number but I did a nice interview with Richard for Society Pages (U.S.) and he lent me some very cool photos which we published along with the article
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oofers
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Post 2018-06-07 20:13   [Quote] 
drdork wrote:
If you dubbed it to reel-to-reel tape, you could play it at half speed.

Sure, I did a lot of this when I was music major in college. Make a dub of a piano solo at half speed, and everything's down an octave. But it still would be incredibly hard with the rhythms of Frank's playing. Even with today's software that can go slower and not lose pitch -- it would still be a chore. Makes one wonder about FZ's pay structure. Was it by measure? Song? Hours worked? Much respect to those copyists.

drdork wrote:
The classic example is You Are What You Is.

Never realized it. I just checked, it's just a little bit in the cracks of the piano -- I would've thought it was in F minor, but given what you've said, and that's it's a guitar-driven song, it clearly was played in E minor.

oofers wrote:
2) Who is Richard Emmet?

drdork wrote:
He was one of several copyists employed by FZ.

I always just assumed that "copyist" meant the grunt-type of work that Finale is used for nowadays. Like taking FZ's hand-written charts and making them pretty, or rearranging parts for the various instrumentations FZ's had at his disposal at a given time. I didn't know "copyist" could also mean "transcriber", and I really thought Vai had cornered that market.

To go to an earlier era -- do you happen to know who did the Piano/vocal reduction arrangements for the FZ Songbook? Just someone on staff at Amsco? In my copy, the closest thing to a credits page is in German Sad

drdork wrote:
Richard Emmet wrote an article entitled My Time With Frank Zappa. Don't miss his story about the day Diva didn't want to go to school.

Great, thanks for the link!

pbuzby wrote:
The original SUNPYG LPs were sped up (except for the last side), as was YAWYI around the same time. On CDs SUNPYG runs at correct speed although YAWYI has never been speed corrected on an official release.
As far as I remember, the Vai transcriptions of FZ's solos were at correct original pitch.
All tracks on Guitar and Trance Fusion run at correct speed.

See, I don't know how you just KNOW this off the top of your head.

Thanks Pat and Charles for the responses.
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porteresq
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Post 2018-06-07 20:45   [Quote] 
oofers wrote:


To go to an earlier era -- do you happen to know who did the Piano/vocal reduction arrangements for the FZ Songbook? Just someone on staff at Amsco? In my copy, the closest thing to a credits page is in German Sad


Ian Underwood
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drdork
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Post 2018-06-07 22:19   [Quote] 
oofers wrote:
drdork wrote:
The classic example is You Are What You Is.

Never realized it. I just checked, it's just a little bit in the cracks of the piano -- I would've thought it was in F minor, but given what you've said, and that's it's a guitar-driven song, it clearly was played in E minor.

I was actually referring to the whole album. Different sides were sped up different amounts.
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franktomatozappa
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Post 2018-06-09 06:43   [Quote] 
drdork wrote:
oofers wrote:
drdork wrote:
The classic example is You Are What You Is.

Never realized it. I just checked, it's just a little bit in the cracks of the piano -- I would've thought it was in F minor, but given what you've said, and that's it's a guitar-driven song, it clearly was played in E minor.

I was actually referring to the whole album. Different sides were sped up different amounts.


Do I remember correctly reading somewhere that part of the reason for this speeding up was so that the music could fit on one side of vinyl? Hence different speeds for differents sides?
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uncle max
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Post 2018-06-10 08:46   [Quote] 
franktomatozappa wrote:
drdork wrote:
oofers wrote:
drdork wrote:
The classic example is You Are What You Is.

Never realized it. I just checked, it's just a little bit in the cracks of the piano -- I would've thought it was in F minor, but given what you've said, and that's it's a guitar-driven song, it clearly was played in E minor.

I was actually referring to the whole album. Different sides were sped up different amounts.


Do I remember correctly reading somewhere that part of the reason for this speeding up was so that the music could fit on one side of vinyl? Hence different speeds for differents sides?


Well, this could be a reason to speed tracks up in general.
All sides of YAWYI and SUNPYG are well below 20' and I don't remember fitting 20' of music on one LP side being a problem even where one would look for high level fidelity. I am not an expert, what do you think?
(I remember a Todd Rundgren LP, I think it was Initiation, having a side close to 30' and Todd being questioned for spoiling the sound there, but we're talking of 10' more on one side).
In the case of SUNPYG side 1, the comparison between the original single LP (16:38) and the correspondent tracks on CD (17:05) shows the latter being 27" longer. Quite a bit, but could it make a difference sonically-wise?

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pbuzby
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Post 2018-06-10 14:58   [Quote] 
Agreed, the LP sides would have still been quite short by early 80's standards if FZ had kept the music at original speed. But FZ had some strange ideas by then, so maybe he did think it would be a good idea to speed them up.
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Zappamaniac
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Post 2018-07-06 00:59   [Quote] 
oofers wrote:
Makes one wonder about FZ's pay structure. Was it by measure? Song? Hours worked? Much respect to those copyists.


Steve Vai told that he got paid 10 $ a page, David Ocker comfirmed this. Which imo is way to little. Steve told David not to tell Frank how much time he spends on 1 page

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bleachboy
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Post 2018-07-06 06:50   [Quote] 
This is a mastering issue in the case of YAWYI I'm sure (or maybe it's because of the enormous quantity of overdubs ?) I don't think on that or Rat Tomago etc that Frank purposedly sped up the tracks. It's just an issue of dubbing tape/cassette transfer...Sometimes Frank would record his solos at half speed and play back at normal speed to achieve a drastic effect, but playing back a solo just a quarter tone above the original doesn't make much sense.

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oofers
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Post 2018-07-06 16:20   [Quote] 
Zappamaniac wrote:
oofers wrote:
Makes one wonder about FZ's pay structure. Was it by measure? Song? Hours worked? Much respect to those copyists.


Steve Vai told that he got paid 10 $ a page, David Ocker comfirmed this. Which imo is way to little. Steve told David not to tell Frank how much time he spends on 1 page


It is too little, even when adjusted for inflation, given the nature of what Vai was transcribing.

It's a dilemma in this line of work -- how to set a pay rate when you could be transcribing fast septuplets in one scenario and footballs in another? Per page or even per measure doesn't seem accurate. Really, it'd have to be per note.
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Post 2018-08-03 10:26   [Quote] 
Quote:


Richard Emmet wrote an article entitled My Time With Frank Zappa. Don't miss his story about the day Diva didn't want to go to school.


Awesome article, thanks
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