Three Counties Tango | Milonga

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

I’ll be the DJ at the Milonga at Redmarley Village Hall, The Causeway, Redmarley D’Abitot, GL19 3HS (organised by Three Counties Tango) on Saturday, 12 May 2018 (7:30pm – 11:30pm). Entrada £10.

Redmarley Village Hall
Redmarley Village Hall

Redmarley Village Hall is an attractive venue, just a few minutes’ drive (2 miles) from junction 2 of the M50 (with the A419 Ledbury Road). There’s plenty of parking.

Music: 100% traditional, of course.

RCA 100 Años – Carlos Di Sarli (Revised)

Many people will have this album, either as a CD or download. I bought mine to fill some gaps in my collection of the late Di Sarli instrumentals, and so I was only ever interested in certain tracks. Recently, I noticed an apparent pitch discrepancy in one track, and that caused me to take out the original CD again and check the rest: I was quite surprised at what I found.


Four songs: A la gran muñeca, El amanecerEl ingeniero and Organito de la tarde seem to have unpleasant added reverberation. I already had these songs (dry) on the ‘Solo Tango: Carlos Di Sarli – Instrumental (v1)’ CD, and here are short excerpts from each song to compare, taken from the two releases.

A la gran muñeca, 1954

El amanecer, 1954

El ingeniero, 1955

Organito de la tarde, 1954

Surely, these are the same recordings? If the Solo Tango transfers are ‘dry’, the RCA 100 Años must be at least one generation (further) removed from the master tapes. Incidentally, the same reverberation can be heard on these songs on the ‘Involvidables – Carlos Di Sarli’ CD.

As a secondary matter, all four songs appear to have been transferred at the wrong speed & pitch.

Pitch Variations

It is obvious, listening to the opening seconds of a handful of tracks on the CD that there are irregular pitch variations. With standard pitch (A = 440 Hz), you can play along (on a keyboard, perhaps) and soon find the key of any piece; except that the majority of the tracks have pitches that fall between the available range of notes – they’re out of tune. It’s possible, but unlikely, that the files have been processed to alter the pitch independently of the speed. It is more likely that the mastering has been done with insufficient care to preserve the pitch properly (ie that at the point the tape was digitised, the tape machine was running at the wrong speed).

I originally didn’t spend a huge amount of time on the exercise, but the pitch/speed variations seemed to lie in the range of 2-3% – more than enough to make a significant and audible difference to the pace of the performances, regardless of whether the actual pitch difference was troubling. My attention was then directed to some software called beaTunes which (among other functions) can analyse a file and determine the key in which the music is arranged and the degree (if any) to which it is out of tune (measured in cents: 100th of a semi-tone).

On checking the whole CD, I found pitch variations in the range of just a few cents (but very few people can hear a pitch discrepancy of 5 cents or less), right up to 67 cents (-3.79%). Here are a few examples:

A la gran muñeca, 1954 (Solo Tango) -1.94% (34¢)

Don Juan, 1955 (RCA 100 Años) -1.83% (32¢)

El amanecer, 1954 (Solo Tango) -1.55% (27¢)

El ingeniero, 1955 (Solo Tango) -3.79% (67¢)

El once, 1954 (RCA 100 Años) -1.89% (33¢)

La morocha, 1954 (RCA 100 Años) -2% (35¢)

Milonguero viejo, 1955  (RCA 100 Años) -1.94% (34¢)

Organito de la tarde, 1954 (Solo Tango) -2.06% (36¢)

If these transfers were derived directly from the original master tapes (as I have heard claimed) then I don’t think that very much care was taken in the process. Thirteen out of twenty-two tracks were sufficiently out of tune for the pitch difference to be audible.

I have rendered ‘new’ versions for my own library (which was tedious and time-consuming) but I’m always looking for the very best sound and will try and convince myself that it was worth the effort.

DJ Clive Harrison
DJ Clive Harrison

Barrio de tango is the tango blog and online home of tango DJ, Clive Harrison, based in the English Midlands. Now retired from teaching and hosting dance events, Clive remains available to DJ, playing exclusively traditional tango music from the great tango orchestras.