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Author Topic: Songs are faster on radio?
snopes
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Comment: I have been arguing with my girlfriend for about a month now about a myth
she heard that radio stations play songs at a faster tempo than on the CD
you buy. I keep telling her this can't be because if you increase the
speed of the song the pitch will increase and it will sound different.
Plus, I don't see how they could do it without everyone noticing. I think
a songs tempo is a crucial part of it and fans would know if it was too
fast.

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robbiev - singin' off key
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three words: buy a stopwatch. time a song. time it on the CD. See if there is a difference.

Ok, so that's more like 6 words.

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asnakeny
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It's true. The technique is called "time compression": it is quite easy to change the tempo of the song without affecting the pitch. The reason why they do it is mostly for commercials: a song that clocks in at 3:20 fits awkwardly in a slot where they have to have 3 commercial spots (which are measured in :15 increments); the same song at 3:15 would fit in better.

Interestingly enough, it's not always the radio station that does this: often the record companies will deliver special time-compressed mixes to help promote the single better.

Can the audience hear it? Sometimes. Remember also that in addition to time compression, the songs you hear on the radio have a great deal of amplitude compression (inherent in the methods used to broadcast songs over the airwaves) and equalization (especially lowering off the bass frequencies) added as well. With all this processing, the notching up of a tempo (via time compression) from 120 bpm to 122 bpm becomes fairly insignificant.

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Electrotiger
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There is editing software that will compress/expand audio, which doesn't result in a pitch shift.

Essentially, to shorten, what it does is remove bits of data here and there throughout the track. The idea is that the missing info is in small enough pieces that you don't notice it.

It works incredibly well, especially if you're just trying to shorten something slightly. A 4-5 minute song compressed 3 or 4 seconds would be virtually unnoticable.

And over the course of a day, if every song is shortened 3 or 4 seconds, that could add up to a decent amount of extra ad time.

I don't know one way or another if this is an actual practice, but it is definitely possible to edit songs to make them shorter, without a dramatic difference in sound.

To hear an extreme example of this, listen to car commercials on the radio (or any ad where they have to put in a disclaimer). The legalese is sometimes compressed (that is, recorded at a normal speed, then processed), so they've got more time for the spot. I've heard disclaimers on some car commercials that were dang near incomprehensible.

(The opposite, by the way, expanding audio, isn't quite as easy to do without significant distortion, but it can lead to a pretty funny-sounding effect; it makes people sound like they're stoned out of their minds. Like they're talking "reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaalllly ssssslooooooooooow, maaaaaaaaaannnnn.")

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Porky
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With some songs on the radio the increased speed is noticable. Especially if you are used to hearing the song on CD.

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MaidenAthene
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I definately heard a difference if i played a song on a portable cd player and a alarm radio that had a cd player, which the portable was reasonably faster. But i didn't hear a difference in pitch, though. I also notice it on the radio, of course, with no pitch difference.

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Lil' Molly
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quote:
Originally posted by Porky:
With some songs on the radio the increased speed is noticable. Especially if you are used to hearing the song on CD.

I've really noticed the effect with the songs that I have memorized from thousands of playings on CD. So I try to sing along when it comes on the radio and it doesn't quite go. I guess I never realized what the difference was... Before it just sounded "not quite right" on the radio.

Lil'Molly

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Ulkomaalainen
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By the way, I know that many songs in the radio here are different versions from the CD version anyway, apparently to make you still buy the single even though you already own the album. Maybe this accounts for some of the differences mentioned? Having been subject to a family member who actually owns, amongst other stuff, "gravity protected wiring" (whatever that actually may do... I asked and it increased some XYZ-Clarity rating blah blah) in his stereo and claims to hear the difference, I may be overly careful about noticing small differences, but maybe sometimes it's just a "different song" at all (of course that can easily be combined, make those radio versions suit the time slots and so on)

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ChickMarie
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My husband is a longtime radio guy and, yes, it's done on lots of stations. He hates it so he steers clear of doing it. I can never tell the difference but I don't listen to much new stuff anyway. He can always hear it on other stations and it drives him nuts.
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asnakeny
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quote:
Originally posted by Electrotiger:

(The opposite, by the way, expanding audio, isn't quite as easy to do without significant distortion, but it can lead to a pretty funny-sounding effect; it makes people sound like they're stoned out of their minds. Like they're talking "reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaalllly ssssslooooooooooow, maaaaaaaaaannnnn.")

For a fun (and artistically extreme) example of this, check out Leif Inge's work 9 Beet Stretch, which consists of Beethoven's 9th Symphony time-expanded to last 24 hours.

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musicgeek
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This is done with digital video, as well. Nick at Nite started implementing time compression in October of 2001, and the Game Show Network also uses it. The pacing difference, while slight, is still noticeable and a little unsettling. It's all about creating more room for ad revenues, which has a lot of fans of classic shows ticked off.

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Electrotiger
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quote:
For a fun (and artistically extreme) example of this, check out Leif Inge's work 9 Beet Stretch, which consists of Beethoven's 9th Symphony time-expanded to last 24 hours.
That is, by far, one of the strangest things I've ever seen.

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alicia
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how funny! i haven't really listened to the radio in years, but i noticed this a long time ago when i used to listen to tapes in the car a lot, but i just assumed my tapes were sort of stretched out and just played slower! (which is probably true anyway, but still.)
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bufungla
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quote:
Originally posted by musicgeek:
This is done with digital video, as well. Nick at Nite started implementing time compression in October of 2001, and the Game Show Network also uses it. The pacing difference, while slight, is still noticeable and a little unsettling. It's all about creating more room for ad revenues, which has a lot of fans of classic shows ticked off.

The alternatives, however, are

1) Delete parts of shows (which is what most networks use - watch M*A*S*H on the Hallmark Channel to see how choppy this gets)

2) Run the old shows at their full length with the newer, expanded commercial breaks, and let them end where they end. BBC America does this out of necessity, and their half hour shows run for 40 minutes. They have to schedule three such programs before they get synched up on the hour again (and just try catching the beginning of the two shows in the middle without watching an entire two hour block).

3) Go back to 70's era commercial break lengths (and see how long a network can keep this up before it alienates its stock holders and/or goes broke).

buf '10 pounds of program in a five pound bag' ungla

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Troberg
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As many people have said, it is easy to compress a song without affecting the pitch, especially since much of the number crunching needed already exists in modern audio compression algorithms based on Fourier transforms (MP3 for instance). These break down the sound in simple waveforms and stores it in a table with lots of records somewhat like "play X Hz from time Y to Z". Just change the Y & Z and you have your compression. Much simplified of course.

Even if you just play it faster, the pitch shift is barely noticeable. I have a Denon CD player that can change replay rate 10% in either direction, and you have to go quite a bit out on that scale before you hear it. After a couple of minutes, you don't even hear a 10% shift anymore, as the brain has got used to it.

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zman977
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quote:
Originally posted by Ulkomaalainen:
By the way, I know that many songs in the radio here are different versions from the CD version anyway, apparently to make you still buy the single even though you already own the album. Maybe this accounts for some of the differences mentioned? Having been subject to a family member who actually owns, amongst other stuff, "gravity protected wiring" (whatever that actually may do... I asked and it increased some XYZ-Clarity rating blah blah) in his stereo and claims to hear the difference, I may be overly careful about noticing small differences, but maybe sometimes it's just a "different song" at all (of course that can easily be combined, make those radio versions suit the time slots and so on)

Sometimes that is the case. We will get both the album version and the single edit and there can be as much as a minute or as few as just a few seconds difference in the two versions.. The music servises do this especailly with rock songs that can also be played on top forty radko. We have both a rock station and a top forty station in our cluster. As you can guess the shorter version gets played on our top forty station. As was mentiond earlier the songs we get already come time compressed but we could easily do it ourselves with cool edit. The other reason and the main one you hear a different version on the radio is because of content. Some songs especially urban and some rock have to have different versions for radio simply because of language. If you tried to play an unedited eminem song. The uncut version of "My Humps" by the black eyed peas. or that awful song "Laffy Taffy" by d4l which I unortunatly had to add this week to the rotation. You would at the very least get a hefy fine and possibly lose the licence. There are sone songs that I have to edit even more after we get them from our music service because you can still make out the word. Some rock bands have to be edited for content too. Green Day likes to drop the F bomb once in every song so we get edited coppies of those songs. So to a certain extent you'll hear a different version for time compression but most of the time the alternate version is for content.

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piper
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It's been said by several people above me that songs can be compressed without affecting pitch — what if the pitch is changed, however? There's one station out of Decatur, Ill., where I noticed a pitch shift of about a half-step up on some, but not all, of their songs. I'm having to assume the reason the pitch would be changed at all would be because they're using time-compression techniques, but could there be another reason, or are they just doing it badly, or what? Because it drives me insane to hear songs in a completely different pitch.

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steve s
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Many years ago, back in the days of vinyl, I was flipping through the stations on my car radio and the same song was playing on two stations, one of them a top 40 station. The version on the top 40 station definitely had a higher pitch.

Another thing I hate is when some stations will delete parts of songs that they feel are too long. One station here absolutely butchers such songs as "Beginnings" by Chicago, and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by CSN&Y. The songs are about half as long as they should be.

Steve S.

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zman977
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quote:
Originally posted by steve s:
Another thing I hate is when some stations will delete parts of songs that they feel are too long. One station here absolutely butchers such songs as "Beginnings" by Chicago, and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by CSN&Y. The songs are about half as long as they should be.

Steve S. [/QB]

My boss always "suggests" that the music director on our rock station play the short version of songs when we have the option. The main reason this is done is to get more commercails in. What drive me nuts is that we play the short version of the Who "Who Are You". yet we'll play the full version of Dire Straits "Money for Nothing". and then turn around and play the short version of "Twilight Zone" by Golden Earing. I say if your going to shorten songs at least be concistant and do it with all of them and not just some.

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Ever notice how we always fall in love? We never climb gently in to love, or step lightly in to love. If love is such a good thing than why is it described as a fall.

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Seaboe Muffinchucker
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quote:
Originally posted by steve s:
Another thing I hate is when some stations will delete parts of songs that they feel are too long. One station here absolutely butchers such songs as "Beginnings" by Chicago, and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by CSN&Y. The songs are about half as long as they should be.

There exists an edited version of American Pie. Less than four minutes, I believe.

Seaboe

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piper
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It's not even worth it to play a short version of "American Pie."

The edit I really hate is "My Sharona." Call me crazy, but I love that song, and I love that guitar solo. What really bothers me is that different stations will edit the solo in different ways, so I might hear a different version of the solo, think "Sweet! They're going to play the full-length version!" and am sorely disappointed when I find it's just been hacked into different pieces than what I'm used to.

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Ulkomaalainen
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quote:
Originally posted by Electrotiger:
quote:
For a fun (and artistically extreme) example of this, check out Leif Inge's work 9 Beet Stretch, which consists of Beethoven's 9th Symphony time-expanded to last 24 hours.
That is, by far, one of the strangest things I've ever seen.
Not editing, thus a slight highjack, but in a chapel in the German town of Halberstadt there's a concert going on of John Cage's "Organ² / As Slow As Possible". It started back in 2001 and is expected to last until 2640. So if you find your time, come on over and listen in.

Ulko "in a hurry" maalainen

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radiochicky
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I won't come out and say you are wrong, b/c there seems to be some radio folks commenting on this.

I will say that perhaps it is a U.S. Radio thing, because I have NEVER EVER heard such a thing in all my experience.

Very odd, indeed.

And commercials are measured in 15 sec?

Interesting....again, I'd say that such a blanket statement like "all radio stations...." only expands a myth.

It ain't true everywhere!! :-)

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Aptenodytes_Forsteriis
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I owned a nightclub for years and let me just say that vinyl ain't dead, all dance and most rock and pop songs are available in multiple versions. There will be the true dance mix, the radio mix and the album mix. Different media have different needs. A nightclub DJ needs a more regular BPM (beats per minute) throughout the song than you need in your car. After all he has to match that beat inorder to properly mix in and out of the song. These versions also tend to be different lengths. Generally the shorter version annoys devotees of that particular group/song, BUT the long versions tend to clear the dancefloor by boring most of the audience. We live in a short attention span world; now excuse me while I go read a different thread, this is so 5 minutes ago....

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Mabels Folly
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quote:
Originally posted by Seaboe.Muffinchucker:

There exists an edited version of American Pie. Less than four minutes, I believe.
Seaboe
[/QUOTE]

Actually the song was divided up into two parts and issued as a double A-sided single back when it first hit the charts in the 1970's.

Radio stations started out playing Side One of the Double A-side, but many switched over to playing the full length album track.

Related to the OP, David Foster Wallace had an article in the Atlantic a few months ago about the goings on at a shock jock/talk radio show and he went into the whole bit about chopping out dead airtime to allow for more commercials. If what Wallace wrote was accurate, it's not as easy to do as some here have posted.

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Bassist
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Nobody's yet mentioned my idea (therefore, it's probably wrong [Smile] )

Could the shorter versions be due to the DJ talking over the instrumental intros and fading the endings more quickly than the artists intended (in order to get to the next song more quickly)?

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RubyMoon
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Now I remember why I gave up listening to the radio, I was gonna kill the next DJ who talked over the opeing of any Beatles song ever again.
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musicgeek
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quote:
Originally posted by Bassist:
Could the shorter versions be due to the DJ talking over the instrumental intros and fading the endings more quickly than the artists intended (in order to get to the next song more quickly)?

We're not talking merely about length/duration, but about tempo -- the timing of the beats is actually faster in digitally time-compressed audio.

As to Mabel's post about "chopping dead airtime" (which is different than time compression), it's actually quite easy to do with pre-recorded media. Most high-end recording and production software has an automated command to do just this (in Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer it's "Strip Silence"). This is the rapid run-on sentence effect you hear in auto dealers' end-of-commercial legal disclaimers. (Of course, before this technology was available, they had to go to this guy.)

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Crackrzz
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Actually, I used to find that cassette tapes would play faster. Usually, it depended on the quality of the unit I would play it on.

I never really noticed the radio thing. Editing and chops I notice though... and talking over intros and endings. [Mad]

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The Hit Parade
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I don't listen to much commercial radio, but I have certainly heard it said that one of the biggest stations here in London speeds the songs up. Knowing their playlist, though, it's no bad thing to get them over with faster.

Funnily enough, I've never had that big a problem with DJs talking over outros - but then I think most outros since about 1967 are too long anyway.

PS Vinyl is great!

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Nappy Solo
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I had always heard that the term that radio stations used when asked about this was that they would "sweeten" the sound to make it sound brighter, etc., but it really was to cram in more time as discussed earlier. Worst offender I ever heard was Grand Funk's "Locomotion". I also would rather heard the longer authentic versions of a song (ELO's Roll Over Beethoven), but some stations will only play the butcherd version. What really is a shame is somebody talking over both ends of the song. I guess this is why I switched to XM!

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Gezal
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I have stacks of old records, 45s and 78s. In these collections there are some records that are on promo labels. These are records that the companies gave to the radio stations for airplay. They say on them; "Promotional copy -- Not For Sale", or something similar. Those labels usually have a white background, different from the more colorful regular issue labels. I wonder if these are in a compressed format to make the song a little shorter or if they are the same pressing with a different label. They were making those separate labels for quite some time -- I have promo records that were pressed in the 1940s. Could they have been using the compression method to make the songs shorter then?
There are some old 78s that say "Not licensed for radio broadcast" or something similar on them. But that had to do with copyright issues, not the format of the song.

Posts: 30 | From: Missoula, Montana | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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