Varispeed Tape Effects on YouTube.
Hi, welcome to an episode of “Thinking Inside the Box” on Noah’s Ark. In the video, we’re gonna talk about varispeed tape effects that you can create in the box. There are a number of recordings in the 60s and 70s where tape speeds were manipulated in order to obtain creative effects of formants and pitch-shifting.
Namely, one of the most famous example of this is George Martin’s piano solo on “In My Life” by the Beatles on the 1965 album Rubber Soul where the piano was performed at half-speed an octave lower and doubled up in playback speed in order to create this fast almost non-human piano part.
One of the early adopters of this technique was the inventor of multi-track recording, Les Paul where he would record very fast guitar licks by playing them slower and speeding them up on playback while stacking up multiple harmonies to create dense guitar solos like on his 1948 track called “Lover”.
But undoubtedly the weirdest effects can be heard on the 1972 Led Zeppelin album “Houses of the Holy” where Robert Plant’s vocals were either sped up or slowed down to change the tonal quality of his voice on a couple of tracks. The effect can be heard on such songs as “The Song Remains the Same” and “The Ocean”.
So why is Varispeed so interesting as a sound effect? When changing the speed of the tape, you’re obviously shifting the pitch of the sound but you’re also shifting all the harmonics and formants as well. This is why you can’t get the same sound just by playing faster or playing an octave higher because it changes the original characteristics of the instrument and gives an unnatural quality to the resulting sound.
Varispeed can also be used to fatten up some handclaps, a common technique used by a lot of hip-hop artists and samplers.
To find out more about Varispeed tape effects, you can watch the video above or on YouTube here.