Which key is In the Gallery on the first Dire Straits CD? Am or Bbm?

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Misc, MK guitar style and licks

The song In the Gallery of Dire Straits’ first album seems to be in a strange key. The official songbooks transcribe it in the key of Bbm. On all live versions Dire Straits played it in Am. So, why is this?

If you listen carefully to the CD version and and try to play along with your guitar, you will notice that Bbm seems to work better than Am, but still is not perfectly in tune with the recording. The reason is that apparently In the Gallery was played and recorded in Am, but then it was for some reason decided to speed it up a bit. In other words, the pitch/speed control on the master tape machine must have been turned up a bit, probably because the recorded version was regarded as too slow. (The theoretical second explanation that they simply tuned all guitars a bit higher does not really make sense to me.)

For this reason it is also higher than standard tuning, about 3 – 4 % (Bbm is a semi-tone higher and would equal about 5 -6 % speed increase). Today there are computer algorithms (called time shifting) which allow to change the speed of a recording without altering pitch, but nothing like this was availaible in 1978 (and even today these algorithms often create audible artefacts like distortion or a weird sound).

You can easily revert this change and reduce the speed with a computer algorithm so that the song is Am again – the same speed and pitch it was recorded at. I did this for you, so here is In the Gallery as it was really played.

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The difference is subtle of course but still clearly audible. The voice sounds deeper and fuller, also the guitar sound changes a bit and appears darker. It is also a question of taste which one you like better and which one you regard as more original – the one as it was really played, or the one with the intentional artistic change. You can leave a comment (even without registering or leaving an email) to let me/us know what you think about it.

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