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

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.


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.

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

  1. Much better in the Am key! They probably thought that it dragged a bit. Good job transcribing it!

  2. I have already did that on my computer since you’ve talked about this on MKnews forum some years ago. I’ve even burned it on a CD where I named it “In the gallery – original speed” 🙂

    At the same time, you talked about the edit at the end of the song. They have cuted the riff that Mark plays live in 78-79, you know the double stop licks, juste after he stop singing.

    And in the “MK Quizz” (do you remember old time on MKnews ? :)), you asked which song on the 1st album contained an organ on chorus. Of course, it was In the Gallery, but no one did found the answer (I did, but I’ve never write on MK news, just read)

    In the gallery is definitively one of my 5 top list DS fav songs.

  3. Hi Ingo, thank you for your article, which is really helpful. In fact I always asked myself why they should play it in bb because you don’t have the open string available in bb. Did you ever think of Mark using a capo at the first fret? But I think your guess is the right one. I prefere this version in a indeed, it seems the voice sounds better.

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