Why is so much music recorded out of key?

As a guitarist, I like to sometimes listen to music and figure out a solo or sometimes play along with a song. My guitar is in perfect tune but a lot of the time the music is off and in between 2 keys. Like a semi tone off key. This really never happens when listening to a live recording, only studio recordings. I assume all the musicians tune up during a session and of course piano is already tuned to a standard. So has anyone else noticed this and can explain why. Don’t try to blame it on my turntable as it happens with digital streams and cd releases as well. Been noticing this for years. What gives??


Some singers are recorded with the tape machine running slow, to lower the pitch of a note above the top of the singer's range. In post-production the tape is then slowed down to return the song to it's original pitch and tempo. In addition, some producers try different running speeds, to find the "feel" they are looking for in a particular song. 

running slow...then slowed down

OK What does it mean?

I do agree with blaming producers. A half tone off makes their "creation" stand out from the pack in search of the hit.

That auto tune garbage

it makes the music match the voice or something.


years ago, real musicians did t have this issue.


these new bands and singers are all idiots, and need autotune to sound average


check YouTube for that Brad Delp singing without,music to his Boston song  more than a feeling, that was all him, a real singer. These days. Blechk!

all junk, minus a few of course

When I was younger I played guitar constantly- rarely was A440 tuning used. Most rock guitar players followed the 1/4 step down tuning- others standard. It was all about the range of the vocalists. There are many others as well- Drop D and open tunings as well as the move to 7 string instruments with offsets on 6th and 7th. It just takes a trained ear to catch what’s going on.

Interesting comments.

@designsfx Doesn't make sense to me to tune down a quarter tone for the vocalist as a quarter tone difference shouldn't be that hard for a vocalist to deal with ,even at the top or bottom of their ranges. Also this phenomena occurs with recorded music that is all instrumental as well. I suspect bdp24 is right in that the producers do it for some reason.