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Concert Pitch Question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by George Looney, Aug 23, 2006.

  1. I recently came across an article with a petition to lower the concert pitch from 440 to 432 Hz.

    Anyway, I've tried it and it does sound better to me, it sort of sounds more alive. (I don't know if this makes any sense, but it's kinda hard to describe)
    This has defenitely sparked my curiousity ...

    Has anybody else tried this or other different reference pitches ?
    Experiences ?
    Does anyone have more knowledge about this ?
  2. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    I think their claims that 432 is more "right" in some holistic way are pretty rubbish - there is no "universal truth" or rightness in the C256 pitch itself.

    C 256 is mathematically easier (256 is a good number, as it means that 1Hz is also a C, or would be if you could hear it), but that is just a quirck of what 1 second happens to be, and that is pretty arbitary - if you happen to be on this planet, and choose to divide your days up in to 24 sub sections, which in turn have 60 parts, each made of 60 further parts...

    On the other hand there is strong evidence that many older pieces were written for a lower tuning, so playing them as such would be "authentic" (then again authentic, is a whole ball game that is really flakey), but new pieces would no longer be "authentic".

    It's really no different to rock bands tuning down - it does sound different. If you like it, then go for it, but there is no magic.

  3. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Tuning to a different pitch reference than 440 Hz is a must if you work with wind instruments. If your band has only strings, you can tune to 440 with no problems because the tuning pegs have no limits. But brass and woodwind instruments use a different system, based on lengthening or shortening one tube by sliding the mouthpiece (for woodwinds) or a pump (for brass), and this mechanism has a very limited moving range. The rule is: The colder the weather, the lower the winds' tuning become (the opposite to strings, which tuning raises in cold weather). Since there's not so much room to adjust those instruments, the reference pitch must be changed. 440 Hz works fine in moderately cold weather, say 50º Fahrenheit (10º Celsius). But when hot, the reference must be raised (winds' tuning raises, so the reference should change the same way for giving room to their tuning system). At 68º Fahrenheit (20º Celsius), 442 Hz is a good reference point. It should be very, very cold for a reference of 432 Hz to work fine for a brass band.
  4. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification

    Which all works really well on paper.

    But in reality, once you bring in one fixed pitch instrument - say, a piano, or vibraphone, or chimes) - and then the whole thing goes to hell. This is what drove me nuts about playing with wind ensembles.
  5. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Agree. Didn't think about it because tropical music bands always work with MIDI keyboards that can be fine-tuned, but forgot that the xylophone used in the university's symphony orchestra is a real trouble.
  6. j-rey


    Aug 28, 2006

    My first post here, so hi everyone.

    I have played trombone and horn (french horn) in many settings and instrumentations and I'll tell you that as long as every one is in tune with each other, it doesn't really make all that difference what frequency we tuned to. Tuning capabilities are not nearly as limited as you make them seem in your post. I have always been able to push or pull a tuning slide to concert pitch. For tuning, if available a synthesizer is ideal, and we tune by ear. Many groups I have been in has had a member who has perfect pitch which we then just ask him if we aren't sure. :D

    Oh, one note. The quality of your instrument also plays a part in how close to pitch it is, when people have had a really cheap brand trumpet, it has been impossible to get it to pitch in some circumstances.
  7. Correlli


    Apr 2, 2004
    New Zealand
    They could a have a good case there, if you want tuning to be in harmony with nature. the frequency ratio for a major 6ths is 1.681793, so C256hz x 1.681793 = A430.5hz. But they want it slightly sharper to 432hz. They would also have to consider the fact that 'concert pitch' is an international standard. There are alot more stackholders in music globally, than the last amendment in 1939 when 440hz was adopted.

    I think they will next to no chance of getting changed, having made no reference to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or ANSI

  8. floopy


    Mar 18, 2006
    If you listen to Hendrix recordings, a lot of them are tuned a shade flat - not Eb, but just a little South of E (live ones as well as studio ones).

    On his studio recordings he would spend hours tuning up, supposedly to get the right 'vibe' from his amplifier - microtuning to get the best combination of overtones, harmonics.

    Of course just because the record is mastered to be a few degrees below A440 doesn't mean that was the original recording pitch, but the idea that Jimi was tuning into the natural frequency of the universe is kind of appealing to me :)
  9. Thanks for the replies so far, keep 'em coming.

    If anyone wants to try it out, but your tuner doesn't support 432 Hz (like mine), you can calculate it here :

    Tuning from 440 to 432 Hz is 32 cents flat.
  10. IanStephenson

    IanStephenson UnRegistered User

    Apr 8, 2006
    As I posted earlier though - that makes the completly random assumption that C256 is in some way special, which it isn't. It's numerically interesting, but not scientifically (or cosmically)