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Topic: 432Hz v 440Hz

  1. #1

    432Hz v 440Hz

    Been reading about this recently and there seems to be quite a bit of debate on the relative merits of tuning to 432Hz.

    Techical aspects aside has anybody experimented with this? I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

  2. #2

    Re: 432Hz v 440Hz

    Just popping in with a thought on the subject.

    I've never experimented with the tuning standards before, other than using a scordatura here and there in my younger years... more of a whim than serious use.

    As I understand the arguments about the tunings, vocalists prefer the lower tunings to keep from straining their voices in the higher registers, but instrumentalists prefer the higher tunings because their instruments can get a sharper and clearer tone quality. So what it amounts to basically, in my understanding, is that if, as a composer, you are going to write music which predominantly features the voice, then the lower (432) tuning would be preferable for singers; if, again, as a composer, you are going to write primarily for orchestra or instruments, then the higher tuning (440 and higher) would be preferable for those performers.

    Speaking primarily as an orchestral composer, nearly every orchestra in the world sets its own tuning standard, which is usually in the higher range so that the orchestra can produce a more brillliant sound overall, in spite of the international standard of 440 Hz. Nearly everyone ignores the international standard in practice.

    I do not know why there is such a stir about it, because it is a matter of (someone's) personal preference, and it is up to various vocalists and instrumentalists to arrange some kind of happy medium between them for any particular piece, so that tuning in general is not an issue. Any orchestra can completely re-tune itself to a different pitch in less than 5 minutes, except for pianos and harps and most other instruments based on keyboard layouts. Knowing their program in advance, orchestras and individual players can tune to any desired pitch set by the conductor.

    I don't really think the subject is worthy of the debate, since basically everyone ignores the international standard anyway. Just because vocalists prefer the lower frequency does not mean they cannot make an exception at any time for any specific purpose, and the same for instrumentalists.

    Tempest in a teacup.

    [EDIT:] As I have stated in another post about Baroque, Romantic and contemporary tuning, the most important use for a tuning "standard" today is in the production of digital libraries, like Garritan Personal Orchestra. These libraries must be consistent within themselves in order to avoid across-the-board intonation problems while using the library. This was not always the case, and in some libraries years ago, some instruments were tuned differently than others, making it difficult to get a consistent performance. But in actual performance situations, there is no "standard" to speak of. Most contemporary orchestras use A=443 to A=445, but some go all the way up to A=452 and beyond. The higher tuning frequencies produce more brilliant orchestral sounds and improve the acoustical response in many performance environments, each of which is unique (the Lincoln Center versus La Scala, for example). But many opera singers will refuse to perform at these higher frequencies. On the other hand, you will also find many groups who use much lower frequencies, like A=415, when they perform Baroque music. Hence, in reality, there is no actual "standard." Even if there were, finished recordings are frequently altered slightly up or down due to fluctuations in the reproduction equipment. The more CDs that are produced in a single run from a single master will tend to get flatter and flatter toward the end of the run, so that it is unlikely you can find two "identical" recordings of the same thing that match intonation-wise. Even playing the same CD on two different machines will usually result in differences in intonation. Trying to set any "standard" for tuning is an exercise in futility for live performances, but is quite necessary for the production of digital libraries.
    Arvid Hand

  3. #3
    Senior Member Silh's Avatar
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    Sep 2010
    Alberta, Canada

    Re: 432Hz v 440Hz

    Random thoughts...

    One of the things I have fun doing sometimes is just taking various recording and splicing them together, taking a piece from a song here, another piece from another song there, etc.

    Often, they are not in tune.

    Take that as you may... :P
    -- Matt Wong

  4. #4

    Re: 432Hz v 440Hz

    Quote Originally Posted by Silh View Post
    Random thoughts...

    One of the things I have fun doing sometimes is just taking various recording and splicing them together, taking a piece from a song here, another piece from another song there, etc.

    Often, they are not in tune.

    Take that as you may... :P
    A young David Bowie used to speed up all his recordings just to make his voice higher, thus putting all his music into a strange key for anyone trying to figure out chord patterns, etc.


  5. #5

    Re: 432Hz v 440Hz

    The difference between 440 and 432 is 8 Hz, which here is 33 cents at middle A. I was told by a chap I knew years ago who was a military wireless operator that 10 Hz hardly detectable except by people with perfect pitch. It such a small difference that I cannot believe that any serious singer would notice it. Two octaves up and its less than 8 cents, its a twelth of a semitone !!
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