TED Conversations

Thomas Anderson

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How would things be different if the standard for tuning instruments was A -432, instead of A-440 ?

Back in the day, the standard for tuning musical instruments became A-440. What would be different today if the chosen standard was A-432 ?

Would it really make a difference? I suggest that yes...there would be less crime, less corruption, less ignorance, and less apathy.

Just look at how sound frequencies interact with molecules...


Closing Statement from Thomas Anderson

It does not matter how "good" a frequency sounds to you, it is how the frequency "vibrates" your molecules.

To me, broccoli takes like squishy, plastic, model glue sand; but it is really good for you.

To me 528 hz is annoying to listen to; but watch what it does to molecules!


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    Jul 14 2013: Even if water molecules are made "happier" at 432 Hz, the middle A is only one out of about 3 octaves (36 tones) most commonly used in music. So the sound of an A is a brief and occasional event in the mix of sound waves that makes up music. I'm afraid that neither water nor anything/anyone else will be any happier if the freq's were different.

    The most significant result of having raised the concert pitch over the centuries has been that the music of Bach, Mozart and other early composers, played at the higher pitch, does not sound like what the composer intended. It strains the voices of singers, and I suspect it stresses both the wood and the glue joints of stringed instruments. I much prefer hearing the original music played at the intended pitch. (As a tenor, I also prefer singing it there.)

    I appreciate Mitch's comment on the Indic tradition, where the pitch is floating and adjusted by the singer. That can work well on non-fretted string instruments, as long as you don't use open strings.
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    Jun 19 2013: It's only been in the last 20 years or so that popular music was even close to consistantly tuned. I don't think I've ever learned a song from before the late 80's that was remotely close to A440. Turntables and tape players vary considerably in speed. It's only since digital files with time codes that things are in tune.
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    Jun 17 2013: The standard pitch has been wandering around since humans first sang or played music.

    If you take into account the pitches of fixed-pitch instruments made 2 - 3 hundred years ago you will see a flat trend in western European instruments with Scottish and Irish bagpipes being as flat as C = B-natural. So you would have anything from 415 to 443hz - the latter still being used in parts of Europe.

    A=440 is a more modern convention that relies on the round number It was adopted in the early 1900s and became the international reference pitch.
    Having a standard pitch is important for the maintenance of stressed instruments such as violins, pianos etc, as the pitch and tension have a dramatic affect on any wooden part.
    The player also learns certain pitches and will be uncomfortable playing at a different reference.
    It has also been observed that the "playing-in" process of a new instrument is profoundly impacted by the reference pitch used during the playing-in process (the precise physics of this phenomenon is not yet known).

    The arrival at A=440 also relies on the even temperament scheme of musical harmony which is generally accepted as a violation of pure harmony. It is used for mechanical devices such as pianos and even fretted instruments such as guitars.

    In Indic music traditions, the reference pitch is set by the lead singer and can be anything. This important aspect of Indic music recognises that the home note of each individual is different and must be honoured.

    From all this, there can be little point to generalising any significance to a specific frequency. On the other hand, there might be profound differences from one person to the next.
    As far as general health and wellbeing aspects can be determined, one would have to do as the Indic singer does - spend minimum 1 year finding one's home-note.

    Music in the West is alienated and has no significance to circadian cadence - in that context, the reference pitch is immaterial.
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    Jun 17 2013: I'd bet that dollar you could not find a million people in Dallas to do anything. You can't get enough good BBQ up from south Texas to bribe them.

    The only way that Dallas could win a superbowl would be if that A-432 tuning fork was used to jam the locker room door of the the opposing team

    As a reformed non smoker, with a plastic tube shoved up my nose... Any cigar would be problematic regardless of frequency... all that oxygen would make flare that could burn off what's left of my eye brows.
    I ani't so pretty now, what would that look like.
  • Jun 17 2013: I like A-432. It "sounds" better mathematically. :=)
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    Jul 16 2013: After all is said and done. I still not singing.in any key. I am one of the 5 Italians in the world that can't carry a tune.
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    Jun 16 2013: apparently, nothing

    "However, tuning has varied over time, geographical region, or instrument maker. In 17th-century Europe, tunings ranged from about A-374 to A-403, approximately two to three semitones below A-440. Historical examples exist of instruments, tuning forks, or standards ranging from A-309 to A-455.3[citation needed], a difference of almost six semitones. Although the official standard today is A-440, some orchestral groups and chamber groups prefer to tune a little higher, at A-442 or even A-444. Baroque pitch is usually cited as A-415, which is a semitone lower than modern pitch."
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      Jun 17 2013: No really, look at sound healing...watch how cells change at different frequencies. There could be something there. To me it's not apparent yet, that nothing would change...
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        Jun 17 2013: then put it this way: nothing different than what happened since 1600 to date.
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          Jun 17 2013: Oh come on, I bet there would have been less war, and less disease...

          I bet there may be less people saying that they have ADHD...

          You are a TED TRANSLATER ! Come on, look at the science! Watch plants grow with different frequencies!
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    Jun 16 2013: The tone would be slightly flat.
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      Jun 16 2013: Are you serious?

      You said you want to meet thinking people? Well then, start thinking and join in. :)

      440 is slightly sharp. Buy a microscope and watch water vibrate to different frequencies, then think.

      I bet stuff would be different if A were tuned to 432. Cigars might taste better, wine may taste better. People may try to get along with each other.
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        Jun 16 2013: This doesn't need a lot of thought. The standard pitch is 440. If you want to tune lower. Good.
        Do I think it would be an earth shattering event?. No. In fact, as has been noted, I think the harpsichord is tuned a touch lower when played as I remember... Cigars I don't know. Wine, I know. Vibrating would not do anything for it... maybe make it taste a touch flat..
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          Jun 17 2013: I bet you a dollar that if 1 million people hit tuning forks, tuned at A 440, the Earth would shatter.

          I'll bet you another dollar that if 1 million people hit tuning forks, tuned at 432, the Dallas Cowboys would win another superbowl, and all Cohiba cigars would be legal in the US. :)