I have a Hal Leonard banjo lesson book that includes a series of tracks for downloading, including 5 tracks with tuning notes. I tuned a banjo using an electronic tuner set to 440hz, and noticed the banjo's notes didn't harmonize with the tuning note tracks. So, I used the electronic tuner to check the tuning note tracks. The notes in the tracks match the tuner when it's set to 438hz. Would they tune the banjo a little flat for the lessons? Why? Should I tune the banjo using 438hz when following the book?

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    If the same tracks were used for a companion video, then the recording may have been slowed down slightly or the telecine process, which would reduce the pitch a little bit. Dec 2 '17 at 17:29
  • @ToddWilcox - there's no video that I'm aware of, but there could be, Dec 2 '17 at 20:14
  • Perhaps the tracks were originally distributed on tape or disk, and the pitch shift was an artefact of the transfer. Anyway, I wouldn't read too much into it. Yes, it would obviously be a good idea to tune to the pitch of the recordings while working with them! Or you could put the tracks into an audio editor on your computer and shift them up to 440. Dec 2 '17 at 22:08

A=440Hz is not a world standard tuning. Granted, a lot of the world uses it,but it's not sacrosanct. Various orchestras around the world use other datum points, for various (good) reasons, so it may be as simple as that.

Or, they may have been copied from some old recordings, which were made when 440 wasn't so important. Back in the '60s, groups would tune to whoever's instrument was already best in tune - 440 didn't really matter - and if an old piano was there to be played, that was the datum point - whatever it actually was became academic. And bands weren't so bothered about academia!

That said, it causes no harm to de-tune very slightly to A=438Hz for the lessons. It'll get you used to re-tuning and the better/quicker you can do that...

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    “Various orchestras around the world use other datum points, for various (good[citation needed]) reasons”... but I agree that there's nothing to worry about tuning down a few cents to match an old piano. Dec 4 '17 at 0:19
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    @leftaroundabout - sometimes it used to be a good semitone or more on pianos I used to play in the '60s. Things have improved! Orchestras are of the opinion that they sound better at different 'A' pitches. And those playing Baroque etc. will tune to what they perceive as the tuning at that time. It's a known fact, I believe
    – Tim
    Dec 4 '17 at 7:53
  • I've just never seen compelling evidence that tuning to something like 443 Hz has any real advantage that couldn't also be achieved by e.g. selecting heavier strings, tuned to 440 Hz. If a Baroque ensemble tunes to 415 Hz then that's a different matter of course, but in that case the very instruments are built quite differently and with that tuning in mind. Dec 4 '17 at 11:26
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    @leftaroundabout - you may not. However, the Berlin Phil prefers 443 Hz., New York Phil prefers 442Hz. We're not talking guitars here, with heavier strings, but whole orchestras.
    – Tim
    Dec 4 '17 at 11:41
  • To clarify: 440 is the international standard tuning note which also defines the pitch A4. Just because people don’t tune to 440 doesn’t mean they don’t know “A” is supposed to be 440. Baroque orchestras tune lower due to instruments and accepted pitch at the time (using historical reference). Major orchestras tune higher because it creates a slightly more brilliant sound (akin to audio engineers bringing out high frequencies in recordings to make voices stand out above instruments.) There isn’t historical precedent for tuning higher, but there is aesthetic precedent. Dec 5 '17 at 12:35

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