Hot answers tagged

81

Yes, all wind instruments can be played out of tune. Very out of tune. Source: I work with junior concert bands. To elaborate, the frequency produced by a given wind instrument is a function of the fingering, but also the embouchure (mouth position), airspeed, and any number of other factors. Learning to play in tune is a major part of starting to learn ...


61

The tuner does not hear what pitch your string is supposed to be at but only what pitch it actually is. If your string is more than a quartertone flat, it is closer to a C♯ than to a D. So your tuner then displays what kind of C♯ it thinks your pitch is. Presumably a somewhat high one (assuming you are not more than a semitone flat). So tune upwards. At ...


51

There are physical and psychoacoustics reasons behind it. A vibrating string held by its two extremities can only vibrate at certain frequencies (cycles per second, expressed in Hertz, i.e. 440 Hz = 440 cycles/second), which relates to the characteristics of the string (e.g. its weight per unit of length, its flexibility) and how it is used (e.g. the ...


50

Yes, you're right. As for why the harmonic series doesn't produce notes that work in all keys, the simple answer is that the math just doesn't add up. Let's work out the math for just intonation: Suppose you choose X Hz for the fundamental frequency and go from there. Then the octave above the fundamental should have frequency 2X Hz. Meanwhile, the ...


50

Yes, wind instruments can play out of tune, even when the instrument is "tuned properly" (which isn't as well-defined as it seems). In fact, the same can be said for fretted string instruments as well. For wind instruments, the way you blow into the instrument can drastically affect your pitch. As a flute player, I can vary between as much as a whole step ...


49

When you lower the pitch by releasing tension, there might be slack in the gears in the tuning machines, which might make the string go below the intended pitch. By going further down and approaching the target note from below, there will be force applied to the gears and when you've reached the correct pitch the gears have less potential to move. So your ...


49

The linked answer is a bit of a mess, and it's a common mess for people to make. When we talk about the exact frequencies of each pitch class, we have to know the temperament, and a reference pitch. For example, 12-tone equal temperament (12TET) with A4=440Hz is a standard in modern music. From those two parameters, we can extrapolate the exact frequency of ...


42

As someone with absolute pitch and trained in A440 12-tone equal temperament (i.e. the usual) with plenty of vocal music as a backup, I perceive notes that are several cents out of tune as "off" because I am not used to them. I have difficulty listening to music containing those out-of-tune notes unless the music is atonal. (Granted, I don't like listening ...


38

[I]s it really weird/uncommon to just tune the notes however the heck I want? Contemporary guitar practice includes a large number of tunings. Commonly used systems include open tunings (where the open strings are tuned to sound a particular diatonic chord), slack tunings (where the standard series of intervals between strings is preserved, but the entire ...


33

There are several reasons. When new strings are put into a piano, they slowly "stretch" or relax and go flat. In a day it will be out of tune. You have to tune it 2 or 3 times the first month. After a few months the strings will have settled in and will stay in tune better. If the pinblock is very old, the pins can slip, making the notes go flat. The ...


33

With long open strings, the span to reach notes especially at the nut end would be too much for a lot of players if it retained the 5ths pattern of tuning. Making the tuning in fourths means that the left hand can encompass three notes in a scale and then move across to the next string in the same hand position. That said, it's not difficult to slide up a ...


30

Why does it not matter what octave you're tuning to? If you want to set a string to a certain pitch, of course it does matter what octave you adjust the string to. Setting a string to A3 (220Hz) is not the same as setting it to A4 (440 Hz). Not only will the sound be different, but you might make the string very hard to play if it is too slack, or break ...


29

If it's a brand new guitar, it's likely that the strings on it are new as well. New guitar strings have a certain amount of stretchiness that can cause them to become flat (e.g. go down in tuned pitch) over time. When I change strings on my guitars I usually manually stretch them to try and remove this stretchiness. Have a look at this question for some ...


27

The short answer is that for 12-tone equal temperament (12TET), the de facto tuning system for western music, Db and C# are exactly the same sounding note. Exactly what frequency that note sounds like for a given octave also depends on the pitch reference, which is typically A4=440Hz. According to 12TET, we break the octave into 12 equal ratios. Since an ...


26

OK. I found a quick-and-dirty temporary solution. As an online education forum suggested, a interesting school science experiment might be to see if adding weights and changing their position on a tuning fork will change the frequency of the fork. So I played science student, and tried the experiment. Two big rubber bands on the tines clearly lowered ...


26

It's a tuning fork: (image taken from the Thomann website)


25

I would not be surprised to hear that singers are more commonly corrected in that direction, but it's certainly not impossible to be "a little sharp." A few reasons this might be perceived: There is generally a correlation between tension and higher pitch, be it tension in the diaphragm or larynx or whatever; when people sing higher in pitch, they generally ...


24

I want to make an addition to all these excellent answers. With just intonation, it's not possible to make all the chords just. Not even in a single key. Let's look at the common just major scale based on I, IV and V just major triads: C 1:1 D 9:8 E 5:4 F 4:3 G 3:2 A 5:3 B 15:8 In this scale, I, IV, V major triads (4:5:6) and iii and vi minor triads (10:...


24

Yes, but also due to the changes in piano construction. In some ways, a classical piece played on a modern piano might sound more true to the composer's original intent than the piano it was originally played on. Modern pianos are generally louder and brighter than the ones in the late 1700s and early 1800s. So loud passages, such as might be found in some ...


22

It is often a matter of tradition inside the orchestra that becomes out of control for conductors. When they create their own orchestra they have the pleasure to decide this for themselves. The conservatism from musicians has several reasons: Some Orchestra have a concert hall with a large organ which is tuned for this frequency Wind players usually ...


22

Had to do some digging for this one. First off, some informed speculation: A, of course, is the first letter in the alphabet, so its as good a place as any to define a standard. Plus, as you say, it is one of the open strings in common on all string instruments (along with D and G). The A above middle C is also a relatively centrally-located pitch, ...


22

If the comment and existing answer still don't make it clear, maybe a picture: As user25119 wrote, the octave numbers change when you go from B to C. So that means the D and the A highlighted below should have the same octave number. The octave starting with middle C has octave number 4, so the octave from middle C up to the B above middle C is C4 D4 E4 F4 ...


22

440 Hz is the standard that has been adopted. Before it was, an instrument tuned in one country or even city was out of tune in another; confusion reigned. The short version of it is that countries got together in a conference and agreed on using 440 Hz as a standard. Bach tuned at 415 Hz, which was the standard in those days and is still ...


20

Tuning is almost as much an art as playing the guitar. You're trying to pull the strings to the point where most fretted chord combinations sound pleasant, even if they're not 100% true to their intended intervals. First a note about tuning direction on the guitar. Your standard tuning machine uses a worm gear which has a nice property: it's extremely hard ...


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