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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 ...


77

I've seen it argued that the instrument that became the guitar started with the major G chord set, the second, third and fourth string, probably in pairs, as the entire string set for the instrument. The first string was then added, and the lower strings were added in fourths to provide more bass harmony, much the same way we see the 7th string being brought ...


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

See the section on tuning systems on Wikipedia for some background. In short, most intervals do not sound best on equally-tempered scales (where the distance between any two consecutive half steps is the same) but on ones where the notes vary in distance. For instance, fifths usually sound the most in tune when the frequencies are in a 2:3 ratio. Because ...


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, 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

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 ...


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 ...


41

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 ...


34

I was under the impression it was more historical than anything else, although Wikipedia tells me: Standard tuning has evolved to provide a good compromise between simple fingering for many chords and the ability to play common scales with minimal left hand movement. Uniquely, the guitar's tuning allows for repeatable patterns, which also facilitates the ...


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 ...


32

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

I would encourage anyone who is interested to tune their own piano. My personal experience is... (I am an amateur in the true sense (Latin: "To Love"), have played piano for 8 years and probably tuned my own piano for 5 years (when I have time)) It probably took me about a week (off and on, I suppose about 6 hours) to completely retune my old piano from the ...


29

It depends on the tuning system being used. If you're tuning by perfect intervals, i.e. intervals in which the ratios of the frequencies are in whole-number pairs, then Gb isn't exactly the same as F#. For example, say you're tuning to A440 and using perfect intervals. Then the E above the A is tuned to 440 * 3/2 = 660 Hz. The B above the E is tuned to ...


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

As you already suggested, it takes time. I would say that to begin to be a good piano tuner takes at least 3 years and you still have plenty of room to improve. It helps to have a good and discerning ear, but you do not need what people imprecisely call perfect pitch. You will need a good reference tuning fork or pro electronic tuning reference. I prefer ...


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 ...


23

There are the tuning differences, as already mentioned. Then there is the function difference. If you have an entire piece in D major, using the tones in D major, seeing a D♭ instead of a C♯ would be very awkward. When writing music, the rules (simplified) are: use the tones of the key currently in use (could be a different key than the main key, the key ...


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 ...


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