Neel, Mike, Phil, and Matt
Neel, Mike, Phil, and Matt

Challenging the Tyranny of 440 hz

This week SongTalk resolved the controversy over standardized tuning to 440 hz!

Okay maybe we didn’t resolve anything. But we did invite our good friend and frequent guest Matthew Reid to discuss the origins of the standard tuning setting plus the pros and cons of having a standardized tuning set at 440 hz rather than the more “organic” 432 hz.

A bit of background – In 1953, a worldwide agreement was signed declaring that middle “A” on the piano be forevermore tuned to exactly 440 Hz. This frequency became the standard ISO-16 reference for tuning all musical instruments based on the chromatic scale, the one most often used for music in the West. All the other notes are tuned in standard mathematical ratios leading to and from 440 Hz.

There are some people – including popular songwriters – who think that using 432 hz is more organic and resonates with better with nature. We look into this debate and ask the hard questions…

Including topics like:

  • does it really matter?
  • is 432 hz really “a pure tone of math fundamental to nature”?
  • is there a noticeable difference between different tunings apart from the change in frequency?
  • how can playing with different tuning sets improve your songwriting
  • is the standard 440 hz perpetuating the tyranny of Westernized musical structures?

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