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In The Studio: The Two Most Controversial Topics In Music Production
What’s “the best” sample rate? Is there a superior tuning system?
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2) Tuning Systems

This one is sure to stir the pot.

The statement is this: The tuning system A 432 is superior to our current tuning standard of A 440. In other words, the theory is that we are currently tuning everything about a quarter tone sharper than where we should.

The problem with this theory is that it’s extremely hard to test and also supremely subjective.

Variation

Throughout human history our tuning systems have varied quite widely. In the last 50 years or so we have tuned concert A as high as 446, with more common standards being 442 and 440.

During the Baroque period we tuned A down to 415Hz. That’s more than a semi-tone in variation. And that’s just western tuning. Tuning systems have varied so much that even the harmonic relationship between notes has been adjusted.

Tension

Tuning fundamentally comes down to the tension placed on the vibrating element of an instrument. The less tension, the lower the frequency of vibration and vice versa. Changing the tension not only changes the pitch, but also changes the way the vibrating element interacts with the rest of the design.

Technical Subjectivity

For example, a guitar in standard tuning will sound tonally different than a guitar in drop D, even when the same notes are being played.

Does drop D sound better than standard tuning? Obviously. I mean, no, it’s completely subjective. It’s a different sound, and functionally speaking, drop D will not give you the same vibrancy that the standard tuning will. It will give you an exciting characterized tone, but not a “functionally better” tone.

The point of all of that is to say that “technically” the best tuning system is the one that the instrument was designed for. Tuning a harpsichord to A 432 would sound odd—though it might be cool.

As for the conspiracy theories and “science” behind the value of A 432… well… I can’t say that any of that is assuredly true or untrue. I’ll have to leave that for you to decide on your own.

So there it is. My take on two of the most annoyingly controversial subjects in the field of music production. Feel free to flame, curse, badger and troll in the comments here.

 
Matthew Weiss engineers from his private facility in Philadelphia, PA. A list of clients and credits are available at Weiss-Sound.com. To get a taste of The Maio Collection, the debut drum library from Matthew, check out The Maio Sampler Pack by entering your email here and pressing “Download.”

Also be sure to visit The Pro Audio Files for more great recording content. To comment or ask questions about this article, go here.


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