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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The 440Hz Conspiracy

440 Hz Music - Conspiracy to Detune Good Vibrations from Nature's 432 Hz?When it comes to tuning an instrument, we think of the standard A note at 440Hz as the reference standard, but it wasn't always that way. Prior to 1940 there were a variety of standards, although A=432Hz (also known as "Verdi's A") was the one most frequently used. It wasn't until 1940 that the US adopted A=440 as the standard, with the rest of the world following in 1953.

But why did the world change in the first place? For one thing, A=432 is supposed to be a more "natural" vibration based on the fact that it's divisible by 3, unlike A=440 which is only divisible by 2.

A=432 is said to just feel right, and when tuning without any pitch reference, trained musicians are said to automatically tune their instruments there, and the ancient Egyptians and Greeks have also been found to have tuned their instruments at 432. The science of Cymatics, which is the study of visible sound and vibration, is apparently on the side of A=432 as well, as you can see from the graphic on the left.

The physical nature of the two frequencies are pointed out by Dr. Leonard Horowitz in his paper Musical Cult Control, but he goes even deeper into what he thinks are the reasons why we went from A=432 to A=440.

Horowitz claims that there was a conspiracy between the Rockefeller Foundation and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in changing the standard because"herding the populations into greater aggression, psycho social agitation and emotional distress" was necessary to create a war mentality. Supposedly the Rockefeller Foundation had strong financial interests in weapons of war at the time, and of course the Nazi's had strong interests in, well, war.

But the ultimate test is listening, so here are two versions of the same piece - one tuned to A=432 and the second at A=440. See which one you prefer.

I liked the A=432 better, but then again, I believe that the guitar should be an Eb instrument because it just feels and sounds better. What do you think?

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R. Matthew said...

Divisibility by 3 isn't a good argument for the choice of 432 Hz over 440 Hz: this only applies because frequency is being measure in Hz, which is an arbitrary unit (one cycle per second) defined in terms of another arbitrary unit, the second.

Perhaps if 432 Hz was some kind of resonant frequency some chemical or structure common in musical instruments, you could claim it's natural… but divisibility by 3 in this example is completely arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

Conspiracies aside, decades ago I measured out the harmonics etc of a single guitar string and filled a couple of sheets of paper with numbers. The numbers included the binary series 1,2,4 etc as well as others that I found to commonly occur in mythology and ancient measuring systems be they length, weight or whatever.

I also found that A equalled 432.

It's too deep to go into here but the mathematical system that emerged was eloquent and beautiful in itself, so much so that I urge my engineering students to call middle C 256hz. It's so much easier to work with.

Essentially I gave the value of 1 to a single string. The first harmonic divided it into two and hence got the value "2" etc.

I have since gridded and charted it and use it as a production tool as a means of achieving harmonisation etc. at a glance.

Technically A as 432 is very organic and natural and I am happy to provide references etc if anyone should ask.

Alan P

Anonymous said...

Uhhh, the "comparison" clip is a commercial for a plug-in. Kinda blows the point of this post.

Jef Knight said...

Even since reading Helmholtz' Sensations of Tone I've been fascinated by the idea that pitches are largely contrived, albeit by way of physics.
Since around 1987 I've always tuned my guitar to Eb. Just sounded better and played smoother with .10's on it.
Today, because of certain medical/physical things, I tune things down further to D, making my axes, technically, Bb instruments. Only 'some' guitars respond well to this, Ibanez for one and certain acoustics that sound vastly nicer down there.
For me A=440 always seem "tweaky" and unnecessarily high pitched.

Steven Vas said...

R. Matthew: diito what he said.
And how about playing 440 first and then switching to 432. Psychoacoustics anyone? Of course the 2nd one will immediately sound sharp or out of tune. C'mon!

ilter said...

I don't understand.
The person just changed the pitch of the previously recorded material, and am I supposed to judge it if one "feels better"?
That's odd way of comparing these frequencies.
If the whole orchestra re-tuned their instruments to 432 and played the same thing twice, MAYBE I could say that it's a proper way of comparing the two.

Tim Bravo said...

It might be worthy to note here that the 432Hz (one of the Solfeggio tunings) is aligned with the Schumann Resonance and is therefor tied into the very vibration of our planet.

Scott Troyer said...

That first comment from R. Matthew is dead on. This 432 is better than 440 conspiracy requires a great deal of misunderstanding of physics and psychology.

Scott Troyer said...

Paragraph 4 of that Schumann Resonance article:

"The exact frequency varies over time. There is also evidence that the average frequencies are drifting over time as well."

Anonymous said...

Like most conspiracies, this is baseless nonsense.

Nichole said...

Intriguing Post and Comments. Aside from hearing and feeling these freqencies, just looking at your water sound Big Picture told me everything.

Rene Izquierdo said...

As a classical guitarist, every time that I play solo recitals I tune to 432. The experience is much more enjoyable for you and the audience. I have gone back an forth with the same program and always the audience has preferred the concert in which I used Verdi's tunning. I also found 443 is not bad and you have to use it every time you play with Orquestra.
Also I have found that not every instrument sounds good with 432. I believe it has to do with the instruments response.

Anonymous said...

Alan P - please share more details with us!

Sean Heimbuch said...

Interesting post. I've been recording some songs with my guitars tuned to 430Hz and found that to be more comfortable sounding, and a good compromise between E and Eb. I've got some songs coming up that I will be using some MIDI with. I've seen where I can transpose, both with my MIDI device and in my DAW, by half and whole steps, but not where I can transpose from 440 to 432 or anything else. Is anyone aware of how that could be done?
I'm using a Korg Microkey going into Sonar X1 Producer, if that helps.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, the Chicago Symphony used to tune its string to A442 to give the strings a "a bit of a sheen" over the rest of the orchestra - go figure...

Gian Nicola Beraldo said...

Wow Bobby,
14 comments.. you should change your blog into a "new age compliant music"..
Seriously, I have listened without looking at the video not to be influenced. I have felt worse when the music raised to 440 Hz. But I usually feel worse when music raises in any way (the half tone modulation of "People get ready" by ROd Steward and Jeff Beck makes me sick). I think this test need other method: two separated group with two test: one 432to 440 and the other 440 to 432. Otherwise there are no scientific proves of anything, I think..
Peace at the Hertz which you prefer :-)

Anonymous said...

I recently stumbled across this information myself, and like some already stated, initially felt it was a load of BS.

Well, not one to write anything off before having at least given it an open minded try (something I personally feel is important when it comes to creativity in general), I changed the master tune in my DAW to 432 Hz and opened up a couple of songs. Sure enough, they felt warmer, less harsh and "breezier" for lack of a better description (words fail me as English isn't my main language).

Now, that can all be just a matter of perception of course (and me being influenced reading those articles expressing a positive effect using Verdi's A), but my recent release was recorded exclusively using 432 Hz as the standard and it's gotten way more positive feedback than my previous releases. And I haven't mentioned a word to anyone about 432 Hz.

Now, that can be a total fluke and maybe just me feeling a bit more inspired than usual while working on the material and hence, producing better music, but I prefer the 432 Hz tuning, it sounds right to me and it obviously have some sort of effect on a listener. I'm sticking with it.

Hugo Peterson said...

Hi All

432.1Hz (I work with 432.097 as thats as close as my combination of tools allow).

This tuning is actually about the tone of C# being 136.102hz (OM thus the correlation to Verdi's A I presume).

This C# tone is a harmonic of the Earths year (365.242..). The Colour Green-Blue and resonant to the Heart Chakra.

Great this is coming back in to popular music! The world could definitely do with its humans being more tuned into our hearts, our planet, compassion and love.

Johannes Kepler discovered our laws of gravity accidentally while looking to define the cosmic octave. Many of our ancient cultures were very aware of the tones of our solar system.

Hope that helps some of you!!


Spanda/Magic Feeling

Anonymous said...

I actually though the first loop sounded slightly out of tune or flat, probably a consequence of my ears being used to the standard pitch.

Anonymous said...

The second clip sounds slightly distorted, as if it were artificially pitched up.

If we're doing a comparison, the only fair way would be to have a performer (or group) tune to one version of A, then to the other, and see which is more euphonic as actually performed.

And actually to do a proper comparison, there needs to be about ten seconds of sound between the two to empty out the phonological loop in your brain. As long as the first piece is ringing in your ears, the second one will sound 'off' just because it's tuned differently, not because you actually prefer the first one.


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