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Yes

Posts: 10
Joined: May 10 2007
 

Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) 

I often need to tune my guitar higher than the standard A=440 hertz when playing along with flamenco records (sometimes up to 465 hertz). Are there different standards for different countries, or do record companies speed up the tracks, or do guitarists choose what sounds best? (I know that if the difference is a half-step, I only need to place my capo on a higher fret, but my question is when it's in between.) Also, does anyone know how many additional hertz equals a half-step?
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 1 2007 19:18:24
 
HemeolaMan

Posts: 1514
Joined: Jul. 13 2007
From: Chicago

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

well as for the last question, how many hertz equals a half step..... thats a toughie. see, the scale you refer to with herts, increases logarithmically... that is to say, there is n exponential increase of how many hertz = a half step.

Also, it depends on whether you are discussing the more common equal temperment, or a "just" tuning in a given key. in any case, it is possible that the records were sped up, by accident or design we may never know. but in some instances i have heard reports of recordings being sped up so that people would have a harder time trying to transcribe them and play them live.

Or perhaps the guitarist didn't bust out a digital tuner after he slapped on his cejilla and just picked a note to tune to, which may have been pulled sharp by the cejilla.

The standard for A has been increasing for many years. back in the days of yore, there were no ways to really measure exact frequencies, but by measuring the vibration of various church organs in medieval europe it has been established that A was varied from town to town. In the baroque era a pseudo standard was set at around a 428, roughly a half step below where we are now.

Since then, tunings have been creeping up slightly. today we are at 440 as the "standard". however Chicago symphony orchestra, and many others in america tune to 441. London Symphony and other european ensembles are tuning to A 442. The increase in pitch makes passages more exciting i guess. I know it does add a shimmery quality to the strings, and makes certain parts really pop.

Pianos are usually tuned lower on the bass end, higher on the treble side. This is to counteract the stiffness of the string and its resistance to vibration. a stiff string will not vibrate perfectly (in fact no string will) so it's upper partials will be out of tune with each other. By decreasing the tension in the bass, the partials come closer together, and closer to the partials of the rest of the piano.

hope that provides some insight!

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 5:51:05
 
eccullen

 

Posts: 97
Joined: Aug. 14 2007
 

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

wow, great response- thsnks! oops I mean thanks
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 6:02:21
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14960
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

Guitars might be tuned a bit sharp before recordings to stretch the strings. Always fresh bass strings are needed for flamenco guitar recordings. So sometimes they will be a hair sharp at recording time. My guitars are often sharp if I don't use a tuner for the same reason.

But don't put it past ANYONE to have sped up a recording intentionally to make it sound more lively. I have caught Paco and Al dimeola in the act. I suspect others as well, for sure Juan Serrano and Sabicas, Paco's Fantasia is a hair sharp and speedy, Vicente and Gerardo I am curious about two pieces, John Mclaughlin, etc. I can tell when I compare live vids I get my hands on, and it becomes obvious in some cases.

I will say that Paco is FAST AS HELL. I mean lets say that Paco sped up La barrosa for the sake of arguement. So the record sounds more lively. Well, 10 years later after many concerts, he ends up playing it FASTER than it was sped up. Get the point?

It does not have to be a trick to sound fast, but just to brighten up a recording or give more energy to up tempo tunes. If it is just a quarter tone, it is not much faster.

Anyway compare Sanfrancisco Al and Paco to the video. Sure it was sped up, but they are still really fast!

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 8:22:17
 
Ailsa

Posts: 2277
Joined: Apr. 17 2007
From: South East England

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to HemeolaMan

quote:

ORIGINAL: HemeolaMan
today we are at 440 as the "standard". however Chicago symphony orchestra, and many others in america tune to 441. London Symphony and other european ensembles are tuning to A 442.


Wow HemeolaMan you are not just full of poo are you?!! An impressive answer, but I've got two more questions for you.

Can people with so called 'perfect pitch' hear the difference between 440 and 442, or do they just adjust their perfection?

And - why do I find it harder to tune the G string on my guitar? (and no references to scanty underwear here please!)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 8:54:47
 
Pimientito

Posts: 2481
Joined: Jul. 30 2007
From: Marbella

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Ailsa

quote:

ORIGINAL: Ailsa

Can people with so called 'perfect pitch' hear the difference between 440 and 442, or do they just adjust their perfection?

And - why do I find it harder to tune the G string on my guitar? (and no references to scanty underwear here please!)


Hey Ailsa
I dont know if someone can hear a note and tell you its exact frequency but most musicians can tell the difference between even 440 and 441 htz on a digital tuner. If you switch from 440 to 442 hertz even a non musician can hear the difference.

As for the G string problem, this is because you change from a pure nylon string to a steel wound nylon string. The difference in materials makes the transition between these two strings difficult. D'addario have a composite set of strings where the G string is made of a different material and this helps a lot.
Otherwise if you are unsure that the G string is in tune, play the D string at the 5th fret, tune the G string to it as best you can and then stune it back slightly flat.
Mostly, the g is tuned sharp because of the sound difference. Tuning it slighly flat gets the guitar in tune.
If you cant get the guitar in tune no matter what you do, either its raining outside and the humidity wont let the guitar stay in tune or the bass strings are worn and you need to replace the set.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 11:09:08
 
bb

Posts: 28
Joined: Mar. 1 2007
 

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

quote:

ORIGINAL: Yes
Are there different standards for different countries, … ?

The answer is Yes, if your question applies to the entire world or to times long in the past. However, 440 Hz is the modern music standard pitch for A above middle C throughout Western Europe and the Americas. That pitch is generally called the reference standard orchestra or symphony pitch by scientists. High-precision samples are broadcast internationally by via shortwave throughout the day and night by standards authorities in several countries. However, to avoid being confused if you search for information about the frequencies of individual notes it is important to know that scientists often use an equally tempered note scale called the International Scale that is based upon A above middle C having a pitch of 435 Hz. To further confuse the issue there is another important equally tempered note scale in science called the Physical Pitch scale where A above middle C is 426.667 Hz.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Yes
or do record companies speed up the tracks, ... ?

Music recording companies do not usually speedup recorded music, although in rare cases some might to cram more content on a CD or other recording media. However, it has become common in recent years for commercial video broadcasters to speedup program content slightly to allow more time for commercials. Nearly all video programming currently received by satellite is running slightly faster than it was produced during source performances. Therefore, music that has been taken from commercial video broadcasts may have higher pitches than produced during original performances.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Yes
or do guitarists choose what sounds best?

Where guitarists are playing solo it is important that string tensions be within acceptable ranges for their guitars and that string pitches have proper pitch interval relationships to each other. It is not important that the pitch of A above middle C perfectly matches an official reference standard in some far-off place. Now that small and highly-accurate electronic tuners are very inexpensive solo players are more apt to tune according to the 440 Hz Orchestra Pitch standard, but years ago there was little if any incentive to do so. It is unlikely that most Gitanos even knew that the standard existed or had any reason to care about complying with it.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Yes
Also, does anyone know how many additional hertz equals a half-step?

As HemeolaMan explained, the equally tempered 12 chromatic note music scale is a logarithmic scale where the number of Hertz between adjacent pairs of chromatic notes increases with increasing note pitch. Because the scale is logarithmic and there are twelve notes, it is based on the twelfth root of two. The formula to calculate precise chromatic note intervals in the first octave is 2^(x/12), where note C is considered to be the zero note of the scale and x is a scale note of interest. For example, for the first octave the equally tempered chromatic scale frequency intervals from the base note frequency to accuracies of six significant digits are:

C = 2^(0/12) = 1.0
C#/Db = 2^(1/12) = 1.05946
D =2^(2/12) = 1.2246
D#/Eb = 2^(3/12) = 1.18921
E = 2^(4/12) = 1.25992
F = 2^(5/12) = 1.33484
F#/Gb = 2^(6/12) = 1.41421
G = 2^(7/12) = 1.49831
G#/Ab = 2^(8/12) = 1.5874
A = 2^(9/12) = 1.68179
A#/Bb = 2^(10/12) = 1.7818
B = 2^(11/12) = 1.88775

C’ = 2^(12/12) = 2.0 (first note of the next higher octave)
etc.

Of course, guitars are generally played one octave below music notation, so A above middle C on a guitar tuned to reference standard orchestra pitch will be 220 Hz, rather than 440 Hz. Consequently, chromatic scale note frequency separations have to be calculated accordingly. To save you the trouble of doing the arithmetic these are true note frequencies in Hertz to an accuracy of four significant digits for the chromatic scale from E at the nut to E at the 12th fret of the first string of a guitar tuned to reference standard orchestra pitch:

E = 329.7 Hz
F = 349.2 Hz
F#/Gb = 370.0 Hz
G = 392.0 Hz
G#/Ab = 415.4 Hz
A = 440.0 Hz
A#/Bb = 466.2 Hz
B = 493.9 Hz
C = 523.3 Hz
C#/Db = 554.4 Hz
D = 587.4 Hz
D#/Eb = 622.3 Hz
E = 659.3 Hz

Bob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 19:46:12
 
HemeolaMan

Posts: 1514
Joined: Jul. 13 2007
From: Chicago

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Ailsa

ailsa, the g string is hard to tune because it is ****ty range for the note. the combinaton of materials and string tension don't make for the optimum sound from the g string. I always tune my strings up to 442 or 443 just to compensate for the flabby sound of the string. usually g is also a chronic wolf note on guitars too. lol.

People with perfect pitch i think are porbably cursed. Especially in the world of equal temperment. I have met some people who are able to adapt from just temperings and equal temperings, but they aren't common. they can certainly tell the difference, but whether they can tell you herz....?

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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 21:42:49
 
Yes

Posts: 10
Joined: May 10 2007
 

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

Wow, lots of technical info! Thanks for the responses. I never thought bending a string could be so complicated! On a practical level, when a record's tuning is higher than A=440, to play along, should I tune my guitar higher, or slow my record down? (I suppose it's just up to me, but I'm wondering what others do.)
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 2 2007 21:54:25
 
bb

Posts: 28
Joined: Mar. 1 2007
 

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

quote:

ORIGINAL: Yes
On a practical level, when a record's tuning is higher than A=440, to play along, should I tune my guitar higher, or slow my record down? (I suppose it's just up to me, but I'm wondering what others do.)

Most turntables have no provision to continuously adjust turntable speed. If your turntable does either method could be used. The only practical option with a standard fixed-speed turntable is to tune the guitar to match the recording.

Bob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 3 2007 3:50:51
 
bb

Posts: 28
Joined: Mar. 1 2007
 

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Ailsa

quote:


ORIGINAL: Ailsa

Can people with so called 'perfect pitch' hear the difference between 440 and 442, or do they just adjust their perfection?

I can easily hear the difference between 440 and 441 Hz. Because of that it is difficult for me to believe others can't. However, it is not a problem for me or anyone else to listen to music played on a guitar tuned to any reference frequency if all the other notes are tuned in "correct" interval proportions.

Of course, truly correct scale interval proportions are not equally tempered scale proportions, except by definition. Equally tempered scale notes are slightly out-of-tune with each other by design, because it is a compromise scale that makes fixed-note musical instruments easier to build and play at the expense of music quality. Music played with other scales sounds more beautiful to those of us who are not as tone-deaf as the majority seems to be based on all the out-tune-instruments I have heard people play over the years. I often think to myself "I wish he would let me tune his guitar. He may be able to play better than I can, but he is a total failure at guitar tuning."

Nothing would improve the quality of live music played in the average bar more than the performers learning to keep their instruments in tune. Modern players often tune electronically more or less correctly at the outset, but after playing a tune or two their guitars are out-of-tune enough to ruin the music. As long as they remain out-of-tune anything they play will be a disaster for those of us with a good sense of pitch, no matter how well they play it.

This problem is not limited to amateur players, some professionals seem to be totally oblivious to the fact others hear very bad aspects of their music they can't hear. They would be embarrassed if they just once could hear what their music sounds like to some of their listeners.

Bob
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 3 2007 4:39:13
 
veet

 

Posts: 231
Joined: Nov. 29 2004
From: L.A.

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to Yes

1. A440 is universal.

2. Yes, quite often in the recording process, (at least in pop music) pitch is speeded up slightly for a more 'energized' feel to the mix. Sometimes with older recordings it was just the limitation of funky equipment.

3. Best way to adjust a recorded track to standard pitch is to digitize it in CEP or Adobe Audition or Protools or any music editor, and shift the pitch to correct it. You can do this with great accuracy. CD players never have a speed control, unlike some turntables. If you do this, you can also loop small sections as you learn them, and slow them down without changing the pitch.

Salud!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 3 2007 17:29:14
 
Ricardo

Posts: 14960
Joined: Dec. 14 2004
From: Washington DC

RE: Flamenco guitar tuning (hertz) (in reply to bb

quote:

Nothing would improve the quality of live music played in the average bar more than the performers learning to keep their instruments in tune.


Easier said than done. In some cases new strings are the culprit, not the ear of the musician. It can be painful, but you can't really just stop playing in the middle of the song. Sometimes a hard played note will knock it, or if you come from an altered tuning in a previous song, or use capo, etc, the strings will change mid song. Can't blame the ear for that. Another big mistake I hear guitarists make is tuning to chords. That causes big problems mid song. I for one try to adjust my playing by using the left hand to fine tune when possible, until the song stops and I can fix the problem. Sometimes I am more successful than others with that technique. I get anoyed when I hear a guitarist with guitar tuned just fine, but bend the strings slightly on certain chords or when playing single notes, but not intentionally. Then look puzzled as to why the guitar sounds out of tune.

About equal temp/well temp tuning. The main reason for the "out of tune" scale is to allow for CHORDS to be played, and therefore modulations to occur. The well tempered scales were not "equal" so a specific key might sound bettern than another, or rather, certain harmony notes might sound worse than others. Bach's "Well tempered clavier" was specifically designed for a certain well tempered tuning. That is why he used EVERYKEY. On a piano, equal tempered, any one of those preludes or fugues could be transposed to a new key and sound fine. But that is missing the point of the "well tempered" difference in sound of say the key of C vs the key of Ab.

So since chords/key/modulations are the main reason we need equal tempered tuning, it should be understood that music that was before that time did not use chords or key changes. It was called "modal music" and you had to tune each song to a specific perfectly tuned scale, and not change key. Modal music does not make use of chord progressions, but needs a drone or tonic reference for the base. Flamenco is an interesting hybrid of the equal tempered western guitar (harmony) and eastern old style modality (cante). There are times in flamenco the voice is not perfectly tuned to the guitar, or rather the guitar would better serve by playing a single un moving chord or two. But flamenco has evolved to what it is today, and no wonder the guitar has been the one to move further from modality in modern times.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Oct. 3 2007 17:29:17
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