The 440Hz tuning frequency conspiracy theory


Senior Member.
Humbucker, single coil, lipstick, tapped, bug or active?

I'm a humbucker guy, highly recommend TV Jones, but then again, certain pickups match certain guitars, and if I'm not careful we can devolve this thread into a guitar tech geek thread. Everyone post pics of their axes etc etc. would be cool :p


New Member
Different tunings do 'feel' different even to people who do not have perfect pitch - baroque music is generally played at A = 415 because it adds to the baroque 'feel'; similarly, the rock band Guns 'N Roses played most of their songs with half-step lower tuning (Slash, the widely emulated lead guitarist, still does this) to add a unique, slightly haunted 'feel' to their music.

This is only partially true. The "baroque feel" comes more from the temperament of the particular tuning rather than the reference pitch. The temperament refers to adjustments made to the frequency interval between pitches. In modern western music, an equal temperament (12-TET- twelve tone equal temperament) is typically used in which the interval between pitches is given by the formula:

P(n)=Pa*(12th root of 2)^(n-a).

P(n)=frequency of chosen note
P(a)=440 Hz (for modern concert standard, but can be any pitch)
n = number of the key on a piano
a = 49, A 440 is the 49th key

There are many different historic temperaments that were used during the baroque period. Using the 12 TET convention of modern western music creates a very uniform in-tune sound for every key. In much of the baroque period, different temperaments were used in which the sound of different keys created a different mood for the music. Thus the choice of key had a relatively larger impact on composition than with today's temperament. For example, a commonly used temperament of the 18th century was the quarter comma meantone temperament. This makes for a very "baroque feel" and creates an even "sadder" sound for music written in the key of the D-minor, compared to say A-minor. (Yes, Spinal Tap).

This more "baroque feel" will occur with a quarter comma meantone temperament whether the reference pitch is A415 Hz or A440 Hz. Just as a 12-TET will produce a modern feel when a lower reference pitch of A415 Hz is used. Additionally, using the above formula with our standard A440 Hz, tuning one half step lower in the style of Guns n' Roses, or Nirvana, the resulting reference pitch is A415 Hz. You could make an argument that these bands produce music with a "haunted feel," however, it does not produce a "baroque feel."

I love that people are discussing tuning and temperaments!

Tim Muston

New Member
When you consider that the second is a period of time that was made up by and defined by humanity, making a musical note have an integral number of cycles in a second versus some number with digits on the right hand side of the decimal point is sort of unimportant.
This is true. Also, the claim that under the 432 Hz scheme all notes have integral values is simply untrue. Middle C, for example, becomes approximately 256.8687 Hz