Should instruments be tuned to 440 hertz or 432 hertz? Over the last three decades, this question has been a topic of heated debate among musicians. Fueled by Nazi conspiracy theories, New Age healing methods, practical reasoning, a revived connection to ancient math and aesthetics and a spiritual connection, the 432Hz note has generated a lot of focus online.
In an attempt to determine how individuals respond to 440 hertz and 432 hertz tuning, Music scholar Maria Renold asked thousands of people worldwide to evaluate how they felt when listening to each tuning. The study was conducted over the course of 20 years.
According to her findings outlined in her book “Intervals, Scales, Tones and the Concert Pitch,” 90 percent of participants said they prefered 432Hz tuning, using words like “completed, correct, peaceful, [and] sunlike” when asked to describe how the frequency made them feel. In comparison, the participants described 440 hertz tuning as sounding “uncomfortable, oppressive, [and] narrow-minded.”
“Such a conclusion may be disconcerting and provocative,” she writes.
In addition to inciting a sense of peacefulness in listeners, the proposed switch to 432Hz is also supported by a number of practical reasons. For example, singing to this tuning is believed to put less strain on singer’s vocal cords.
So, if mounting evidence suggests that 432Hz tuning is better than the standard A=440Hz, why was it not chosen as the standard?
“In 1995, an international standard of A=440HZ was set to unify the different concert pitches previously in use,” reports the Eposh Times. The push to standardize concert pitch is said to have originated in the 1930s, after the introduction of music broadcasting, which allowed listeners from around the world to listen to live or recorded orchestra performances in concert halls.
In light of this, the broadcasting industry started pushing towards “total standardization of concert pitch in Europe and North America.” In 1939, at an international conference held in London, it was agreed that the international standard for concert pitch would be A=440Hz.
Despite the evidence supporting these events, it is widely believed that the standardization of a=440Hz is a Nazi conspiracy to propagate aggression and stress. In his article “How the Nazis Ruined Musical Tuning,” published in the September 1988 edition of Executive Intelligence Review, Laurent Rosenfeld noted that Radio Berlin had organized the 1939 conference. Radio Berlin was used a primary propaganda tool by Joseph Goebbels.
It is said French composers were not invited to the event, due to their opposition to the 440Hz tuning. “Other sources, such as Rene Dumesnil, another advocate of lower tuning, say that this London congress was a set-up: The organizers first asked musicians, engineers, instrument makers, physicists, et cetera, whether they would agree to A=440, and whoever would not agree was simply not invited,” Rosenfeld wrote.
While the origins of the 440Hz standard are still widely debated, the effects of both frequencies have become a controversial topic. Studies have suggested 432Hz tuning can have a positive effect on water, creating visible imprints of positive energy. It has therefore been determined that 432Hz tuning can have healing effects on the human body, which is, on average, 57-60 percent water.
However, as these ideas and beliefs continue to circulate on the Internet, so does the argument against the frequency’s mystical effects and abilities. Dr Daniel Levitin, a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist, explains in his book This Is Your Brain on Music, that the exact frequency of concert pitch is relatively unimportant when making music.
“We can fix pitches anywhere we want,” Levitin writes, “because what defines music is a set of pitch relations. The specific frequencies for notes may be arbitrary, but the distance from one frequency to the next—and hence from one note to the next in our musical system [the intervals we discussed earlier]—isn’t at all arbitrary.”
The power of 432Hz is “a hoax that’s been around a long time. Most a capella groups drift away from A440 anyway,” he continues, “and no one associates that with either demonic or heavenly qualities. The whole point of music is that the notes themselves are irrelevant to a very large degree—it is the relations among notes that give rise to music.”
When examining Renold’s study on how 432Hz and 440Hz frequencies effect emotions, he concluded that there is no evidence to suggest different tuning systems have a direct effect on emotions. Instead, Levitin theorizes expectations play a large role in music’s effects on emotions.
The uncertainty surrounding the debate about 432Hz tuning continues to fuel these conflicting views. Therefore, until further research has been conducted on the frequency and its effects on human emotions and health, the topic will likely continue to attract the attention of conspiracy theorists, music scholars and psychologists alike.
Image: Flickr, Robin Zebrowski (CC BY 2.0)
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To the writer of this article, I have a comment:
Pleas die, in pain if possible.
You must be Muslim radical to say it like that.
You seem pretty racist in some point!
Three weeks before World War 2 started there was a gathering of French, British and German cultural agents. Location: Reichskulturkammer Berlin. (Cultural Chamber of the Reich)
Result: A rise of the concert pitch from 435Hz to 440Hz.
Officially announced 1940 in London, fixed as ISO-Standard 1953 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Those representatives knew exactly what they did.
Very interesting list of participants…..
Anyone who knows the first thing about music knows its entirely arbitrary. If i need to explain why, then you really shouldn’t be messing around with music.
The reason for 432hz is because its easier to note down the note frequencies without so many decimals, that is the only significance of that number, and it never was used as any standard. The reason for 440hzis its a round decimal number. They were both just options in the process of standardisaton. Which was important when you bring instrument A to play with instrument B that was made or tuned somewhere different.
Water as well as any cymatic material will have different resonating frequencies based on density, mass and so many other factors. If there is an inherant physical resonance, heck it even changes with temperature and humidity!
That cymatics video is a complete joke. Its using bell sounds that contain inharmonicity and heavy chorusing! The water is probably not hearing 432 more than anything else!
You hear a difference because its just a slight refreshment of senses. Like how a photo suddenly becomes less familiar when mirrored. Also it affects string tension (or other sound production device) and the resonating frequencies of an intsrument. Repeat tests with other tunings….
A is only one note. Most music is in equal temperament, so nearly all the other notes will deviate from the mathematically relevant harmonics much more than the 8hZ, so much in fact that 440hZ might be closer in for example C# to 432 ‘resonance’ than the A=432Hz note!!!
Yes, you need to have an integer ratio, for a perfect harmonic to have resonance. Thus 432hZ would not have significant resonance unless it were a purely just tuning. Not all music een has the note ‘A’ within it! So tell me again how this is not completely arbitrary.
So how do we change de hertz level!?
A way to convert existing music: https://youtu.be/dl6sae66oWk
I don’t know if this change to 432 actually does anything, but I found it intriguing. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it does seem more colorful, full of life, I’ll see how I feel after listening to some of my playlists for a week.
I use to think it was completely arbitary and different voices would have different sweet spots of A4 plus minus 20 cents. But i have played and sung music for 22 years and in choirs and bands playing pop and rock the majority of singers are flat not sharp of the notes in 12-tet when A is pitched to 440hz.
Two explanations: 12-Tet has artficial and not pure harmonic intervals like just intonation. Hence when changing a song from just intonation to 12-tet. You should lower pitch. Especially the major third is much sharper in 12-tet than the lower and pure ratio in JI. So a lowering of pitch from 440hz to 437hz (11.84 cents) should be used with 12-Tet performing the same song.
Pitch is not arbitary in relation to the human voice. The many different chakra tones that relates to the different notes in the 12 tone scale you can find tuning you A4 between ~430 and 434hz with 12-TET. These tones are used for sustained relaxed humming.
When you listened an accoumsted you ear to how singing voices sound using the previous 435Hz standard compared to modern 440Hz the “non natural” sharpness and sound of peoples voices becomes obvious.
After getting to know different pitches and how it affects placement of notes at the voices passagios you will start to get rather annoyed of the strict use of 440hz as a standard.
Tuning your A4 to 431Hz- 435Hz. The 100 cents up and down with 12-Tet matches the division of different vocal fachs to a tee.
438-444hz is a bad inbetween register tuning. Going up to 448Hz or down 100 cents to 423Hz is another nice area for the voice related to the passaggio.
Try this: Use this web site: http://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/
open three different tabs of szynalski. In each one of them put: 432hz (A) in the first one, 486hz (B) in the second one, and 324hz (E) in the third one. (just as an additional data, all of this frequencies are multiples of nine )
it’s just a glory hearing that perfect combination! NOW TRY THIS:
Do the same thing with the pre established notes from the conventional equal temperament and tell me which one do you like most.
(that is: 329.6275569128699 for the note E (330 approximately)
440 for the note A
493.8833012561241 for the note B) (494 approximately)
look at that! hear that! even numerically is ugly! so, there’s no doubt about this, at least for me.
Now think about this: What do you want in your life, (it’s very well documented how sound affects water, a great percentage of our body is water), things that reflect perfection and harmony, or the exact opposite?