This education blog shares various horizons of music in order to promote sustainable development of music education. Being devoted to music education for 19 years, Carol Ng has established her private studio at Adelaide, South Australia with an examination-standard Yamaha grand piano. In addition, Carol is keen on enlightening the next generation and advocating continuous advancement of music industry.

教育BLOG旨在推廣音樂教育發展,讓更多人認識不同的音樂領域;吳老師投身音樂教育十九年,於南澳洲的阿得萊德開設私人教室,並採用符合考試標準之Yamaha 三角琴教學,致力培育新一代音樂學好者及推動音樂行業的持續發展。

2015年10月8日 星期四

The Story Of The Establishment Of Standard Pitch

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For a clear understanding of why establishing a standard pitch was so important, I have outlined a short history of the trend of pitch over a period of nearly two centuries. The information up to about 1880 was taken from “Helmoltz’s Sensation of Tone”. From that time to just prior to the establishment of a standard pitch (1925), I took the data as presented by Richard Kamperman president of the former organization of piano technicians, known as the National Association of Piano Tuners to create the following scenario:

“The members of the National Association of Piano Tuners (NAPT), were the authors of the resolution that brought about the end of the chaos that existed in the matter of musical pitch prior to June 11, 1925.

“Historical pitches from the lowest to the highest: (there were other pitches used during these periods, but the following pitches exerted influence only at their particular institutions and on persons in the same musical environment). It is interesting to note the steady rise of pitch of the various tuning forks.

A-384.3 1700 A tuning fork of an early church, origin unknown.
A-423.5 1751 Fork of Handel
A-415.0 1754 Roman Catholic church organ in Dresden.
A-420.1 1780 Winchester College organ.
A-421.6 1780 Fork of Stein, who made Mozart’s pianos and forks.
A-424.6 1800 Dr. Steiner’s fork, used in Plymouth Theater
A-427.0 1811 Paris Grand Opera
A-433.0 1820 London fork, approved by Sir Geo. Smart, conductor of Philharmonic concerts.
A-434.0 1829 Paris Opera.
A-435.0 1829 Dresden Opera.
A-436.5 1834 Vienna Opera.
A-440.2 1834 Stuttgart pitch, Scheibler fork.
A-436.0 1846 London Philharmonic.
A-435.4 1859 Pitch adopted by Vienna congress.
A-443.5 1859 Brunswick opera.
A-435.9 1868 Mason & Hamlin’s French pitch, also Ritchie’s standard pitch (USA)
A-448.2 1869 Leipzig, official fork of Society of Arts.
A-437.3 1872 Pitchler’s fork, tuned pianos for the Berlin opera.
A-451.1 1874 Belgian Army pitch, in 1880, Chickering’s standard NY pitch.
A-455.1 1877 Wagner festivals in London.
A-457.2 1879 Steinway’s fork, New York pitch.
A-450.9 1880 Boston Music Hall, USA.
A-458.0 1880 Steinway’s fork, New York.

The trend of the rise in pitch really began at the congress of Vienna in 1814, when the emperor of Russia presented new and sharper band instruments to an Austrian regiment, of which he was colonel. The band of this regiment became noted for the brilliancy of its tone. In 1820 another Austrian regiment received instruments that were sharper still, and the theaters were greatly dependent upon the bands of the home regiments for the source of their music, they were obliged to adopt the pitches of the regimental bands. Gradually at Vienna the pitch rose from A-421.6 (Mozart’s pitch) to A-456.1, This was the pitch that the Theodore Thomas orchestra used in Cincinnati in 1880.

The mania spread throughout Europe; pitch was on the rise, but at very different rates. When the pitch reached A-448 at the Paris Opera in 1858, the music world took flight. The emperor of France appointed a commission to select a pitch, whose findings brought forth a pitch fork called Diapason Normal, which was found to be A-435.4. This fork was, at the time, preserved at the Paris Conservatory of Music. At the great Vienna Congress in 1885, this pitch was advocated to be adopted as Standard Pitch, and in the United States some of the eastern piano manufacturers did adopt that pitch and began to tune their pianos to it in 1892. Up to the time of this international congress in Vienna, many different pitches had been in use. In this country the so called concert pitch was used, but with the variations of anywhere from A-452 to A-458. Although at the international congress in Vienna in 1885 the pitch of A-435 was recognized, it was not adopted everywhere immediately.

This pitch the Vienna congress adopted was the French Diapason Normal, as it was approved by the commission appointed by the emperor of France in 1858, and adopted in 1859; A-435.4 at a temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Two important factors were specified, the number of vibrations and the degree of temperature. Those two factors must be considered together, as they are directly related.

The fact that musical programs are rendered under different temperature conditions than formerly, exerted an important influence upon the adoption of our present day pitch of A-440. Concert halls and other public places were not heated as they are today. There were large churches in Europe which were not heated at all. As the halls and churches were heated to ever higher temperatures the pitch of the wind instruments went up. Wind instruments tuned to A-435 at 59 degrees F. will go up in pitch to A-440 when played in a hall heated to 72 degrees F, but the piano in turn does not go to A-440, but has a tendency to flatten.

So since we do not play in cool halls of 59 degrees, but more likely at 72 degrees, and since the workmen in instrument making factories work in warmer temperatures closer to 72, it is much simpler to use an A-440 fork in the production of orchestral instruments. Piano manufacturers must consider tension, weight, and lengths of various sizes of wire used in the scale of their pianos, in order to secure a proper balance of the high tension of the wires at the recognized number of vibrations and temperature conditions.

The American Federation of Musicians finally recognized the effect of temperature on A-435 tuned instruments and at its national convention in 1917 adopted the pitch of A-440. But even at that date there was no conformity in this country. High concert pitched instruments were in use in many sections and professional musicians were compelled to use two sets of instruments in their various engagements (high and low pitch). Brass instruments were built in high pitch and provided with low pitch slides, and when used with these slides for the lowering of pitch, the intonation of the instruments became faulty, dependent on the skill of the performer to “lip” them in tune.

Outside of the aforementioned eastern piano makers who adopted A-435 in 1892, piano makers used a different pitch source according to their own ideas of pitch. Organs were tuned to the favorite pitch of the choir leader rather than to a standard, and as for pianos, their pitch varied from “high concert” to a little under A-435. In those days, if the piano tuner was not informed by the piano owner or a player as to the desired pitch they wished to have their piano tuned, it was tuned to the prevailing pitch at the time of servicing, whatever that was. Since there was no set standard, opinions continued to vary and those tuners who had forks set to the Vienna congress (A-435), gave up their use because these forks were rarely in agreement with the pitch demanded. Such were the contradictions existing in the chaotic world of pitch prior to the adoption of A-440 at 68 degrees fahrenheit.
In 1925 a standard pitch was established. Through what means was it established? What force made it possible to establish and maintain a set standard pitch? Out of all groups who were subjected to the contradictions existing in pitch, those confronting the piano tuners were the greatest. It was only natural therefore, that from this source an
attempt would be made to reach an agreement on pitch standard.

Upon the occasion of the 15th National Convention of the National Association of Piano Tuners, Inc. at Milwaukee in 1924, its membership passed a resolution calling for the standardization of pitch. It reads as follows:

WHEREAS members of this association are vitally interested in the question of a standard of musical pitch, and
WHEREAS a most deplorable confusion now exists in regard to this standard, as among manufacturers, musicians, tuners and the musical world in general, and further
WHEREAS attempts have been made by various groups to commit the musical world generally to a new standard, therefore be it
RESOLVED that this association, as directly and vitally interested, both theoretically and practically, in this question, declares it to be one which no group save one representing every interest in the world of music - artistic, scientific, and commercial - can possibly be competent to decide; further be it
RESOLVED that this association, desiring to do what it can do to clarify the present dangerous and deplorable confusion in the standard of pitch, hereby directs its president to communicate with the Music Industry Chamber of Commerce, informing that body that this association desires to have called together a national conference representing the interests of manufacturers of all musical instruments, musicians, tuners, and the United States Government, which may explore the whole question and make upon it an authoritive (sic) and final pronouncement to the end that a satisfactory standard of musical pitch may be forever established; lastly be it
RESOLVED that the membership of the National Association of Piano Tuners pledges itself faithfully to observe all technical requirements of such a standard when it has been authoritavely (sic) adopted and established.

Mr. Richard Lawrence, then president of the Music Industries Chamber of Commerce, was so impressed with the importance and the seriousness of the proposal that he appointed a committee to look into the practicality of it and named the president of the National Association of Piano Tuners, Charles Deutchman, as chairman of that committee.

It was indeed an exhaustive study, too long to be recounted here, as to the discussions and meetings that were performed in pursuit of standard pitch. In short, all affected branches of the Music Industries were represented and every possible point of view presented. Questionnaires were mailed out and answers were received with commendable promptness from all affected parties. It was apparent from the first that all concerned were conscious of the importance of the matter and also recognized the great need for action. Considering the vastness of their task, the committee arrived at their proposal in a very short time. Their recommendation? A-440 at 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the labors of the committee were not over, for this same committee was then authorized to supervise the construction of a set of absolutely accurate standard tuning forks for A-440 at 68 Degrees Fahrenheit; said forks to represent the pitch known as A4, being the A above middle C on the keyboard, or the second space of treble clef. These forks were to be three in number - one to be deposited in the U.S. Bureau of Standards in Washington DC, one to be deposited in the central office of the Music Industries Chamber of Commerce, and one with the National Headquarters of the National Association of Piano Tuners, Inc. It was decided that there was need for an additional C fork of the corresponding pitch, rated at 523.23 because of the general practice at that time of most of the tuners of the NAPT using that as its starting point for laying the bearings. The ratings of these master forks was entrusted to Dr. Dayton Miller of the Case School of Applied Sciences, who also was the president of the American Physical Society, whose acoustical laboratory was the most complete in the US for the work at hand. The Case School was also appointed the task of comparison and correction of said forks. It can be said that, to the credit of the entire industry, without exception, they all complied promptly, submitting their forks for corrections.

Instrument makers were forced to spend considerably to make their instruments conform to the new standard. The organ and piano builders, not so much. We do not realize what an enormous task it was to accomplish the standard of musical pitch that we have today, and what they had to go through to complete the task. This article will put into some perspective that task which was successfully implemented.
Writer: Vincent
From "My Piano Friend"
An Introduction to Music Theory Pt 1- Pitch
Where Music Meet Science Part 1: Pitch and Frequency