調音, Tuning

調音機上的頻率 Chromatic Tuner’s Frequency (Pitch Standard)



調音的基本目的,是令每個人所調的音頻就在同一個基準上。在數百年前,調音的頻率大約為415Hz。原因是因為當時的生活步兵比較慢,音樂是奢侈品,貴族間流行的玩兒 (我聯想到在電視上看到「傲慢興偏見」、「小婦人」等電視劇集),所以當時大多都在室內演奏,不需要太大聲,因此頻率不用太高。(注:現在我們彈古箏,把琴調到415Hz的話,琴弦會較鬆,音色會比較低。)


長久以音樂樂團通常定在音頻440Hz,因而成為最多人用的準則。聽說在1953年之後,國際標準組織(ISO) 便統一將全球的音樂都調為440HZ。當人們習慣了這一個音頻,日子長了觀眾有可能對此麻目了。一些樂團把440Hz調音基準,向上調高至441、甚至是442Hz。這樣的方式,除了出現在合奏樂團外,各式協奏曲中solo樂器的音高,也經常比伴奏樂團要高出lHz,以達到突顯個體的效果。正因為如此,新一代的樂器也必須跟著進步,除了改良結構外,樂器承受震動的厚度也必須作調整,才能在演出音量加大。



“Frequency” is a word that appears so frequently in my life recently. Last month, I took on a new job and am now working for the medical imaging department in my organization. In the world of medical imaging, there are so many types of equipment, such as ultrasound. And the word “frequency” (hertz) is not an uncommon term.

Recently, there have been some discussions online among Guzheng players about “frequency”, Specifically, they talked about what “hertz” we should calibrate our chromatic tuner to tune our Guzheng. In the past, I had no ideas about frequency. For a long period of time, my chromatic tuner was actually set to a slightly lower frequency. One time my teacher noticed it and asked me. Then, I realized that I needed to increase the frequency level on my tuner. She told me to set it to 440Hz because this is the most commonly used. But recently, I have seen some discussions online. Some Guzheng friends said it’s actually better to set it to 442Hz, which is more suitable for Chinese musical instruments. So our of curiosity, I decided to do some more research on frequency (pitch standard).

The main purpose of tuning is make ensure that everyone is using more or less the same frequency when playing music. This sets a reference point. Hundreds of years ago, the frequency was set to about 415Hz. At that time, people’s lives were slower. Music was a luxury and was a leisure for the rich and nobles. Some great examples are movies and tv shows of Pride and Prejudice, and the Little Women. People played music mostly indoor; therefore, there was no need to set the frequency to too high to produce loud sounds. (Note: Nowadays when we play Guzheng, if it is set to 415Hz, the strings would be too loose and the sound would be lower.)

Later after the industrial revolution, the middle class started to rise and they became interested in music. Towards the Romantic era, musicians started to treat music slightly different. They started to do performances in order to make money to support their lives; therefore, they began to perform in concert halls. The space in a concert hall is much larger. In order for sound to transmit further, musicians began to increase the frequency of their instruments.

In modern days, A440 or A4 (also known as the Stuttgart pitch), which has a frequency of 440 Hz, is the musical note of A above middle C and serves as a general tuning standard for musical pitch. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) classifies it as ISO 16. Although not universally accepted, it serves as the audio frequency reference to calibrate acoustic equipment and to tune pianos, violins, and other musical instruments.

Back to Guzheng, different players may choose differently. Some go with 440 and some go with 442. Music played by a lower frequency (pitch standard) could sound more relaxing. But at the end, everyone can choose according to their own requirements and preferences!


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