Watch does pitch mean to a period instrument player? And do you really have to carry more than one instrument around?Read More
In danger of being a touch geeky, we thought we’d tell you something about pitch, how it’s not always been as it is now..
Pitch did not use to be standardized as it is today and was different from country to country and changed through the eras. It is denoted by 2 coordinates, frequency (Hz) and note A in the middle of the treble staff. So A=415 is A at 415Hz. Still awake? Good.
It was recently highlighted in the office when a Clavinova had to be tuned to A=415 in a rehearsal so that the choir were singing in the correct pitch. Modern standardised pitch is A=440, which makes the A=415 of the Baroque era a G sharp to our ears.. A bit confusing for people with perfect pitch!
This gets tricky with fixed pitch instruments such as oboes and flutes which are of course designed to play specific pitches, whereas stringed instruments can be tuned to whatever pitch is needed. So when playing with period fixed pitch instruments one has to make sure every other instrument can be tuned to the same pitch and that you have a fairly large collection of pitch forks..
Just so you know, the last Night Shift on 20th October was A=415 (Baroque) and the upcoming ‘French Connections’ concert on 9th November (Cherubini/Mehul/Berlioz/Mozart) will be A=430. Come and see if you can tell the difference!Read More
You may have seen the phrase ‘period instrument orchestra’ floating around in relation to the OAE. Well this means that we use instruments like those from the time that the music was written in so our performances are what the composers themselves would have actually heard. But not only are the instruments the great great grandparents of what you will hear a modern symphony orchestra playing on, the pitch has also changed over the years. Modern orchestras using modern instruments play at a pitch where the note ‘A’ is equivalent to 440 hertz. In Baroque music (Bach and Handel’s time) we generally play at A=415 and for classical music (Mozart, Haydn) at A=430. To give you an idea of the difference, A=415 is about a semi-tone lower than A=440. To the untrained ear, what does this all mean? That if you played the same note on a modern instrument and an ‘old fashioned’ one, that the latter would sound a bit lower.Read More