The end of January is around the corner, and New Year’s resolutions tend to waver around now. Gym member spikes are slowly leveling out again, people are driving while talking on the cell phone more, and so on. But has anyone come into the New Year considering the music they listen to? The idea of “What you put in is what you get out” applies in terms of various messages and ideas music can instill in someone. But what about the actual tuning of the music? How do the frequencies of sound waves interact with our own bodies when playing music? (Disclaimer, there is science and history, and some light music theory, enjoy!)
The tuning of instruments is an age old practice that every musician does in order to keep their instrument sounding the way they deem correct. The high or low of a song’s pitch is an individual’s own interpretation. Generally most agree on what sounds high or low in a song.
In order to understand the next part of how music interacts with us, I’m going to make this simple. The pitch of music changes the form that sound waves take. The measurement of the sound wave’s form is known as hertz (Hz). An easy image of this, is when someone plucks a guitar string, tuned to 440 Hz, the string will go up and down 440 times per second. Music nowadays is tuned to 440 Hz. Depending on the Hz level, the tuning is different. The most noticeable difference to the average listener when hearing different Hz levels it that certain notes will sound higher or lower. More on this later, now for some history.
The start of this idea of a set hertz level began in 1859 by the French government who set the standard at 435 Hz. The need for this arose because French opera composers were using Hz levels that were not pleasing to the audience (roughly 422 Hz) or too high for opera singers to reach certain notes (450 Hz). For the next 40 years, musicians in Europe held conferences and debated about the proper tuning for instruments. This only resulted in Britain, in 1896, adopting a standard Hz of 439. Then the twentieth century came, and in the 1930s broadcasting companies wanted to standardize the Hz/pitch levels across the globe and a 1939 conference set that pitch at 440 Hz. And it has remained at this pitch to this very day. However, these standards are not historically accurate.
It is said that many ancient instruments crafted by human hands, are naturally tuned to 432 Hz. Giuseppe Verdi, an Italian opera composer, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the prolific Classical composer, both composed to 432 Hz tuning. The significance of 432 Hz is widely debated as having benefits for mental and physical health as well as being more in tune with Earth itself. There are many levels to the possible benefits of tuning to 432 Hz. One theory is that Hz tuning affects our overall body’s health. This theory goes off of the facts that since our bodies are made of 70% water, the sound wave tuning can have negative or positive interactions on our overall health.
For anyone who is interested in alternative/holistic medicine, I would recommend doing research more into the idea of 432 Hz tuning. I personally have listened to 432 Hz tuned music for a week straight, and noticed myself being a bit more upbeat. Additionally, the music has a warmer sound to it. I am a music enthusiast however, and may be bias because of the level of detail I listen for in music. Give your ears something new this year. ‘Til next type – M
The below Youtube videos show various tests performed with varying Hz levels. Enjoy!
Heres another: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zw0uWCNsyw
Written by Michael Dour