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David Barnert

Concert Pitch

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In a thread a few weeks ago (late September), we were discussing the meaning of "Concert Pitch." Slatteryj had mentioned in an announcement of an instrument for sale that it was in concert pitch. I responded that I had always thought the term referred to an instrument that did not transpose (that is, the note on the instrument that is called "C" for instance, is actually a C). It was clear that slatteryj was using it to mean A=440 beats/minute.

 

Some discussion ensued wherein it became clear that most folks in the forum agreed with the a=440 definition. I checked a few general dictionaries and found the same thing. I have not had a chance to consult Groves or any other musical dictionary.

 

However, I *have* had a chance to discuss this with other (non-concertina) musicians (from the classical realm--most recently Ruth & Lamar Alsop, Cellist and Violinist with the NYC Ballet Orchestra, parents of the renowned conductor Marin Alsop, and Lamar also plays Clarinet and Saxophone), and they all agree with my initial impression. They use "concert pitch" to refer to the notes played by a violin or oboe or piano (no matter whether the A is 440 or 442 or 415) as opposed to the clarinet, which comes in several sizes, each calling the key it plays most easily "C." They also point out that classical musicians are accustomed to tuning to various A standards (415 for early music, 440, 442, 443, and sometimes higher for later stuff) so calling A=440 "concert pitch" would have no significance unless that is the pitch a particular orchestra happens to be tuned to.

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Well, there's a thing. I must admit I have never heard the "classical" definitions of concert pitch, and I shall stick with my current usage as tending to promote understanding within this forum, but it strikes me that we have here another of those topics, like "old pitch", whose meaning slips away as soon as you try and pin it down.

 

Chris

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I think that the issue is not really one of definition. If you are having a concertina built or having one retuned, you must make a decision about pitch and that would probably be 440 in most cases which is probably what most people are likely to mean when they ask if a concertina is in concert pitch.

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" slatteryj was using it (concert pitch) to mean A=440 beats/minute.

(snip)

musicians (from the classical realm) use "concert pitch" to refer to the notes played by a violin or oboe or piano (no matter whether the A is 440 or 442 or 415) as opposed to the clarinet..."

I must say I had not noticed this dual meaning of the term "concert pitch", even though I am both a concertina player and a player of a "transposing" instrument (in my case the French Horn, not the clarinet). In my experience in concertina circles "concert pitch" does indeed refer to A=440, and in an orchestral context it refers to notes at the pitch a piano would play them (say) , instead of how they would appear to be written for a transposing instrument such as the clarinet. I'd have to say that both usages are correct, but perhaps referring to A=440 as "modern" pitch in concertina circles would be more accurate?

 

Samantha

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There is a good web page on 'concert pitch' at:

 

www.uk-piano.org/history/pitch.html

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There is a good web page on 'concert pitch' at:

www.uk-piano.org/history/pitch.html

More like a web site on pianos, which happens to mention "concert pitch" in one of the two common definitions that have been noted in this Topic.

 

It also seems to assume a British readership, associating John Shore with "the Court", though I'm sure it wasn't the Danish, French, etc. "Court". :)

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It also seems to assume a British readership, associating John Shore with "the Court", though I'm sure it wasn't the Danish, French, etc. "Court".

Ah, but it clearly recognises that the British court is the only one that matters... ;)

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Hey Chris,

 

Nice to have you back! Even if you are shamelessly promoting the Brits!

 

Helen

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There certainly is ground for confusion with the term 'concert pitch' since 'normal pitch' for symphonic use has changed a great deal through history. I am not going to make a survey here but you can find some in any encyclopedia.

There have not been so many in use for concetinas however which I believe is the reason that concertina players may know just low/high and "concert pitch =440"...

low usually meaning a=435 and high a=452,5. To make things a little bit more confusing the said "440" for many concertinas was rather 439 from around 1930 until the 50s I think......(Wheatstones in original pitch use to be about 5 cents low from 440.)

 

Goran

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...it clearly recognises that the British court is the only one that matters... ;)

But then shouldn't it say "Wimbledon"? :)

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Jim,

 

You're partly right. It is a piano page, but if you search the site for 'pitch'. There is a whole page on the history of pitch. I found it interesting and thought others would too. Sorry the posting wasn't clear enough about the details.

Edited by Paul Read

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