Concert Pitch and How to Use It With Guitar

What is it?

Most people are familiar with the term A=440Hz, but many don’t understand what it means, which leads to misunderstandings and much head scratching. The main purposes of Concert pitch are as follows:

  1. Keeping a group of musicians on the same page, tuning wise
  2. Providing a reference frequency for electronic tuners to calculate from

That is the extent of it– no more complicated than a simple pitch reference! It has nothing to do with temperament or how you tune notes other than A4.

440 Hz is simply an arbitrary number which was agreed upon about 80 years ago, although not entirely globally, in order to synchronize tuning for performance, recording and instrument manufacturing purposes. So when performing music, you can use whatever concert pitch you like. The only aim is to have a pleasing sounding end result. It is only important to have a common concert pitch in group performance settings. Many tuners don’t even show it as a setting unless its value has been changed.

How can I use it?

There are several practical reasons for considering a change in your concert pitch, and they are worth contemplating.

In a band or group setting, raising or lowering the concert pitch for everyone may help the singer hit certain notes more accurately and more easily. Certainly, this can also be achieved by changing the key of a song, but changing the concert pitch is a more subtle adjustment. Changing key involves a pitch shift of at least a half-step or 100 cents as well as a possible change in the way a song is played in terms of chords or fingering. Changing the concert pitch can be a smaller increment and involves no change in the way a song is played.

In a solo player setting, the above also applies if the player also sings. There are also some benefits to experimenting with concert pitch when acoustic guitars or other acoustic instruments are concerned. Changing the concert pitch may put more (or less) emphasis on the resonant frequency of an instrument, which can fundamentally change the sound of a particular guitar. In some instances, it may even improve the guitar’s playability.

Some guitar tops are tap-tuned to certain frequencies during their manufacture. However, age brings change in the molecular structure of the wood, which can yield some pleasant surprises. Lowering the concert pitch of a good quality 12-string guitar can add a powerful growl to the bottom end sound. Meanwhile, raising the concert pitch of an old parlor or OM-style guitar can increase its projection and power.

Care should be taken in regards to string gauge and tension on the instrument. Try to use a heavier string gauge if lowering the concert pitch and a lighter gauge if raising it.

The 432 Hz Trend

There are some schools of thought which put forward the notion that 432 Hz is “better” as a tuning frequency standard. It’s simply up to you to try for yourself and decide. You just need a tuner that has a wide enough range to enable some experimentation.

Peterson tuners have, through their versatile design, a wide range of concert pitch possibilities. Why not try some changes to see if there’s a “cannon” lurking inside that old acoustic guitar or bass of yours?

Antique Instruments

Some older instruments, such as those built in the 19th century or before, will have been built with a different Concert pitch in mind. A=415 Hz, or even A=392 Hz are common tuning references.

Changing the Concert A Reference on a StroboClip 

Press the “Menu” button repeatedly until “A=440” flashes, then use the +/- buttons to alter the value. The new value becomes the default until the tuner’s battery is changed or removed.

The StroboClip’s Concert A range extends from A400Hz to A490Hz and is adjustable in 1 Hz increments.




Changing the Concert A Reference on a StroboPlus 

Rotate the dial until “A440.0” flashes, press the dial  once,then rotate the dial to alter the Concert A pitch.

  The StroboPlus Concert A range extends from A390.0 Hz to A490.0 Hz and is adjustable in 0.1 Hz increments.




Changing the Concert A Reference on a StroboRack

Press the Menu button and rotate the dial to scroll to “A440.0”, press the dial to highlight the parameter, and rotate the dial to change the Concert A pitch reference value, finally, press the “Save” button.












   The StroboRack’s Concert A range extends from A390.0 Hz to A490.0 Hz and is adjustable in 0.1 Hz increments




Changing the Concert A Reference on A Stomp Classic

 Press the M button until “A440” flashes, then use the +/- buttons to alter the value.

The Stomp Classic Concert A range extends from A390 Hz to A490 Hz and is adjustable in 1 Hz increments (or 0.1 Hz increments using the USB interface)

















© 2013 John Norris for Peterson Electro-Musical Products, Inc, USA