Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Is there a standard pitch for Irish music in your area? In the USA we’re supposed to use A=440, in Europe it can be A=442. I don’t know about the UK. Or is every pub different?

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

The convention is that people tune to A=440; but this is purely for convenience. If you have a regular player of the pipes or box or any other instrument not easily tuned, and it is appreciably sharp or flat, it is only common courtesy to tune to the instrument rather than your electronic tuner, which you should leave at home. Sometimes certain people are rather discourteous — usually the same people who can not tell that they are out of tune with everyone else. Nothing can be done with them. (Yes, I play the pipes and my friend plays the box. How did you guess?)

Posted by .

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Gam - Why is it acceptable for a box player to have a poorly tuned instrument, maybe they should invest a few pounds with their local melodeon tuner.
(Yes I am a melodeon tuner)

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

I would gladly invest a few pounds in having my melodeon retuned, when/if I need this done in the future.

But the last time I had one retuned, it cost me rather a lot of pounds.

(I would add, the cost struck me as no more than par for the course, and the job was a good one:-).)

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

@goldfrog — If someone has a poorly tuned box, it matters little how acceptable it is: the fact remains that he cannot tune it to suit his guitar-playing neighbour who insists on using a little magic gizmo and not his ears.
My box-playing friend is also meticulous about tuning, and used to send his instrument away every six months at vast expense, which, by the way, he deemed worth every penny. However, the said tuner of many years recently died, and my friend, trusting no-one else with his machine, is learning the arcane arts himself. Until the certificate of competence arrives, I just tune my fiddle to him. It takes ten seconds.
I stopped playing the pipes in sessions, incidentally, because they are slightly below ‘C’, and take a bit longer (about a month) to tune.
We need more box tuners, I say.

Posted by .

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"In the USA we’re supposed to use A=440"

Who says?

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

It’s wherever my pipes feel like it should be that day.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

No standard, just tune to whatever A that seems most stable. If none of the instruments present has a fixed pitch (pipes, accordion, concertina…), there’s no real reason to make a fuss about whether it’s 440, 441 or 442.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Seems like so many people nowadays have tuning apps on their smartphones that 1) bringing electronic tuners isn’t needed and 2) the pitch has standardized at 440.

About pipes, I play uilleann pipes and I keep them in tune to 440. Are there pipers who don’t? Why not?

For me it’s convenience. At gigs I might play uilleann pipes, Scottish Smallpipes, and several different whistles, and it makes sense to have everything tuned to the same pitch.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

It matters not a jot to me whether an accordion is tuned a few Hz either side of 440, so long as it plays in tune with itself. If I notice the difference at all (I don’t have perfect pitch), then a bit of variation is welcome. Of course, everyone else needs to tune to the least tunable instrument; if there happen to be two freereeders at wildly different pitches, then it is indeed problematic. But a margin of, say, an 1/8-tone (roughly +/-6Hz at 440Hz) would barely be noticeable in the mix. A wider margin than that would be noticeable, but not necessarily unacceptable - it’s amazing what you can get away with when the craic’s good.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

I think the OP has confused Irish and classical music.

Classical orchestras get very precious about whether they play at A440 or A441.8, but for any other type of music the difference between 440 and 442 is the difference between shit and shite. Play the two notes together and they’ll beat at two cycles per second. That’s about as close as many people tuned their instruments in the days before electronic gizmos, and is far less than the intonation error across the scale on many fretted and wind instruments, not to mention the errors that can be induced by technique on most instruments. So even if everyone in the group tunes their A perfectly, they’ll be out of tune with each other by far more than 2Hz in other parts of the scale.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

As most people said - A440 is the general pitch. As other people said it matters little if you tune your instrument at home to a perfect A440 because you’ll generally tune to the box player or some other untuneable instrument…not just for common courtesy but also so it doesnt sound like shit. Weather and other factors can alter the pitch so (it my circles) it’s generally that that makes people tune to the box player instead of telling the player his instrument is shit and he’s out of luck if he/she wants to play.

Posted by .

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Us stringed musicians tune to tuners - I guess they’re 440. My wife tries to tune her flute to me. Sometimes Liam comes along with his 2-row box, or Yael with her accordion. They both seem reasonably in concert. My english concertina comes out usually for two or three tunes; nobody bothers to try to re-tune to it; it was recond and tuned about 8 years ago so it should be ok.
I guess there are some people to whom those 2 cps are important. I’m glad they don’t come to our sessions.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

I find generally that given a few hz above or below with various instruments at a session is fine/acceptable/unnoticeable to most, especially so with onlookers. But when you have two of the same kind of instrument that are off from each other you really notice it….or at least I do. Not sure if that’s the case with other people.

Posted by .

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Richard D Cook said: "About pipes, I play uilleann pipes and I keep them in tune to 440. Are there pipers who don’t? Why not?"

I don’t usually bother - for one thing, I play a flat set and so rarely if ever play them in a session. For another thing, the tuning varies with humidity and temperature so all I do on any given day is tune the drones to the chanter.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

The wetter the box, the wider range folks have to tune to! ;-)

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

To the OP, last time I looked both Britain (and Ireland) were in Europe !

One further thought - sometimes intonation can be just as important as pitch, for example in the Clare tradition.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

You tune to the un-tunable. Preferably with its tremolo off :)

Which of course is another way of agreeing with the method of tuning to a fixed-pitch instrument, whether it’s at A=440 or not.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

I think it would be a good idea as I have often played with pipers in the past .
When do we start ?

David

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"When do we start ?"

Thursday 4th April, 15:30 BST. Kammerton pitch.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Even the elite players of orchestral strings and winds tune to the poor oboe player instead of an electronic tuner. Get over it!

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Even the elite players of orchestral strings and winds tune to the poor oboe player instead of an electronic tuner. Get over it!

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"Even the elite players of orchestral strings and winds tune to the poor oboe player instead of an electronic tuner"

Keep in mind that sometimes, the oboe player (normally the amature) can’t quite hold a stable pitch, so it may go up and down while the orchestra is trying to tune. That’s when it gets interesting! :)

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

weejie, you’ve out done yourself. If there is to be a standard, then let it be Kammerton Pitch.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"Even the elite players of orchestral strings and winds tune to the poor oboe player instead of an electronic tuner"

Yes but the "poor oboe player" likely has Perfect Pitch, as do many of the other members of the orchestra.

All those musicians with Perfect Pitch don’t need electronic tuners.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

The oboe player’s got 99 problems, but his pitch ain’t one.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"I don’t usually bother… the tuning varies with humidity and temperature"

Well around here musicians that don’t bother with tuning don’t get work.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"Yes but the "poor oboe player" likely has Perfect Pitch, as do many of the other members of the orchestra. "

From what I can gather regarding statistics, there’s a stronger likelihood that the player will not have absolute pitch.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Richard D Cook said: "Well around here musicians that don’t bother with tuning don’t get work."

I’m blessed to be able to play only for my own enjoyment, and not to have to make a living from it. A glass to your health, and to all others who do play professionally.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

Squeeze boxes usually either need tuning or they don’t. Whether they are wet or dry tuned, if they are not consistently in tune (in a scale) with themselves (usually accomplished by a professional tech person) they are ‘out of tune’ and frankly horrible (to my ears anyway). I haven’t played with many boxes which have been tuned in a lower or higher than standard pitch like an old piano might be.

I’m thankful I can’t hear the difference of a few cents in the tuning in sessions - I’d have gone nuts long ago if I could.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

"I’d have gone nuts long ago if I could."

I wouldn’t be so sure. I’ve got the perfect pitch syndrome and sessions don’t bother me at all, so it may not be as bad as you think.

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

for fixed pitch instruments, concertina and box, i think A=440 is a good idea. i get mine tuned once or twice a year if i can. there’s nothing wrong with having a box set up to be sharp or flat for gigs and recordings. if you like A=442, well then just tell everyone it’s set at 440 and that their ear or tuner is off, ;-).

noel hill has a Jeffries that is somewhere in the region of B/F# (not A=440), which most people would have retuned to standard pitch of Bb/F. it is a great instrument, and there’s no reason to have it changed. that being said, he has plenty of standard-pitched instruments (C/G, Bb/F, C#/G#, G/D) that i have heard or seen him play.

Posted by .

Re: Standard Pitch in Irish Music?

this piano tuner likes things at 440, but hey, it’s live music, so I take what I can get.