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Re: Concert Pitch (a second try)

From: Ian Hulin
Subject: Re: Concert Pitch (a second try)
Date: Mon, 06 Apr 2009 00:13:08 +0100
User-agent: Thunderbird (X11/20090318)

Hi all,
O.K here goes, I've pruned some bits out where we were getting into acoustics, and tweaked a few bits.

Ian Hulin

Anthony W. Youngman wrote:

1.64 Concert pitch

The convention (standardised by ISO 16) states that A above middle C represents the note at 440 Hertz. This is commonly notated by the statement "A=440".

There are many other conventions, such as "diapason normal" which was established by French law as "A=435". Many of these conventions have fallen into disuse, although there are orchestras which typically tune to other pitches (usually pitching A slightly higher in order to sound "brighter").

Regardless of the exact frequency of A, instruments which play the standard frequency upon reading the note A are typically referred to as playing "in concert pitch" or "in C".

Instruments which sound a different note than that written are referred to as "transposing instruments".

These are typically brass or woodwind instruments.

For most instruments, the "standard pitch" and "transposing" conventions
produce the same result on the actual printed music, and the instrument is considered to be "in C", for example concert flute, bassoon, C Clarinet, C Horn.

Some other instruments are in C, use the reference concert reference pitch of A=440, but still transpose as far as their written music in concerned: examples are piccolo and descant recorder, transposing up an octave, and classical guitar and choral tenor parts which transpose down an octave.

See also: "transposing intruments" and wikipedia entry for concert pitch.

1.311 transposing instruments

Instruments where the written note is not the note that the instrument
is intended to sound, according to standard pitch. The reason for this is to make it easy for players to switch between instruments of the same family that have different fundamental pitches, as the player can still use the same fingerings
  whatever size instrument is being played.

Transposing instruments are named according to the fundamental (known on some brass instruments as the pedal) note.

On a woodwind instrument this is normally the note obtained with all holes covered without over-blowing or use of speaker keys. On a brass instrument it the note obtained with most relaxed embouchure and the slide extended fully or all valves open.

Individual instruments vary this principle by having extensions at bottom end of the instrument, but a simple case like the tenor recorder shows the basic principle.

To make matters more complex, some instruments are transposing instruments, but their players actually play from parts written at concert pitch. Orchestral trombone and tuba players do this, while trombone players in brass bands treat their parts as if written for a true transposing instrument in Bb.

When writing music for a transposing instrument, it is normal to refer to the instrument by its fundamental, e.g "Bb Trumpet, A clarinet".
Music for these instruments without a key signature (e.g. notated in C major) is assumed to be in Bb or A. If an instrument (e.g. flute) is
normally notated in treble clef, then either the instrument's fundamental or the transposition should be mentioned if it is not in standard pitch ("alto flute in G", "G flute"). If the instrument is in C, the instrument's fundamental should NOT be mentioned, and it should be notated as "in C" only if required to avoid confusion.

 The main reason for this convention is that, for all
 instruments in the same family, they share the same fingerings for any
given written note, and players are easily able to switch between the various
 family members.

Some examples of transposing instruments:
piccolo (sounds octave higher than written)
alto flute (sounds fourth lower than written)
bass flute (sounds an octave lower than written)
cor anglais (sounds fifth lower than written)
clarinet in Bb (sounds tone lower than written)
clarinet in A (sounds a minor third lower than written)
bass clarinet (sounds a ninth lower than written)
contrabassoon (sounds octave lower than written)
all saxophones
French Horn in F (sounding a fifth lower than written)
trumpet in Bb (sounds tone lower than written)
trumpet in A (sounds a minor third lower than written)
trombone - brass bands only - in Bb (sounds tone lower than written)
string contrabass (sounds an octave lower than written)


Can anybody come up with any improvements on this?


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