The Elusive Secret Tuning Standard

A few months ago, I ventured into new territory, after doing some research and finding that many classical players tune to a slightly lower tuning standard, that being A-438. What that means is that the note A which is usually 440 hertz is lowered slightly. Those classical players often tune to A-438 to reduce the tension on their instruments a little bit, but there are other reasons to use the non standard A-438 reference.

Hard to describe until you’ve tried it yourself, but notes resonate a little bit differently when tuned to A-438. I’ve also found that many of the great pop songs that I had thought were tuned flat (as in Eb, Ab, etc.) or 1 semitone down, might actually have just been recorded at A-438. It’s pretty close to Eb tuning.

It’s pretty easy to try this out for yourself. Most tuners have the ability to be calibrated. The one I’ve been using lately, the Tascam solar-powered unit featured in a quick review here, has a simple calibration mode which reads -8 when set-up for A-438.

Computer software for recording and sequencing offer similar settings, here are screen shots of Reason and LogicProX’s tuning setting and where to find them. A-438 is -8 cents.

In Propellorhead Reason -> Menu -> Preferences – > Audio tab
Apple’s LogicProX -> Menu -> Project Settings -> Tuning

Give Tuning to A-438 a try. It’s that secret tuning standard professionals have been using for years.