Tune Your Ear, Then You´ll Be Ready For Anything
Human hearing and differences in pitch
In the ideal world, humans can hear frequencies ranging from 20Hz to 20,000Hz, but we hear hear best between 200Hz and 2000Hz. However, musicians don´t think about frequencies, instead they think about pitches (notes). Pitch is simply a musical format to express certain frequencies.
How many pitches are there in music?
When you look at a piano, the pitches that each key play are divided in a predictable pattern with a little crack between each piano key. However, in the real world, there are many different frequencies in those cracks, and we can perceive those pitches, but our degree of accuracy is effected by different variables. These variables include the frequency of the tone, it´s volume, it´s duration, the suddenness of frequency change.
Science has clearly shown that whatever your baseline starting point is for perceiving pitches, it can be improved through training. That´s why ear training is so crucial to the developing musician.
What is the Just Noticeable Difference?
Psycho-acoustic scientists refer to the smallest change in frequency of a single sine tone that is perceptible by the average listener as the Just Noticeable Difference. Many studies place it around 3% in the 100 Hz range, but only 0.5% in the 2000 Hz range. However, musicians don´t tend to think in pure frequencies, we talk about pitches and the smaller differences that we hear in between the notes. We often express those differences between notes as cents.
What are cents?
Cents measure the difference in pitch between two notes in an equal tempered octave. The equal tempered octave is divided into 12 notes of equal distance. That distance between any two consecutive notes in the equal tempered octave is determined to be 100 cents, therefore there are 1200 cents of difference between any note and it´s next octave, in equal temperament.
What´s wrong with using my electronic tuner?
Certainly there is nothing wrong with using a tuner. They are especially useful for concert situations where musicians may have to adjust their tuning while the band keeps playing. However, most commercial tuner do have their limitations; they have about the same degree of accuracy as the average person, 4 to 5 cents, under optimal conditions; and not all tuners deviate in the same way. This means as band members tune to their individual tuners, what is “in tune” begins to vary and drift, causing a suboptimal final sound.
Secondly, Ear Training can improve your pitch perception and you can become more reliable and accurate that many commercial tuners. This will help get you, and your band, better in tune.
Besides improved tuning, are there other advantages to using the Tuning App?
When you train your ear to it´s full potential in hearing all the little notes that lie in the cracks of the piano, you widen your palette of possible sound. This will enhance your own interpretation of any piece of music; you´ll have more tools and skills to express yourself, in other words its another step towards musical freedom.
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