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 Pitch - 440 vs.442
Author: Old Oboe 
Date:   2012-05-24 15:11

Hello, I'm an oboist and found this forum through the Oboe Bulletin Board. I sit next to a player who claims that newer flutes are pitched higher than older ones. She seems very frustrated that she always has to pull out a lot to be in tune. We're an older bunch of players and few take lessons so I thought any advice I could get for her might help. It doesn't ring true for me that newer flutes made for the American market would be pitched at 442. (If so, hundreds of thousand of us oboists are deep trouble.) Could she have somehow got one made for the German market? Any advice is welcome. Thanks.


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 Re: Pitch - 440 vs.442
Author: DrewSorensenMusic 
Date:   2012-05-24 16:23

Hi Linda,

Nice to see you from the Oboe boards.

I have a Miyazawa 602 I bought new from the factory last year. It is pitched at 442. This is true for many professional flutes. I think the general consensus is it's easier to pull out and lower the pitch than to push in and raise the pitch. Possibly this may be because the european market is pitched much higher, and it's just middle ground so the maker doesn't have to make many different kinds of instruments. Your band may be playing flat as a whole, in which case she would need to pull out more than normal. New instruments can be ordered at 440, but this really is not necessary. Little adjustment should need to be made to bring the pitch down from 442, and with a looser embouchure, it may sweeten the tone that much more. If she has to pull out that much more to perform with the group, I don't see why it is a problem truthfully, as long as it's not affecting the overall pitch of the instrument. I frequently perform with college aged or part-time musicians, and have to adjust my own pitch constantly. I usually get it spot on, unless the flute player to my right is playing sharp, and the clarinet player to my left is playing flat (Temple University production of "A Chorus Line", was quite frustrating). I guess it would be important for the wind section to know your parts and how they fit in with each other, and then play close attention to intonation between each other.

Drew S.

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 Re: Pitch - 440 vs.442
Author: Old Oboe 
Date:   2012-05-25 02:03

Thanks Drew. We struggle to stay down as close to 440 as we can and usually manage to start there. (Just like an oboe player to be the one with the tuner on the stand!). Apparently pulling out isn't as much of a big deal on the flute as on the oboe. I still pull out but strive to minimize it if I can. Thanks for the info.


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 Re: Pitch - 440 vs.442
Author: Wes 
Date:   2012-05-26 22:37

It doesn't make any difference if the flute is nominally at 442 as they play fine at 440, as does my 15 year old 442 Brannen flute. The biggest problem with band and community orchestra flute players is that they often play too sharp in the third octave. If they learn the proper embouchure, they can play in tune at 440 over the entire flute but a great many don't know how to make the proper embouchure. Teachers, except Galway, rarely tell them how to do it.

The oboe is the first to observe the sharp flute player as they are often playing unison octaves and the prominent second harmonic of the oboe is in direct unison with the octave higher flute.

This is such a common problem with flutists but I don't feel comfortable in complaining about it as it is up to the flute to learn how to play in tune. The oboe is sometimes asked to follow their pitch, but that is often not possible or appropriate.

Pulling out is not a very good idea for an oboe player, who is sometimes trained how to make reeds that ring at 440. The oboe scale gets a little funny if one tries to pull the reed out. But that's another subject!

The tuner is a good idea on the oboe stand as the conductor or concertmaster may call for a tuning note at any time and the tuner shows that you are paying attention even though you are sure of your A. Good luck!

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 Re: Pitch - 440 vs.442
Author: Paula S 
Date:   2012-08-19 18:28


I play both clarinet and flute and pulling out on the flute is no problem at all for me. On the other hand if I have to pull out on the clarinet it can adversely affect the quality of the throat or break notes, particularly the A and Bb. I am fortunate in that the tuning on my most recent clarinets rarely requires me to do this, however my previous German ones which are tuned higher are a slightly different matter. ;-)

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 Re: Pitch - 440 vs.442
Author: Hiroshi 
Date:   2013-12-06 21:31

Oboe and clarinet are closed-end tube instruments whereas flute is open-ended one. I read once in Michell Debost's article, it is very difficult to play flute in harmony with oboe player. When played more softer,flute tone pitches become lower whereras those of oboe become higher. And, if flute is played in ff its becomes higher but oboe becomes lower And they are sitting next to each other. Good players can harmonize with each other but bad ones cannot even in professional world. I do not know how this is explained in physics. By the way, I thought 440Hz is ordinary pitch in U.S. but 442Hz is in Japan. Berlin and Vienna pitches are far higher than these. We need an international harmonization in instrument pitch.

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