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Get to know the grandfather of all instruments, the Pipe Organ. We talked with Schoenstein & Company Organ Builders about the process of designing, constructing, and fine-tuning their instruments.
If you’ve ever gone to hear an orchestra play, you know that the performance begins only after a session of tuning. An oft-repeated story tells of a visiting foreigner attending a concert in Paris. Afterwards, when asked which part of the performance he liked best, he replied, “The beginning, just before the man with the stick came in.”
Tuning means adjusting the pitch of an instrument. The pitch of a sound depends on its frequency, the number of vibrations per second that produce the sound. For example, plucking a cello string might cause it to vibrate back and forth 200 times each second. You hear that sound as a low pitch of 200 cycles per second, or 200 hertz.
An orchestra tunes itself to a very particular frequency, usually 440 hertz, a note known as A 440. The note is played by the oboist, and the rest of the orchestra tunes their instruments to match it. The oboe leads the tuning because of all the instruments, it is least affected by humidity or other weather conditions.