Ever wondered why you need to have the numbers on your ukulele tuning device (if you have a multi-instrumental one, that is) at 440? It’s because the current Concert Pitch of A is 440Hz. To save confusion when playing with others, we all want our instruments to sound in tune with each other. To do that, we need a standard. A = 440 Hz is the only official standard and is widely used around the world.
But what, the note of F does that mean?
Things that make noises vibrate. The number of times that a vibrating object completes a cycle in one second is called frequency. The unit frequency is measured in is called hertz (Hz). One hertz equals one cycle per second.
Matching numbers to names
The way a piano is laid out is in octaves. An octave is the distance between two musical notes that have the same letter name. It is called an ‘octave‘ because there are eight notes in a scale (‘octo’ is Latin for ‘eight’). From the left to right, you’d start with octave 2, in which A vibrates at 110 cycles per second. In octave 3 it’s 220, octave 4 it’s 440, and in octave 5 it’s 880 cycles per second. We measure from octave 4 which contains middle C and in that octave A = 440 cycles per second.
If you’re a beginner, it may be interesting to know what the numbers on your tuning device mean, but you may not want to know more at this stage. I recommend getting to grips with your instrument and working your way through our courses, starting at the beginning. If you’re a confident player and want more theory to put into practice, then Intermediate 2 might be for you.