VC VOX POP | “Tell Us … What is Your Preferred Tuning A-Pitch Frequency?”

This week's quick VC Q&A: 'Tell us ... what is your preferred tuning A pitch frequency?" 30+ of the world's top string players had their say.

Tuning A

The Violin Channel recently caught up with 30+ of the world’s top string instrumentalists for a quick Q&A quiz.

This week’s question: ‘What is your preferred tuning A-pitch frequency?”

Violin Virtuoso Itzhak Perlman:

“I like A=442 as it is slightly on the sharp side, but A=440 is fine also … what’s important is that everything is in tune …”

British Cello Soloist Steven Isserlis:

“I don’t mind, I go from A=430 up to A=443 … just not down as far as A=415 as I’d find that distracting …”

German Violin Soloist David Garrett: 

“Normally I go for A=442 … I know in Berlin the orchestras are quite high at A=444 … but A=442 I think is a good medium …”

Canadian Violin Soloist James Ehnes:

“Anywhere between A=440 and A=442 is fine with me … my violin is set up to work best at that range of tension, and that is what my ear is most used to … below A=440 starts to sound and feel “soggy” to me, and above A=442 can seem shrill …”

Korean-American Violin Soloist Sarah Chang:

“A=442 … it keeps my violin sounding bright without over-stressing the wind and brass players …”

Australian Soloist, VC Artist Violinist Ray Chen:

“A=442 … it makes everything sound sweeter …”

VC Young Artist Violinist William Hagen:

“I think A=442 is great … I really don’t like a flat A, but when the A is too sharp it can make everything sound really severe and tight …”

Berlin Philharmonic Concertmaster, VC Artist Violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley:

“At the moment, I’m most comfortable with A=442 – a compromise between higher European A-frequencies, and lower American ones …. I feel if the A gets too high (A=444) it pinches the resonance of the instrument …”

Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster, Frank Almond:

“I like a little over A=441 … the funny thing is that I’ve noticed most groups that tune to A=440 or A=441 end up playing a little over A=441 anyway … in Europe it always seems like the sky’s the limit……”

Dallas Symphony Concertmaster, Alexander Kerr:

“A=441 … it lends just enough brightness to the sound without losing the sensation of being able to dig into the string…”

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra Concertmaster, VC Artist Violinist Nikki Chooi:

“A=441 … it’s not too high, not too low – just right …”

American Soloist, VC Artist Violinist Stefan Jackiw:

“I find that this changes with humidity … during dry weather I prefer A=440 … during humid weather I prefer A=442 or even higher …”

VC Artist Cellist Kian Soltani:

“A=442 … simply cause it’s the best …”

Time For Three Violinist, VC Artist Charles Yang:

“I’m currently on tour in Europe and the band tunes to A=442 – I like it! … it makes my instrument sound brighter …”

French Violinist Augustin Dumay:

“I prefer the A=440 which is used in England, as it seems to me musically balanced, and protective of an exaggerated tension for the instruments …”

British Violin Soloist Nicola Benedetti:

“The UK A=440 is a little flat for my liking but I have to stay flexible, otherwise I’d be in trouble … I don’t have perfect pitch so the adjustment is less painful for me than it can be for some …”

Canadian Violin Soloist Lara St. John:

“I find A=441.5 to be my perfect A – but I am pretty adjustable … A=441.5 sounds really good on a violin, and it’s kind of mid-Atlantic …”

American Violin Soloist Anne Akiko Meyers:

“A=442 … it’s a happy place that’s just higher than 441 but lower than 443 …”

Russian-American Violin Soloist Philippe Quint:

“My preferred pitch is A=442 … however I now frequently ask to meet with the Principal Oboe before the concert to get the orchestra’s “Official A” … so not to spend 5 minutes re-tuning my violin onstage …”

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine:

“I most frequently perform at A=440, 441, 442 and 415, with occasional forays into A=430 and even A=392 … A=440 has always been my favorite because of its resonance …. trying A=460 is on my bucket list though …”

VC Artist Violinist Benjamin Beilman:

“I’m not so picky – probably somewhere between A=441 and A=442 … A=440 sometimes feels a little sleepy and anything over A=443 feels over caffeinated …”

VC Artist Violinist Angelo Xiang Yu:

“This particular violin likes somewhere between A=441.5 and A=442 …. I find it gives the most natural ring and vibration … but hey! Most of the time I don’t get to choose …”

Cellist Zuill Bailey:

“My preference is A=441 … I find that harmonics ring low and I want to make sure that nothing sounds flat … “

Violin Soloist Vadim Gluzman:

“I am blessed (or cursed?) with perfect pitch so it is a sensitive subject … but I am happy between A=440 up to A=443/444 … string players often tend to like higher tuning, but it often causes our intonation to go quite a bit “north” …”

Violin Soloist Arnaud Sussmann:

“I like A=441 … it’s a nice middle ground between the very high “A” people tune to in Europe and the standard A=440 … I feel instruments start sounding a bit under too much tension when the pitch rises above A=443 …”

New England Conservatory Faculty Member, Violinist Paul Biss:

“I have learned long ago not to insist on one … in general, though, I prefer not to go higher than A=442 … I think the instrument rings better that way …”

Curtis Institute Faculty Member, Violinist Ida Kavafian:

“I think we should be able to adjust to any pitch … I can’t stand when students make an excuse for the A not being where they expect – it’s a poor excuse for bad intonation … however, when I’m in charge, I ask for A=441 …”

Veteran New England Conservatory Cello Pedagogue, Laurence Lesser:

“I don’t have perfect pitch, but since that’s kind of like “hearing” colours, I’ve gotten used to A=441 … above and below just sounds different  …. A=441 is the colour I like …”

VC Artist Violinist Paul Huang:

“A=442 or A=443 if possible … for me it just rings better when the A is a higher frequency and it sounds more brilliant ….”

VC Artist Violinist Tessa Lark:

“Flexibility in this realm is important so I don’t have a preference … but my natural A frequency when I sing is A=432 …. the perfect pitch in me was relieved to find out that many of my favorite composers (Bach, Mozart, Debussy & Chopin) wrote their masterpieces using 432Hz tuning …”

VC Artist Violinist Bella Hristova:

“I like A=441 … I think the violin sounds really brilliant at this frequency …”

VC Young Artist Violinist Kerson Leong:

“When I practice alone, I always lean towards a lower A pitch for no apparent reason …”

VC Young Artist Violinist Fedor Rudin:

“I don’t have one, I feel as comfortable with A=443 as with A=415 … but the tuning does help create a different atmosphere and sound projection ….”

VC Artist Violinist Igor Pikayzen:

“I don’t swear by a particular pitch frequency, and when you travel you obviously graciously accept the A that the orchestra tunes to …. but if I would have to choose I’d go with A=442 or A=443 – for me, it just sounds more in focus to my ear!”

VC Young Artist Violinist In Mo Yang:

“???? … no matter what your preferred A there are still many ways to play out of tune …”