A = 440 vs. 432 Hz: the Great Debate Goes On

There is a long-running debate in music as to whether A should remain tuned to 440 Hz, as it is generally in western music, or be altered to 432 Hz instead. Some claim that music played using the 432 Hz tuning sounds better, and there are even blind tests available online seeking to help you decide.

The main issue in dispute is the belief that A-432 produces a more natural sound. The argument goes that this tuning corresponds more closely to nature and the world around us, whereas A-440 creates a more aggressive, dissonant quality to the music. If we converted our music to A-432, this article suggests, we would be bringing it in line with the cosmic keyboard, with the result that the note C would match the tuning of a classical Indian sitar.

A440 vs A432 Debate
Image: collective-evolution.com

According to Collective Evolution, musicians and those passionate about music say that A-432 is “not only more beautiful and harmonious to the ears, but it also induces a more inward experience that is felt inside the body at the spine and heart. Music tuned in A=440 Hz was felt as a more outward and mental experience, and was felt at the side of the head which projected outwards.”

This debate has been around for some time. In the 18th Century, Händel favoured tuning A at 422 Hz, and according to a New York Times article from 1989, Mozart went even lower to 421.6 Hz when tuning A in 1780. Even in the late 19th century, Verdi felt strongly enough about the matter to convince the Italian parliament to pass a law commanding that A be tuned at 432 Hz for orchestras.

So what do you think, do you have a preference for the lower, allegedly more natural sound? Does it matter at all?