There has been a lot of debate on the internet, in the music community, and even among scientists about 432 Hz vs. 440 Hz. Everyone’s out to determine which one of these tuning standards is the right one.
Although 440 Hz has been the standard tuning pitch reference for a long time, there are still many people who beg to differ. From viral memes to long-drawn debates on music forums, people still seem to argue in favor of 432 Hz being the right tuning standard.
While 440 Hz is the standard pitch for tuning musical instruments, 432 Hz is the alternative which is considered to be better by many, according to their spiritual beliefs and preferences. Most of the debates between the two frequencies were fueled by misinformation in favor of 432 Hz. This resulted in people terming the frequency to be the ‘frequency of the Universe’ with healing powers.
For this post, we decided to settle this debate once and for all and separate fact from fiction about 432 Hz vs. 440 Hz. So let’s find out which one of these tuning frequencies is the best.
432 Hz Explained
When tuning musical instruments using a toner, you may have come across the term “440 Hz.” If you are an amateur who does not know the science of music or music theory, you will have no idea what it means.
440 Hz is just a way of denoting the note A; A4, that lies above middle C. To make it clearer, 440 Hz basically means that the sound is vibrating through 440 cycles per second. All the sounds you hear are actually vibrations that pass through different mediums and are received by the ears. If a sound vibrates at 440 cycles every second, it will have a frequency of 440 Hz. It will sound like A4.
Similarly, a sound humming 432 Hz will vibrate at 432 cycles per second and will also sound like A4. However, it will be pitched lower than usual. If you tune it even lower, let’s say at 415 Hz, it will fall under the G sharp or A flat territory, which means that sounds with lower pitch have lower frequencies. Whereas higher notes have high frequencies.
Basically, you can classify 432 Hz as one version of the A4 note. 432 Hz is often used to describe the tuning standard that is A4 = 432, instead of A4 = 440, which is also called “concert pitch”. By tuning A4 at 432 Hz instead of 440 Hz, all the other notes should be shifted down to tune properly. Therefore, C5 will fall to 513.74 Hz from 523.25 Hz, B4 will fall to 484.90 Hz from 493.88 Hz, and so on.
Why Is 432 Hz Considered to Be Better than 440 Hz as the Tuning Standard?
Although 440 Hz has been the tuning standard for more than 50 years, people still prefer 432 Hz over 440 Hz. Why is that so? Well, as you can imagine, there is no simple answer to this question. It’s like asking why people have two different interpretations after reading the same book. The answer is subjective.
However, that does not mean that people cling to 432 Hz for no reason at all. Musicians from history used to tune their musical instruments in different ways for spiritual, practical, and mathematical reasons. How sound these reasons are is debatable, but they are still worth finding out about.
Is 432 Hz Really Better Than 440 Hz?
The ultimate preference of music producers and composers depends on which of the two sounds better. Does 432 Hz sound better than 440 Hz? Well, this is again subjective and depends on personal preference. However, an amateur ear may not even notice the difference.
If you have been listening to 440 Hz music all your life, you will develop a liking for it because our experiences shape our likes and dislikes. With that being said, you may psychologically resonate more with 432 Hz music. The tuning standard that you have been listening to all your life will appeal to you more.
Does 432 Hz Music Sound Different?
It is quite challenging to distinguish between 432 Hz and 440 Hz music if you haven’t heard some sample music at both frequencies beforehand. However, thanks to all the YouTube music and digital audio workstations (DAWs), you can easily tell the two apart and try them out yourself.
For instance, if you search for “430 Hz vs 440 Hz” on YouTube, the first video appearing in the search results will be titled, “The Ultimate 432Hz VS 440Hz | CONSPIRACY + Comparison”, uploaded by Paul Davids. In this video, the guitarist and music producer plays “Ode to Joy” at first, both in 440 Hz tuning and 432 Hz tuning.
You may find the two tunings a bit jarring at first. The tone of the 432 Hz rendition would sound flattened but your ears will eventually adjust to the song and find it just like you expect it to. Now if you listen to the 440 Hz tuning, you will find it a little too sharp and even unpleasant. But as you listen to it for longer, you will settle back in.
This video will help you distinguish between the two tunings and also reveal how our ears perceive music.
So does this mean that there is not much of a difference between the two tuning standards? Does this mean that the entire thing is just unpredictable? Well, not really.
Once you hear these repeatedly, you will be able to identify the difference between how the two are tuned. It is all a matter of context and contrast that will help you feel the real difference between them.
Does Listening to 432 Hz Music Really Benefit You?
Popular belief posits that listening to 432 Hz music has various metaphysical benefits. While there is no such proof for these assertions, there are quite a few benefits in trying out 432 Hz tuning.
For instance, playing music in any other pitch other than 440 Hz will produce a unique sound. The difference may not be that big to an average listener, but it will definitely have a rare flavor as it will be unique from others.
Moreover, exploring a different tuning standard will help explore new things about the different tones and spark interest. You may even overcome a bad phase of musician’s block by using a different tuning for your music instruments and playing with a different frequency for once.
Additionally, if you feel like 432 Hz music produces positive emotional and physical sensations, then playing or recording music with this tuning standard will bring you mental peace and comfort.
Scientific Evidence in Favor of 432 Hz Standard Tuning
Many people argue that 432 Hz tuning can actually improve your quality of life. According to these arguments, this standard tuning has spiritual and physical healing properties. Even some scientific studies have found results that give credence to these arguments that the 432 Hz tuning standard has some wellness properties.
Many studies have pointed to these healing benefits. Most of these studies were conducted in Italy and all of them tested the difference between the two frequencies.
- In 2016, a study was conducted to measure the effects of 432 Hz music on anxiety during an endodontic procedure.
- In 2017, a study was conducted to measure the effects of various music frequencies on rats.
- In 2019, another study was conducted to evaluate the effects of 440 Hz and 432 Hz music on vital parameters, including oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and more.
- In 2020, a study was conducted to measure the quality of sleep among patients of spinal cord injuries using 440 Hz music and 432 Hz music in comparison.
The results of the 2016, 2019, and 2020 studies found that patients who listened to 432 Hz audio interventions had better results than those who listened to 440 Hz audio interventions. The subjects of the 432 Hz groups were found to have decreased blood pressure and heart rate values, and they even slept better than the other subjects who were in the 440 Hz groups.
Regarding the 2017 study, rats from both the groups gained weight. However, the rats in the 440 Hz group gained weight at a slightly higher rate than those in the 432 Hz group.
According to these results, 432 Hz tuned music does tend to decrease the heart rate of patients and offer benefits. However, more studies with a larger sample pool and covering more parameters need to be conducted to find solid evidence.
In this ultimate 432 Hz vs. 440 Hz comparison, we discussed the common beliefs regarding the two tuning standards and dug deeper to unearth facts and bring them to the forefront. While we still cannot crown one tuning standard as the best one as there is simply not enough evidence available, we can agree that the 432 Hz tuning standard does seem to be the better one.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.