Switching between 443 and 420 freqently - does it give stress to the instrument?
One of the amateur groups I'm playing in is a small baroque ensemble. Not of the almost religious "informed" business, simply for fun and pleasure. Most of us use modern instruments and avoid plain gut, but we still tune down to 420 Hz. Outside the ensemble I usually need to tune back to 443.
One thing that annoys me about this is that the strings need some time after retuning to settle in again and keep their tension. But what really concerns me is the question if this permanent up and down in string tension and therefore changing pressure on the top plate gives too much stress to the instrument, similar to rapid changes in humidity and temperature which we usually try to avoid.
Any experience with that? Am I safe and fine like that, or should I get another instrument for baroque 420?
Your instrument should be fine, but the bridge and nut may wear out a bit. Put lots of graphite in all the slots.
you will spend more money on strings because stretching and relaxing them leads to shorter life span. Not to mention rapid deterioration of sound quality.
I would get a second instrument. And you might as well get a real baroque violin while you're at it. The tuning of the strings is not the only difference.
'you will spend more money on strings because stretching and relaxing them leads to shorter life span. Not to mention rapid deterioration of sound quality.'
There's no scientific evidence for that. It's
Instrument will be fine :) Strings will be not the happiest but they'll get used to it.
Guglielmus, upon my own experience. Pirastro's instructions used to state the similar - string will not sound at its best if tuned to different frequencies.
Hm, quite divergent opinions. Great!
Baroque violins are set up for the lower tension of A415; the angle of the neck is slightly less. Modern instruments do not sound their best at the lower pitch.
Baroque violins are not "made" for 415, they were just as likely to be tuned higher like 450, and the neck angle including the fingerboard could be lower but often was just as high as modern, the neck length was often shorter but not always, there are really no 100% set differences other than they usually had a wedged fingerboard and pure gut strings.
One thing is you will really confuse the molecules in the top plate if you're just "playing in" your violin. LOL
"Also, 443? Holy moly that is sharp"
I agree with Dorian: awareness of what the music is supposed to sound like is not about the exact pitch (at the time there was no universally standard pitch), but about a way of phrasing, and expressing the beat.
Extraordinary how so many players (e.g. Nuuska, Cotton) as well as listeners profess to be anti HIP, which has been around and thriving for 50 years now. If you can remember how baroque orchestral music used to be played in the days of HUP (when tempi were leaden and every crotchet was played with the bow glued to the string for the full duration) you might concede that huge advances have been made. The best practitioners of HIP aren't preaching a doctrine but exploring possibilities and setting an example which others may or may not care to emulate. When we address music of any period we don't "just play" it with an instinctive sense of the appropriate style, we incorporate what we have hopefully learned from our own experience and that of others. In fact today we are all historically informed, without necessarily realising it.
The short answer is problems depend on how conservatively your violin is built and the material and structure of the strings you use. If your violin is worth the cost of a new car and your strings cost $50+ each, you might be more cautious.
"The following is probably too much information, but it might give you enough understanding to make a more informed decision". Enough to realise that this is another grey area with no clear signposts
"I think that's not out of the norm for many orchestras in North America and Europe and around the world..."
Yup, Mary Ellen, 443 is very common here. Many symphonies tune like that, it is common on the local conservatory and music school, and also my own private teacher (who is from Southern Europe) insists on that. Personally I'm most comfortable somewhere around 338 Hz - maybe because this is my personal absolute pitch a', but I also feel that my violin sounds most pleasant if tuned a little bit below 440.
If I wanted a baroque violin I would call up David Burgess and have him make me a regular violin. Then when I got it home I would just saw a couple of inches off the end of the bridge.
From this very forum:
Regarding the question of "what IS a baroque violin?" I enjoyed this website with a short series of concise discussions about why there is no single template but rather a variety of designs and styles over perhaps 200 years and many cities with their own traditions in violin-making:
Nuuska - isn't the notion of a exclusive clan of HIPsters who insist on "doing everything the correct way" a bit of a straw man? If they exist, I've yet to meet them. Among baroque performers there are some I like, some I don't like, but although I believe all are sincerely trying to reach the essence of the music I don't think any would be so arrogant as to claim they're doing it "the correct way". Personally I quite agree that one can obtain perfectly musical results on modern instruments; I just wonder why the ensemble you play with insists on tuning to a somewhat controversial "baroque" pitch?
I will just say that I find ridiculous that piano manufacturers drive pitch up and force string players to follow. Recently, I started avoiding chamber music with piano players whose tuners prefer to tune above 440Hz.
Sorry Rocky, but doesn't it rather depend on what music you're playing and what pitch standard the composer was used to? I'm never aware that my ears are stressed, even by quite insistently high-pitched music and as for the instrument, mine stays in tune and doesn't get through strings any faster than it should. Finally, I'm not sure my colleagues would agree to your suggestion and I'd be in Nuuska's dilemma (albeit to a lesser degree) every time I joined them!
Rocky, yepp, tuning down feels good. I think it also depends on the way one hears and perceives it. And I'm rather that viola-violin guy...
And as for the HIPsters - there are quite a few, especially not-so-top-notch players who are quite arrogant about their superior understanding what was going on 300 yrs ago... At the moment it's a bit trendy. Maybe a regional phenomenon, and for sure not common amongst high level pros.
When my friend went to the Kronberg Academy, he came back used to the super high A at A=447 because that's the town organ's pitch. It's really all relative, high for my friend from North America and normal for the folks at Kronberg. Just blend our sound to the local pitch and everyone will be happy.
I'll admit that the last time I mingled with serious HIPsters was some time ago and maybe attitudes have hardened since then. My favourite violinist of the time was Simon Standage who switched effortlessly between baroque and modern instruments, even in the same repertoire. Our occasional modern-instrument band that somehow got the job of playing the Matthew Passion in St Paul's Cathedral each Good Friday decided to invest a significant proportion of its budget in a prestigious concertmaster, and St Simon happened to have a vacancy in his diary. "Erbarme dich" was of course a high point, but I was much too intent on not messing up to get the full endorphin rush, and the mezzo soprano had a rather inauthentic wobble.
I suspect Bach would have found that wobble all too authentic...
I bought a few A440 tuning forks recently on Amazon. Two (Planet Waves and a dirt-cheap Chinese Kasstino) were perfect. The third, a Sodial, was 450Hz according to my Snark!
"Recently, I started avoiding chamber music with piano players whose tuners prefer to tune above 440Hz."