The band at church this morning had two electric guitarists – myself and one of the youth. During the warm up I was sure something wasn’t quite right about his tuning so, as we took a break before starting in earnest, I gently suggested he might want to turn down the guitar and do a quick double check with his clip on tuner (I’d been constantly checking my tuning via my multi-FX pedal and it sounded consonant with the keyboard and bass). He gave this a go and that’s when I spotted the number 446 on the display of his tuner.
Aha! It turned out that at some point, his tuner had been calibrated to 446Hz, while the rest of us were tuned to the current western standard of 440Hz. The reason tuners have calibration functions is that sometimes you have to work with an instrument that can’t easily be retuned; if you can work out how to nudge your tuner to regard that instrument is in tune you have the utility of continuing to use it to keep your instrument relatively in tune. If he’d been at 441Hz, I might not have noticed in the first place but 446 was enough to set everything on edge.
The value of getting in tune shouldn’t be underestimated and, if using gadgets to assist, it is worth knowing enough to check they are properly calibrated for the situation. Anyway, at an agreed 440Hz, everything sounded much sweeter and hopefully that will set the other guitarist on his way to use the knowledge and pass it onto others.