Auditory accuracy

Richard John Cavell rjcavell at student.unimelb.edu.au
Thu Feb 3 05:56:58 EST 2000


Hi all,

I am a medical student in Melbourne.

I was thinking about how people tune pianos... Obviously some people have
trained themselves to hear the precise frequencies better than others.

But how come we all recognize the same note as middle C?  Why don't I
listen to a recital and complain that the piano is tuned uniformly half a
note too sharp?

If you had two classical pianists and asked them to tune a piano, they
typically agree precisely (measured by twiddles of the piano string
tuner). But how precise would they be?  If middle C is exactly 440 Hz,
could they recognize a 440.01 Hz sound?  And who decides what middle C is
exactly anyway?

Anyway, that's enough questions.  You know, when I was young, they gave my primary school class a test where they
played a tape and asked us to identify which notes were slightly too
sharp, and which notes were an octave above the others, etc.  I "won" and
got free violin lessons.

--------------
Richard Cavell
Melbourne University Medical Student
Debater, Chess Player, etc.
- r.cavell at ugrad.unimelb.edu.au

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