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I ordered 442 tuning for my vibes when I bought my OneVibe from MarimbaOne last year. I understood that 442 was the American standard because vibes and marimba are categorized as orchestral instruments. But what about JAZZ tuning with horns and piano? And would the bass player have to decide to go one way or the other if they had both tunings happening in the same ensemble? Yikes!
It seems like people with perfect pitch would grate at the mismatched tunings. Is it a big issue? What tunings do you guys have?


tonymiceli Thu, 06/13/2019 - 17:34

ahhhh 440 is the jazz tuning for us. so i think if you play in clubs with a piano there will be a difference. i always get 440 bars for the u.s. .
in europe it's 442

allyman Fri, 06/14/2019 - 14:57 new Omega would only come with 442. I think at this point that's all that is sold...without a special order of some kind. Or so I was told. :)

Mary-Marie Sat, 06/15/2019 - 02:53

In reply to by allyman

Hey Al, Congrats on getting your new Omega! That made me feel better to hear you say it came with 442. Maybe I'll see you in Philly in August.

Randy_Sutin Fri, 06/14/2019 - 16:50

We can't tune our axe. I work with a lot of American musicians who have electronic keyboards that are set to 440 and a lot of pianos that are at 440. I also do a lot of recording and am expected to come in at 440 for that purpose most of the time.

I also work at least two locations regularly (near Philly) with excellent pianos that are kept at 442. Perhaps even more important, in the summer time when it gets humid, if a piano is in a space that isn't climate controlled, you can expect the pitch to go up by at least that much. Certainly having at least one set of 442 bars like I do saves the day in a lot of situations.

And, if like me, you work with guys who play fixed pitch instruments that are made in Europe or other places where 442 is the standard (in my case, harmoniums made in India), then you are going to need a set of high bars.

Mary-Marie Sat, 06/15/2019 - 02:45

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

Thanks Randy. I kind of figured vibes players get into lots of different situations regarding tuning, but we don't have the luxury of moving a peg or a dial to tune up or down. Certainly as a professional you've got to adjust somehow. So how does that work with the resonators? Lee always talks about exact tuning of resonators. Aren't they specifically tuned, along with the bars, to 440 or 442? And I've heard that Gary traveled with multiple sets of bars, but I don't remember anything about him adjusting the resonators.

Piper Sat, 06/15/2019 - 15:58

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

There are some cool things to know about the resonators and Randy is right. It's a small but noticeable difference - especially with today's resonators. In the earlier vibes, the resonators were tuned to be closest in tune for 440 bars near the 3/4's open fan position. Yes, the fan's change the tuning of the resonator by as much as a minor third from wide open to closed - closed being the lower tuning. However, today's resonators (we're talking Musser here) are closest tuned to 440 at wide open. What does this mean? It means that the old tuning allowed for error so that if some resonators weren't at their strongest at the 3/4 position, they will indeed reach their strongest tuning at some point between the 3/4 position and full open position. If you aim for the "full open fans" to be the strongest point of the resonator, you will probably not get it perfect even in the factory and most days, in most temperatures and most altitudes, the resonators will NEVER reach their full support. I'm absolutely sure that this was the thinking of both Deagan and Musser and it was very smart thinking. That is one of the reasons older instruments sound better. Now, when you add the 442 factor into the picture, the chances of strong support from the resonators are now even worse. I think Leigh offers tunable resonators which is the best option of all as long as it is in the hands of responsible ears. I've been preaching this stuff since '96 and it seems that with the help of the internet (VW), the truth about resonators is finally getting through. I am heading to the studio in July and I have reserved some time to offer some of this and demonstration with good recording along with other lessons to comply with the "participation of the professional" that David Friedman and Tony brought up a few weeks ago. I think this will be a worthy subject.

Understand that when I say "changes the tuning of the resonator" I don't mean that when you strike the A 440 bar and a resonator under it is most closely tuned to F# it will lower the pitch - it will NOT lower the pitch of what you hear, but it will not offer strong resonator support for A 440 - it will be weak as if no resonator is present.

Mary-Marie Sun, 06/16/2019 - 01:35

In reply to by Piper

Bars, resonators, and fan positions...there's a lot going on. I'd love to be in the room for a demonstration of making some of those changes and hearing with my own ears what that sounds like in different combinations. If I am understanding you, the pitch we hear remains at 440 or 442 according to how the bars are tuned, but the resonators will lose a significant amount of strength if their tuning is not matched to the bars. And then lose even more resonator support due to fan position.

Piper Sun, 06/16/2019 - 02:14

In reply to by Mary-Marie

Correct and there's also all those other nuances such as the distance the bar is from the mouth of the resonator, the shape of the room (because it's actually an extension or additional resonator) and the other things I mentioned such as temperature and altitude.

As the mouth of the resonator gets closer to the bar, the pitch the resonator will support lowers (opposite from what people think and I can explain that if interested). You can experience this by taking a water glass into a room with white noise. You can create white noise from air blowing from a fan, or just water running in the kitchen sink. Place the mouth of the water glass near your ear and move it from an inch or two from your ear to very close to your ear. As you get closer the pitch you hear inside the water glass will lower substantially.

Here's why: White noise has all the different frequencies within it which is why it sounds like it does. As the tuning of the resonator (or water glass) changes it's tuning or support of tuning (by moving it to and from), it amplifies the pitches within the white noise that it is tuned to support at the moment. You'll notice that the further away from your ear (aka boundary) the mouth of the glass is, the higher the pitch of the white noise that you hear and the closer it gets, the lower the pitches of the white noise are that are amplified.

When I go to the studio, I'll show this demonstration using amplified white noise and demonstrate the influence the distance from the bar has on the resonator. Then I'll show what it's like to climb inside the resonator and hear the various tones within the resonator by dropping a tiny mic inside the resonator while generating a tone that is perfect for that tube. It's all very fascinating. I believe you'll understand it if I do a thorough demonstration. I refer to it as "Do you hear the ocean?" It's all derived from the same thing as when parents tell their children to put a sea shell to the ear and ask them "do you hear the ocean?" What you're actually hearing when you put a sea shell to your ear is not the ocean (dah). You're hearing the frequencies within the white noice around you being amplified by the sea shell resonator.

Mary-Marie Sun, 06/16/2019 - 11:27

In reply to by Piper

So cool to learn about this!! Looking forward to "Do you hear the ocean?" I'll do a little experiment with the water glass.

tonymiceli Tue, 06/18/2019 - 15:03

In reply to by Mary-Marie

can't tune pitch with the resonators. but you tune for volume or decay. less volume is more decay on the vibes. more volume is less decay.

we can't tune. honestly, if you had a gig with a 440 piano, you would be fine. it's not the end of the world. and since pianos are now tunes to 440 or 442 sometimes you are just out of luck.

when i became a pro, i made sure eventually i had 440 and 442 bars, esp for recordings. i have done gigs with 400 and 442 and made it through the gigs. you guys shouldn't sweat it. if you ever buy another instrument then buy the opposite and you're set. but really no big deal.

Piper Tue, 06/18/2019 - 15:39

In reply to by tonymiceli

More volume you get more decay. Less volume, you get more sustain.

440vs442: I played one gig that I assumed was A440 piano. We started playing and I was just lost. I couldn't fit in at all. I just really felt lost and then I realized the piano must be in 442 tuning. I switched bars to 442 and life immediately improved. That's when I learned that the small difference completely disoriented me.

For a test run on sustain vs volume, just take your resonators off and time the sustain. It will be around 40 seconds with no resonators vs. resonators only about 11 or 12 seconds with the resonators on. The difference is substantial. More resonator support=less sustain, less resonator support=more sustain (a lot more).

Piper Wed, 06/19/2019 - 23:48

In reply to by Piper

When/if you decide to test this out, make sure the fans are in their strongest position by sustaining all the sharps and flats with the pedal down and rotate the fan by hand until the bars are their loudest. Then test it. Musser A440 bars all over the world will sustain for about 11 or 12 seconds with the resonators in their strongest position and about 40 seconds when the resonators are completely removed from the frame.

Randy_Sutin Thu, 06/20/2019 - 12:52

In reply to by Piper

It used to be, "because it's a VIBRAPHONE not a metallophone".

My new argument, which I think I felt on an intuitive level all along, is that I want both the fullness of the tone achieved with the resonators engaged and I want the sustain to be as long as I need it musically, which is often more than the 11 or 12 seconds. It's a great compromise.

In a related note... I just discovered something interesting. My 1949 Century is, as per expectation, tuned so that the resonators are coupled at the 3/4 point. However, it's predecessor, my Deagan Imperial (Clarie Omar Musser's last flagship vibe prior to leaving Deagan for Ludwig in 1948) has its resonators tuned to be at full volume when fully opened.

Piper Thu, 06/20/2019 - 13:41

In reply to by Randy_Sutin

Nice Information about the Deagan. I didn't know that about Deagan resonators but I did have an opportunity to build a frame for Deagan Bars and Resonators. In the process I realized that the resonators were not as strong as what I was use to with the older Musser resonators (3/4 open for full support). Yup, the bars are a bit longer sustain with the vibrato on and if your resonators are tuned for optimum, you'll get parts of the best of both worlds. You'll also notice on the decay of a fully open resonator that as the bar becomes less strong in its vibrating (softer in volume) the rate of decay increases and almost stops as if it were being muted. Whereas, on the bar without resonators appear to coast along and the rate of decay stays the same or even slows. It's all very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to share accurate information Randy!

John Keene Sun, 06/16/2019 - 10:47

I asked a symphony bass player about tuning differences within an orchestra, and his advice was "better sharp than out-of-tune."

Mary-Marie Sun, 06/16/2019 - 11:32

In reply to by John Keene

A violinist friend of mine made a similar comment about preferring a slightly sharp pitch to a flat one. I'm chuckling to think the flat note is out of tune but the sharp one isn't :)

drumhalla Fri, 06/21/2019 - 17:59

In reply to by Mary-Marie

I read somewhere (I think from Bill Youhass) that 442 will always sound ok in a 440 environnement but 440 will sound wrong and out of tune in a 442 environnement.
If that is the case then it is better to have one 442 bars set if you can not get two sets of bars.

forrest Sat, 06/22/2019 - 11:43

why do people tune instruments different in different parts of the world? it should all be the same?