The “International standard pitch”: A survey.


The “International standard pitch,” in which the A above “middle” C (a' in the British system of pitch designation, A4 in the American system) is tuned to 440 Hz, was adopted in the Western world for concert music only in the 20th century. Between the 18th and 20th century, the reference pitch varied greatly, from about 409Hz all the way up to around 450Hz.

The 20th century choice of the A=440 Hz standard was a compromise between the pitch level preferred by the composers of 18th century music that is still a part of the modern concert repertoire, and the different pitch levels introduced by the makers of 19th century wind-instruments.

Today, many orchestras adhere to this standard as concert pitch, but it is not uncommon for certain orchestras around the world to tune their instruments differently.

The objective of this experiment is to investigate whether the general population has a preference for one pitch standard over another.

If you would like to participate in this exciting survey in the comfort of your home, please download one of the packages below. All you need is a computer and a decent set of speakers!

Why are there different packages? Because in a normal experiment, the order in which stimuli are presented can actually affect the behavior of the subjects or elicit a false response, due to fatigue or outside factors changing the behavior of many of the subjects. To counteract this, researchers often use a counterbalanced design, which reduces the chances of the order of presentation or other factors adversely influencing the results.

In a nutshell, it means that we have to vary the order in which the musical excerpts are presented in order to make this survey statistically acceptable.


If you are born in  January, April, July or October, download this: Package 1

If you are born in February, May, August or November, download this: Package 2

If you are born in March, June, September or December, download this: Package 3

To download, simply Right-Click (or CTRL-Click on Mac OS) on the Package links and then "Save As" or "Download as" to save the file on your computer. Then, unzip the package and read the Instructions.txt file for the instructions.
(If you have problems decompressing the package file, try adding ".zip" without the quotes at the end of the filename)

The whole experiment should take about 30 minutes to complete.

If you have questions, you can contact us at:

Happy Experiment!

p.s. Please do not participate if you possess absolute pitch!

McGill University
Levitin Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise
1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield
Montreal, QC H3A 1B1