Musescore is 3.4 cents of Concert Pitch

• Jun 2, 2011 - 07:30

I want to use Musescore to make etudes to practice the violin along with. I want A to be 440hz. I checked the pitch accuracy of Musescore WAV files with a Petersen Strobo-soft tuner and found all the pitches to be 3.4cents higher than concert pitch. I checked other reliable sources for Concert Pitch and my tuner registered them accuratley so it is not my tuner. If the concert pitch could be lowered to 439.1367245hz that would compensate for the 3.4cents, but only adjustments of 1/10 of a cent could be made.

I wonder if there are other users who practice to Musescore not realizing that they may be really out of tune if they tune their instruments to 440hz.

I would appreciate any way to solve this problem as Musescore is a fabulous program otherwise and I would like to be able to use it again if it could be made to play in Concert Pitch.



Which version of MuseScore did you test with? On which operating system? Did you use the default soundfont or another one ? Which instrument did you test, can you provide the test score?

In reply to by Nicolas

Which version of MuseScore did you test with?
- 1.0 downloaded within the week

- On which operating system?
Windows XP

Did you use the default soundfont [1] or another one ?
- the default

Which instrument did you test
- Harp, as it is easy to get a good reading on a plucked string

can you provide the test score?
- see attached

- I checked that the Petersen Tuner was reading accurately by measuring a 440hz sine wave generated by Audition, A commercially available Cello Drone and a scale generated by Fractal Tune Smithy all of which measured accurately in relation to Concert Pitch.

Hope this helps,

If a' is 3,4 cent higher than 440 Hz, which pitch do you get?
As far as I know 100 cent are an equivalent to a halftone - so 440 Hz plus 100 Cent will give you 466,2 Hz (B-Flat).
Then 440 Hz plus 3,4 Cent will probably result in a pitch of around 440,89 Hz, which is close to 441 Hz.

It honours you, that you try to keep your violin down to 440 Hz concert pitch.

It might be interesting to hear, that orchestras in Europe tend to use much higher concert pitches of at least 443 Hz, even higher ones (Vienna Philharmonics 448 Hz!!).
I have heard, that even the "New York Philharmonic" und das "Boston Symphony Orchestra" are going a new route in recently putting up their concert pitch to 442 Hz ("to give themselves an unfair advantage"....).
Anyway, interesting issue.

In reply to by kbundies

I get a slightl;y sharp A. Enough to sound sort of wrong if I tune my A to 440hz which I like to do. Many people would not notice that it is sharp, but something would jsut sound unsatisfying. There is a big didfference between being slightly out of tune and in-tune.

In reply to by kbundies

I get a slightl;y sharp A. Enough to sound sort of wrong if I tune my A to 440hz which I like to do. Many people would not notice that it is sharp, but something would jsut sound unsatisfying. There is a big didfference between being slightly out of tune and in-tune.

"I wonder if there are other users who practice to Musescore not realizing that they may be really out of tune if they tune their instruments to 440hz."

I suggest that if they cannot hear it, they are probably not that interested in achieving it. Call it part of the learning process.


In reply to by xavierjazz

And I'd say most musicians are in the habit of tuning to whomever they are playing with. I play at all sorts of different places with different pianos, and everyone else in the ensemble simply tunes to the piano at the venue, A=440Hz or no.

But still, I'd be curious to find out if this really is something that MuseScore is somehow causing, or if it is the soundfont, as I would imagine is much more likely.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I like your approach and you must have great ears, but many people will use a tuner set to A440 to tune their instrument to play along with Musescore and will sound bad and be vaguely unenjoyable, but not bad enough to maybe notice consciously. I tried a variety of Musescore instruments and they all were 3.4cents sharp. I had a peak around the forum and there someone else who noticed Musescore was not in tune with his keyboard which would be set to A 440.

I do use the Musescore default soundfont. I hope the programmers will get to the bottom of this as I don't know enough about computers to say if it is a general problem or just happens to a few,

Thanks for your reply as it has encouraged me to keep using Musescore to practice to, but just make sure I tune up a little.

Some random remarks:

1) If you got a consistent 3.4 cents delta in all the pitches you checked, to my experience you have (by chance?) found a remarkably precious setup, as far as tuning is concerned: all the (non-commercial) soundfonts I have tried have audible tuning problems across the different pitches of the same instrument (and across different instruments), often several times larger than the figures you quote (say 10, 15, sometime even 20 cents). So, if you reached a situation in which the pitches are consistent among themselves, it is an achievement!

2) All soundfonts I tried include for most instrument some very annoying vibrato which makes tuning checking not so plain; this does not (should not!) affect the harp, but it has to be kept in mind while testing.

3) The issue may originate in any and each link of the chain: the soundfont, MuseScore (or more probably the FluidSynth library it includes) the synthesizer and/or the sound card installed in your computer. If the issue is deemed important, more checks could be useful: different soundfont, same soundfont on a different computer, same soundfont on same computer but with a different notation programme (if you have access to one)...

4) Assuming the out-of-tuning is consistent (I still find this rather hard to believe), you may try "Display | Synthesizer", "Master tuning" edit box: set to 439 (or to 439.1, if you are fastidious); in theory this should compensate for the error you are finding. I have no idea how precise the result can be (it is probably affected by any sort of factor), but it is so easy to do that it is worth trying (I believe the setting is memorized per score, rather than as a global setting).

5) You mention measuring the pitch of the .WAV generated by MuseScore, did you checked the sound generated 'live' by MuseScore playback?

"And now for something completely different":

You say: "There is a big difference between being slightly out of tune and in-tune". I agree, but while notes can surely be out of tune (slightly or greatly), being in-tune is not as simple as keeping a certain frequency: if you tune your violin strings 'correctly' (mind the quotes!),

* you end up with an E which is not a minor third below the G (minus 2 octaves of course) but ca. 6 cent too sharp.
* If you finger a B 'in tune' with the G, it is not 'in tune' with the E but too flat by ca. 20 cents.

In other words, caring about tuning is OF COURSE very important; also, being sure to achieve one intended result (in your case, it is probably a consistent equal temperament based on A = 440Hz) is a great step toward achieving any other result. But if one starts minding figures too much and falls in the maze of temperaments, the exit might be a looong way... ;-)


In reply to by Miwarre

And in case you're not familiar with what they are talking about, see this: Tuning is not the absolute you seem to believe it to be. While I agree it would be nice if 440 really were 440, and it would be worth the effort of ascertaining why this is not so on your system - soundfont, fluidsynth, musescore, soundcard, or some interaction between these - you'll quickly find that tuning is a much more complex issue than that. There's basically no such thing as every note being "in tune" when dealing with multiple instruments; each instrument will have its own system of temperament used as the ideal, and its own deviations from that ideal. So there's never really any substitute for using your ears when tuning to get the results you find most pleasing.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

yes, the maze of temperaments is long, but I would like to have some foundation for exploring it. Like the trumpet has pure harmonic overtones and clarinets play mostly odd harmonics, and the sympathetic resonances of the string family seem to reinforce the Pythagorean tuning. I know you can't compare apples and oranges (the tuning of clarinets and trumpets etc) but I do want them growing out of the same soil of 440hz to more fully appreciate uniquiness of each instrument and how they harmonize. Still I think you may be right that tuning is all too complex and one has to let the ears the ears have the final say.

In reply to by Miwarre

Thanks for sharing your observations about how inaccurate the pitchs of audio programs can be. I must say I have only tested the harp and trumpet, because other instruments had too much vibrate or were composite (llike the voice instrument seems to have octaves and fifths in by the sound.

I have found Fractal Tune Smithy to be accurate to 1/10 of cent. Though the wave palyer instruments have all sorts of strange overtone structure so that whilst the fundamental is in tune, the notes can sound out of tune with the scale you are using.

This thread is helping me realize that there is much that we can't control when it comes to tuning especially when using computers. I did have naive veiw that they would be extremely accurate, now I'm starting to thing that they are jsut extremely coinsistent in the way they are inaccurate.

Hi Steven,

I'm interested in starting to use Musescore as intonation tool. So this topic came quickly under my attention.

I guess the slightly higher pitch of the harp is just in the attack of the note. Try another instrument, I suggest Fingered Bass (no vibrato :-) )and the pitch will always be right on it.


What I do when I am going to practice with musescore, is that I add a few bars of some instrument like the piano at the beginning playing a long d minor (I like tuning to d minor, but anything would be fine)chord to which I tune. Antoine

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