New article up about ancient solfeggio frequencies and Pythagoras!

As new articles are added to the site, we’ll give you a sneak peak here. Below is the synopsis taken from the article on the ancient solfeggio frequencies as it relates to Pythagoras. It was a long time ago but still very interesting. History is an amazing thing.

Be sure to check out the videos at the bottom of the article that will explain in full detail!

Summary:

  • Guido of Arezzo is credited with inventing solfeggio (solfege) around 1,000 AD to teach his students how to sight sing the plainchant repertoire,
  • Guido of Arezzo is also credited for inventing musical notation around 1,000 AD. Other than a few slight differences, we still use his method of musical notation today.
  • We know that Guido of Arezzo used Pythagorean tuning because that was how the plainchant repertoire was sung. Because Guido was a monk and knew the chant repertoire, it would only seem natural that his method of notation would reflect what he was actually hearing/singing.
  • Pythagorean tuning is very close to the modern “equal tempered scale.” For the untrained ear, it would be difficult to hear a huge difference. At the time of Guido, equal temperament wasn’t invented yet. However, they still used a simple 8 note scale very similar to what we use today with minor differences in the distance between notes, often differing only up to 5 cents in each pitch. All equal temperament did was make the distance from note to note exactly the same. With Pythagorean tuning, the notes were close but not exact.
  • The ancient solfeggio frequencies are extremely varied in the distance between each note. Some are as small as a half step (minor second) and others are as large as an augmented 4th. They don’t fit within the Pythagorean scale used at the time Guido put a melody to the poem “Hymn to St. John the Baptist.” Therefore, those pitches are not actually in the hymn.
  • The ancient solfeggio frequencies may or may not be frequencies (as some in Internet land propose). But, what they aren’t are pitches used in the “Hymn to St. John the Baptist.”
  • The ancient solfeggio frequencies do not fit into ANY “concert pitch.” Only the 528 works perfectly at A=444. The 396, 417, and 741 are close but might fit better at A=440 or A=446. The 639 and 852 pitches don’t fit within any concert pitch (or tuning system as I say in the videos) that we use today. The conclusion here is that if you want to play music using these frequencies, you would have to tune your instrument for each pitch and play music only for that one frequency. It would be impossible to switch back and forth between the six frequencies using one concert pitch.
  • Some have said that by tuning instruments to A=432, the ancient solfeggio frequencies would work. That is not the case whether you use Pythagorean tuning, mean tone tuning, just intonation, or equal temperament.
  • We don’t know the actual concert pitch Guido of Arezzo used because tuning forks weren’t used until the 1600’s. But, we DO know that no matter what concert pitch he used, the distance between each note would still fit within the Pythagorean scale. Long story short… the ancient solfeggio frequencies could not work no matter which concert pitch was used. The distances between each note are too varied for them to work within any tuning system that Guido would have known about.

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