The Tuning Fork

 

What is a tuning fork?

Fundamentally, a tuning fork is a two-pronged fork, that when struck, creates vibration energy, which in turn creates a sound. This sound can be set to a specific pitch, based on the size, shape and mass of the prongs. Generally, the longer the prongs, the lower the tone will be, this is because the prong takes longer to vibrate back and forth, therefore, moving slower and consequently generating lower tones – the opposite effect happens when the prongs are shorter.

How to use a tuning fork

A tuning fork is very simple to use. To create the pitch simply hold the fork loosely between your finger and thumb, then strike the side of either prong against any firm, non-metallic surface. The fork should then be withdrawn from the striking surface immediately, and the prolonged sound of the note will be easily heard when held at the side of the ear. To increase the volume giving off from the tuning fork, simply stand the fork on a table, or on any natural resonator – or for highly increased sound, try the fork on one of our resonator boxes.

Tuning an instrument is simple with a tuning fork. If we use the guitar as an example. Strike your John Walker tuning fork, then place the forks bottom on the guitar to ressonate the sound. Once the tuning fork is resonating the sound, play the note matching the pitch on the tuning fork (E.g. if the fork is A 440Hz, play an A on the guitar) and tune the guitar to the sound of the fork. There’s multiple videos online on how to use a tuning fork – like this one.

History of the tuning fork

The invention of the tuning fork has been credited to John Shore, an English trumpeter, who made the discovery over 300 years ago in 1711. Shore’s original fork gave the pitch C at 512 vibrations per second (the equivalent to A 422.5Hz). Shore’s invention was designed to tune musical instruments, however, to this day, tuning forks have vast applications such as in the fields of medicine, science and sound therapy. The tuning fork was an innovative discovery, as the fork kept a consistent pitch and wasn’t affected by temperature and humidity, unlike other tuning devices of the day. Despite being designed for musical purposes, the tuning fork was soon to be appreciated in the field of science and medicine, with famous physicians using the fork to perform tests on patients such as the Rinne test, which was used to test hearing. The tuning fork would continue to grow in popularity around the world with more and more uses getting discovered along the way.

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