Why an orchestra needs to be warmed up first?


If an orchestra doesn’t warm up before a performance, the strings go flat and the wind instruments go sharp during the performance. Why?


The temperature dynamics within an orchestra, particularly the wind and string instruments, play a crucial role in the observed phenomena of strings going flat and wind instruments going sharp when a proper warm-up is neglected.

Temperature Influence on Wind Instruments:

  1. Initial Room Temperature:
    • Unified Starting Point: At the beginning of a concert, all instruments are at room temperature.
  2. Wind Instruments and Temperature Increase:
    • Warm Air Infusion: Wind instruments, as they are played, fill with warm air from the musician’s exhalation. This influx of warm air causes an increase in the temperature of the air column inside the instrument.
  3. Speed of Sound and Fundamental Frequencies:
    • Temperature-Induced Changes: The rise in air temperature within wind instruments leads to an increase in the speed of sound. This, in turn, raises the fundamental frequencies of the air columns in wind instruments, causing them to go sharp.

Temperature Influence on Stringed Instruments:

  1. Initial Room Temperature:
    • Common Starting Point: Similar to wind instruments, stringed instruments begin at room temperature.
  2. Friction-Induced Temperature Increase:
    • Stringed Instruments and Bow Friction: The strings on stringed instruments experience an increase in temperature due to the friction generated by the bow during playing.
  3. Thermal Expansion and Tension:
    • Decreased String Tension: The temperature rise induces thermal expansion in the strings, leading to a decrease in tension. With reduced tension, the wave speed on the strings drops, causing the fundamental frequencies to decrease. Consequently, stringed instruments go flat.

Comprehensive Understanding:

  1. Temperature-Driven Dynamics:
    • Orchestral Instruments Interaction: The intricate interplay of temperature-induced changes in both wind and string instruments unfolds during a performance. The collective impact results in strings going flat and wind instruments going sharp, highlighting the delicate balance influenced by temperature variations.


The seemingly disparate phenomena of strings going flat and wind instruments going sharp in an orchestra without a warm-up find a common thread in the intricate relationship between temperature and musical instruments. Understanding the temperature-driven dynamics enriches our appreciation for the nuanced interplay of physics and artistry within the realm of orchestral performances.

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