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Why micro-tuning is important

13

Comments

  • Even a single string won’t give you a pure tone, because it is constantly changing pitch over the course of its amplitude envelope. The Indian musicians decided to embrace this uncertainty, and even exacerbate it via bridge construction.

  • Modulate to G 1/2 Sharp

  • @TheoryNotes said:
    Ultimately I keep in mind that the only way to achieve that pure abstraction of just intonation is through a soft synth which will limit harmonics.

    no idea what you're getting at here. most music in human history has been made in just intonation or something like it. JI isn't just some mathematic wankery. It's simple ratios that describe how harmonics work, which is useful for building a coherent tuning system. Listen to any acapella music, string quartet, music from most anywhere in the world before the early twentieth century, and you will hear Just Intonation or some form of microtonality. It's an absurd claim that it can only be represented with synthesizers.

    I've definitely ran this experiment before, and trying to tune a piano or any machined instrument and thinking the result of attempts at just intonation will be purity is not true unfortunately as each set of tones will bring their own harmonics which when combined will not be just.

    from what I understand, metal strings are difficult to tune as they accentuate enharmonics, so you will run into all sorts of issues, especially when strings are of different guages. Stretched tunings for pianos accommodate for this phenomenon.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stretched_tuning#Effects_on_tuning

    In the physical world, it really only is possible to maintain a consistent and relatively unmoving pure just intonation tone from an un-fretted single string vibrating, possibly as a drone. Not my preferred choice of music, but to each their own.

    not in the circles I run in. I know many capable players who work in JI, it takes ear training to another level entirely. It's more difficult, true, but far from impossible.

    So, in the grand scheme of things, each 12TET A440 tone is as pure as any other single tone.

    hmm. ok, well yes a single tone can be pure, but the tuning is out of tune with itself. It's not a harmonic tuning. Not sure what you mean.

    But, ultimately, I've realized that humans respond to mathematics and specifically geometry far more than nature.

    I don't see any separation between geometry and nature. Geometry is simply an observation of nature. humans didn't invent geometry any more than we invented the elements.

    So, again, while I do appreciate the sound of just intonation, using it harmonically is all about exploring all the sounds which already exist in a lone vibrating string. There isn't much interesting movement that I hear in that, but again, to each their own.

    yup. if you're not into it, fine.
    I don't think ET needs protecting. It's not as though it's under threat. Sadly, most people don't even know they're using it.

    A good analogue is organic food. If you don't know you're eating lab grown food sprayed with chemicals that are not very good for us and catastrophic for the life cycle of bees and other pollinating insects, well then it's pretty easy to not care about it. Once you taste a farm grown tomato and learn more about why it might taste better than the supermarket tomato shipped from hundreds of miles away that is mealy and flavorless in comparison..

    the "conventional" way is to spray with chemicals and grow year round as a way to circumvent or even outsmart nature. I'm not an organic purist by any stretch, but I certainly can taste the difference between a tomato from my garden and one from the supermarket. Of course the supermarket model wins if the goal is to sell as many tomatoes as possible. But I still prefer the one grown in my garden. I'm no threat to the industrial food complex by growing six tomato plants.

    I personally believe that 12TET works for people on the basis of 5ths, and that people use psycho-acoustically understood geometry to build structures on top of that, thus 12th root of 2 is and will remain the king of the best compromises for octave division.

    Any reasoning based on 3rds just falls apart for me.

    I love equal temperament for some music. If you're playing Giant Steps, Late Romantic, Serialist or most 20th century classical music, it sounds ideal. But if you're playing modal music, pop music that stays in one or two key centers, then I think it's just pure laziness to settle with such a system. There are temperaments that are based on fifths, where most of the fifths are actually in tune. In 12tet, they are all 2 cents out. And as far as fifths being better than thirds.. ok, that's a fine opinion to have. I like the 11th harmonic a lot. it's nowhere to be found in the 12tet scale. Tunings based on thirds defined a whole era of western classical music. I'd argue that there was a lot of truly great music made in such tunings. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meantone_temperament

    to write it off without listening seems sort of rash to me.




    And I don't believe in musicology and/or psycho-acoustic conditioning either. It was basically made up from the same schools of thought for projecting and promoting elitism, and providing excuses for controlling populations.

    I don't understand what this means. I don't know much about that, but I do believe in the study of music. Music is worth studying. I haven't looked too deeply into psycho acoustic conditioning, and I've never studied music at any academic level. I've learned from recordings, great jazz musicians, and lots of books. If you're one of those people that equates being educated with elitism, then I won't waste another moment engaging..

    I'm not saying anything is more correct or a better system for all music. Just that I hope people might know that they are playing in an arbitrary tuning system. Not so long ago, where I live, the only apple available in most markets was the Red Delicious. They were mealy and rarely delicious. Now most markets cary many varieties and when in season, markets carry a dozen or more varieties. I for one do appreciate the variety and attention to nuance and flavor, rather than just accepting that an apple is an apple is an apple.

    the apples have been tempered and developed over years. any apple purist would find that the original fruits would be pretty disappointing to bring back from the dead in any sort of pure form. But to dismiss the project of refining and playing with new and old flavors, and boldly claim that we'd arrived at the perfect apple with the advent of the Red Delicious would be a sad way to go imho.

  • @TheoryNotes said:
    Ultimately I keep in mind that the only way to achieve that pure abstraction of just intonation is through a soft synth which will limit harmonics.

    I've definitely ran this experiment before, and trying to tune a piano or any machined instrument and thinking the result of attempts at just intonation will be purity is not true unfortunately as each set of tones will bring their own harmonics which when combined will not be just.

    In the physical world, it really only is possible to maintain a consistent and relatively unmoving pure just intonation tone from an un-fretted single string vibrating, possibly as a drone. Not my preferred choice of music, but to each their own.

    So, in the grand scheme of things, each 12TET A440 tone is as pure as any other single tone.

    But, ultimately, I've realized that humans respond to mathematics and specifically geometry far more than nature.

    I'm fairly sure that's how we all ended up on this forum, typing on these standardized devices, communicating to each other from all corners of the world.

    So, again, while I do appreciate the sound of just intonation, using it harmonically is all about exploring all the sounds which already exist in a lone vibrating string. There isn't much interesting movement that I hear in that, but again, to each their own.

    I personally believe that 12TET works for people on the basis of 5ths, and that people use psycho-acoustically understood geometry to build structures on top of that, thus 12th root of 2 is and will remain the king of the best compromises for octave division.

    Any reasoning based on 3rds just falls apart for me.

    And I don't believe in musicology and/or psycho-acoustic conditioning either. It was basically made up from the same schools of thought for projecting and promoting elitism, and providing excuses for controlling populations.

    Great points 👍

  • edited August 11

    Unfortunately, just intonation can only be roughly approximated with the tones of voices or mechanical instruments, because each of those tones contain their own harmonic series.

    Fundamentals, which are the first harmonic in the series, have to be isolated from the other harmonics in each of the tones in order to match the actual tones in a harmonic series, only possible on a soft-synth as far as I know.

    So basically, its important to recognize that all temperaments on mechanical instruments are out of tune, even attempts at just intonation itself.

    That doesn't mean that people can't convince themselves that they are achieving some type of just intonation purity, but in a scientific sense the most that could be said is that they are doing their best to fake it.

    The only music coming close to actual just intonation historically would be overtone singing/throat singing, or playing isolated harmonics of a single un-fretted string.

    It's important to realize that harmonic series tones are perfectly harmonic with each other, as in there is no beating with the tones being played together, and when played together or in sequence basically sound to be of the same tone, as component parts of the same natural tone, not distinct entities.

    In fact, most written records only indicate attempts to reconcile the pure 5ths of the harmonic series with an octave.

    The idea that most music of human history was just intonated or attempting to replicate it is simply false. There is no evidence for such a claim.

    Microtonailty has been part of everything from the beginning, but not the pure abstraction of just intonation or the harmonic series beyond 5ths (the 3rd harmonic).

    Also, temperaments and tunings are not the same thing. 12TET is not a tuning, and it could only be considered out of tune with itself if the person considers all of the various sounds in nature and daily life to be out of tune with each other.

    If a person believes that the abstraction of the harmonic series of a single tone is the only harmonic goal of music, they must also recognize that just intonation of tones which each bring their own harmonics is also imperfect. They have to realize that their argument is that a single unwavering tone is their conception of perfect sound.

    The sounds of nature and our lives is far more deep and beautiful than that abstraction.

    "Listen to any acapella music, string quartet, music from most anywhere in the world before the early twentieth century..."

    Where does one do this?

    In regards to piano tuning, again, each tone brings its own harmonic series to the table.

    In terms of geometry, for example the floor in my house is level, it isn't made to the same contours and irregularities of the landscape it is on. We utilize the products of human developed geometry and mathematics in our daily lives.

    People have been performing scales, which besides 5ths are completely unrelated to just intonation, for all of recorded history.

    Also, there is nothing arbitrary about the 12th root of 2, it's literally the only way to perfectly divide an octave into 12 equal steps with a small and equal compromise between each of the 5ths.

    Its literally the only way to stack 5ths sequentially until they return to the octave.

    That's about as arbitrary as the floor of my house being level.

    But, again, I think everything has its place and has beauty in terms of music.

    I think when people call others using different systems "lazy" while constantly promoting an unobtainable purity which most people aren't interested in, they are merely delving into an ignorant form of elitism and haven't quite grasped the complexity or beauty of the universe.

  • @TheoryNotes said:
    Unfortunately, just intonation can only be roughly approximated with the tones of voices or mechanical instruments, because each of those tones contain their own harmonic series.

    Fundamentals, which are the first harmonic in the series, have to be isolated from the other harmonics in each of the tones in order to match the actual tones in a harmonic series, only possible on a soft-synth as far as I know.

    So basically, its important to recognize that all temperaments on mechanical instruments are out of tune, even attempts at just intonation itself.

    That doesn't mean that people can't convince themselves that they are achieving some type of just intonation purity, but in a scientific sense the most that could be said is that they are doing their best to fake it.

    The only music coming close to actual just intonation historically would be overtone singing/throat singing, or playing isolated harmonics of a single un-fretted string.

    It's important to realize that harmonic series tones are perfectly harmonic with each other, as in there is no beating with the tones being played together, and when played together or in sequence basically sound to be of the same tone, as component parts of the same natural tone, not distinct entities.

    In fact, most written records only indicate attempts to reconcile the pure 5ths of the harmonic series with an octave.

    The idea that most music of human history was just intonated or attempting to replicate it is simply false. There is no evidence for such a claim.

    Microtonailty has been part of everything from the beginning, but not the pure abstraction of just intonation or the harmonic series beyond 5ths (the 3rd harmonic).

    Also, temperaments and tunings are not the same thing. 12TET is not a tuning, and it could only be considered out of tune with itself if the person considers all of the various sounds in nature and daily life to be out of tune with each other.

    If a person believes that the abstraction of the harmonic series of a single tone is the only harmonic goal of music, they must also recognize that just intonation of tones which each bring their own harmonics is also imperfect. They have to realize that their argument is that a single unwavering tone is their conception of perfect sound.

    The sounds of nature and our lives is far more deep and beautiful than that abstraction.

    "Listen to any acapella music, string quartet, music from most anywhere in the world before the early twentieth century..."

    Where does one do this?

    In regards to piano tuning, again, each tone brings its own harmonic series to the table.

    In terms of geometry, for example the floor in my house is level, it isn't made to the same contours and irregularities of the landscape it is on. We utilize the products of human developed geometry and mathematics in our daily lives.

    People have been performing scales, which besides 5ths are completely unrelated to just intonation, for all of recorded history.

    Also, there is nothing arbitrary about the 12th root of 2, it's literally the only way to perfectly divide an octave into 12 equal steps with a small and equal compromise between each of the 5ths.

    Its literally the only way to stack 5ths sequentially until they return to the octave.

    That's about as arbitrary as the floor of my house being level.

    But, again, I think everything has its place and has beauty in terms of music.

    I think when people call others using different systems "lazy" while constantly promoting an unobtainable purity which most people aren't interested in, they are merely delving into an ignorant form of elitism and haven't quite grasped the complexity or beauty of the universe.

    what are you so angry about? Do you think the microtonalists are going to steal equal temperament from you and gorce you to tune your thirds better?

    your claim that 12tet is some sort of immutable, perfect solution is simply wrong. It is in fact an arbitrary solution (why 12 tones? why stacked fifths? your gut telling you that these are the most important things doesn’t make it fact)
    there are countless other temperaments that solve the problem as well. I’ve not made the claim that any system is better than another here. just that tuning is interesting and that while 12tet is good for some music it’s not suitable for all music.

    if you think people who roll their own scales are elitists, do you feel the same about folks who build their own homes, or grow their own food?

    if a platonic idea of a circle cannot be realized in the real world, should we not use circles? if I happen to favor tunings with small ratios as intervals, it’s not with some rabid fervor of correctness or purity, it’s simply a sound and emotion that cannot be achieved in 12tet, and I happen to live it. don’t understand why that offends you.

  • I think people just have different approaches, experiences, and ideals. Personally I grew up with already recorded music (radio, vinyl and tape) where you could change the pitch by abusing the record player's speed or when the Walkman's batteries were low, but not the tonality/intervals of the music itself. I had a set of recorders (the wind instrument) and there was a grand piano. All fixed pitches/intervals. Only later in my 20's, when I rented and later bought a violoncello, I realised that with an unfretted instrument there was more than 12 tones in an octave. Which is a bit sad that I had to 1. discover it by myself, no teacher ever even mentioned it, and 2. that it was at that rather late age.

    I intended to design a new music system, but had to abandon that idea after a year or two because of lack of knowledge and lack of time.

    The revelation, if one wants to call it like this, was when I was around 30, when I witnessed live concerts of afghan musicians, a group from the balkans, and a local group with bagpipes playing ancient european songs. In these life-changing concerts I was not only listening and recording with portable DAT, I was also dancing. It was quite a different experience, because the only kind of dancing I knew to that date was in closed rooms with sticky air, and New Wave/Industrial machine music (which is not bad by itself, but it's mostly again a fixed music system, both in tonality and rhythm, although in that genre there were some exceptions). But this 'old' music I mentioned before, the traditional afghan tunes, the shrill bagpipe sounds of the other groups, had a hallucinogenic drive that put me in a different state, dancing with bare feet on a cow paddock, with all the others whirling and jumping in a trance-like state.

    I did not realise it at that moment, but soon later it became clear to me that this is music in its purest, most approachable form. No complicated modulations where one can get lost, no abstractions or academic constructions, just simple rhythms (that often are, in theory, rather complicated polyrhythms) and simple melodies with sounds that are always a bit off, but right. It became also clear to me that I not only have found my music, but that it was the thing I was searching for all my life, and explained my rather obscure taste for strange avantgarde 70's and 80's groups. In fact, if one listens closely, quite a number of New Wave and Industrial groups are similar to ancient dance music, folk music. Test Dept. for example feature bagpipes and kettle drums.

    So for me, microtonal music is not only important, it is essential. I just didn't know it until 30 or so.

    Another interesting detail: I tuned a lot of string instruments and never ever used a tuner, not even a fork. All kinds, from zither to sarod, veena, sitar, tanpura. I never learned to play these instruments, I just wanted to tune them so that musicians can pick them up and play right away. The only occasion where I used the tuning fork was at home, to tune the 4 VCO's of my Formant modular (there was no computer in my studio at that time). I always wondered why almost all musicians I knew, and know, are not able to tune their 6 guitar strings without tuner. They can play miraculously sometimes, but they need a crutch to tune their instruments. Why is that? And why is a tuner for me rather a hindrance than a help? The answer is probably that my approach is by ear, not by numbers.

    So it is clear to me that people have different approaches, experiences, and methods how they deal with music. None is the best for everyone.

    But I agree wholeheartedly with @palm that it is a bit sad today, that a lot of musicians and music enthusiasts, be it active or passive as listener, don't even know how restricted their musical universe may be. As well as it is sad that many people don't know about real food. Besides, I ate my first real tomato when I was about 25. It was a firework of taste, a revelation. People should try it out at least once in their life.

  • I ate my first real tomato when I was about 25. It was a firework of taste, a revelation. People should try it out at least once in their life.

    Real food is the best. NOTHING beats a homegrown tomato, and there are so many varieties.

  • nice thread, especially right before bed hits the spot

  • @kobamoto said:
    nice thread, especially right before bed hits the spot

    😂 (I tend to disagree)

  • @Phil999 said:
    Another interesting detail: I tuned a lot of string instruments and never ever used a tuner, not even a fork. All kinds, from zither to sarod, veena, sitar, tanpura. I never learned to play these instruments, I just wanted to tune them so that musicians can pick them up and play right away. The only occasion where I used the tuning fork was at home, to tune the 4 VCO's of my Formant modular (there was no computer in my studio at that time). I always wondered why almost all musicians I knew, and know, are not able to tune their 6 guitar strings without tuner. They can play miraculously sometimes, but they need a crutch to tune their instruments. Why is that? And why is a tuner for me rather a hindrance than a help? The answer is probably that my approach is by ear, not by numbers.

    So it is clear to me that people have different approaches, experiences, and methods how they deal with music. None is the best for everyone.

    But I agree wholeheartedly with @palm that it is a bit sad today, that a lot of musicians and music enthusiasts, be it active or passive as listener, don't even know how restricted their musical universe may be. As well as it is sad that many people don't know about real food. Besides, I ate my first real tomato when I was about 25. It was a firework of taste, a revelation. People should try it out at least once in their life.

    I sometimes use tuners to set a standard. But yeah, tuning a stringed instrument is always done by ear. To tune each string with a tuner is like hiring a guy to do your foreplay for you before you make love to your wife.

  • wimwim
    edited August 12

    @Wrlds2ndBstGeoshredr said:
    I sometimes use tuners to set a standard. But yeah, tuning a stringed instrument is always done by ear. To tune each string with a tuner is like hiring a guy to do your foreplay for you before you make love to your wife.

    Humm ... that would save some time though.

  • @cuscolima said:

    @kobamoto said:
    nice thread, especially right before bed hits the spot

    😂 (I tend to disagree)

    :smile: well we might all dream about different things but we dream none the less

  • edited August 12

    @palm said:

    what are you so angry about?

    I think you might be projecting, lol.

    This is one of my favorite topics, and since I happen to believe all tones and tone combinations are equally valid, I certainly enjoy undermining the unfounded opinions of purists.

    your claim that 12tet is some sort of immutable, perfect solution is simply wrong. It is in fact an arbitrary solution (why 12 tones? why stacked fifths?

    5ths are literally the first harmonic past the octave in the harmonic series and are very audible in any single tone.

    That's why they are the basis of functional harmony.

    The major scale itself which has actually existed throughout recorded human history, and its modal inversions, are reordered stacked 5ths.

    So stacking 5ths within an octave is kind of the next logical step, which the 12th root of 2 solved.

    your gut telling you that these are the most important things doesn’t make it fact)

    I think mostly science, mathematics, and actual recorded history made it a fact. Wait, maybe I should give that a gut-check... yep that was it, lol.

    there are countless other temperaments that solve the problem as well. I’ve not made the claim that any system is better than another here. just that tuning is interesting and that while 12tet is good for some music it’s not suitable for all music.

    Actually, you said: "But if you're playing modal music, pop music that stays in one or two key centers, then I think it's just pure laziness to settle with such a system."

    I'm trying to imagine what instruments you think people casually have on hand to even play in another system with.

    Can't do it with fretted instruments, as they are already tempered.

    Don't need to tune it with fretless.

    Can't do it with the most common woodwinds or horns people would have on hand from marching bands or orchestra.

    I suppose its just piano players who are unwilling to pull their piano away from the wall and spend 30 minutes to an hour retuning it for a single song that you consider "lazy"?

    I personally support their right or desire for a compromise, lol.

    However I would hope that if a person is performing a piece that was specifically written in a different temperament, that they do their best to tune to that temperament so that they can respectfully represent the original vision of the author.

    if you think people who roll their own scales are elitists, do you feel the same about folks who build their own homes, or grow their own food?

    No, I specifically believe people who denigrate 12TET, or any other system in support of the false purity of "just intonation" are elitists.

    And as I've said multiple time now I actually respect and appreciate just intonation music. It just isn't better or worse than any other system.

  • edited August 12

    @TheoryNotes said:

    So basically, its important to recognize that all temperaments on mechanical instruments are out of tune, even attempts at just intonation itself.

    That doesn't mean that people can't convince themselves that they are achieving some type of just intonation purity, but in a scientific sense the most that could be said is that they are doing their best to fake it.

    The only music coming close to actual just intonation historically would be overtone singing/throat singing, or playing isolated harmonics of a single un-fretted string.

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that there is a tuning standard in any system, and that deviation from it is somehow an erroneous result. We are talking about analytical categories here, not real world practices. When I’m in flow state I can tune any given note however I want and make it sound good. I can do it with voice, fretless string bowed or plucked, and bamboo flute. There is no standard; there is no tuning error. There is only sounds good in the moment or sounds wrong in the moment. But even wrong sounds can turn into right sounds in the hands of a good improviser.

  • I think a great point that's been brought up in this thread is the two general types of participation available with groups based on combining tones together.

    For one, the premise is usually more rhythmic where the individual can tune themselves to the group and there isn't any requirement of necessary skills to participate in the creation of the music, and participants learn from each other from osmosis, and patterns developed slowly become traditions.

    And then another form, where participants are playing a written piece and need to be more precise in tuning to each other and the piece, and are required to have some necessary skills in order to be able to read the notation of the piece and perform what that notation represents for that instrument.

    I think both are entirely, equally valid. Especially in improvisational music, the two forms usually collide with spectacular results.

    Also, the tomato analogy doesn't work for me. Its easy to convince yourself that this one unbelievably natural tomato is the greatest in the world if you haven't had one before, but as you soon may find out if you seek them out, there are different regions that have equally tasty natural tomatoes that have a different flavor because of the soil and climate and many other factors that make them unique and equally delicious.

    I personally feel that way about all tone combinations and systems.

    12TET is not toxic waste or pesticide, lol, it's just a practical combination of tones.

  • It’s fairly well-established that people performing compositions on tunable instruments tend towards just intonation on sustained harmonies. To remain in 12et our ears need an external standard of some sort. JI seems far more natural to us.

  • @Wrlds2ndBstGeoshredr said:

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that there is a tuning standard in any system, and that deviation from it is somehow an erroneous result. We are talking about analytical categories here, not real world practices. When I’m in flow state I can tune any given note however I want and make it sound good. I can do it with voice, fretless string bowed or plucked, and bamboo flute. There is no standard; there is no tuning error. There is only sounds good in the moment or sounds wrong in the moment. But even wrong sounds can turn into right sounds in the hands of a good improviser.

    Well, there are metrics for attempting to tune to certain temperaments. My point there was that between the relative inaccuracy within any tuning instrument, as they all have a range for their accuracy as +/- some number or fraction of cents, and the mechanical irregularities of the tuning mechanisms of all instruments, it is an abstract notion for a person to think they could achieve precise tuning to any temperament, thus perfection or "purity" isn't a reasonable end goal.

    And yes, we can tune in reference to our ears, and measure audible beats and alter tunings to match. That's great for internal consistency but no better or worse than using any other tuning system that gets the player where they want to go.

  • @Wrlds2ndBstGeoshredr said:
    It’s fairly well-established that people performing compositions on tunable instruments tend towards just intonation on sustained harmonies. To remain in 12et our ears need an external standard of some sort. JI seems far more natural to us.

    How so?

    Like what tunable instruments do you have in mind?

    What sustained harmony? Like a chord of some type? With which tones?

    I could see people pulling to different tones which could be perceived to be towards a perfect 5th ratio for sure as that's only nearly 2 cents out from any given 12TET tone, but I wouldn't assume correlation is the same as causation in that case.

    Yesterday I went on a little hunt around the net for recordings made before the 20th century, as I'd been told that all of human history revolved around just intonation, lol. What I found interesting were 2 recordings from around 1860 of a person in each singing straight up 12TET major scales.

    None of them sang the harmonic series. If just intonation was "far more natural to us" I'd expect all of us to be able to naturally sing the harmonic series, or to want to.

    I mean, we can try to iron out beating, but a lot of tone combinations don't allow that, nor is there any unison of sound between combinations of tones in nature, so why would it be more "natural" to pull towards just intonation?

    We would have been conditioned by the sounds of nature itself for complex combinations of tones, not the purity of any single isolated tone.

  • @cuscolima said:
    Just found this video. I learn something great today !!

    The slight lowering of the B string when playing an open G he does around 7:20 is something I've found myself doing for years and years. Now I understand why. Thanks.

  • @TheoryNotes said:

    @palm said:

    what are you so angry about?

    I think you might be projecting, lol.

    lol, as are you as you seem to think I'm some sort of purist. Simply stated the fact that some tuning systems are more in tune than others. This is science, not opinion. The opinion part is which one sounds good to you. For the music I make, I prefer unequal tunings, tempered or just.

    5ths are literally the first harmonic past the octave in the harmonic series and are very audible in any single tone.

    That's why they are the basis of functional harmony.

    yeah, fifths are popular. And thirds, being the next novel harmonic, also sound nice. Thus humans have used them to make music for a long time. I was responding to your absurd claim that somehow tuning systems that favor thirds are invalid. The harmonic series is the basis for harmony. and timbre.

    The major scale itself which has actually existed throughout recorded human history, and its modal inversions, are reordered stacked 5ths.

    So stacking 5ths within an octave is kind of the next logical step, which the 12th root of 2 solved.

    your gut telling you that these are the most important things doesn’t make it fact)

    I think mostly science, mathematics, and actual recorded history made it a fact. Wait, maybe I should give that a gut-check... yep that was it, lol.

    there are countless other temperaments that solve the problem as well. I’ve not made the claim that any system is better than another here. just that tuning is interesting and that while 12tet is good for some music it’s not suitable for all music.

    Actually, you said: "But if you're playing modal music, pop music that stays in one or two key centers, then I think it's just pure laziness to settle with such a system."

    you're eager to smear me as an elitist anti 12tet person. I'm not.

    12tet wasn't used in the baroque era, not because it hadn't been discovered yet, but because it was A) not a sensible tuning system to use as it's extremely hard to tune by ear and B) it makes much more sense to use unequal temperaments for music that doesn't modulate much, as the common key centers will be sweeter and have more coloration to work with from key to key

    the one exception was lute tunings which are similar to guitar tunings. Not truly mathematically equal, but it was only used because it was too difficult to make unequal frets, so it was a compromise. Notably, no other instruments were tuned to 12tet even though it was most certainly known. Tune a harpsichord to 12tet and you will see why it wasn't used.

    Try as you might to make this out as denigrating your favorite tuning, but it's simply not true. Simply pointing out that the narrative of humans finally arriving at some perfect tuning with 12tet is far from the truth.

    I'm trying to imagine what instruments you think people casually have on hand to even play in another system with.

    There are many free software synths, for ios and desktop. Lots of hardware synths can be retuned. I suppose you'll call me elitist to suggest that one should learn to tune their piano or guitar as well as part of a musical education rather than relying on electric tuners or hired help.

    Can't do it with fretted instruments, as they are already tempered.

    frets can be moved. see original post.

    Don't need to tune it with fretless.

    you most certainly need a tuning system for any music you wish to play, even acapella music, or other instruments that are non-fixed pitch.

    I suppose its just piano players who are unwilling to pull their piano away from the wall and spend 30 minutes to an hour retuning it for a single song that you consider "lazy"?

    you don't need to move your piano to tune it, lol.

    I personally support their right or desire for a compromise, lol.

    me too. And moreso, the right or desire to use any of the infinite compromises to deal with the conundrum of the comma. I simply find it arrogant to suggest that one solution is the best simply because it's the one everyone uses.

    However I would hope that if a person is performing a piece that was specifically written in a different temperament, that they do their best to tune to that temperament so that they can respectfully represent the original vision of the author.

    that was my original point about playing bach in equal temperament. His music is more forgiving than most music meant for well temperament, but it still sounds better to me in tunings that were used in that era. Notice I didin't say "correct" tuning, as I don't know the correct tuning. But we can be fairly certain that the tuning was not equal temperament.

    if you think people who roll their own scales are elitists, do you feel the same about folks who build their own homes, or grow their own food?

    No, I specifically believe people who denigrate 12TET, or any other system in support of the false purity of "just intonation" are elitists.

    well, I love 12tet, so I guess you're talking to someone else.

    And as I've said multiple time now I actually respect and appreciate just intonation music. It just isn't better or worse than any other system.

    me too! ok, I guess we agree on something!

  • @TheoryNotes said:

    @Wrlds2ndBstGeoshredr said:

    I think it’s a mistake to assume that there is a tuning standard in any system, and that deviation from it is somehow an erroneous result. We are talking about analytical categories here, not real world practices. When I’m in flow state I can tune any given note however I want and make it sound good. I can do it with voice, fretless string bowed or plucked, and bamboo flute. There is no standard; there is no tuning error. There is only sounds good in the moment or sounds wrong in the moment. But even wrong sounds can turn into right sounds in the hands of a good improviser.

    Well, there are metrics for attempting to tune to certain temperaments. My point there was that between the relative inaccuracy within any tuning instrument, as they all have a range for their accuracy as +/- some number or fraction of cents, and the mechanical irregularities of the tuning mechanisms of all instruments, it is an abstract notion for a person to think they could achieve precise tuning to any temperament, thus perfection or "purity" isn't a reasonable end goal.

    And yes, we can tune in reference to our ears, and measure audible beats and alter tunings to match. That's great for internal consistency but no better or worse than using any other tuning system that gets the player where they want to go.

    it is established that unaccompanied singers do no tend to sing tempered intervals. One exception might be someone plagued with "perfect pitch" who has internalized 12tet A440 as "correct".

    If we're going to have any meaningful definition of what it is for two tones to be "in tune" then you have to concede that some things are more in tune than others. a 3/2 interval, tuned until there is no perceivable beat, will be perceived by the vast majority of human brains as "in tune". If it's 2 cents out, it's less in tune. measurably so. 13 cents, even less in tune. So while I'm not arguing (never have argued that JI is better), it is inarguably more in tune with itself than a tempered system.

  • Having perfect pitch does not mean you think 12tet A440 is correct, rather than all tones are correct which is cool 😎

  • @TrevorLlewellyn said:
    Having perfect pitch does not mean you think 12tet A440 is correct, rather than all tones are correct which is cool 😎

    lol, ah.. my only experience with perfect pitch was with a woman who could call out the note names of 12tet. If a piano was tuned to anything other than 440, or the record was playing slightly faster or slower, the whole thing sounded "out" to her.

  • edited August 13

    @palm said:
    lol, as are you as you seem to think I'm some sort of purist. Simply stated the fact that some tuning systems are more in tune than others. This is science, not opinion.

    They are differently tuned, not more in tune.

    If I have two tones a just perfect fifth apart, the 3rd harmonic of the higher tone will be out of tune with the fundamental of the lower tone.

    The 5th harmonic of the lower tone will be out of tune with the fundamental of the higher tone.

    Add another unique tone to that combination and it only gets worse.

    yeah, fifths are popular. And thirds, being the next novel harmonic, also sound nice. Thus humans have used them to make music for a long time. I was responding to your absurd claim that somehow tuning systems that favor thirds are invalid. The harmonic series is the basis for harmony. and timbre.

    Where did I say that?

    My point was that I believe that 12TET was developed on the basis of the strength of preference for modulating 5th based harmony, not that 3rds are invalid.

    I've clearly written in this thread multiple times that I believe any combination of tones are as valid as any other.

    there are countless other temperaments that solve the problem as well. I’ve not made the claim that any system is better than another here. just that tuning is interesting and that while 12tet is good for some music it’s not suitable for all music.

    Well, let's check the record:

    "the fact that we're using 12TET in the 21st century is sheer insanity.

    Software could fix the problems of temperament, but people are so desensitized to the fact that the tuning system we've adopted (only for the last 100 years or so, mind you) that we can no longer hear that it's out of tune. It's pure laziness."

    you're eager to smear me as an elitist anti 12tet person. I'm not.

    I think you smeared yourself more than well enough with your own comments, but if that isn't truly who you are, then that's cool.

    Try as you might to make this out as denigrating your favorite tuning, but it's simply not true. Simply pointing out that the narrative of humans finally arriving at some perfect tuning with 12tet is far from the truth.

    It is the perfect solution for dividing an octave by the closest equivalent of perfect 5ths possible. If people prefer 5ths based harmonic music, then it is the best compromise for giving us full modulation across the octave.

    And, knowing that 12TET was difficult and next to impossible to tune by ear doesn't mean that musicians of earlier periods wouldn't or didn't want to play in 12TET, just that they were choosing compromises which they could tune to.

    The argument that says that they couldn't tune to 12TET, and thus couldn't truly experience it, but somehow explicitly chose a different temperament that they could tune to in preference to 12TET is simply not logical.

    I suppose you'll call me elitist to suggest that one should learn to tune their piano or guitar as well as part of a musical education rather than relying on electric tuners or hired help.

    I've always loved strobe tuners and they are really good for tuning quickly, especially if I intend to play with others.

    It also creates consistent results. Not a bad thing really.

    I definitely wouldn't recommend for someone to try to tune to 12TET by ear.

    frets can be moved. see original post.

    You can slightly move them, but not to the degree to make up enough cents to alter the temperament significantly across the entire neck, and I wish them luck putting them back to their original state if they try, lol.

    you most certainly need a tuning system for any music you wish to play, even acapella music, or other instruments that are non-fixed pitch.

    Yep, but when you play a fretless string instrument, you don't rely on frets, so there is no imposed temperament across the neck.

    you don't need to move your piano to tune it, lol.

    I like pulling an upright away from a wall since it just sounds better to me, especially if I'm tuning it. I was lucky though that the uprights I had access to had wheels.

    I personally support their right or desire for a compromise, lol.

    me too. And moreso, the right or desire to use any of the infinite compromises to deal with the conundrum of the comma. I simply find it arrogant to suggest that one solution is the best simply because it's the one everyone uses.

    I personally don't dabble in the notion that any combination of tones are "the best", but there isn't anything wrong with 12TET as it is mathematically the best solution for equally dividing an octave by 5ths.

    However I would hope that if a person is performing a piece that was specifically written in a different temperament, that they do their best to tune to that temperament so that they can respectfully represent the original vision of the author.

    that was my original point about playing bach in equal temperament. His music is more forgiving than most music meant for well temperament, but it still sounds better to me in tunings that were used in that era. Notice I didin't say "correct" tuning, as I don't know the correct tuning. But we can be fairly certain that the tuning was not equal temperament.

    This directly relates to my point above, if he couldn't tune to 12TET by ear, that doesn't mean that wasn't what he would have wanted to be able to do. Just saying we can't make that assumption for musicians of earlier periods.

    I guess we agree on something!

    Excellent!

  • @TheoryNotes said:

    Yesterday I went on a little hunt around the net for recordings made before the 20th century, as I'd been told that all of human history revolved around just intonation, lol. What I found interesting were 2 recordings from around 1860 of a person in each singing straight up 12TET major scales.

    Recordings from 1860? I don’t think so.

  • I learned that pianos are not really in 12TET when my friend complained about playing with one. They are actually "stretch tuned". His Chapman Stick was probably closer to pure 12TET than the piano was, because of the stretch tuning implemented on acoustic and electric pianos. He sent me this stretch tuning article.

    http://www.fenderrhodes.com/org/manual/ch5.html

    I played with a community college orchestra for a couple of months. We usually tuned to the oboe player. For some reason we were directed one day to tune to the A note of a piano instead of the oboe. Afterwards that day, players struggled more than usual on their intonation.

  • @Wrlds2ndBstGeoshredr said:

    @TheoryNotes said:

    Yesterday I went on a little hunt around the net for recordings made before the 20th century, as I'd been told that all of human history revolved around just intonation, lol. What I found interesting were 2 recordings from around 1860 of a person in each singing straight up 12TET major scales.

    Recordings from 1860? I don’t think so.

    I believe the first recordings were around that time. Im sure they were pretty awful sounding in whatever tuning it was 😂

  • edited August 13

    Yeah, check it out, it's definitely interesting.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Édouard-Léon_Scott_de_Martinville

  • @TheoryNotes said:
    Yeah, check it out, it's definitely interesting.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Édouard-Léon_Scott_de_Martinville

    Wow, that's pretty cool. It's certainly not something you can infer anything about tuning practices from though. He sings the major third flatter than et, and the fifth sharper than et. thus suggesting just intonation, but he's really too bad of a singer to make much of that.

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