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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000146.txt from 2010/11

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] RES: Orchestral Pitch
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2010 20:27:14 -0500

On 13 Nov 2010, at 00:23, Tom Servinsky wrote:

> By tuners I'm assuming you're referring to the basic electronic tuning devices
> that most musicians carry with them. Pitch on those tuning devices are not tuned to equaled
> tempered scales. They are in fact set chromatically to the international standards of pitch which should not be confused with as an equaled tempered scale. Two entirely different relationships.
> My other hat that I where is that of concert piano technician and deal with these issues daily. I'm also a former Certified Tuning Examiner for the Piano Technicians Guild.

Given your piano technician credentials, the term 'equal temperament' may be used by you in a specialised way -- perhaps corresponding to the tuning that you organise for a piano in order for it to be deemed 'well-in-tune'. I know that the anharmonicity of piano overtones means that some compromises, like stretch tuning -- and perhaps others with which I am unfamiliar that you and your colleagues will know about -- are necessary.

Outside the piano world, however, equal temperament has a precise scientific meaning that corresponds to the tuning on the electronic devices professional musicians use, such as the Korg and other machines and the Cleartune iPhone app. It refers to the division of the octave into 12 equal semitones produced by a frequency ratio between any two consecutive semitones of 2^(1/12). This division is made irrespective of what the machine is tuned to: A=440Hz, A=442Hz, or whatever.

Interestingly, the iPhone app is very sophisticated, offering a variety of temperaments other than equal temperament:

Stretch tune Guitar
Violin Family (never heard of this)
Pythagorean Just
Standard Just
A variety of meantone temperaments
A variety of 'Well Tempered' tunings: Almost-equal, Aron-Neidhardt, Barnes's Bach, Kellner's Bach, Kirnberger III, Shifted Vallotti/Young, Vallotti, Werckmeister I/III.
A variety of French temperaments

...or you can add your own.

It's worth adding that professional musicians, if they are wise, use such machines only to a very limited extent. As Keith has indicated, we habitually adjust intonation on the fly, tempering intervals according to a system that might be called, 'locally just'. The references I provided in my previous post, particularly the second one, engage in quite detailed discussion and argument about this.

Tony Pay
79 Southmoor Rd
Oxford OX2 6RE
tel/fax +44 1865 553339
mobile +44 7790 532980

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