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Andy Holder

G# or Ab ?

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I hope to be able to add some direct experience shortly; Greg Jowaisas is just wrapping up the restoration of a mid-1850s Wheatstone for me. It is still in the original high pitch meantone, and he's restoring it to the original condition (complete with the original bellows).

 

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What is the difference between Ab and G#? Answer: About 41 cents using 1/4 comma mean-tone (Thanks Geoff)

 

Dave's "project" is sounding very sweet indeed although there are a few key corridors that might make you tremble upon entering.

And yes, the 3rds are etherial.

 

Just another day or two, Dave.

 

Greg

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I bought an EC from Geoff Wolfe, and it is tuned in 1/5 comma Meantone based on A. I've a very nice Lachenal tuned Equal Temperament, and the sound difference is quite fascinating. I've become very attached to the meantone tuned instrument. Playing with fiddle or flute I've noticed the players (very good ones) play a bit out of tune for a few moments and then join my tuning. I've yet to have anyone complain about the tuning. I may just have to have Greg J. retune my Lachenal...maybe...

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The trick for playing the fiddle "in-tune" with these different Temperaments;

 

My wife,who never uses an electronic device for tuning her fiddle anyway, tunes her open strings, by ear, to those notes of my Concertina. This is the same method she uses when I play the Pipes. In this way those notes that cannot be pulled in by fingering are in tune.

 

One of my pet-hates are those who arrive at a music session and proceed to tune their instruments to an electronic tuner.... this is pure musical ignorance! :(

 

However, it does sound as if you are getting along well with Meantone, Chuck, I'm glad of that.

 

Geoff.

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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Getting back o the original question, and adding to what has already been said:

 

Every scale has exactly one version of each of the seven letter names (A - G).

 

In C major and A minor, none of them are altered with sharps or flats.

 

In Eb major, for instance, you have three flats, on the B, E, and A, so it's Eb F G Ab Bb C and D. You would never call the Ab a G# because there is already a G in the scale so there would be two versions of G and no A.

 

Similarly, in an E major scale, with three sharps (F, C, and G), the notes are E F# G# A B C# and D#. You would never call the G# an Ab because there is already an A in the scale so there would be two versions of A and no G.

 

So for extra credit, what are the notes of G# major? Doing the math, it comes out to eight sharps. That is, all of the seven notes are sharp, except F, which is double sharp: G# A# B# C# D# E# and F##. But don't let me catch you calling the F## a G (even though in equal temperament they have the same pitch). There is already an G(#) in the scale so there would be two versions of G and no F.

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I hope this goes some way to explain "Sweeter",

 

Wow! Thank you Geoff. A lucid explanation, although received by my cloudy brain. Thank you for taking so much time to explain this. It will take me a while to understand all of it, but you've moved me forward.

 

And thanks to Andy for starting this thread. Maybe someday you'll trying laying one of those things you mend?

 

Mike

 

Just as soon as I finish this one I'm working on, then I'll start practising! :)

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Getting back o the original question, and adding to what has already been said:

 

Every scale has exactly one version of each of the seven letter names (A - G).

 

In C major and A minor, none of them are altered with sharps or flats.

 

In Eb major, for instance, you have three flats, on the B, E, and A, so it's Eb F G Ab Bb C and D. You would never call the Ab a G# because there is already a G in the scale so there would be two versions of G and no A.

 

Similarly, in an E major scale, with three sharps (F, C, and G), the notes are E F# G# A B C# and D#. You would never call the G# an Ab because there is already an A in the scale so there would be two versions of A and no G.

 

So for extra credit, what are the notes of G# major? Doing the math, it comes out to eight sharps. That is, all of the seven notes are sharp, except F, which is double sharp: G# A# B# C# D# E# and F##. But don't let me catch you calling the F## a G (even though in equal temperament they have the same pitch). There is already an G(#) in the scale so there would be two versions of G and no F.

 

 

That is a great reply David, and gets right to the root of my original question. What you're saying, as far as I can make out is that, on a piano, for instance, a note would not always be called the same thing, it depends entirely on what key it is in. Excellent!

Hang on a mo! Just to be totally pedantic, does a scale in the key of C# begin on C# and end on Db? And if I play it an octave higher, does it start on Db and end on C# ;)

 

Thanks.

Andrew

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That is a great reply David, and gets right to the root of my original question.

Thank you.

 

What you're saying, as far as I can make out is that, on a piano, for instance, a note would not always be called the same thing, it depends entirely on what key it is in. Excellent!

Looks like you've got it.

 

Hang on a mo! Just to be totally pedantic, does a scale in the key of C# begin on C# and end on Db? And if I play it an octave higher, does it start on Db and end on C# ;)

Now, let's not make anything more complicated than it needs to be. The "D" position of a C# scale is "D#," so by applying the above rule, there can be no Db. Each scale, after naming the seven notes, repeats the exact same pattern over and over, in every octave. The only thing that changes is that the frequency is doubled every time you go up to the next octave. So the C# major scale is the seven basic letters, each with a sharp on it ("seven sharps," as they say). C# D# E# F# G# A# B# and then starting over with another C#. Just like a C major scale, but with everything up a half-step.

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The trick for playing the fiddle "in-tune" with these different Temperaments;

 

My wife,who never uses an electronic device for tuning her fiddle anyway, tunes her open strings, by ear, to those notes of my Concertina. This is the same method she uses when I play the Pipes. In this way those notes that cannot be pulled in by fingering are in tune.

 

One of my pet-hates are those who arrive at a music session and proceed to tune their instruments to an electronic tuner.... this is pure musical ignorance! :(

 

However, it does sound as if you are getting along well with Meantone, Chuck, I'm glad of that.

 

Geoff.

 

Well, since your wife plays the (fretless) fiddle, there's probably a good deal more that she could contribute to this discussion... as far as I remember from what my father taught me about music (who played several instruments, among which the violin was one of his favorites), the "note" between G and A would not only be different in a key context but also in a "direction" context - so if I recall correctly, when he would play a scale in A major ending on A, the G# would be closer to the A in pitch to emphasize the guiding note to the root, whereas in a musical phrase (even in A) where the "G#" would be played as a transitional note in a descending scale fragment, he would play it more like an "Ab" (meaning biassed towards the "G" end of the range between G and A) to emphasize the descending character of the phrase... but not always... knowing that there are fretless instruments out there which provide so many more opportunities to vary and shape tone as well as so many more opportunities to make mistakes always remind me just how little I understand about music (and likewise just how much and how intricate of a skill musicianship is).

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One of my pet-hates are those who arrive at a music session and proceed to tune their instruments to an electronic tuner.... this is pure musical ignorance! :(

Geoff.

For those of us - or at least me - closer to the bottom of the learning curve, could you expand on this a little?

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... as far as I remember from what my father taught me about music (who played several instruments, among which the violin was one of his favorites), the "note" between G and A would not only be different in a key context but also in a "direction" context - so if I recall correctly, when he would play a scale in A major ending on A, the G# would be closer to the A in pitch to emphasize the guiding note to the root, whereas in a musical phrase (even in A) where the "G#" would be played as a transitional note in a descending scale fragment, he would play it more like an "Ab" (meaning biassed towards the "G" end of the range between G and A) to emphasize the descending character of the phrase...

This is, indeed, what violinists have been taught for the last 100 years or so. But I'm not sure it's correct, or that there's a valid reason for believing it. A proper leading tone (G# for A major, in the above example), even (especially) in an ascending scale, is a major 3rd above the 5th. Do the math (using pure intervals)*:

 

A = 440

E (down a 4th) = 440 x 3 / 4 = 330

G# (up a major 3rd) = 330 x 5 / 4 = 412.5

 

This is lower than an equal tempered G# = 440 / 1.059 = 415.5 and even lower than a calculated pure Ab:

 

A = 440

C (up a minor 3rd) = 440 x 6 / 5 = 528

Ab (down a major 3rd) = 528 x 4 / 5 = 422.4

 

As far as I can see, raising the leading tone in an ascending scale and expecting it to sound satisfying is somewhere between wishful thinking and self-delusion. It's not just me. When I studied music theory in college (six semesters worth), this was the generally accepted approach.

 

*

Ascending intervals:

Octave = 2

5th = 3 / 2

4th = 4 / 3

M3rd = 5 / 4

m3rd = 6 / 5

Equal tempered half step = 1.059...

 

Descending intervals = inverse of above

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One of my pet-hates are those who arrive at a music session and proceed to tune their instruments to an electronic tuner.... this is pure musical ignorance! :(

Geoff.

For those of us - or at least me - closer to the bottom of the learning curve, could you expand on this a little?

 

 

 

Hi Malcolmbebb,

 

well I guess my comment would appear harsh. So to explain: firstly I said 'music session' meaning a get togther of a few musicians who will try to play with each other, therefore, to assume that everyone else is 'in tune' to your personal tuning device or that the 'session' is going to be conducted at exactly A=440hz

can be an assumption too far.

Although the 'electronic tuner' has been very usefull in allowing people to be in tune, and of course many of us do not have the finnest ear for exact pitch,there are many instruments that do not quite arrive at the modern norm of pitch standard. Therefore a more sweetly tuned 'session' can be arrived at by consulting with or taking a note or two from the other musicians and tuning your instrument by ear.

 

Being a non devotée of Equal Temperament I do find it a little odd that some musicans assume that all is exactly 'correct' with the instruments of others. In our local 'big band' here in France we have several instruments that are not easy to tune and from day to day, and with fluctuations of temperature and humidity, might be a little 'out'. I'm talking of Hurdy Gurdies and the local Bagpipes of which we sometimes have three of each. Getting these all to agree with each other can be enough of a job as it is without one of them deciding to be exactly correct to their Quartz Crystal ocilator. Having said that we also have accordions and,usually myself on Concertina.

 

At a music festival last summer I had organised to have a session with two fiddlers... I was playing my 1850's set of Uilleann pipes. Now these pipes firstly do not play in Equal Temperament and were constructed to a very different pitch standard of that period. That these pipes play very close to one whole tone flat of today's standard is just pure luck but getting them to remain exactly in pitch is asking a lot. So with the two fiddles tuned to the pipes we began to play and were joined by a flute player who tuned to us, then a Banjo joined, tuned in ok.... then a man with a Chromatic button accordion sat down and just assumed that we would all be in pitch with his box! I must say that at this point there was not an electronic tuner in sight but the accordionist should have known better because he plays with pipers often and is also a piper himself.

 

Another occasion that comes to mind happened a few years ago when a session was taking place during the Willie Clancy Summer School... this session was in Baroque pitch ,ie somewhere south of a semitone flat of the normal pitch standard of today. Two or three fiddles and a set of pipes, perhaps a whistle also, a very nice session untill a young lady with a concertina arrived and joined in without any thought of the fact that she was more than a semitone sharper in pitch than the others. It had to be pointed out to her quite directly... so was she actually listening to the others ?

 

OK these are extreme cases and not really anything to do with 'tuners' as such but perhaps they go towards my point that a more sympathetic approach to tuning generally would not go a miss.When my wife has pointedly tuned her fiddle's open strings to those notes from my concertina (or pipes) by ear, to then have another fiddler get their clip-on tuner out and tune to it.... well we both look at each other and sigh .

 

Being a musical instrument maker I do posses several electronic tuners (5 I think at the last count) and bought my first one in 1976 so I am not against their use in the right way.

I hope this is not too long winded and defines what I mean.

Cheers,

Geoff.

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And, it arrived today.

 

This is in Quarter-Comma meantone, A minor (with the addition of a pair of D#s in this bit). I am hesitant to post it because it doesn't do the instrument justice, but here goes anyway...

 

Meantone English Sample (Carpathian Tune)

 

 

All very nice Dave and congratulations on your new baby. However can I just point out that the effect of the meantone is somewhat lost without the use of chords. As it is your recording will sound odd to some people due to the uneven intervals of a single line melody.

 

cheers,

Geoff.

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[snip]

I hope this is not too long winded and defines what I mean.

Cheers,

Geoff.

Thanks Geoff,

I did have an inkling where you were going, but you have clarified it. I guess at your average pub session it may not be too much of a problem, but be mindful of what other instruments are around and their (or your) limitations.

 

A general concern for those of us with less well trained or less acute hearing, perhaps. Not actually tried playing against someone on older tuning to see how it sounds to me.

 

Malcolm

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Maybe to add to Geoff's experiences I recall one music session where four or five of us were playing away, tuned to the concertina of a young local girl in our company. In comes a guy from Dublin with a bouzouki, tunes his his instrument to his tuner and starts bashing away. Not in tune with us at all. After the second set of tunes he looks at us and declares 'Yiz are all out of tune'.

 

I should also mention I have a new and lovely set of pipes that plays perfectly in tune with itself at A=437. It warms up and goes to 440 after a while though. This too is troubling to the tuner brigade.

Edited by Peter Laban

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Maybe to add to Geoff's experiences I recall one music session where four or five of us were playing away, tuned to the concertina of a young local girl in our company. In comes a guy from Dublin with a bouzouki, tunes his his instrument to his tuner and starts bashing away. Not in tune with us at all. After the second set of tunes he looks at us and declares 'Yiz are all out of tune'.

 

I should also mention I have a new and lovely set of pipes that plays perfectly in tune with itself at A=337. It warms up and goes to 440 after a while though. This too is troubling to the tuner brigade.

 

 

I guess you mean it starts at 437.... as 337 would be a bit too much for warming up to 440. Sounds about right though... 10-12 cents flat when cold.. warming up to about 'dead on' and then drifting not more than 5 cents sharp when things get hot.. well, that was the design criteria.

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337 would be interesting wouldn't it?

 

I seem to have half a brain these days with all the typos. I wasn't complaining about the pitch, just saying pipes remain a puzzle to the tuner fixated. They're actually settling quite well, they will be perfect once the humidity goes down (we're still around 90% at the moment).

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