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Mike Hulme

Meantone Tuning on Anglo Concertina

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I am currently at the stage of tuning the reeds for a new Anglo concertina. I have been reading, on this forum and elsewhere, on the various meantone tunings peope are using, especially on Engish concertina.

I have the data I need for ET, 1/4 Comma and 1/5 Comma cent offsets, and I would like to know whether they offer any advantage in group playing.  The tuner I use has the capabity to play chords and instantly switch to any other tuning. To my ear 1/5 Comma sounds much more harmonious than 1/4 Comma or ET; the 3rds and 6ths benefit greatly from the lack of beating.

Would there be any benefit in applying meantone tuning to an Anglo to be mainly played in sessions/with other instruments?

Your comments and insights would be appreciated.

 

Mike

 

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What other instruments? It wouldn't work well if playing  with equal tempered instruments. Good with fiddle.

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I've only had it for 6 weeks, so these are first impressions only.  My new Carroll is tuned in 1/5 comma meantone.  My ear agrees with yours- when playing alone and using chords I do believe the sound is sweeter.  I've played it in a number of sessions, including one with a lot of other free reeds, and both English and ITM repertoire.  I haven't noticed any particular advantage to the tuning in a session, but more importantly it hasn't caused any comment or problems either.  I just have to remember to give a D rather than an A if someone wants to tune to my instrument.  I think the 1/5 comma meantone tuning is pretty subtle.

Edited by Bill N

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I've used  1/5th  Comma  on  my  concertinas  for  many  years  and  never had  a  problem  playing in sessions  with  ET  tuned  instruments.  Even  with other concertinas, which  would be the hardest  test , but  for the most part  sessions and bands  in the traditional  music  scenes  play  in  keys  close to  the centre  of  the  meantone  tuning  I  use.

 

For me  the  great advantage  is  the  sweetening  of   the  harshest chords  and  the  ability  that  1/5th Comma  allows  to  play  close harmonies  , particularly  3rds. Running a passage of  major thirds, which  creates  an almost  'second voice'  effect  when  used  in company with other melody instruments,  is  a very  pleasant adjunct  to  the repertoire of  playing techniques.

 

Using  1/4 Comma  with  other  fixed  pitch  instruments  in ET  might  start  to  raise  eyebrows, probably  most likely  with  fiddle players, who's sense of tuning  I  generally find  to  be more acute.  Other squeezebox  players  generally assume  their instrument is in tune and don't bother listening to others.

 

 

Edited by Geoff Wooff

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I've played my 1/5th comma English in sessions and it blends well enough without standing out. It's tuned so that A=440, so I can give a reference A to others, but still has sweeter thirds. See https://pghardy.net/concertina/lachenal_27590/lachenal_27590.html.

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17 hours ago, Mike Hulme said:

To my ear 1/5 Comma sounds much more harmonious than 1/4 Comma or ET; the 3rds and 6ths benefit greatly from the lack of beating.

 

 

This is an interesting comment. In theory 1/4 comma should sound better because the thirds are pure. I have experience only of 1/5 comma tuning, so I'd be interested if anyone with experience of both 1/5 and 1/4 comma has a view.

 

12 hours ago, Bill N said:

 I haven't noticed any particular advantage to the tuning in a session, but more importantly it hasn't caused any comment or problems either. I just have to remember to give a D rather than an A if someone wants to tune to my instrument.

 

Likewise, I haven't had any comments about the tuning from other players. On the second point, I play mainly in the "English" keys of G and D. For these, centring the tuning on A (to match ET) is best as it minimises the deviation from ET. So, like Paul, I can give an A at 440Hz.

 

Actually, it would probably make no difference if you gave them A instead of E. Your A would be only a couple of cents different from what they would expect, and apparently most people can't tell the difference if it's less then about 20 cents. Even in the keys closest to ET (G and D in my case) some notes are almost 10 cents different from ET, but as the general experience in this thread and elsewhere attests, no-one seems to notice.

 

LJ

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Jeffries' default tuning was 1/4 comma (though with a twist), which is sweeter (perhaps excessively so?) but too far from ET to work, and it sounds "extreme" to ears accustomed to ET.

 

1/5 comma is a much more acceptable and versatile temperament, and it's what I'd usually tune Meantone instruments to.

 

I try to keep Cormac Begley's high pitch Ab/Eb in its "original Jeffries tuning" for him, and he thought he wanted 1/4 comma on his A-440 one too - but he found that (as I'd already warned him) he couldn't play it with other people until I changed it to the 1/5 comma I'd recommended in the first place.

 

On a "concert pitch" concertina (C/G Anglo or English system) I'd centre the tuning around an A that's tuned to a "zero" of 440Hz, whilst concertinas in other keys would have their "relative A" tuned to zero.

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I've tuned the reeds now, and based on Paul and Steven's recommendations I have centred the tuning on A.  This sounds fine to me, and works well in concert with Uilleann Pipes, which was what I was after.

 

Thanks for the help.

 

Mike

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On 2/8/2020 at 6:46 PM, Stephen Chambers said:

On a "concert pitch" concertina (C/G Anglo or English system) I'd centre the tuning around an A that's tuned to a "zero" of 440Hz, whilst concertinas in other keys would have their "relative A" tuned to zero.

 

This was something I ponded over for a long time Stephen, when I started tuning my anglos in 1/4 comma meantone. If you do it as your suggestion, you end up with instruments that can't be played together, because their overall pitch is sharper or flatter by the offset you've given the A. I plumped for tuning all my A's to a-440Hz and simply moving the wolf around with the different tunings. So with my CGs it's Eb/D#, with my GDs it's Bb/A# , on my Bbf, C#/Db and on my FC G#/Ab. This has the advantage that on all my anglos, the wolf is on the same fingerings and the good thirds/bad thirds are too. As I am using the Jeffries 39 layout, I have the flatter of the two on the push and the sharper on the pull - not quite as versatile as the English layout with its 3 enharmonic possibilities, but I find it gets me far enough for most of what I want to do.

 

Adrian

Meantone temperament calculations for anglo concertina.pdf

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5 hours ago, adrian brown said:

I plumped for tuning all my A's to a-440Hz

 

That is also what I have done on my Crane duet; albeit tuned to fifth comma rather that quarter comma. (Although I might try quarter comma in the future.)

 

5 hours ago, adrian brown said:

I have the flatter of the two on the push and the sharper on the pull

 

This is what I've done on my Crane (except for the other way round). I have Eb on the pull and D# on the push. In two years with mean tone I haven't found any tune or song I can't play with this tuning.

 

Geoff suggested quarter comma might be too extreme when playing with other instruments. Do you find it so? What led you to using quarter comma rather than fifth comma tuning?

 

LJ

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9 hours ago, Little John said:

 

That is also what I have done on my Crane duet; albeit tuned to fifth comma rather that quarter comma. (Although I might try quarter comma in the future.)

 

 

This is what I've done on my Crane (except for the other way round). I have Eb on the pull and D# on the push. In two years with mean tone I haven't found any tune or song I can't play with this tuning.

 

Geoff suggested quarter comma might be too extreme when playing with other instruments. Do you find it so? What led you to using quarter comma rather than fifth comma tuning?

 

LJ

Hi LJ,

 

I'm an instrument maker working principally with renaissance woodwinds, so 1/4 comma meantone is sort of in my blood, since it was the only tuning system in use until around 1600. However like you, I've never found it an insurmountable problem, even playing with other instruments, although on one occasion I did wish I had an a# too (But having Bbs in both directions is far more important. I don't know if you have seen my youtube video comparing 1/4 comma and ET? It was my rambling attempt a few years back to demonstrate the difference in a practical way. I've never tried 1/5th comma so I can't really comment on the difference between the two, but it would be interesting if somebody with both made a similar video, or perhaps even comparing ET and 1/5th comma meantone.

 

Adrian

 

 

 

 

 

 

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51 minutes ago, adrian brown said:

I don't know if you have seen my youtube video comparing 1/4 comma and ET?

 

Yes, I've watched it a couple of times in the past. It's one of the things that convinced me to try mean tone tuning.

 

52 minutes ago, adrian brown said:

I've never tried 1/5th comma so I can't really comment on the difference between the two.

 

And, so far, I've only tried 1/5th comma so I can't comment either!

 

52 minutes ago, adrian brown said:

... it would be interesting if somebody with both made a similar video, or perhaps even comparing ET and 1/5th comma meantone.

 

Yes, I'd particularly like to hear a comparison of 1/4 comma and 1/5th comma. Or even just hear of the experience of someone who has both.

 

LJ

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Posted (edited)

Wim Wakker is about to start building an Anglo for me, G-D but specifically for playing minor key Swedish tunes, which tend to be in something similar to what a classical musician would identify as melodic minor, with the thirds and sixths fairly consistently flattened and the sevenths sometimes sharp and sometimes natural. I am having the thirds and sixths in the main two rows flattened from normal Anglo notes, in the hope that the fingering patterns that I am accustomed to for major key tunes will largely transfer to the minor key tunes. I wasn't sure what to do about the sevenths, but have decided in the end to leave them sharp as on a standard Anglo and use other buttons for the naturals.

 

I don't know how well this will work in practice but I don't get on well with minor key tunes on a standard Anglo -- not even on a B-flat-F that I had made partly for the sake of G and D minor. So I decided that a diatonic minor instrument is worth a try. At the worst, if it doesn't work out for me, and anyway when it eventually passes to someone else, it can be retuned to standard.

 

My reason for posting to this thread now is the matter of temperament. I like my present G-D Anglo, but one feature that I do not like is how very rough some of the thirds sound (as it is tuned in equal temperament). So among the details that I am in discussion with Wim about is whether to have fifth comma tuning or some other compromise. When I sent him the chart of what notes I want where, he commented that some of the intervals would be dissonant, but I think he was considering some that I will seldom or never be playing.

 

A variation of the three chord trick implies that the chords (or parts thereof) that I will mainly need for G and D minor would be: C minor, G minor, D minor and A minor, plus possibly D major and A major for the F# and C#. I have been using a spreadsheet to explore the implications of various temperaments for those chords and for how far all the notes would differ from ET.

 

I have now come up with a set of frequencies, based on fifth comma but with some tweaks, that are mostly not too far away from ET while making the intervals that matter for the abovementioned chords all within 6 cents or better of perfect, so a lot better than in ET. The only notes that are more than 10 cents away from ET are E-flat and B-flat, which pretty well have to be well sharp of ET to give better minor thirds with C and G.

 

FWIW I am attaching the spreadsheet in XLS format (as probably the most widely readable on various OSs). Comments welcome!

 

If anyone's interested I can also post the note layout chart.

temperaments - ad hoc.xls

Edited by Richard Mellish
Correcting a mistake: the frequencies in my spreadsheet are in fact based on quarter-comma, not fifth-comma

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just one quick shot - if you're aiming at melodic minor / aeolian mode (apart from the major 70th then) you might have to tune/center the instrument to Bb (F) flat rather than G (D)..

 

best wishes - ?

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Richard - I posted a spreadsheet some time ago on this topic; specifically for fifth comma MT. The absolute deviations from ET weren't quite right (I used the wrong comma!) but the general conclusions still stand:

 

1. If you place the wolf fifth at G# - Eb you can play in the major keys of Bb, F, C, G, D and A and the minor keys of G, D, A, E, B and F# (and, of course, the related Dorian and Mixolydian modes). This covers your particular requirement of G and D minor as well as most of the other common keys used in folk music.

 

2. If you play mainly in the keys of G and D major the deviation of MT from ET is minimised by centring the tuning on A (which conveniently means you can give a pitch to fiddles).

 

If you're playing mainly in G and D minor then, as Wolf says, you might want to centre round some other key (I think C would minimise deviation from ET) but, unless you're playing with other instruments, it really doesn't matter. And even if you are playing with other instruments it won't matter much.

 

If I were you I'd stick to standard mean tone tuning (either 1/5 comma or 1/4 comma). That way you know, within the six major and minor keys available to you, all intervals will be consonant and all thirds will be sweeter.

 

LJ

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21 hours ago, Wolf Molkentin said:

just one quick shot - if you're aiming at melodic minor / aeolian mode (apart from the major 70th then) you might have to tune/center the instrument to Bb (F) flat rather than G (D)..

 

best wishes - ?

 Why might that better than around G?

 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/27/2020 at 11:25 AM, Little John said:

If I were you I'd stick to standard mean tone tuning (either 1/5 comma or 1/4 comma). That way you know, within the six major and minor keys available to you, all intervals will be consonant and all thirds will be sweeter.

 

LJ

My current draft is close to 1/5 comma but with some notes tweaked slightly to improve the most important (for me) intervals and/or bring those notes closer to ET.

Edited by Richard Mellish
As noted above, the frequencies in my spreadsheet are in fact based on quarter-comma, not fifth-comma

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17 minutes ago, Richard Mellish said:

... or bring those notes closer to ET.

 

All the experience I've come across on this site (including my own) is that this is unnecessary. With 1/5 comma tuning other musicians simply don't notice that you're tuned any different from them.

 

22 minutes ago, Richard Mellish said:

Why might that better than around G?

 

It makes sense to minimise your deviation from ET if you plan to play with other instruments. Curiously, that doesn't mean you centre your tuning on your most commonly used key. If G major is your most commonly used key (which for many it is - largely I suspect because of D/G melodeons) then you should centre your tuning on A. In your case, if G minor (relative minor to Bb) is your most common key then tuning for that means centring around C. But as I said earlier, centring on A will cover all bases adequately.

 

LJ

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