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Tedrow G/d Meantone Tuning


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http://hmi.homewood.net/meantone

 

Take a look and listen to this one. This tuning is by request of course, I have heretofore only used equal temperment

 

Bob,

Beautiful warm harmonies! A 20-button tuned like that would be a lot more than just an Anglo-Chromatic with one row missing ;)

Does it sound as good outside the home keys?

 

One usually associates this meantone tuning with diatonic instruments, e.g. one- or two-key autoharps. Do you know if the old 20-button Germans and Anglo-Germans were originally tuned this way?

 

Cheers,

John

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Well I'm now even more baffled by this. It sounds great but I can't hear where the difference is, it just sounds 'right'. But I've been thinking about the tuning of my duet; I almost always play solo so I'm only interested in how the instrument sounds by itself.

 

Hunting for interesting tunes to play I came across the piano piece 'Humouresque' by Dvorak. It's a nice popular ditty, (everyone would recognise it, they use it for ads regularly) the range fits my instrument and it wouldn't be too demanding were it not in Gb. SIX FLATS!!! So I started wondering why D chose this key, after all a semitone higher and I only have one sharp to contend with, and the only justification I can come up with is that his piano was not tuned equal temperament and this key was the one he liked best on this occasion.

 

From my perspective, I'm thinking "Grief, I have to play in six flats for no gain.' If I'm going to do these sort of gymnastics (actually not too bad on a Maccan, but still takes some thought) shouldn't I get some benefit? IE Should I get the beast retuned so that I get some benefit from the more exotic key signatures? And why don't pianists get this done regularly? In a lot of cases they too are only played solo.

Edited by Dirge
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http://hmi.homewood.net/meantone

 

Take a look and listen to this one. This tuning is by request of course, I have heretofore only used equal temperment

 

note cents diff.

C +10

C# -14

D +3

D# -21

E -3

F +14

F# -10

G +7

G# -17

A 0

A# -24

B -7

 

 

Hi Bob,

 

It is really interesting to see some experimentation with alternatives to equal temperament among modern builders. Since you seem to have introduced this topic to get feedback, I have a couple of responses FWTW. But as always, my general suggestion to everyone is that the more players (and those who make and set-up instruments for them) explore a wide range of alternative tunings, the wider and more expressive a musical palette we can have available. Not every experiment will work, but far better to try them and (if necessary) abandon them than to remain within the very narrow world of 12-tone equal temperament that so many 20th century musicians were taught as the "rule" for "in tune."

 

First, I understand the values you give in "cents deviation from the values for equal temperament" are approximations. But to make more clear to everyone reading, it looks as though you are going for "1/4 comma meantone" or something close to it. To actually achieve this, all "correctly spelled" major thirds would be acoustically pure. 1/4 comma meantone is only one of a large family of meantone temperaments. In the 1990s I tuned a C/G 31 key Crabb from the 1880s in 1/4 comma meantone and used it very widely in many keys for many kinds of music. True, as Dave says, in keys such as F and Bb the instrument will be progressively a little sharp relative to ET instruments at A 440 and going around the circle of fifths to the "sharp keys" of D, A, and E the instrument becomes a little flat on average relative to ET instruments. But if you set your center pitch appropriately, the keys of A, D, G, and C and their modes are not too bad. Many flute and fiddle players routinely hit notes that are more than 10 cents flat or sharp of the ones they are targeting :-). Then, many fine flute and fiddle players are actually targeting notes that far (or more) from the ET equivalent to achieve the intonation effects they prefer. So a 1/4 comma concertina is not so useless in public performance as some might suppose.

 

Second, as a suggestion, many players of a G/D might prefer a Bb to the A# you used. In meantone temperaments of course the two are not equivalent. Using your convention for notating deviations from ET, at about the same precision you are suggesting, the Bb would be set around +17

 

Again Dave makes a good point that meantone temperaments gain a lot more subtlety and flexibility when you increase the number of pitches per octave. He is right about the early English concertinas having a 14-tone scale with duplicate enharmonics (Ab vs G#, Eb vs D#). On some vintage anglos (*not* tuned in 1/4 comma meantone BTW) there were duplicate enharmonics tuned to different pitches, such as D# vs Eb for a C/G anglo or Bb vs A# for a G/D anglo. Very large anglos such as the interesting 50 key Jeffries I recently sold may have additional pairs of duplicate enharmonics. If you could find a place for it in your button layout, you could offer the player *both* the A# you chose and the Bb I suggest..... as Crabb and Jeffries often did.

 

Keep up the good work and best wishes,

 

Paul

Edited by Paul Groff
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Well I'm now even more baffled by this. It sounds great but I can't hear where the difference is, it just sounds 'right'.

But that's the point. Povided you choose the right keys, the keys for which it has been tuned, chords will sound right, sweet and full and generally better than on an equal temperament instrument. But as Dave says, the further from the home keys you get the less right it will sound. Equal temperament is a compromise whereby every key sounds more-or-less OK.

 

Rogwer Digby has an absolutely superb Jeffries that once belonged to Fred Kilroy (probably one of the finest concertinas ever made) that was mean tone tuned. I have never heard sweeter chords on a concertina. I haven't read through Paul's post yet (but I will), but I agree that it is good to see people like Bob trying these things out.

 

Chris

Edited by Chris Timson
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That's why the early meantone English concertinas had 14 notes per octave.

It seems that the fact that CW maintained mean tone tuning longer than most instrument makers is the chief reason for the concertina raising Hector Berlioz's ire, resulting in his influential condemnation of it.

 

Chris

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Well I'm now even more baffled by this. It sounds great but I can't hear where the difference is, it just sounds 'right'.

But that's the point. Povided you choose the right keys, the keys for which it has been tuned, chords will sound right, sweet and full and generally better than on an equal temperament instrument. But as Dave says, the further from the home keys you get the less right it will sound. Equal temperament is a compromise whereby every key sounds more-or-less OK.

 

Rogwer Digby has an absolutely superb Jeffries that once belonged to Fred Kilroy (probably one of the finest concertinas ever made) that was mean tone tuned. I have never heard sweeter chords on a concertina. I haven't read through Paul's post yet (but I will), but I agree that it is good to see people like Bob trying these things out.

 

Chris

 

No you're contradicting the evidence of all the older solo keyboard music in the world; why choose a different key if it doesn't sound better for the purpose to the composer? It's not just a matter of 'the further from the home keys you get'. There must be much more subtlety to it than that.

 

And as I said before, why tune a solo instrument 'equal' and lose the reason for playing in the composer's chosen exotic key?

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No you're contradicting the evidence of all the older solo keyboard music in the world; why choose a different key if it doesn't sound better for the purpose to the composer? It's not just a matter of 'the further from the home keys you get'. There must be much more subtlety to it than that.

I'm not going to argue. Go and look it up.

 

Chris

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No you're contradicting the evidence of all the older solo keyboard music in the world; why choose a different key if it doesn't sound better for the purpose to the composer? It's not just a matter of 'the further from the home keys you get'. There must be much more subtlety to it than that.

 

And as I said before, why tune a solo instrument 'equal' and lose the reason for playing in the composer's chosen exotic key?

 

Dirge,

Our choirmaster - an excellent pianist and conductor - gave us an interesting demonstration at a social get-together one evening. He played one of those really sleazy, slow swing tunes on a perfectly normal, equal-tempered piano. We all smirked. It sounded almost obscene.

"Well, of course, it's in 5 flats," he said, "That's why it sounds so sleazy. Listen to this..." and he transposed the same piece to a couple of sharps. And would you believe it - the piece sounded utterly banal and not in the least sleazy.

 

His explanation was that, when the semitones are equalled out in equal temperament, some notes are higher than they would be in one Just scale, and lower than they would be in another Just scale, and that that is what make the difference betwen "sharp" and "flat" keys. Each key in equal temperament has the same intervals in its scale, but our ear "expects" a certain unevenness, so the equal temperament seems to err now in one direction, now in the other.

At least, that's how I understood it. I do know that classical composers don't choose a key just to make the piece fit within the compass of the instrument (except for art songs - but singers' voices aren't equally tempered, anyway!)

 

Other than equal temperament would not be acceptable on an instrument that is intended to play harmonies in all keys. The Anglo only allows rich harmonies in a couple of keys, so meantone tuning is possible.

 

I really would love a meantone 20-button...

 

Cheers,

John

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No you're contradicting the evidence of all the older solo keyboard music in the world; why choose a different key if it doesn't sound better for the purpose to the composer? It's not just a matter of 'the further from the home keys you get'. There must be much more subtlety to it than that.

 

And as I said before, why tune a solo instrument 'equal' and lose the reason for playing in the composer's chosen exotic key?

 

Dirge,

Our choirmaster - an excellent pianist and conductor - gave us an interesting demonstration at a social get-together one evening. He played one of those really sleazy, slow swing tunes on a perfectly normal, equal-tempered piano. We all smirked. It sounded almost obscene.

"Well, of course, it's in 5 flats," he said, "That's why it sounds so sleazy. Listen to this..." and he transposed the same piece to a couple of sharps. And would you believe it - the piece sounded utterly banal and not in the least sleazy.

 

His explanation was that, when the semitones are equalled out in equal temperament, some notes are higher than they would be in one Just scale, and lower than they would be in another Just scale, and that that is what make the difference betwen "sharp" and "flat" keys. Each key in equal temperament has the same intervals in its scale, but our ear "expects" a certain unevenness, so the equal temperament seems to err now in one direction, now in the other.

At least, that's how I understood it. I do know that classical composers don't choose a key just to make the piece fit within the compass of the instrument (except for art songs - but singers' voices aren't equally tempered, anyway!)

 

Other than equal temperament would not be acceptable on an instrument that is intended to play harmonies in all keys. The Anglo only allows rich harmonies in a couple of keys, so meantone tuning is possible.

 

I really would love a meantone 20-button...

 

Cheers,

John

Thanks John; that makes sense I think but the key point is that you actually had practical proof that key matters even with equal temperament; presumably Dvorak would have agreed. (6 flats!). Perhaps I'll stop fretting about this one and get on with trying to hit the right buttons.

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Better to have one key in tune than none!

If you were only doing a 20 button, would Just intonation be feasible?

I have had an old Jones 24 button anglo tuned in "just" intonation with all notes in tune with it's drone.

It is beautifully mellow and sounds great on its own or with Northumbrian pipes. It would also be perfect for

accompanying songs.

Gill

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Hunting for interesting tunes to play I came across the piano piece 'Humouresque' by Dvorak. It's a nice popular ditty, (everyone would recognise it, they use it for ads regularly) the range fits my instrument and it wouldn't be too demanding were it not in Gb. SIX FLATS!!! So I started wondering why D chose this key, after all a semitone higher and I only have one sharp to contend with, and the only justification I can come up with is that his piano was not tuned equal temperament and this key was the one he liked best on this occasion.

It is a source of endless mystery to me that keys "sound different". I honestly believe they do. Sharp keys are active or bright, flat keys are solid or mellow, the ones in the middle are plain or honest. That's the major keys, the minors have their own characters: C# minor is my favourite key on the piano, even if all those pesky double sharps drive me wild.

 

When I try to discuss this with people, they often start mentioning how orchestral string players can easily adjust the tuning of notes to context, and probably do so subconsciously. But surely they would do so identically in every key, rather than trying to reproduce the irregularities of a non-welltempered tuning. So I don't see that as a realistic source. To me the different keys sound just according to their stereotypes played on an even-tempered piano. The bizarrest thing is that one of the very brightest pieces I know is Bach's Prelude in C# Major (No 3 from the first set of 24 Preludes and Fugues). But pieces in Db major are very mellow, and it is just the same key. If Bach had "written" the Prelude instead in Db major, would it somehow sound different? How could that be possible? Is it more to do with our attitude at seeing how it is written and thus the way we play it, rather than the sounds themselves?

 

The other weird issue about tunings I can't really resolve is major thirds. The choir-master keeps telling us how we, as singers, have the advantage, like string players, that we can adjust tuning to context rather than be stuck in well-tempering. But a well-tempered major third is a lot wider than a geometric 5:4 major third, it is just about the largest discrepancyin the well-tempered scale. So why does my choir-master keep telling us to keep the major third nice and sharp? I think it is likewise with string players. Is it that we have a tendency to revert to geometry, but he is demanding a well-tempered interval from us, even though he thinks he is trying to do the opposite? He also tells us to keep it especially nice and sharp in very sharp keys like E major, bringing us back to where this started.

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If it's any comfort, LDT, I hadn't got a clue either - I still haven't much, even after reading this Wikipedia article about it:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meantone_temperament

 

Getting into the technicalities of concertinas (or any other musical instrument) is fascinating but not essential to the enjoyment of playing. ;)

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