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Tuning in ye olde days!

GUEST,Woodsie 13 Dec 11 - 12:05 PM
GUEST,Peter Laban 13 Dec 11 - 12:10 PM
Will Fly 13 Dec 11 - 12:12 PM
Jack Campin 13 Dec 11 - 12:34 PM
Dave MacKenzie 13 Dec 11 - 01:04 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 13 Dec 11 - 01:20 PM
Jack Campin 13 Dec 11 - 01:21 PM
Don Firth 13 Dec 11 - 02:48 PM
Tootler 13 Dec 11 - 03:59 PM
The Sandman 13 Dec 11 - 04:13 PM
The Sandman 13 Dec 11 - 04:25 PM
Tootler 13 Dec 11 - 04:25 PM
JohnInKansas 13 Dec 11 - 05:25 PM
The Sandman 13 Dec 11 - 05:35 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 13 Dec 11 - 06:11 PM
Jack Campin 13 Dec 11 - 06:47 PM
GUEST,leeneia 13 Dec 11 - 09:18 PM
GUEST 14 Dec 11 - 03:31 AM
Richard Bridge 14 Dec 11 - 03:39 AM
Jack Campin 14 Dec 11 - 08:50 AM
GUEST,Suibhne Astray 14 Dec 11 - 09:16 AM
Baz Bowdidge 14 Dec 11 - 10:56 AM
Bert 14 Dec 11 - 03:53 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Dec 11 - 04:12 PM
Raedwulf 14 Dec 11 - 04:19 PM
Jack Campin 14 Dec 11 - 04:31 PM
Paul Burke 14 Dec 11 - 05:10 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Dec 11 - 05:15 PM
Raedwulf 14 Dec 11 - 05:20 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Dec 11 - 05:22 PM
Jack Campin 14 Dec 11 - 05:54 PM
GUEST,julia L 15 Dec 11 - 03:08 PM
GUEST,julia L 15 Dec 11 - 03:11 PM
Jack Campin 15 Dec 11 - 06:10 PM
JohnInKansas 15 Dec 11 - 09:35 PM
Big Al Whittle 16 Dec 11 - 05:02 PM
bluesunsets 16 Dec 11 - 06:06 PM
Paul Burke 16 Dec 11 - 06:23 PM
JohnInKansas 16 Dec 11 - 11:15 PM
Big Al Whittle 16 Dec 11 - 11:22 PM
GUEST,Jack Campin 17 Dec 11 - 01:59 PM
The Sandman 17 Dec 11 - 04:42 PM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 11 - 05:04 PM
Jack Campin 17 Dec 11 - 05:33 PM
The Sandman 17 Dec 11 - 05:59 PM
Paul Burke 17 Dec 11 - 06:15 PM
Jack Campin 17 Dec 11 - 06:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Dec 11 - 12:01 PM
The Sandman 18 Dec 11 - 12:37 PM
Don Firth 18 Dec 11 - 01:14 PM
Paul Burke 18 Dec 11 - 02:38 PM
Don Firth 18 Dec 11 - 02:52 PM
Jack Campin 18 Dec 11 - 05:57 PM
JohnInKansas 18 Dec 11 - 09:12 PM
Jack Campin 18 Dec 11 - 09:30 PM
JohnInKansas 18 Dec 11 - 10:41 PM
Will Fly 19 Dec 11 - 05:27 AM
The Sandman 19 Dec 11 - 08:06 AM
Tootler 19 Dec 11 - 08:11 AM
The Sandman 19 Dec 11 - 09:48 AM
Jack Campin 19 Dec 11 - 10:25 AM
Richard Bridge 19 Dec 11 - 11:54 AM
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Subject: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,Woodsie
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 12:05 PM

At a session last night somebody played a piece of what he called "Elizabethan Music" on a classical guitar. I was quite amused by some of the comments from other people in the circle such as:

"Funny how Elizabethan music all seems to have a certain sound"

"Yeah sort of harpsichordish"

Then the one that made me cringe was:

"That's cos they didn't have tuners in those days"

This dopey comment did however get me thinking about what reference was used for standard tuning in days of yore? How did they measure pitch accurately? Any comments?


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,Peter Laban
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 12:10 PM

The Tuningfork goes back to the early part of the 18th century.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 12:12 PM

How did they measure pitch accurately?

They didn't! Pitch varied immensely from place to place, and by huge amounts. It wasn't until the 19th century that standards for pitch began to really kick in. Tuning forks - still with some variations - appeared in the 18th century.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 12:34 PM

I am pretty sure there is a thorough discussion of the issues in this:

Kircher: Musurgia Universalis, 1650

It's in Latin and has never been translated as far as I know; I've read bits of it but that was on paper, it's a pig to flip through on the screen.

One remarkable attempt at precision was by Michael Praetorius in his "Syntagma musicum". Not only did he give scale drawings for some instruments, he printed an image of a ruler in the book. His reason for that was the paper might shrink after publication, so you could scale his printed lengths with a known-standard ruler. Apply that technique to flute or organ pipes and you have a reasonably good standard.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Dave MacKenzie
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 01:04 PM

As far as I understand it, the Tyranny of Equal Temperament only really dates back to the end of the First World War, and the almost universal availability of domestic pianos. Prior to that, even piano tuners who claimed to tun to ET were never able to do so, and Pablo Cassals was known to advise his pupils (well after WWI) that if their instruments sounded out of tune, it wasn't them, it was the piano, because the piano tuned to ET.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 01:20 PM

For a historical look at how the pitch of A varied from the 17th century until it was standardised in 1939 have a look at the list on this page: Standard Pitch. The ranges vary from just over 400 to about 455 (with one odd one at 309). (Even now, according to that article, some like their pianos tuned to A444 rather than A440 leading concert halls to hold 2 sets of pianos).

Mick


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 01:21 PM

In fact it's quite likely that lutes were tuned in equal temperament, or something close to it, a lot of the time.

Early harpsichords never were, and harpsichord designers went to extreme lengths to avoid it.

Pitch reference and scale temperament are two different issues.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 02:48 PM

If you've ever tried to tune a guitar using harmonics, you find that once you get a couple of strings tuned to each other, to tune the rest, you start having to make compromises, otherwise, you have a guitar that isn't quite in tune. Some chords sound okay, but others, not quite. And the further you get away from the key you tuned it in (say you tuned it in C and now you want to play something in E), the further out of tune it is.

That's what Equal Temperament is all about.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 03:59 PM

Recommended reading

"How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)" By Ross W Duffin.

He explains the whole business of temperament and the various attempts to find a "satisfactory" tuning system for fixed pitch instruments.

All tuning systems are a compromise and equal temperament is just one of many. Duffin does not say it is wrong or unsatisfactory just that it is inappropriate for music composed before the 20th century (IIRC).


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 04:13 PM

As far as I understand it, the Tyranny of Equal Temperament only really dates back to the end of the First World War, and the almost universal availability of domestic pianos. Prior to that, even piano tuners who claimed to tun to ET were never able to do so, and Pablo Cassals was known to advise his pupils (well after WWI) that if their instruments sounded out of tune, it wasn't them, it was the piano, because the piano tuned to ET." Yu are mis informedabout
"Duffin does not say it is wrong or unsatisfactory just that it is inappropriate for music composed before the 20th century" (IIRC).
SO IN THAT CASE
martin wyndham read should not accompany gentle annie on his guitar because the guitar s in equal temperament


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 04:25 PM

Should read you are misinformed about equal temperament. the tune of gentle annie is quite old, foster used it in 1856.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Tootler
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 04:25 PM

I detect the operation of wooden spoons by one Dick Miles.

With regard to Martyn Wyndham Read's accompaniment of Gentle Annie or any other modern accompaniment of a folk song. The tune may be old but the accompaniment is a modern arrangement so you can do whatever you like.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 05:25 PM

Equal temparament dates back at least to Bach, and he is frequently cited as an early influence on its adoption. "The Well-Tempered Clavier" (German: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier),[2] BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. He first gave the title to a book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, dated 1722. The composition was specifically created to demonstrate the greater versatility for key changes on an instrument constructed and tuned to equal temperament.

Helmholtz, in his "On the Sensations of Tone" ca 1870 (? IIRC) tabulates the tunings of some hundred or so old organs, some dating to a century before the book but still then in current use, and they span a "A" range of several tones. Recollection is that "A frequencies" from below 400 to above about 470 are "built into" several very old organs.

Even if a tuning fork is used, the accuracy of tuning of other notes is dependent on the "ear" of the tuner. Since harmonic intervals are about the only thing available for setting a relationship between the notes on a single instrument, it must be assumed that's what was mainly used. The accuracy with which individual instruments approached any particular "tuning," based on the measurements by Helmholtz and others since, is quite variable, and in some cases almost "laughable," so broad generalizations are of little practical validity.

Even Helmholtz documents a gradual (fairly general) upward creep in the "A" pitch. Arguments about why this happened are extensive, but one theory is that improvements in instrument construction benefited from the "brighter" sound of higher pitches.

Commercial instruments made since at least around 1900 generally were manufactured in equal temperament in order to facilitate playing in many different keys, with other instruments in varied ensembles.

Even before equal temperament was the norm for pianos, most piano tuners (and possibly organ builders?) pitched individual notes "out of tune," with an increasing "upward bias" as they moved up the scale based on the argument that "it sounds better," so there's really nothing very sacred about conforming to an arbitrary theoretical scale.

The "best" of modern electronic tuners generally include at least a dozen "different scales" to which the tuner can be set to report (or in some cases to sound) the notes of the scale. The less common "tunings" apparently have some use, by some people, but I have no idea where or by whom or for what purposes.

John


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 05:35 PM

Equal temparament dates back at least to Bach, and he is frequently cited as an early influence on its adoption. "The Well-Tempered Clavier" (German: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier),[2] BWV 846–893, is a collection of solo keyboard music composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. He first gave the title to a book of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, dated 1722. The composition was specifically created to demonstrate the greater versatility for key changes on an instrument constructed and tuned to equal temperament.
spot on, now please no more crap about the end of the first world war.
Tootler, one wooden spoon is great, just like the one handed clap, hope you are keeping well give my regards to the wislons


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 06:11 PM

As an example of how some string tuning was done in the olden days, here are some instructions from manuals for the vihuela. This was in use from late 15th century into the early 1600s and there are a handful of Spanish composers who have left us important music books for the instrument. The comments below come from the chapter The Vihuela: Performance Practice, Style and Context by John Griffiths in Performance on Lute, Guitar And Vihuela, Oxford ed Coelho. (I probably have similar information for lute and guitar, but this was the easiest to lay my hands on).

Milan's (Luys Milan, Spanish composer for vihuela - MCP) advice on stringing suggest that the true pitch of the vihuela...was determined empirically according to the size of the instrument...choose the first string according to the size of the instrument ...the larger the vihuela the thicker the string. This string is raised to just below its breaking point, 'as high as it can bear', and the other courses are tuned from it"

The tuning instructions of Milan and Pisador (Diego Pisador, another Spanish vihuela composer - MCP) proceed by unisons and octaves. Milan gives unisons descending from the first string (ie like tuning guitars using 4th/5th fret for unison with next higher - MCP)... Milan's second method is based on ... octaves. Pisador specifies these same octaves for confirming the tuning done by unisons

Frets And Temperament

I'll precis a lot here. The information is taken from a precise account by Juan Bermudo. He observed that most vihuelists placed the frets by ear, and moreover that few did it well...He gave advice at three levels - a simple fretting system for beginners, more complex systems for advanced players, and a sophisticated system to satisfy the needs of the most advanced players. While his ultimate system results in an approximately equal temperament, Bermudo's simpler systems are all based on Pythagorean principles of pure fifths, and unequal major and minor semitones

Bermudo's simplest system specifies the placement of frets corresponding to the diatonic notes, and he leaves the player to place by ear the frets that correspond to the accidentals.. He gives rules to place frets 2,4,5,7,10. The chromatic frets are initially placed half-way between the diatonic notes and then moved up or down according to desire. His more advanced systems fix frets 2,5,7,9,10 and manipulate the others slightly to give both diatonic and chromatic notes their correct intervallic distance within Pythagorean temperament.

There then follows dealing with the problem that these tunings do not give the correct semitones on each fret of each string and propose various methods for dealing with that - find altenative fingering on a different string; alter the pitch of the string with the left hand; slanting frets; move the fret; use double frets; retune and use only one string of the double course.


Life is a bit easier for the modern guitarist!

Mick


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 06:47 PM

Bach didn't advocate equal temperament, never mentioned it, and probably never saw or played an equally tempered instrument.

"Well tempered" does not mean "equally tempered". This is urban myth.

It's stark staring obvious with The Well Tempered Clavier, since the pieces have very different character depending on the key they're written in, with far-away-from-C keys being used for extreme effects (listen to the E flat minor prelude and fugue from book 1!). If he meant equal temperament they would all sound the same.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 13 Dec 11 - 09:18 PM

I just heard some remarks on this topic by a PH D in music who plays harpsichord. Let's see what I can remember.

1. Musicians in Bach's day (for example) tuned their harpsichords every day. There were 'hundreds' of ways to tune the notes in an octave. For example, C# might be noticeably sharper than C, or it might be just barely sharper, and so forth.

Personally, we didn't believe there were hundreds of ways. Dozens, maybe.

2. If you want to hear old tunings, listen to movies from the 1930's. Those musicians were the last to learn music before equal temperament arrived.

3. In the olden days, C was perceived of as a calm key. He played us some C, and it was calm. Then he played something that had lots of black keys, and he said sharps were viewed as energetic. He produced a rattliing jangle and said, "This is getting thirteen kids ready for church."

He was a great guy to listen to. Trevor Stephenson of Madison, Wisconsin.

4. About pitch - James Galway (famous flutist) wrote that it is not true that standard pitch is A 440. Pitch varies the world over, being highest in Germany and lowest in the U.S.

By the way, that's a good question -- how did the old timers know the pitch of any given note. I don't know the answer.

I would like to hear from folks about the 'old-movie' idea. (I can hardly stand to watch movies, myself.)


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 03:31 AM

Many years ago I used to play in a pub where the first thing we all had to do was to retune our guitars etc to the pitch of the accordeon played by an old regular at the pub.
john


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 03:39 AM

Surely pianos are not in fact tuned to mathematically equal temperament, but sharpen towards the top end - probably one reason I hate the things on folk music!


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 08:50 AM

If you want to hear old tunings, listen to recent recording of harpsichord music or Baroque chamber music by players who know what they're doing. They will usually be in some kind of non-ET tuning and they'll say what that tuning is on the CD sleeve.

Here is a discussion of present-day orchestral pitch standards:

A=440 or A=442?

Folkies tend to prefer A-440 and most fixed-pitch folk instruments are tuned that way. (The exception being accordions owned by egomaniacal arseholes who like to be sharper than everybody else and stand out by being out of tune; they like A=443).

The first person to work out the correlation between frequency and pitch was Mersenne in the 1630s. I don't know exactly how he did it.

This seems like a reasonably sane treatment of the historical issues around temperament:

Pythagoras and the Wolf


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,Suibhne Astray
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 09:16 AM

Harry Partch had some interesting approaches to such issues:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8NIpPhXpfQ


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 10:56 AM

Very interesting.
Here's the 2002 BBC documentary of Harry Partch(YT 6 parts).
BBC Documentary Harry Partch
I'd love to say I understand.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Bert
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 03:53 PM

As an aside, 'cos this is a folk site...

I knew this Oud player in Bahrain who tuned his Oud by ear and then marked the strings at the nut with pencil so the he could retune it easily.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 04:12 PM

Interestingly Bert one of the vihuela manuals (Venegas de Henestrosa) that I mentioned earlier quoted a similar observation: Venegas adds to a similar description (of tuning - MCP) his observation that some players teach tuning by marking a line across the strings at the nut of a tuned vihuela for students to use as a visual reference point, retuning the strings by aligning the marks with the nut.


Mick


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Raedwulf
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 04:19 PM

Define what you mean by "pitch". Modern tuning is based on A=440Hz and equal temperament. I'm not sure I buy the argument about Bach. I seem to remember that Bach wrote a suite (Das Wohltempier Klavier?) precisely to exploit the differences that existed from one major or minor key to the next.

As with many modern musicians, I suspect they agreed a tuning for one note & tuned everything else relative to that & according to what their ears expected to hear...


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 04:31 PM

There is no need to "suspect", it was written up in a great many books. With the number of harpsichords in existence during the Baroque, each of which would go audibly out of tune within 24 hours, something like a Haynes Manual for the Harpsichord had a huge market.

Here's one of the more popular ones. Bach would have had a copy.

Werkmeister: Musicalische Temperatur


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Paul Burke
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 05:10 PM

Tuning forks and pitch pipes are less prone to drift than strings, and are reasonably easily matched to each other. Nontheless, there was a serious inflation of pitch in the late 18th/ early 19th century. Mozart's tuning fork (or perhaps one of them) is still in existence, and reveals that he tuned a whole semitone down from A440. His arias must have been a lot easier for the sopranos, if perhaps harder for the basses.

Mersenne apparently used a monochord, using the known relationship between length and pitch, and doubled up until he could count the vibrations. What puzzles me is how he got the seconds to count against, or rather how they determined accurately the primary standard, the length of the seconds pendulum. There are a lot of seconds in a day (86400), and it's also difficult to determine exactly when to start and stop. Sunrise and sunset vary with the seasons and are affected by refraction, while noon is difficult to determine accurately because its height (and so the length of shadow) is changing slowest at that time. Does anyone lnow how it was done?


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 05:15 PM

Indeed Bach's temperament intrigues scholars to this day (though most modern scholars agree it was not ET). You can see the wikipedia article on The Well-Tempered Clavier - Intended Tuning section for some proposals.

Several recent examples try to deduce intended temperament from the loops at the top of the title page of WTC, relating them to size of 5ths (though not everyone agrees with these interpretations). Here's an abstract for a 2005 artice based on this: Bach's temperament, Occam's razor, and the Neidhardt factor - John O'Donnell. And if you'd like to see the contortions needed to tune the harpsichord to a temperament like this have a look at: TEMPERAMENTS XIX: Bach/O'Donnell. There's a lot of tuning to perfect intervals, then moving them slightly out of tune and counting the beats or sometimes just squeezing the interval a bit (or some similar term).

Thankfully I only have guitars and whistles to deal with and thus am exiled in my own company - my tuning doesn't have to agree with anybody!


Mick


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Raedwulf
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 05:20 PM

Thanks, Jack. It was more than a suspicion, but I was writing from old learning and was a tad reluctant to be too definite in my statements, lest I be corrected. I'm sure you understand... ;-)

Paul - that's a very good question! I'd be interested in the answer if anyone knows it...


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 05:22 PM

Last was meant to follow on from Jack.

Paul according to wikipedia on Mersenne He was the first to measure the length of the seconds pendulum, that is a pendulum whose swing takes one second, (though according to their article on the second, seconds really became accurately measurable by pendulum clocks after William Clement's clock of 1670). So presumably Mersenne manufactured his own seconds.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 14 Dec 11 - 05:54 PM

Mozart's tuning fork (or perhaps one of them) is still in existence, and reveals that he tuned a whole semitone down from A440. His arias must have been a lot easier for the sopranos, if perhaps harder for the basses.

Or perhaps the other way round. Mozart would have had to live with whatever pitch standard an opera house used. He may have written The Queen of the Night's aria for a pitch a semitone lower than what the soprano was subsequently required to sing at.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,julia L
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 03:08 PM

My electronic tuner has settings for several different temperaments.

I have several different harps each with a different number of strings and constructed in various ways from differing woods . They each "sing" or resonate to different keys and temperaments and so have different personalities. In other words, the various shapes and materials seem to cause the tones to coalesce or ring in different places. This doesn't mean they can't be played with other instruments, just that one needs to be aware when tuning. Most of the time it's a compromise, but I like to occasionally play them solo in their most comfortable key and temperament. You can really hear the difference.

julia


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,julia L
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 03:11 PM

BTW- in Edward Bunting's collection of harp tunes from the 1790 Belfast harp festival, he notes a tune played by harpers to "try if the harp is in tune", other words a piece to be played to test the tuning


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 06:10 PM

Do you have a copy of that tune we could look at?

The interval sequence would probably say something about the temperament system in use.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 15 Dec 11 - 09:35 PM

In all this, it should be kept in mind that prior to Helmholtz and his creation of his "Helmholtz resonator" idea and derivation of accurate formulas for it, there was virtually NO WAY for anyone to tune each of the notes of a scale individually and to know that they were individually precisely related to specific frequencies. Even after that development made it reasonably possible to have separate references for each note, hardly anyone actually assembled the necessary sets of instrumentation.

While a particular musician might have had one, or even two or three tuning forks, it remained necessary to adjust all the other notes "by ear" from the pitches the few notes that might have been fairly accurately matched to the one or few tuning forks.

Helmholtz in fact tabulated the actual (measured) frequencies of a number of "standard" tuning forks, and identified the artists/orchestras/luthiers who used them. The "A" forks varied over at least a range of a few dozen Hz even with the somewhat crude accuracy of his measurements when compared to what we have easily now.

Although they are "relatively stable," even carefully made and meticulously stored tuning forks do change their pitch over even fairly short time periods, and the changes can be fairly dramatic in short times for those used daily, or at least frequently, or carelessly stored. (The platinum standard for the meter was discarded years ago because it kept changing its shape and size, and they said they kept it clean?)

Because of their generally larger size, organ pipes are less susceptible to pitch changes over time, so the recent (perhaps since mid 1800s or so) measurements of their pitches made with "fairly modern instrumentation" are probably the most reliable evidence of how music sounded in the past. Tuning forks can give some indication of where individual notes on a scale were placed, but tell almost NOTHING about how the other pitches within the scale were tuned.

Headlines (in some obscure places) appeared a few years ago when someone found Ledbetter's old 12-string in a closet, and multiple scholarly papers were written about how "it proved he tuned it" in such and various ways, thus "revolutionising" our understanding of his music(?). Of course I take my mandolin out about once per year and it's always perfectly in tune, but I doubt the Ledbetter soldered the tuning knobs when he first got it as I of course did.

Part of good history, or science, is knowing when to say "I don't know," although it's certainly lots of fun to make up explanations of the wisps in the mist. It's also a good idea to decide early on "what is it about this that matters most, in order to simplify things as much as possible."

John


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 05:02 PM

I love my snark.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: bluesunsets
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 06:06 PM

One of my professors (a viola player) was fond of saying that G-sharp is not in fact the same pitch as A-flat. Then again, he had the luxury of playing an instrument capable of any possible pitch within its range limitations. (Lack of frets will do that to you)

This, in my mind, brings up an important point in this argument -namely the acoustics of chords and our overtone system. With a string instrument, it is capable of listening for the overtones of a chord to get the sound to "lock in." This is especially evident with a major chord. If you do the first and fifth correctly, a "ghost note" of the third will come out, which is (I believe) slightly lower than what you have in a well-tempered instrument.

Instruments with tone holes, in contrast, are limited by where you place the holes, with various compromises being made based on the limitations of the overtone series used. This, more than the usage of the piano, I imagine would be the reasoning for the creation of a set tuning system. By creating a set pitch for each note in a scale, it then becomes possible for an instrument maker to create a consistent wind instrument. Brass instruments have the same problem, although it involves more being able to place in different size tuning slides than anything else.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Paul Burke
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 06:23 PM

The problem with organ pipes as evidence for old tunings is that they have been around for many years, during which time organ maintainers have, shall we say, buggered about with them a good deal. If a pipe is, to the ear of the tuner of 1802 or 1777 or 1913, a bit off, he can crop a bit off the top to sharpen it, or close it up a bit (just a bit) to flatten it... on top of the original variability of pitch and temperament, there is the taste and fashion of subsequent generations, in the case of old organs lots of them. It's a bit like old English churches, the Victorians were only the most notorious of a bunch of vandals happy to hack at window and wall to make it suit their taste.

bluesunsets- I'm sure your teacher was a brilliant musician, but what a wonderful excuse for not always hitting the note the hearer expects. With tone holes the player can bend the note (I'm not by any means good, but I can blow a quarter tone sharp or flat), and adapt to what he hears.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 11:15 PM

As Paul B points out, historical facts are of little use without real knowledge of the history they came from. For some old organs, the "maintenance history" may be well known, but the unk-unks must always be considered.

With respect to wind instruments, it's pretty obvious that the placement of the finger holes dictates what the notes will sound like, although skilled reed playes (except for "guarded reed" instruments) can produce sufficient "inflection" of the pitches to play very close to accurate pitches for the usual temperaments.

A really interesting problem comes with the brass instruments. Some inflection of pitch is possible, but there's the added quirk that many of the notes "played" are actually already harmonics of the fundamentals that are "fingered." (A French Horn actually has a fundamental below what a Tuba has, but most of the playing is done in third or fourth octave harmonics, if what I've been told is anywhere near being accurate.)

Although "the theory" says that an octave up should be exactly twice the frequency, that's never really quite true (even for strings), since the change in wave length affects the "end effect" for any common instrument, moving the effective end node to a different place than where it is for a different harmonic. Thus it should be expected that there "oughta be" differences between the difficulty of playing in one temper instead of another, even if the holes (or tube selections) are "placed right" for the particular temper elected. French Horn players are the only ones I can think of where the "fist in the bell" is - for the physicist - a means of "pulling the node back where it belongs" while ranging over a range of harmonics, which in their case is necessary because of fairly wide nodal location excursions. (The FH players describe it somewhat differently.)

As to the advantages of "fretless" instruments, the trombonists I've known have tended to brag about being the only brass that can play perfectly in tune - but they never did.

John


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 16 Dec 11 - 11:22 PM

I'm getting another snark for christmas, and I have one already, and my friend Paul Openshaw has got a snark too.

Come to Dorchester and you are in Snark infested waters!


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: GUEST,Jack Campin
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 01:59 PM

One of my professors (a viola player) was fond of saying that G-sharp is not in fact the same pitch as A-flat. Then again, he had the luxury of playing an instrument capable of any possible pitch within its range limitations. (Lack of frets will do that to you)

Flute tutor books from the 1720s to the 1860s often have different fingerings for G# and Ab, with G# flatter.

It's easy to do the same on a recorder, and when playing along with a moothie in A, I normally use a fingering that will give a flatter-than-ET G#, since moothies are tuned in some sort of just intonation or meantone.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 04:42 PM

moothies is a slang word for all harmonicas
moothies are not always tuned in some sort or mean tone of just intonatation., jack you are incorrect
some[especially chromatics] are tuned to equal temperament.more details taken form rick epping blog.A: Harmonicas can be tuned. Filing them at the end that is riveted to the reed plate lowers the pitch. Filing them on the free end raises it. Be very careful if you do this. Don't file too much, support the reed while filing and use an electronic tuner. It is quite possible that the pitch will drop a bit when you first start playing a re-tuned harp - BB

In modern Western music there is an intrinsic difficulty if not impossibility, in reconciling a tuning to both harmony and melody. Simply put, the closer the notes are to the normal tuning found on keyboards and quartz tuners, known as Equal Temperament, the rougher the chords will sound; likewise, the more pure the chords, the stranger the melody will appear to our ears. Chromatic harmonicas are usually tuned to Equal Temperament, which compromises harmonious chords in order to perform equally well in every key. Diatonic models are not required to perform in all keys so one has the opportunity to better harmonize the chords.

Marine Band style harps were originally tuned to Just Intonation, where the Major chords were absolutely pure. This worked well for the instrument when played as it usually was- solo or in concert only with other harmonicas. The Tonic, or blow chords, and the Dominant and Dominant 7th chords (1-4 draw and 1-5 draw respectively) sounded wonderful, and the ear would quickly adjust to the difference in melody as it was based on pure intervals anyway. Complaints arose when these models were called upon more and more to play and be in tune with other types of instruments, so gradually the tuning drifted closer to Equal Temperament. Finally, a point was reached when the Marine Band was so close to Equal Temperament that complaints started coming in that the chords sounded out of tune and that it was even beginning to affect the playing style of blues players. The note of the fifth hole draw has by far the greatest variance between Equal and Just tuning, and it was noticed that blues players were less inclined to play long, soulful notes on that hole than in earlier times, when the instrument was closer to Just Intonation. The arrival of the MS series offered the opportunity of a solution to the problem.

The Marine Band and Special 20 are the models favored by the more traditional players, blues or otherwise, who are likely to prefer a tuning closer to Just Intonation, especially on the 5 draw note. These two models, therefore, have recently been brought back closer to the original tuning, while still maintaining a certain compromise allowing them to fit in with other instruments. The MS models are tuned as the Marine Band was up to recently, a little closer to Equal Temperament in general, but with the distinction that the 5 and 9 draw are tuned well up, where they will sound right with other instruments, especially in the Sub-dominant chord in 1st position (5-6 draw).

The following charts are given showing the relative pitch of each note in the standard Marine Band, or Richter, tuning. The tunings are expressed in cents, the unit used with most quartz or strobe tuners, and show the variance from Equal Temperament. This variance is the same regardless of which key the instrument is tuned to or how close to A-440 it is pitched.

Original Marine Band Tuning (Just Intonation)

Hole #   1   2   3 4   5 6   7   8   9 10
Blow    0 -14 +2 0 -14 +2   0 -14 +2 0
Draw    +4 +2 -12 +4 -27 +6 -12 +4 -27 +6

Current Marine Band Tuning

Hole # 1   2   3 4   5 6   7    8 9 10
Blow   0 -12 +1 0 -12 +1   0 -12 +1 0
Draw +2 +1 -11 +2 -12 +3 -11 +2 -12 +3

Tuning for MS Models

Hole # 1   2 3 4   5 6 7   8 9 10
Blow    0 -10 +1 0 -10 +1 0 -10 +1 0
Draw   +2 +1 -9 +2 +3 +3 -9 +2 +3 +3

The numbers represent deviation in cents from established pitch, such as A-440 or A-442, a cent being equal to 1/100th of a semi-tone.

The Golden Melody Model 542 is tuned to Equal Temperament. Hohner diatonics are tuned to A-442 at moderate volume so that they should not drop below A-440 at full volume. All tunings represent compromises, so players into tuning their harps may wish to experiment in finding one to suit their own needs best. I use an English concertina to accompany some of my playing and have developed a tuning for this combination based on Meantone Temperament, another system which utilizes pure Major thirds. I play more in the sharp keys, so I centered this tuning at D. By placing the thirds halfway between Equal and pure, the concertina is in good tune with other instruments, at least in the common keys, and produces pleasing chords. Note that the English concertina has buttons for 14 different notes in an octave:

   Ab   Eb   Bb    F    C    G D
+11.5 +9.6 +7.6 +5.7 +3.8 +1.9 0

   A    E    B   F#   C#    G#    D#
-2 -3.9 -5.8 -7.7 -9.6 -11.6 -13.5

This article is becoming long-winded so I'll leave the topic of tools and techniques of tuning for later. Let me just say in response to a question regarding a note that went flat and would not stay up in pitch after being re-tuned, that when a reed goes drastically flat, a quarter-tone or more, it has likely developed an internal crack and will not stand up to playing. The harmonica should at this point be repaired or replaced.

Regards, Rick Epping (Hohner)

(FMI: "HELP! - crash course in reed tuning needed!" 23 Sep 94 HM, RB) (FMI: "Re: Chromatic Tuners" 31 Oct 94 FJM0 (FMI: Tuned bodies, just intonation" 18 Oct 94 WY) (FMI: "Re-calibrate A=440 (long -- was Re: Tuning questions..)" 29 Mar 95 HA)


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 05:04 PM

I'm glad I can't hear the difference most of the time. I just think of Charlie Bach's orchestra, the woodwind struggling to fit to what the strings were doing, and who tuned that f*** harpsichord? It's another case of what works is good, theory or not. Not to mention that two orchestras in the same town might use different tunings. I'm considering adding the 12th root of two to e and (1+SQRT(5))/2 as Holy Numbers of the Church of Pi.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 05:33 PM

The guy I play with (a) plays moothie a lot better than you do, Dick, and (b) plays a Marine Band only rarely and a chromatic almost never, in both cases for music where intonation is a whole nother ballgame. I am talking about playing traditional music on 24-hole diatonics, for the most part, and as Rick Epping implies, they are best tuned
to provide pure thirds.

Making the thirds just in a harmonica or other free-reed gives you much stronger chords - a harmonica is a quiet instrument and you need all the extra power you can get (not just in Western music: a Chinese mouth organ is much louder, but listen to their tuning). Same goes for a harpsichord in an orchestra for that matter.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 05:59 PM

listen JACK,I am not interested in your opinion of my harmonica playing, it has nothing to do with your erroneous statement.
if you are talking about 24 hole diatonics why did you not say that in the first place,this is what you said;
"since moothies are tuned in some sort of just intonation or meantone." that statement is simply wrong, so why dont you stop talking rubbish.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Paul Burke
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 06:15 PM

So how did it work, for a band of musicians Back Then, when the basic tuning was whatever you found when you got there, the fiddlers were playing natural intervals, the harpsichord was tuned to some local compromise, and the woodwinds were all tuned to whatever the chap drilling the holes thought was how your flute/oboe/ clarinet ought to sound, before you'd had to pull the barrel out a bit to make the whole shebang sound like you belonged in the same quarter of the universe?


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 17 Dec 11 - 06:39 PM

For an 18th century orchestra of the sort Bach was writing for, the instruments were made to play together. Intonation of baroque oboes and classical clarinets was reasonably accurate, and everything else could tune to them just as they do today. You would very rarely have an instrument from out of town joining in the band.

The tricky one was organs - retuning a large organ is something you do every few decades, not when some hot-shot trumpeter wants a gig. Often the organ would be set in some tuning that hadn't been used by the local orchestra for decades. So the result could, um, interesting. This article shows how Bach was sometimes driven to arrangements where the strings played in the organ's pitch and the recorders had to either be made in weird pitches or play in bizarre transpositions to fit in:

Tarasov on Bach cantatas featuring the recorder

(Warning: that made my brain hurt).


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 12:01 PM

My ears aren't good enough to tell the difference between the different systems.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 12:37 PM

The English concertina, invented by the physicist Charles Wheatstone, enjoyed a modest popularity as a parlor and concert instrument in Victorian Britain. Wheatstone designed several button layouts for the concertina consisting of pitch lattices of interlaced fifths and thirds, which he described in patents of 1829 and 1844. Like the later tonal spaces of the German dualist theorists, the concertina's button layouts were inspired by the work of eighteenth-century mathematician Leonhard Euler, who used a lattice to show relationships among pitches in just intonation. Wheatstone originally tuned the concertina according to Euler's diatonic-chromatic genus before switching to meantone and ultimately equal temperament for his commercial instruments. Among members of the Royal Society, the concertina became an instrument for research on acoustics and temperament. Alexander Ellis, translator of Hermann von Helmholtz's On the Sensations of Tone, used the concertina as a demonstration tool in public lectures intended to popularize Helmholtz's acoustic theories. The English concertina's history reveals the peculiar fissures and overlaps between scientific and popular cultures, speculative harmonics and empirical acoustics, and music theory and musical practice in the mid-nineteenth century."
Now here is an extract taken from Lee Oskars NOTES ON TUNING A HARMONICA.
"If you tune each note exactly to pitch according to your tuner, the result will be in so-called equal temperament. Equal temperament is common on many models of harps, such as the Lee Oskar Major Diatonic and the Hohner Golden Melody. This tuning is optimized for playing single notes and melodies, but the chords will sound a bit out. To make certain chords sound better, many harps are tuned to a justified (or just) intonation. Just intonation involves modifying the pitch of certain notes to make some chords sound better--but melody notes may sound flat or off key. Various compromised intonations that aren't quite just intonation and aren't equal temperament have been devised to try to work as well as possible for both melody notes and chords."
Jack, your statement was plain wrong, the lee oskar diatonic is tuned to equal temperament.
in my opinion the lee oskar MAJOR DIATONIC is the Diatonic harmonica that sounds best played with an English concertina.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 01:14 PM

Apparently, Kevin, neither are mine, and I've had gobs of formal musical training AND have had a moderately successful career as a professional musician:   clubs, coffeehouses, concerts, television. To my ear, any differences between "pure" tuning and equal temperament are too subtle to be of any concern, and to the vast majority of professional, career musicians, they are not.

Discussions of this kind, where some folks make a big deal out of how much holier "pure" temperament is, remind me of a guy I knew when I was studying music at the Cornish College of the Arts (in Seattle). This person was also a music student at Cornish. Very prissy type. He once announced that he was going to have to move to a different apartment (flat) because his refrigerator hummed in D and the buses went by in C#—and it kept waking him up at night! Thank God I'm not that "sensitive!" Life could really be Hell!

Actually, I'm sure he was putting on ("More sensitive than thou, you mere mortal!"). He really wasn't that great a musician.

I have very good relative pitch. I can identify intervals. If you were to play a single note, I couldn't tell you with precision what note it was, but if you were to follow it with another note, I could say, "That's a major third" or whatever. Perfect pitch is when one can tap a wine glass and accurately identify the ring as, say, an octave above Middle C.

Lest fear and confusion inhibit aspiring beginners, I'd say just don't worry about it!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Paul Burke
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 02:38 PM

Your mate's ear was only a few Hertz out if he thought it was a D- on 440Hz equal temperament that would be 294Hz, whereas the fridge hum harmonic (in this case good for both European 50Hz- 6th, and American 60Hz- 5th) would be 300Hz. I'm a bit surprised he didn't hear a B (62/123.5/185/247Hz).

I wonder why buses were in c#? The turbo on the engine perhaps? It all reminds me of a vaguely- remembered story of some music professor at an English university. The students would torment him by playing a hanging chord on a piano in a room below his, late at night, then leaving the room. The professor would have to get out of bed, dress, go down to the room and resolve the chord before he could sleep.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Don Firth
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 02:52 PM

Paul, I don't remember what pitches this guy actually said. This was some forty-five years ago! For the sake of example, I just picked a couple of random pitches.

Yeah, I've heard the same story about the music professor. I think he must have taught at every music school in the solar system.....

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 05:57 PM

in my opinion the lee oskar MAJOR DIATONIC is the Diatonic harmonica that sounds best played with an English concertina.

I don't think I've ever seen a Lee Oskar diatonic other than their 10-holes, and I've seen a lot of moothies.

I don't play with English concertinas much - I find some easier to tune in with than others - Norman Chalmers's instrument seems more friendly than most. It would make sense for somebody playing Scottish music to get their instrument retuned to something like meantone centred on G or D; maybe Norman did that?


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 09:12 PM

As to the difficulty of playing other instruments with the organ, with very few exceptions I don't think I've ever heard/seen that done in the few places where an organ was available and might have been used.

The organ was presumed to be a "complete" instrument, and usually or often accompanied the choir; but good choral harmony generally is pretty much in "just tuning" even if it's an accident (although not as close as Barber Shop?) and voices are so flexible that it wouldn't matter a lot except on a chord-by-chord basis.

If instruments were used, it was usually a solo or small ensemble performance, and the organmeister got a chance to take a nap. If a larger group of individual instruments played, it was an "orchestra" considered "complete unto itself," and again the organist took a timeout.

There have been special events, when one of the classical orchestras helped to demonstrate a new organ by playing along (usually because of a new home for a restored classic organ?) but does someone know of a common usage of the sort, perhaps historically, where the organ played with the orchestra as a regular form of performance?

My curiosity is just whether it really happened very often.

John


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 09:30 PM

Read the Tarasov article. The organ was used as a continuo in any large-scale music from the Baroque where it was available. Most of Bach's cantatas would have been written to be played that way.

As Tarasov explains (or assumes), the choir sang to the organ all the time, so they used the organ's pitch, hence the name "Chorton" for whatever pitch standard the organ was tuned to. The orchestra might play in places where there was no organ a lot of the time, hence used their own pitch standard, "Kammerton". The difference between the two (in a single musical establishment in a single place) could be as much as a minor third, and was not the same on every occasion when Bach was writing a cantata. So some of these early cantatas are scored with the orchestra in one key and the choir and organ in another.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 18 Dec 11 - 10:41 PM

Jack -

I suspected there should be good examples.

The alternation of organ and orchestra should be included of the list of ways that the differences in tuning and temper were accommodated, perhaps; just to make sure it isn't ignored in whatever scholarly papers result from here.

I don't see an accidental difference in tuning pitch within expected ranges between organ and orchestra (chorus and response?) being a problem with alternation, and it might have been an effective device as demarcation of the switch. Different tempering (if present) probably wouldn't even be recognized by most, except by (some of) the players when the two play simultaneously.

John


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Will Fly
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 05:27 AM

Al - I was given a snark by a guitar playing mate some weeks ago, and I didn't even have to go hunting it.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 08:06 AM

"I don't play with English concertinas much - I find some easier to tune in with than others - Norman Chalmers's instrument seems more friendly than most. It would make sense for somebody playing Scottish music to get their instrument retuned to something like meantone centred on G or D; maybe Norman did that? "
in my opinion not a good idea, for a start what about a major , or some of the tunes in b flat or g minor.
if you want to do that get a 20 key g d anglo


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Tootler
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 08:11 AM

in my opinion the lee oskar MAJOR DIATONIC is the Diatonic harmonica that sounds best played with an English concertina.

I don't think I've ever seen a Lee Oskar diatonic other than their 10-holes, and I've seen a lot of moothies.


Yes all Lee Oskars are 10 hole moothies, but they are available in four different tunings, Major Diatonic, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melody Maker.

More information here

I like my snark too, btw.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: The Sandman
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 09:48 AM

all fretted instruments such as tenor banjos, mandolins bouzoukis, citternes, guitars, plus all systems of concertinas, english, anglo chromatic and duet, are tuned[as i understand it], to equal temperament, plus pianos and piano accordions. if you start doing as jack suggests you start to become exclusive, isnt the whole purpose of music to be inclusive, to include the fretted instruments and the concertinas.
30 key anglo concertinas, 36 and 40 key, are fully chromatic, to play in the different keys you have to be in equal temperament.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Jack Campin
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 10:25 AM

Thanks Tootler, that Lee Oskar page is informative. Any idea what the tune used on the harmonic minor demo is? It starts out like "Sakura" and then heads off to the Ukraine.

George usually has an F natural minor Lee Oskar in his bag. I have sometimes managed to persuade him to get it out to play along with me for some Scottish tunes in extreme flat keys (like Nathaniel Gow's "Mr Ronald Crawford" in F minor). A 24-hole in the same tuning would work better.

Tunes in flat keys are an argument *for* unequal tunings. When they were written they were not intended to sound the same as the one- or two-sharp majority.


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Subject: RE: Tuning in ye olde days!
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 19 Dec 11 - 11:54 AM

I am not all that keen on my snark. I much prefer my much cheaper 3000ET.


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