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37 votes

Why can't notes be tuned according to a defined frequency?

We can tune each string/pipe to a given frequency as accurately as we need to for musical purposes. We can't do it so that they collectively satisfy several musically desirable properties, because ...
Kilian Foth's user avatar
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24 votes

With modern electronic technology is temperament unnecessary?

In principle, the answer is yes, with software instruments it is feasible to (re-)set the tuning so that you can realize music with modulation that stays in just intonation across these changes. The ...
Dave's user avatar
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21 votes
Accepted

Why can't notes be tuned according to a defined frequency?

Why can't notes be tuned according to a defined frequency? They can. But what we can't do is tune them to "the correct" frequency, because there are different ways in which the 'correct' frequency ...
Нет войне's user avatar
19 votes

Why does "just intonation" make it so different keys have different characteristics?

It doesn't. This myth arises from a confusion between just intonation, a tuning system in which no pitch is fixed, and various temperaments, which are different ways of assigning fixed pitches to the ...
phoog's user avatar
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17 votes

With modern electronic technology is temperament unnecessary?

You cannot even realize "just temperament" reliably when you are working with continuous-tone instruments like singers and trombones. Take a look at even something as old as J.S. Bach's mass in B ...
user31386's user avatar
  • 171
13 votes

With modern electronic technology is temperament unnecessary?

It's a bit more complicated than may appear at first glance. Within a single key, if Just Intonation makes the I,IV, and V chords all (4,5,6) ratios, the ii chord will be off. The other question is ...
ttw's user avatar
  • 25.6k
13 votes

Was equal temperament caused by the invention of the piano, or was it inevitable?

The earliest use of equal temperament was on fretted instruments with fixed frets. The ratio of 17:18 for the string length for successive frets is a good approximation to equal temperament. The ...
guest's user avatar
  • 211
13 votes

Outside of Equal Temperament, what decides the spelling of notes in a major scale?

I think the matter wasn't about intonation, but is historically related to the fact that the flat sign was developed first and Medieval music didn't have a sense of fix pitches for the staff. Long ...
Michael Curtis's user avatar
11 votes

With modern electronic technology is temperament unnecessary?

"just intonation better than equal temperament" Judgement call there. When instruments are slightly off perfect ratios, there can be very appealing beating and chorus effects. Piano strings are ...
Phil Freihofner's user avatar
10 votes

Just intonation within a piece

I think there are actually two separate (though interrelated) issues that you're asking about here. On the one hand, there's a question about music with pitches tuned to the overtone series of a ...
Pat Muchmore's user avatar
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10 votes

Was equal temperament caused by the invention of the piano, or was it inevitable?

Even without the piano (or even keyboard instruments), there were other forces pushing toward something close to equal temperament. The common narrative is that chromatic music was instrumental in ...
Athanasius's user avatar
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10 votes
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If the resolution of human hearing is approximately five cents, how can musicians play works with intonation changes of less than five cents?

With a bit of training, a good musician can hear differences of 2 cents, and with significant talent and/or a lot of practice, 1 cent. I base the above statement on my personal experience with ...
MMazzon's user avatar
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10 votes
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Outside of Equal Temperament, what decides the spelling of notes in a major scale?

Why is Bb preferred over A# in F major? In F major, Bb is the fourth scale degree. Thus, the "flat" doesn't really mean anything since Bb is naturally part of the scale. In terms of ...
user45266's user avatar
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9 votes
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Is a cappella xenharmonic by default?

I admire a lot of Adam's work, but I think he's exaggerating a bit about the reasons why choirs get off pitch. (Though he's stating a commonly held belief -- or perhaps common excuse.) Yes, most ...
Athanasius's user avatar
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9 votes
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Double bass harmonics are slightly flat?

If you're using a tuner, then you can safely use the octave harmonic to tune. She is wrong in saying blanketly that "the harmonics are slightly flat". Some are flat, some are sharp, some ...
Edward's user avatar
  • 8,542
9 votes

How to do just intonation interval ear training?

I second both Tim and El Ectric: There's no harm in using just intervals for this purpose, but I also doubt that it's your main difficulty. There are many questions about ear training on the site with ...
Andy Bonner's user avatar
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8 votes

Violin tuning, equal temperament or just intonation?

Violin tuning is a huge subject. If you google it you will see. The violin sounds the very best when you tune the strings into actual perfect fifths that means just fifths not equal fifths. It gives ...
Lars Peter Schultz's user avatar
8 votes

Why does "just intonation" make it so different keys have different characteristics?

The thing is, the theoretical just intonation ratios themselves aren't different between different keys. The differences between different keys only comes into play due to the fact that most ...
user45266's user avatar
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7 votes

Just Intonation confusion

To add to endorph's answer: If you're used to 12-equal temperament (the octave divided into 12 equal semitones), then playing in just intonation entails making distinctions you hadn't made before: ...
Rosie F's user avatar
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7 votes
Accepted

Just Intonation confusion

Just Intonation is a tuning system; that is, it defines the tuning of a scale. We commonly use equal temperament, which is a compromise (or temperament) that allows us to play in all keys with a ...
endorph's user avatar
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7 votes
Accepted

How are Just-Tuned scales beyond those of 12-notes constructed?

Your diagram indeed shows a 19-pitch Pythagorean scale. 19 just perfect fifths exceed 11 octaves by an interval of frequency ratio 319:230. This interval is about 137.145 cents. If you want to divide ...
Rosie F's user avatar
  • 5,192
7 votes

Why are bagpipes tuned using just intonation?

The reason doesn't seem to be a technical advantage but the favored traditional sound of the just tuning that bagpipers describe as more colorful and warmer: Patrick McLaurin writes in his bagpipe ...
Albrecht Hügli's user avatar
7 votes

Violin tuning, equal temperament or just intonation?

The difference between a just fifth and a perfect fifth is less than 2 cents. If you're playing solo, 99% of listeners will never notice the difference. If you're playing in an ensemble, 98% will ...
Dr H's user avatar
  • 506
7 votes

Why does "just intonation" make it so different keys have different characteristics?

Just intonation does not really have the concept of a key in the sense we tend to use it. Rather just intonation puts everything into relation to a root note. So if we have a change of harmony this ...
Lazy's user avatar
  • 20.9k
6 votes

How did Pythagoras and Ptolemy measure the relative pitch of musical notes?

To the best of my knowledge there was not a specific known frequency of one pitch that was compared to a specific known frequency of another pitch. However, it was relatively simple to pluck a ...
Vitor Estories's user avatar
6 votes

With modern electronic technology is temperament unnecessary?

The biggest issue here is that computer based virtual instruments just don't sound right. Even virtual versions of analog synthesizers don't sound quite like the real thing. Plus, the feeling and ...
Todd Wilcox's user avatar
6 votes

If the resolution of human hearing is approximately five cents, how can musicians play works with intonation changes of less than five cents?

At one point I did some exercises in pitch difference and could usually hear whether a second note was lower, higher or the same when the difference was 5 cents. I struggled with a 2 cent difference ...
user86768's user avatar
6 votes

Why can't notes be tuned according to a defined frequency?

One more problem is that piano strings are under far more tension than those in other instruments. On average, each string is under 200-300 pounds of tension. Unlike the violin or guitar or ...
ttw's user avatar
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