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Thread: Sweetened tuning

  1. #51
    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post
    I wonder if that's why some of the pre-Bach, and some Bach, pieces have occasional notes that, when played on modern instruments, sound horribly dissonant and clashy and harsh, like "Why would anyone write that, it sounds awful."
    I used to think they must have just liked clashy weird music back then, some sort of style or fashion of the times.

    But, if old composers were writing for different temperaments, that would explain a lot. They might be horrified to hear how their compositions sound on modern pianos etc.

    I did notice, early on in my piano lessons, that the major 3rds were so sharp as to be almost unlistenable.

    I can see I have much reading to do.

    We all have to, I believe.

    Thanks for the links!
    Those questions are highly debated among organists. Some suggest that those bad major thirds were intentional for certain effects, which may be true or not. Others ask, whether there is proof that Bach ever played an organ recital off of his own written music. (There is proof of him improvising for hours.) In other words, those pieces may have been written to make some money from students, who needed pieces for practicing at home. Far-off key demand certain fingering patterns.

    Most pipe organs were tuned in meantone temperament (with 8 pure major thirds and 4 unusable). This means that a Bach-piece in eb would sound awful because the piece would inevitable lead to an ab chord, whereas there is only an unusable g# in meantone temperament. One may ask, if you don't know either the temperament Bach intended nor the pitch (many Northern European organs where tuned 1 half note higher than today), why would anybody play in the key of eb, just because Bach wrote it like that instead of transposing, an art Bach knew perfectly BTW.

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  3. #52
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    This has turned into quite the discussion. Since I took up playing Scandinavian music a few years ago, have learned to not rely on any tuner and more on my ear. Quite often because an accordion is tuned the way the maker (or the repairperson) wanted it to sound. For me, that means getting close and hoping that when we're switching keys (even within a song) that it doesn't sound too far out of tune. So far, hasn't happened. It's also why many accordions have "dry" and "wet" settings. The wet makes it sound better with an instrument like a mandolin.

    Had been thinking about getting a Peterson HD yesterday. Ended up just getting a Snark SN-8 instead. Close enough for my musical needs, and I like the display.

    Oh, and in old-time music, if it takes the banjo player 5 minutes to tune between key changes, there might be something wrong with the banjo. Usually the folks I play with can do it in a minute. Sometimes under. Depending on the tuning. They might drag it out a bit if they are telling a story. That happens, too.

    FWIW, I do my own version of sweetened tuning on guitar, using a combination of Tony Rice and Norman Blake. Get it close, then tune the G notes on the E strings to the G, the D on the B string to the open and double check to make sure the B is still close to the low B (on the A string).
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  5. #53
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Very interesting topic! My experience with this started when I began playing guitar, especially electric. This ended up forcing me to learn several things.

    1) The better your instrument (generally) the more accurately you can adjust the intonation.
    2) The average person at a music store cannot adjust the guitar to my liking.
    3) I read up on intonation adjustment (pre-internet) to understand what was going on.
    4) I did my own setups and made lots of errors but learned along the way.

    Then I arrived at the following understanding.

    Stringed fretted instruments are only capable of so much accuracy.
    The set of strings can make a big difference.
    You can adjust all you want but you have to "fudge" a little based on the music you play.
    The playing environment has a lot to do with staying in tune.
    Very, very few listeners can tell as long as you are closer than 95% in tune all around.
    The average musician can't tell within 95% accuracy.

  6. #54
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    As this conversation has taken all sorts of twists and turns, including into the realm of historical methods of tempering, check out this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enharmonic_keyboard

    When playing or singing in just intonation, an Ab and a G# are not exactly equivalent. This keyboard was an attempt to bring a fixed-pitch instrument closer to just intonation.

    Since no one has yet brought up the horrors of auto-tune, shall we go there? Cochiti Don got close. While auto-tune can be a mercy in the case of a tin-eared singer, it also takes much of the humanity out of music. A truly great singer—Frank Sinatra comes to mind—masters expressive intonation. Sweet, low thirds, leading tones that actually lead, so-called blue notes in jazz, all the tiny variations of pitch that make for an emotionally resonant performance are a big part of what separates out a truly great singer.

    Playing a fretted instrument, we can't control any of those gradations in pitch, but knowing they exist explains why are never totally satisfied with the instrument's intonation.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Well said Louise, I have been trying for years to explain all of this but never knew the correct terms to use, "Sweetened "tuning is something I had never heard of before this thread...I always use a electronic tuner to get my D string in tune and then adjust the others by ear, after all my ear is what has to agree with what I am playing....Other people have their own way of doing the same thing so as long as they are happy with the what their mandolin sounds like that is fine...

    I am kind of curious as to what a "Reno" mandolin is?

    Willie

  9. #56
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Willie, the Reno was an antique-store find. It turned out to be a small, New Mexico–based label. My mandolin was built in 1988. From what I can ferret out, the luthier died later that year and the company folded. Too bad, as he made beautiful instruments.

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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    I am a professional trumpet player employed mostly in church settings playing classical style music. I have a hard time playing with and get physically tired when I have to play along with a digital organ rather than an acoustic pipe organ. Perfect tuning is not always the best idea.

  11. #58
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    As this conversation has taken all sorts of twists and turns, including into the realm of historical methods of tempering, check out this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enharmonic_keyboard
    From article footnotes:
    Rasch 2009, p. 61: "Enharmonic music is music... that is mostly to be found in the surroundings of enharmonic instruments. Without those instruments nearby, it makes little sense to produce such music"
    Well, yeah
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  12. #59
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Duffin, Ross W., How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)
    I bought that book and read it a few years ago. The history in the first part was very interesting.

    But then, the later part of the book was basically ranting about the evils of 12TET without offering a way out of the dilemma, other than maybe keeping a piano in Just intonation for one or two keys. Not really a solution. But maybe I'm remembering it wrong, it's been a while since I've read it. Definitely recommended for the historical background.

  13. #60
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Sterling View Post
    I am a professional trumpet player employed mostly in church settings playing classical style music. I have a hard time playing with and get physically tired when I have to play along with a digital organ rather than an acoustic pipe organ. Perfect tuning is not always the best idea.
    I'm curious, with all the modeling software out there, is there a program that could be used to offer different tunings for digital organs? I'd think this would be an available option, but maybe not..

  14. #61
    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    I'm curious, with all the modeling software out there, is there a program that could be used to offer different tunings for digital organs? I'd think this would be an available option, but maybe not..
    Absolutely, the "Cantus" (by Kisselbach) comes with 6 different temperaments. But that's just a digital electronic instrument. I'd hesitate to call it organ.

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  16. #62
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    This is cultural conditioning more than anything else. If you're like me, you grew up surrounded by 20th Century "Western" pop music, which by virtue of being dominated by guitars and pianos is entirely 12TET. Our ears are trained to hear it as normal, and we subconsciously ignore the discrepancies.
    I've played with Turkish musicians that tune and play in just intonation based on Pythagorean tuning. Notes can be 1/9th of a whole tone apart.

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    If anyone wants to really geek out about intonation and temperament, there are two good books on my shelf (and probably more that aren't).

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

    .................
    I need to read that, since it seems 12TET seems to be based on the ability to harmonize in all 12 keys on a 12 tone per octave keyboard.

    Now if the book was called How Equal Temperament Ruined Folk Music (and Why You Should Care)

    I would already get it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    The whole point of Bach's well-tempering system, and our current use of equal temperament, is to allow the use of all key signatures.
    ...............
    And that could be done without 12TET, btw.

    http://www.math.uwaterloo.ca/~mrubin...ng/tuning.html

    http://www.colinbooth.co.uk/bach-n-tuning.pdf

    https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature...thing%E2%80%99

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Any "sweetening" will come with benefits and drawbacks. Does one outweigh the other?
    That depends on what you want musically.

    I need to play in all 12 keys with full chordal harmony so I like 12TET.

    If I played certain other styles of music I may prefer using another tuning system.

  17. #63

    Default Re: Sweetened tunning

    I just got my Peterson clip on strobe tuner... and gave it a go on my mandolin and two of my guitars. OH MY GOODNESS... sooooo sweet! I’m loving it!
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  19. #64

    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    The aspect of "sweetened" tuning that hasn't been mentioned is this:"Sweetened" tuning doesn't sweeten different keys, it sweetens different shapes. In equal temperament, some intervals are widened, some are narrowed. If you sweeten a string to raise the third of a chord, if you use a different shape and the third of the chord is now on a different string, then sweetening can make the temperament worse, not better.

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  21. #65
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    (I posted the following text in another, related thread, under Equipment, called "Stroboclip HD prefers harmonic to fundamental problem," which interested folks might want to read in its entirety. But I am re-posting it here for convenience.)

    Well, I am a sweetening skeptic when it comes to the mandolin.

    There's a famous saying, often wrongly attributed to Napoleon or Sun Tzu (but is probably from Helmut von Moltke), to the effect that "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy!"

    Much the same can probably be said about tuning a mandolin to something other than equal temperament. So I offer the folks of the MC this analogous aphorism: "No attempt to sweeten your tuning will survive past the first performance!"

    All of these so-called "sweeteners" are key-specific. They favor some keys at the expense of others. Furthermore, they only adjust the tuned notes up or down by a several cents. But most instrument-mounted electronic tuners -- except for strobe tuners -- are only good to within a few cents, anyway. So the other instruments in a band will usually differ up or down by a few cents either way, obliterating almost any effect of sweetening unilaterally. Add to that the fact that the more sensitive strobe tuners will show you very clearly that the pitch of a picked note (with the string struck as when actually playing, not lightly brushed with a finger for tuning!) is never perfectly stable, changes continuously after it's struck, first going sharp and then flattening. So the long and short notes in a piece will sound with slightly different pitches (and which one do you decide to tune to?). Finally, the vast majority of freshly-tuned mandolins will fail to hold their tuning to within a few cents over the course of a single performance. Not even if they're equipped with the best mechanical tuners, well-lubricated nuts, and broken-in strings.

    In 12TET, we are used to hearing harmonic intervals that are routinely off by several cents: as much as 15, in fact, for major and minor thirds, which you very often hear in folk music, or 17 for a tritone, which you seldom hear. You get used to it.

    In my opinion, those who claim that mandolin "sweeteners" are improving their playing sound are being deceived by something akin to a placebo effect. Or perhaps, the real improvement they are associating with the "sweetening" is actually coming from the guitar, Dobro, or banjo in the ensemble, where open string intervals matter much more. And I doubt that the subtle, small differences associated with all this sweetening are stable for more than a minute or two, unless you all retune for every single tune played.

    This constant retuning might work for recording (but then again, there are other ways of playing with pitches with modern recording, after the fact), but it is simply not practical for most stage performances. I have seldom heard two fretted instruments that are within a couple of cents of one another on most notes while playing together. Start picking higher up the neck on your mandolin and you will be off by a few cents, one way or another (this is a compensation issue). Pick louder or softer and you will also be off by a few cents, too. It can't be helped. These small changes are at the same level as any so-called sweetening, by the way.

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  23. #66
    Registered User mandocaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sweetened tuning

    Have you seen the classic movie "Key Largo" with Bogart, Bacall, and EG Robinson? Everyman Bogart asks gangster Robinson what he wants. After all, the gangster already has money and power.
    Robinson says he simply wants "more".
    For myself, what I want is to be more in tune to my own ear, whether playing solo, ensemble, with a fiddler or with a digital piano player. I know there is no perfection 12TET, Just, and all that. This discussion is moot unless there is an extremely fine setup that is optimized for the particular brand and gauge of strings, the bridge has not drifted a 32nd of an inch with string changes, the nut grooves are precisely cut (not by the 17 year old kid at the guitar shop), and the frets. Oh my gosh, the frets wear flat spots so the crowns aren't in the right place any more.
    If you are getting the idea that this is driving me crazy you would be right. Sometimes. Sometimes I spend five minutes carefully tuning and it sounds glorious for quite a while.

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