RE: equal and just tuned harmonicas
- Subject: RE: equal and just tuned harmonicas
- From: "Molitor, Stephen" <SMolitor@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2003 11:43:55 -0600
>>Rainbow Jimmy wrote:
>>If you have problems with the chords and octaves on a Lee Oskar you will
>>have problems with chords and octaves on a piano or a guitar tuned to a
>>tuner since they are tuned to an equal scale.
> Pat Missin wrote:
>Not surprisingly, I also use JI on guitars and keyboards. However,
>temperament is much more of an issue with the harmonica for various
I would also point out, as I'm sure Pat knows, that this is not just a
'harmonica' issue. Players of other fixed pitch instrument with sustained
notes have struggled with the same problem. That's why you can buy
accordions, concertinas, etc. in just (or 'compromise just' -- sorry for the
bad terminology Pat) tuning. Players on these instruments also notice the
rough chords with ET tuning.
As Pat pointed out, within the 'fixed pitch sustained notes' instrument
category, the harp has it fairly easy as the combination of notes that can
be played at the same time is fixed. You can't play a draw and a blow note
at the same time.
The organ has it the worst, as any two notes can be played at the same time.
That's why virtually all baroque organs, and many modern pipe organs, are in
fact *not* tuned to ET (or modern piano tuning either), but to some
compromise tuning. JI would sound great in one key, but horrible in others.
ET would sound equally rough in all keys. So the idea is to tune the organ
so that it sounds reasonably good (better than ET, but not as good as JI) in
most of the keys that one usually plays in, and only a few really odd keys
Baroque composers often took advantage of this, and might write a melancholy
movement in say e flat minor, which might sound fairly sour and give the
movement 'character'. Then the next movement in a more in tune major key
would sound bright, harmonious and wonderful. This also partially explains
why baroque composers felt that each key had a different 'character'. With
ET, there's no acoustical difference from one key to another. But with the
various compromise organ tunings (which were also used on the harpsichord,
although the difference is not as noticeable there due to the lack of
sustain), different intervals sounded different in different keys, giving
each key it's 'character'. Contrary to popular belief, Bach almost
certainly did not play on ET tuned organs. Or so I've been told -- I'm no
expert. There's a whole slew of various 'compromise' tunings; fortunately
we harp players don't have to worry about them, because we can only play a
fixed set of notes at the same time.
Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that the 'rough chords' problem
is not imaginary, and it's more of a problem with sustained, fixed pitch
instruments like harmonica, organ, etc. That's why piano and guitar players
don't worry about it much, but why harmonica, concertina, accordion, and
pipe organ players do.
Another point: I've just started getting into amplified playing. At first
I thought that JI vs. ET wouldn't matter as much when playing amplified,
because your sound is so distorted anyway. But I'm finding that it does
matter a lot. The amp really brings out 'undertones' sometimes, and those
undertones can be way out of tune (completely different notes that don't fit
in with the chord) with ET, but can sound cool with JI tuning. Of course
you can dial the undertones out by tweaking the EQ, which might be desirable
in some band situations. But aside from the undertones, the 'beating'
associated with ET is much more pronounced with an amp. At least with my
amp. Sometimes that beating can sound cool; it gives you the sound
associated with the amplified chromatic a little bit. But the difference
can be very pronounced.
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