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#2258779 - 04/08/14 05:50 PM Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament?
WellTemperedPizza Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/13
Posts: 64
Loc: London, UK
From what I've read, well-temperament is described as a great innovation that allowed all keys to be usable, while allowing each one to retain its 'character'. If equal temperament steamrolls over this, why was it adopted?

Could someone please explain why this change in dominant tuning occurred, and what the main benefits of equal temperament are over well temperament? Thank you.

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#2258786 - 04/08/14 06:08 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
bkw58 Offline

Silver Supporter until December 19, 2014


Registered: 03/14/09
Posts: 1728
Loc: Conway, AR USA
(Is Bill Bremmer in the house?)
_________________________
Bob W.
Retired piano technician
Piano Technicæ Blog

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#2258788 - 04/08/14 06:10 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Johnkie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/11
Posts: 718
Loc: England
Oh nooo... not again ... please don't start this topic off again, it's all been said before frown
_________________________
Concert Tuner & Technician for the past 49 years in the United Kingdom
and Member of the Pianoforte Tuners' Association (London)
www.jphillipspianoservices.freeindex.co.uk : E-mail jophillips06@aol.com

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#2258797 - 04/08/14 06:35 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
accordeur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1197
Loc: Québec, Canada
Yes!!!! Like Johnkie says, not again!! Please use the search feature on the upper left of your screen.
_________________________
Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca

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#2258803 - 04/08/14 07:04 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: Johnkie]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2101
Loc: Maine
Originally Posted By: Johnkie
Oh nooo... not again ... please don't start this topic off again, it's all been said before frown

And HOW! It's been covered ad nauseam. I now know more about the subject by skimming through fight-threads than I ever wanted to know.
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2258815 - 04/08/14 07:28 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
WellTemperedPizza Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/13
Posts: 64
Loc: London, UK
I've tried searching for similar topics but have had difficulty finding the information I'm looking for. Could someone perhaps link me to some topics that covered this?

I did manage to find this post: http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2198134/Re:_The_tuning_wars:_%E2%80%98Equal_te.html#Post2198134

But I don't understand how what's explained here would make ET an attractive choice over WT. What's the benefit of this 'ever present dissonance', and is this the main reason the switch was made?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Edit: This topic doesn't seem to be covered in the board FAQ (unless I've missed it). If this is the case, perhaps it could be added if it's such a common subject here?


Edited by WellTemperedPizza (04/08/14 07:31 PM)

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#2258822 - 04/08/14 07:38 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
accordeur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/06
Posts: 1197
Loc: Québec, Canada
Use the google custom search top left of your screen. The in-house search is no good.
_________________________
Jean Poulin

Musician, Tuner and Technician

www.actionpiano.ca

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#2258823 - 04/08/14 07:39 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
David Jenson Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/22/06
Posts: 2101
Loc: Maine
_________________________
David L. Jenson
Tuning - Repairs - Refurbishing
Jenson's Piano Service
-----

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#2258826 - 04/08/14 07:48 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Johnkie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/11
Posts: 718
Loc: England
I'm sure Bill Bremmer would gladly discuss it with you WTP, he's passionate and articulate on the subject. Why not consider asking him via a PM though rather than starting up the inevitable arguments that have all too frequently occurred over this very issue in the past. That way Bill may well be prepared to answer your question without differing views leading to countless posts, once again being rehearsed here in public.
_________________________
Concert Tuner & Technician for the past 49 years in the United Kingdom
and Member of the Pianoforte Tuners' Association (London)
www.jphillipspianoservices.freeindex.co.uk : E-mail jophillips06@aol.com

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#2258830 - 04/08/14 08:02 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
WellTemperedPizza Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/26/13
Posts: 64
Loc: London, UK
Thanks for the link David, much appreciated. I'll read through this, and if I'm unclear on things after that I'll be sure to take up Johnkie's suggestion and PM Bill Bremmer requesting more information.
I'm not trying to ignite a forum war though, honest guv!

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#2258861 - 04/08/14 09:28 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Greetings,
The temperament question has never gone away, not since Pythagoras. I have a web site that covers one perspective on it, and there are free recordings of comparisons you can hear. Info on the site under my name.
Regards,

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#2258888 - 04/08/14 10:42 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Bill Bremmer RPT Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3226
Loc: Madison, WI USA
I think you may have seen what the advantage of Equal Temprament (ET) is from those who don't want to even see the subject of Well Temperament or any other non-equal temperament raised. The advantage is that if nobody would ever talk about any other kind of alternative, then there would be no alternative and whatever anyone did would be ET. No matter how far off you really got using a sequence published in many books, it's still ET because you tried to tune according to those instructions, you meant it to be ET and you believed it was ET. That's the advantage!

If, on the other hand, you actually have some knowledge about the intent and purpose of the Cycle of 5ths, you are dangerous, disruptive, contrary to what everyone else believes and people just wish you would go away and never come back. The greatest fear that all of those who answered you by telling you not to bring up the subject have is that one day, THEY will be asked to tune another kind of temperament and they just don't want to have anything to do with it. That's the disadvantage of Well Temperament, et al.

More disadvantages to Well Temperament, et al., are that nearly anyone you know will not have any idea at all what you are talking about. You'll have difficulty bringing up the subject with virtually any musician you may meet. If you persist, you may well be seen as some kind of kook. You'll be told that all kinds of other aspects of piano technology are far more important than temperament. Unisons, octaves, voicing, regulation, etc., all will outweigh any consideration of temperament. Whatever you may perceive as some kind of advantage simply does not matter to all of those who first answered you and filled an entire page with their denouncements.

That is the disadvantage. It is a disadvantage I have known about now going on 30 years and one which I just as carelessly tossed off as all of those who answered you on the first page. I have built my business on not acquiescing to what the disadvantage is. For me, the disadvantage has long been an advantage and I will never turn back from it!

Curiously enough, your question on here seemed to me as if it was a deliberate plant by what they call a "sock puppet". Someone who assumes a fake name and plants a loaded question just to see what kind of trouble can be stirred up. However, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and answered your question candidly.

The advantage of ET is that any and all other possible systems can be swept under the rug. If that practice continues long enough, no one will ever ask again the kind of question you have asked. The result of doing that, however is that the perceived neutrality that is touted as a benefit or advantage of ET quite easily becomes a backwards version of what is so desperately trying to be eradicated.

Alternative ideas and methods are not what are destructive and dangerous but the deliberate suppression of them is!
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#2258890 - 04/08/14 11:07 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7438
Loc: Rochester MN
Hallo wohltemperierten Fleischpastete,

This is a major discussion, and not just at Piano World.

Here is a link to help you start your studies:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=equal%20temperament&sprefix=equal+t%2Cstripbooks
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2258891 - 04/08/14 11:08 PM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Jon Page Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/13/09
Posts: 274
Loc: Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massac...
The question is still unanswered. Defensive posturing aside, I believe WTP is asking: Why did ET overtake WT or all MMT's, for that matter. What was it about ET that kicked all others to the curb? Was it the just latest fad that really caught on? Was it the Holy Grail of tuning schemes? Was it that everyone decided that they needed to get behind a single standard and ET was the one most could get behind? Did improved construction and materials development play a role? ??
_________________________
Regards,

Jon Page
Piano technician/tuner
Harwich Port, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
http://www.pianocapecod.com

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#2258908 - 04/09/14 12:23 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
DoelKees Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/01/10
Posts: 1723
Loc: Vancouver, Canada
Originally Posted By: WellTemperedPizza
From what I've read, well-temperament is described as a great innovation that allowed all keys to be usable, while allowing each one to retain its 'character'. If equal temperament steamrolls over this, why was it adopted?

Could someone please explain why this change in dominant tuning occurred, and what the main benefits of equal temperament are over well temperament? Thank you.


There are many opinions on this subject. Exactly how many you can track on this website.

Kees

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#2258966 - 04/09/14 04:29 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Chris Leslie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/11
Posts: 625
Loc: Canberra, ACT, Australia
WellTemperedPizza,

1) I believe that equal temperament became increasingly desirable, and necessary, when music was becoming more complex in term of tonality, texture and harmony.

2) Many people, including myself, do not experience any "character" associated with well temperament keys. They are each merely out of tune to a more or less degree. "Character" is, in my musical appreciation, inherent in the music itself, the interpretation and the timbre.

3) Nobody complains about lack of key character with vocal and non-keyboard instrumental ensembles where key temperament is a non-issue.

4) Iwould be interested if you could post an example of an equally tuned piano that, in your opinion, does not sound right because of lack of a well temperament.


Edited by Chris Leslie (04/09/14 05:37 AM)
_________________________
Chris Leslie
Piano technician
http://www.chrisleslie.com.au

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#2258974 - 04/09/14 05:04 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7554
Loc: France
hello as I understand it, the switch was done with reluctance from temperaments with pure M3 to the ones where more keys could be used.

it mostly allowed more instruments to play together, so that benefit caused the use.
ET allow for new harmonies, then, as can be heard since the end of the 19th, and today in jazz.

There isno doubt that small discrepancies between slow intervals in a cycle of 5th gives a little more surprise to the ear when the music is played.
That said staying away of what would sound out of tune then is not that easy. Having "perfect pitch" when I listen toa tuning I generally can notice some intervals that doe not sound exactly similar to the next. Sometime it is appropriate, and at other times it can be annoying.

AT the piano "perfect" eveness can be attained while enlarging the octaves. The advantage gained in consonance can be lost by too much linearity, this also is not that easy to obtain while still giving the pianist and expressive instrument.

The usual small uneveness of iH at the piano creates yet some points of imbalance . As the piano can be supposed to be tuned "in tune with itself" it gives in my opinion enough contrast and personality to the scales and chords.

In any case Well temperaments sound "old" to me, while very even "perfect" tuning can be very sonorous and nice, leaving a neutral support for the music and musician to express themselves freely.

I understand the desire sometime to "get out" of the rails. But this is how our instruments are today, they must be highly portable , allowing to play different eras and style music.

The stability of our tuning is asking for a similar tuning day after day in concert venue. Unless this is an old historical perdiod instrument and we often forget stability.







Edited by Olek (04/09/14 05:05 AM)
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2258980 - 04/09/14 05:55 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Bernhard Stopper Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/22/08
Posts: 211
Loc: Germany
A groundbreaking theory about well temperament preference and equal temperament preference:

The cochlea of an individual preferring Equal temperament:




The cochlea of an individual preferring Well temperaments:

_________________________
Bernhard Stopper
www.piano-stopper.de

Salieri: "Mediocrities everywhere, now and to come: I absolve you all! Amen! Amen! Amen!"
(Amadeus, the movie)

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#2258992 - 04/09/14 06:42 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7554
Loc: France
More colorful assuredly

Different temperaments :



_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2258995 - 04/09/14 06:48 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Johnkie Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/11
Posts: 718
Loc: England
Well done Issac ... a little good humour to dampen the flames wink
_________________________
Concert Tuner & Technician for the past 49 years in the United Kingdom
and Member of the Pianoforte Tuners' Association (London)
www.jphillipspianoservices.freeindex.co.uk : E-mail jophillips06@aol.com

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#2259002 - 04/09/14 07:19 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: WellTemperedPizza
From what I've read, well-temperament is described as a great innovation that allowed all keys to be usable, while allowing each one to retain its 'character'. If equal temperament steamrolls over this, why was it adopted?
Could someone please explain why this change in dominant tuning occurred, and what the main benefits of equal temperament are over well temperament? Thank you.


Greetings,

The main benefit is that anyone can do it. It is the application of math to the musical scale, and it standardizes every note and interval. There is no need for subjective interpretation of varying levels of dissonance when they are all rendered equal. Many take comfort from this, and concentrate on pursuing perfection by pursuing equality. (Others find it boring and stultifying to listen to music without tonal contrasts and seek perfection in orderly progressions of color.)
There is a major benefit to manufacturers when there is standard unit to be measured.
There is a major benefit to technicians who want an easy way to measure their progress across the piano and don't want the responsibility of being artistically subjective in allotting the dissonance.

ET offers the same benefit to the tuner that a brick does to a mason. The regularity allows for universal application, a measurable approach to quality, and an ability to recreate the same result every time. This is the more profitable way to sell one's time. Of course, the supremacy of this tuning has its cost, which I would suggest is not unlike living in a world that is built entirely out of bricks. The modern building might look just right, but the cathedrals? The stone used is part of their character. Rheims would not look the same if built of brick, and the Seagram building would look weird made of fieldstone.

The difference is lost on many, and there is rarely as much resistance to non-et in the musical world as there is in the technical community. That should tell you something..
Regards,

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#2259008 - 04/09/14 07:26 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4940
Loc: Bradford County, PA
A similar question might be: "Why did humans start flying around in planes when there were steam trains available? There is a soothing rhythm that is missing on a plane." The answer is "progress." Another way to put it is "Nothing succeeds like success."

On a more obvious note (ahem), consider why there are 12 notes per octave. It is because of the circle of fifths. Does anybody seriously think that there would be well temperaments at all if somehow there was no Pythagorean comma? Wouldn't we all very happily tune twelve pure 4ths and 5ths and end up with a perfect octave and not give a hoot about the 3rds? Of course we would. And how do string players generally tune? With pure 5ths, not variously tempered 3rds, of course! So instead of doing what we can't, we do what we can: spread the comma out as even as possible so that the 4ths and 5ths sound virtually pure (equal temperament).

Sure, it is nice to ride a steam train on an excursion, and so too it might be nice to take a temperamental excursion in tuning, too. It just isn't where tuning has progressed to, that's all.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#2259016 - 04/09/14 07:41 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: UnrightTooner]
Ed Foote Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 1162
Loc: Tennessee
Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner


On a more obvious note (ahem), consider why there are 12 notes per octave. It is because of the circle of fifths.


Greetings,
I disagree. The octave has been recognized forever, but chopping it into 12 fifths is a relatively recent development in music. We have 12 notes per octave because we only have 10 fingers on our hands. If we had 8 fingers per hand 19 TET would make more sense.
For the first 500 years of keyboards that we know of, there were only 8 keys per octave, that then expanded, ultimately reaching beyond 12 notes, but there was no way to handle all the keys necessary. The 12 is a manually dictated arrangement and we have just gotten accustomed to having dissonance in the music.

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#2259020 - 04/09/14 07:52 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7554
Loc: France
Many old temperaments where using pure M3, not a cycle of 5th. It seems to depend of the region.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2259024 - 04/09/14 08:26 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: Ed Foote]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4940
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Originally Posted By: Ed Foote
Originally Posted By: UnrightTooner


On a more obvious note (ahem), consider why there are 12 notes per octave. It is because of the circle of fifths.


Greetings,
I disagree. The octave has been recognized forever, but chopping it into 12 fifths is a relatively recent development in music. We have 12 notes per octave because we only have 10 fingers on our hands. If we had 8 fingers per hand 19 TET would make more sense.
For the first 500 years of keyboards that we know of, there were only 8 keys per octave, that then expanded, ultimately reaching beyond 12 notes, but there was no way to handle all the keys necessary. The 12 is a manually dictated arrangement and we have just gotten accustomed to having dissonance in the music.


Well the answer is simple, then: Get rid of the black keys!

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. We are talking about 12 notes per octave for the good reason I have already stated.

Sorry, Mr. Foote, there is no rational reply for your post.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#2259026 - 04/09/14 08:27 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: Olek]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4940
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Originally Posted By: Olek
Many old temperaments where using pure M3, not a cycle of 5th. It seems to depend of the region.


And where are those temperaments now? As I said it is a matter of progress.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#2259028 - 04/09/14 08:30 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Gerry Johnston Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/12/13
Posts: 99
Loc: Haverhill, MA
One thing about this debate about ET vs. UT has always left me a bit baffled. Perhaps someone can shed some light.

It has been stated on this, and the PTG forums, that true ET is seldom achieved by aural tuning. I think that is probably correct. The aural tuner may be aiming for ET and the results may be "good enough to get by", but it is not a TRUE ET. Seems like a reasonable assertion to me.

O.K.then. Prior to the advent of the modern, very accurate ETD someone attempting to aurally tune a UT would certainly have had equally inconsistent results. A few centuries ago, when keyboard players tuned their own instruments, it seems highly unlikely that they would have achieved consistent results either - whatever the temperament they were aiming for.

So then, it seems quite likely to me that if "Joe" tuned a pianoforte for a Mozart concert one week and "Sam" tuned the same pianoforte for the same Mozart program the following week the resulting tunings could be quite different. Therefore, the "key colors" that are often mentioned as the advantage of UT would be different as well.

Of course, with the modern ETD consistency in whatever temperament one chooses is much more likely. But, it makes me question the historical accuracy of arguing about "key color" as the primary reason for various UTs. It certainly seems possible that a composer may have chosen certain keys because of their "color", but such choices would have been dependent as much on who tuned the piano and how close did he/she come to achieving an accurate result for the particular UT being attempted.

Am I missing something.
_________________________
Gerry Johnston, Registered Piano Technician
Haverhill, MA
(978) 372-2250
www.gjpianotuner.com

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#2259029 - 04/09/14 08:35 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: Olek]
Olek Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/14/08
Posts: 7554
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: Olek
Many old temperaments where using pure M3, not a cycle of 5th. It seems to depend of the region.


Used for the corresponding period music,where ET would be almost a nonsense. BUt then we are not talking of small differences in 5ths activity, a pure M3 is somewhat far from a tempered one.
_________________________
It is critical that you call your Senators and Representatives and ask them to cosponsor S. 2587 and H.R. 5052. Getting your legislators to cosponsor these bills


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#2259031 - 04/09/14 08:43 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
UnrightTooner Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/08
Posts: 4940
Loc: Bradford County, PA
Gerry:

Yeah, I think you are missing something in both the perception of ET and UT.

You mention "TRUE ET", but what is that, really? And can ETDs really do better than "good enough to get by" and aural tuning cannot? The point being that "good enough to get by" is, well, "good enough" to call it ET. (Not to mention how long will it stay that way...) smile

Likewise, I think variations in a particular UT would also be "good enough" to call it that particular UT.

See, nothing we creatures do can be "perfect" or "true". The best we can do is "good enough" to seem that way.
_________________________
Jeff Deutschle
Part-Time Tuner
Who taught the first chicken how to peck?

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#2259036 - 04/09/14 09:06 AM Re: Why the switch from Well-Temperament to Equal-Temperament? [Re: WellTemperedPizza]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7438
Loc: Rochester MN
It is unfortunate that the PTG membership doesn't require tests in Music History and Musicology. Supposition, rather than scholarship, just doesn't cut it.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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