Microtonal music for beginners

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by bostjan, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    I didn’t think of an Ixlramp-style tuning shift between strings. That might actually work well, because I love M3rds tuning and I have a 9-String I’m setting up in 3rds. Since it’s a regular tuning, the chord shapes are the same everywhere, so different groups of strings can have different color.
     
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  2. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    I didn’t think of an Ixlramp-style tuning shift between strings. That might actually work well, because I love M3rds tuning and I have a 9-String I’m setting up in 3rds. Since it’s a regular tuning, the chord shapes are the same everywhere, so different groups of strings can have different color.
     
  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    That's a neat approach. Same shapes on different strings moved up or down so many frets to make the same root note would be the same chords, except with different built-in quirks.

    Might be fun to play around with a nine string fretted normally with each string tuned a neutral third higher than the last, z.B. E natural, G half sharp, B natural, D half sharp, F sharp, A half sharp, C sharp, E half sharp, G sharp. Every other string would be a fifth. Playing chords without any neutral intervals would require a lot of string skipping, though.

    I'm really happy to see a few topics around here related to microtonal stuff. :D
     
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  4. IGC

    IGC SS.org Regular

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    A little confusion on my behalf, I referred to standard 12 notes per octave as 12 EDO, I do realize that is incorrect ...and 24 EDO must be referring to the division of each note of the standard 12 notes per octave used to achieve the 1/4 step "microtonality"
    Diggin this thread tho, getting lots of good info :yesway:



    There was some Shania Twain stuff I was trying to learn back in the day for a girl, it required me to tune my guitar to E half sharp. So glad I am not the only one experiencing this phenomena with the pop country stuff. I can imagine with all the slide guitar stuff going on guitarists discovering new realms of tuning.
     
  5. Necris

    Necris Bonitis.

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    No, you were correct. A standard guitar would be referred to as a 12-EDO instrument. 12 equal divisions of the octave, thus twelve 100 cent intervals in an octave. 24-EDO is twenty-four 50 cent intervals in an octave.
    As an aside, you would think we'd refer to those 50 cent intervals as half-tones, but since a half-step/half tone is a common term for an interval of one semitone (a.k.a a minor second) the 50 cent interval is now a quarter tone since it's an interval that halves that. Things get even weirder in 36-EDO, since the 33.333 cent interval is referred to a as a 1/6-tone even though it's a third of a semitone; I suppose the logic from 24 just carried over. Confusing!
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
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  6. IGC

    IGC SS.org Regular

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    Ok, yes of course... 12 equal semitones/half steps....I was thinking in terms of the actual width of the first fret vs actual width of the say...9th fret, witch are not equal devisions, as the 9th is far slimmer than fret 1. I did understand that before my last post, guess there are more than one way to look at what is being said, witch can be so wrong yet so right. Anyhow, thanks for getting me back the right track.
    I will need to go back and read the posts about 19 EDO from you and BJ a few more times and think about/ analyze what was said more closely to get the big picture. But thanks and I may have some more questions in the near future:yesway:
    But now it's time to grocery shop, yay!
     
  7. IGC

    IGC SS.org Regular

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    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Where I tend to get tripped up is...

    Well, so... you know the classical modes? As in C Ionian (C Major), D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian, G Mixolydian, A Aeolian (A Natural Minor), B Locrian? Pretty easy to run through all of those on the standard keyboard or fretboard in standard tuning...Play all of the white keys, and just start on a different note. For me, it's a pretty fundamental idea in music theory.

    I can do exactly the same thing in 19-EDO, and I get a pleasant result. When I try in 22-EDO, though, things get really messy.

    First off, I don't even know what the darned notes are called. If I take one note and define it as "A," what is the next note even going to be? A half sharp? Whatever, I play A, then go up 4 frets... B, up 3 more C#, etc. The formula (in frets) is something like 4 3 2 4 4 4 2. So, since it's an equal temperament, I can start on any fret, and play the major scale by going up 4, then 3, then 2, then 4, and so on. To do the minor scale, I apply instead the formula 4 2 3 4 2 5 3. But there's no 5 in the major scale formula, so the major and minor scales are no longer modes of each other. Wild!

    IMO, it makes memorization of scales quite a bit more challenging.

    This is why I stick to 19-EDO so much. It's basically standard tuning with a few extra quirks and sweeter thirds and sixths. The more I mess with it, and the more I get usedto the way it sounds, the more it just seems plain to me.I mean, t, in terms of the way everything sounds when you just play "normally," it just sounds like regular old music, whereas 22-EDO and the other more "out" tunings have some characteristics that you really can't get away from.

    My aversion to teeny tiny frets is why I'm not all about 31-EDO or beyond. But, I think that might be the next logical step. 31-EDO represents all of the notes from the diatonic scale quite well, and it's a "meantone" tuning, so all of the usual western music theory stuff should apply.

    But, on the other hand, I've been mezmorized by 22-EDO lately.
     
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  9. IGC

    IGC SS.org Regular

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    Oh yeah, all the white notes on the keyboard, the chromatic or C major scale and you break it down into all it's modes, I start with phrygian, > mixolydian > aeolean then Ionian or dorian, I allways get the two names mixed up but have the patterns memorized every witch way, then I think we have out octave so phrygian all over again. Or if you look it from say starting on the standard open E string, just E > F > G > A > B > C > D > E (12t octave) .
    So how does this play out with 19 EDO? I know you kind of explained it above, I think...
    Thanks!
     
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  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Yeah, the modes are exactly the same in 19-EDO, except a whole step (w) is 3 frets and a half step (h) is two. The major scale, wwhwwwh, goes 3 3 2 3 3 3 2, by how many frets you go up. If you add those all up, it's 19 total frets, which is an octave. The minor scale is 3 2 3 3 2 3 3, which is the same sequence, started on the second to last note. Since its all 3s and 2s, all of the modes relate to each other, just like 12-EDO.
     
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  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    It might be interesting for some: the classical modes are not a "thing" in just intonation (JI), either. This surprised me the first time I saw it, because I had assumed that the classical modes were more fundamental than temperament, but that's where they arise.

    The major scale in JI has three kinds of steps, a superior whole step (W) of 203.9 cents, an inferior whole step (w) of 182.4 cents, and a half step (h) of 111.7 cents. The steps to make a major scale are WwhWwWh, and the minor scale is WhwWhWw. If you start on the second to last step of the major scale, you get WhWwhWw, so the whole steps to get from the minor third to the perfect fourth is funky, and throws everything off. What's more, to play the Dorian scale, you need to go from the sixth note of the major scale to the seventh note of the minor scale, which is 133.2 cents, so, you have to introduce another step you didn't need for the other scales at all, the superior half step (H) - to walk through the Dorian scale in JI, you take the first part of the minor scale WhwW, which takes you to the fifth, then finish with wHw, so, all together, WhwWwHw.

    All of the church modes:
    Ionian (Major) : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 | WwhWwWh
    Dorian (Minor, major sixth) : 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7 | WhwWwHw
    Phrygian (Spanish) : 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 | hWwWhWw
    Lydian (Major, augmented fourth) : 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7 | WwWhwWh
    Mixolydian (Dominant) : 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 | WwhWwHw
    Aeolian (Natural minor) : 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 | WhwWhWw
    Locrian (Half diminished) : 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 | hWwhWWw

    There are a couple of modal relationships that work out, for example, the Phrygian is still a mode of the Ionian scale, but most of the scales have a note altered or inverted somewhere.

    I guess, since my guitar teachers drilled the modes into me, not even referring to them as scales, led me to the expectation that in JI, the most natural tuning system, they surely must work out nicely. But nope. That means also that any equally divided octave temperament will have modal problems once the number of notes exceeds some amount, since the note chosen will be whichever is closest to the correct JI note.

    Hopefully that's not worded in too convoluted a manner.
     
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  12. IGC

    IGC SS.org Regular

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    Good stuff :yesway:
    I think of modes as being smaller scale sections of their actual parent scale, and you connect them together to navigate the parent scale.
     
  13. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Wow that's interesting! I'll have to look into how that checks out in 31.
     
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  14. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    Don’t see much non-12-EDO stuff in the wild, but here’s a YouTube Vid that has 17 & 19 EDO examples as part of an discussion of sharps & flats.



    EDIT: I just checked his channel. There’s a lot of JI and non-12-EDO stuff.
     
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  15. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    Note quite ready to go more than 12-tone, but I definitely want to try this. Now the question is:

    How do I tune Just 3rds & 5ths, if I’m not really used to hearing them?
     
  16. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    If you have a tuner with a cents readout, tune fifths 2 cents sharp , minor thirds 16 cents sharp and major thirds 14 cents flat...or if not, tune until the beats totally go away.
     
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  17. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    A JI fifth is easily by ear to minimise the 'beating', as the beating is very clear and the interval very consonant.
    If you're tuning 2 open strings to a Just Intonation interval you can tune using harmonics.

    JI major third, 5/4, 386 cents:
    Tune the 4th harmonic of the higher string to the 5th harmonic of the lower string.
    Start with the strings a 12TET major third apart and slightly detune the higher string.

    JI minor third, 6/5, 316 cents:
    Tune the 5th harmonic of the higher string to the 6th harmonic of the lower string.
    Start with the strings a 12TET minor third apart and slightly uptune the higher string.

    JI septimal subminor third, 7/6, 267 cents:
    Tune the 6th harmonic of the higher string to the 7th harmonic of the lower string.
    Start with the strings a 12TET minor third apart and detune the higher string.
     
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  18. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    Roughly this is how i first experienced microtonality on a guitar.

    I had been tuning in fifths for a few years so it seemed natural to tune the string pairs in fifths, to partly compensate for the loss in range, so (relative) C, C+50c, G, G+50c, D, D+50c. Essentially 3 strings in fifths with a +50 cent pitch next to each normal pitch.

    Then one day i was thinking about alternative tuning offsets for the microtonal strings, considering +150 cents, +250 cents etc.
    I then realised that +350 cents created uniform intervals across all strings. When i drew up the patterns to play scales and chords it also had a very logical geometry.
    For example a neutral chord, 0 350 700 cents, or a neutral seventh chord, 0 350 700 1050 cents, were straight across a fret.

    Later i realised you could retune the microtonal strings slightly to get alternating minor and major Just Intonation thirds with the same logical geometry. With differing amounts of retuning you can play a few different JI scales.

    This approach is:
    • Using a conventionally fretted guitar.
    • Lots of strings (6, 8, 10, 12 ...).Consisting of alternating normally-tuned strings and microtonally-tuned strings. Either using an ERG or splitting a pitch range across 2 or more guitars.
    • Small intervals between open strings. Thirds works very well but could be smaller depending on how many strings you have.
    • Taking advantage of the ease of retuning guitar strings. Using string retuning to acheive new microtonal tunings, instead of moving the frets. The amount of retuning is never large so there are no tension problems.
    • Special fingering patterns.
    There is no need for a huge amount of closely spaced frets, so is easier to visualise patterns and is more playable because the frets are further apart.
    It is invisible to an observer, no one would know by sight that you are playing a microtonal guitar, which enables playing live and sneaking microtonality in.
    You can easily retune the guitar back to the nearest 12TET tuning.
     
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  19. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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  20. ElRay

    ElRay Mostly Harmless

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    Ixlramp: :minions:
     

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