Tunings and temperament demos


2012: I revisited this page recently, and it no longer works very well. In all cases, the MIDI synthesizers on my systems add lots of vibrato, in one case lots of reverb, making beats barely audible. The "play" buttons don't work well either in some cases. I think I will redo this page with .au or .wav files, so that I have full control over the result.

This page contains MIDI files (and a few audio/basic .au files) that illustrate, using short pieces, various historical tunings and temperaments. It is still very much work-in-progress (incomplete and still-to-come examples, incomplete checks of music and pitch bending). MIDI might not be the best approach for this type of demos because of the different sounds of MIDI synths (for example, one adds a vibrato to the violin, making it useless for our purposes). Java Sound might offer better predictability. And then I should mention all the problems I've observed with the different plugins, some better, some worse (are we condemned to work with beta software for ever?). There's not one plugin I've tried that hasn't caused some problem. This is why I have also included a few files in the .au format (which should work just about everywhere).

Anyway (after experimenting with various audio plugins) I settled for now on the following structure. All examples (MIDI files) are available on this one page. They are accessible in three ways: either a) directly by clicking on the name of a temperament or test (MIME type is audio/midi), or b) thru a single instance of a plugin using LiveConnect (under Navigator 3.01 and MacOS 7.5.5, the page works with LiveAudio, Beatnik, MidPlug and surely many more), or c) all collected in a zip file for download (about 20 Kbytes). If you have no plugin and want none, just click on "cancel" when the download popup appears. The other options are still available.

Before you attempt to listen to any of the examples, you should first make sure that your MIDI synthetizer (hardware or software) interprets pitch bending the way it is usually done for software synths, namely with a pitch bend range of plus/minus 2 semitones. Listen carefully to the pitch bend test below: you should hear first 5 notes all at same pitch, then the same 5 notes lengthened so they overlap two at a time (this might cause octaves to sound, that's OK). You should hear no beats. Otherwise, the musical examples will not correspond to anything useful.

A second test might be useful. The intervals test contains a few intervals that you can use to test how audible tuning differences are in your environment. This MIDI file contains a pure major third and a pure fifth, and an equal-tempered major third (? beats) and fifth (? beats).

I must admit, differences between temperaments can be subtle (as long as you don't get bitten by the wolf). Headphones help. Good audio H/W helps. I think the applet is at least as effective in demonstrating these differences.

Acknowledgements for help in preparing this page:


Copyright: Pierre Lewis,
Page URL: http://leware.net/temper/demos.htm
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