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Originally Posted by David Boyce
I don't think we are really speaking of color in the synaesthesia sense. That's a very specific thing is which one sensory input generates the perception of another.

For example, we may define "blue" as a response by the brain's visual cortex to stimulation of the retina's cone cells by light of 400-500 nanometers wavelength. That's a specific definition and a specific perception.

The synaesthetic person may find that a note of a certain frequency generates the same perceptual response as blue. Thus, for him or her, that note IS blue. And Wednesday may smell like hamburgers.


I agree. I likely associated colors only because it was suggested to me that each note should have color. I probably could have done the same thing with food. I'm just not sure which note would be the hamburger...


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Originally Posted by Bill Bremmer RPT
Thank you, Staveoff. The person who wrote that his tuner knew about CM3's in the early 80's made it sound as if his tuner knew, then every tuner must have known. They didn't and even when they found out about them, most tuners kept on doing what they always had. I never said that nobody knew how to tune ET 35 years ago, I only said most technicians were not.

Still today, I find a surprising number of pianos that I tune for the first time that come to me in Reverse Well. Sometimes, I am aware of just who that person was and sure enough, it is someone who absolutely condemns Well Temperament and rails against it, all the while offering a backwards version of it as their own version of ET. When the C Major chord is the very harshest one on the piano but the B Major and C# Major chords on either side of it sound sweet and harmonious, you know that one of those people has tuned the piano before you.



Maybe in the early 80's the definition of ET was much more loose than it is today. Having said that, it would seem to me that what you describe as unintentional reverse well was still probably closer to ET than to a true well temperament with lots of color. I would also think that even back then harsh sounding keys would have been unacceptable but I may be wrong.

Most people might not feel that subtle color in C major would be a problem, in fact they probably wouldn't even notice it unless they were tuners. Regardless, I understand your point that many staunch ET tuners may not have produced actual ET and a little color was probably present in a majority of the pianos tuned in the early 80's (and many today as you have indicated).

I am still of the opinion that slight deviations from true ET don't make much of a difference (either one can sound fantastic). Far more important are clean unisons, nice octaves, and balance at the extremes of the piano, as this is the case for my personal tunings. Perhaps tuners would be better served spending more time on those things rather than agonizing over the perfect ET in the temperament octave.


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Equal temperament is defined mathematically exactly. In the physical world, nothing is exact, however. This has always been the case.

Equal temperament on the piano is analogous to the theoretic way that equal temperament would sound if the ideal could be attained, just like any other temperament. It has always been possible to tune very close to it. It can probably be done closer by ear than by an electronic device.

Tonal "colors" are a psychoacoustic phenomenon, and as such, are not nearly as exact as the way pianos can be tuned. There is a lot more "psycho" than "acoustic."


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I have witnessed many temperaments that were more than just slightly Reverse Well. Some were within the Quasi Equal range, yes but others (from more than just one person and very consistently so) were like 1/4 Meantone but with the black key M3's as pure and the white key M3's as harsh as any could be. Yet, these were trusted tuners hired year after year to tune pianos in the community. It was only after someone, somewhere complained that the "piano just didn't sound right" that the cycle was broken.

One of these, I recall vividly at a Halloween party that I attended about 5 years ago on a nice, Steinway B that had been fully restored at the Steinway factory. Nice sounding piano. But as I observed the pianist who had been hired to play for the party, he deliberately chose to play almost everything among the black keys. When he hit a wide interval, I saw him wince. Nobody at the party except me was aware of it, including the proud owner of the piano, so as it is said, "It didn't matter" because the unisons and octaves sounded good.

It didn't matter all of those years anywhere and everywhere that Reverse Well (or worse) was being substituted for ET because people became accustomed to all key signatures sounding the opposite of what they should sound like. That was the norm for them because they knew of nothing else. "Mr. Janglekeys" was the local area piano tuner, always had been and always would be. People would often admit that they "couldn't tell" if a piano was out of tune or not. It pretty much sounded the same to them either before or after it was tuned.

They had the piano tuned every year because they had been told by the piano teacher that it should be and the local piano tuner's wife would always be on the phone with a reminder call. Whatever was done, was done. Whatever was not done was not done. So, after that tuner finally retired or passed away or perhaps someone actually did decide to try another technician, I would find grands that had never been cleaned in decades, had never had the action out for any kind of service.

I found verticals with decades of dust and debris inside them, lost motion, deeply grooved and misaligned hammers. I often found a pitch that was somewhere around 20 cents low or even lower but with high treble and low Bass octaves that had apparently never been touched.

This was their piano and that is the way their piano sounded to them, so yes, the temperament didn't matter to them. It was a difficult row to hoe, to say the least. Imagine a client who suddenly feels stupid for having paid all of those years for a service they never really received. While in many cases, a client was delighted with the new and suddenly quite musical sound from the piano, some were actually shocked by it. The piano no longer sounded like their piano to which they had become accustomed.


Bill Bremmer RPT
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I have a variable well temperament - 4 "strengths" are posted on the www.rollingball.com website - look for my name under the "modern well" heading. (thanks, Jason!)

The weakest has a maximum offset from ET of 1.3 cents, while the strongest has a maximum 2.9 cents offset. The strengths were chosen based on the calculated ratio between the M3 and m3 in a triad. I believe that any decent tuner would be able to hear that these are all not ET, yet the surprising thing to me is that even the second strongest(2.1 victorian) listed would still just barely pass the PTG test for an ET temperament!

Those of you interested - use an ETD to tune the 1.3 (Eqwell on the website) and then play some music to experience a stealth well-tempered tuning.

Ron Koval

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Originally Posted by RonTuner
I have a variable well temperament - 4 "strengths" are posted on the www.rollingball.com website - look for my name under the "modern well" heading. (thanks, Jason!)

The weakest has a maximum offset from ET of 1.3 cents, while the strongest has a maximum 2.9 cents offset. The strengths were chosen based on the calculated ratio between the M3 and m3 in a triad. I believe that any decent tuner would be able to hear that these are all not ET, yet the surprising thing to me is that even the second strongest(2.1 victorian) listed would still just barely pass the PTG test for an ET temperament!

Those of you interested - use an ETD to tune the 1.3 (Eqwell on the website) and then play some music to experience a stealth well-tempered tuning.

Ron Koval



Those temperaments are very nice; I have tried the equal well and the mild victorian.

So one question is this: If Ron's temperaments work by making ET a little less equal and a little more toward well temperament, would the same hold true for making the temperament a subtle reverse well? I'm not talking about the sloppy tunings that Bill Bremmer encounters as he described above in this thread. For example, how would a temperament sound making F# major the most harmonious and C major the least harmonious (of course only in a subtle way such that no key is ever harsh but only has a little more or less color).

Another question that arises when considering the above statements is whether most people can tell the difference between keys simply based on their differences in pitch. For example, if I were to tune a C4-G4 pure 5th and a C#4-G#4 pure 5th, would most people hear a difference other than one interval is a little higher than the other? If most people could not tell the difference, then why does it matter which key signatures are more or less harmonious?

Please forgive my ignorance if the answer to these questions are obvious. I do realize that one reason for tuning in well temperaments is that they more realistically reflect what composers of a particular era were trying to convey in their music by composing in certain keys. That alone may be sufficient reason to not bother with reverse well.

However, it would be nice to know whether reverse well - even when done "properly", for instance by using a carefully designed temperament much like Ron Koval's mild equal well - can generate a nice sound. If not, then Tuners would be best served erring on the side of traditional well temperaments when tuning ET to ensure that their ET is still good, despite not being true ET. Maybe good tuners do this without thinking, which separates some good ones from some bad ones? Please note that I fully recognize from my lack of training and practice that I likely fall into the "bad ones" category so no disrespect is intended here- I'm just curious to know.


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Originally Posted by staveoff

I do realize that one reason for tuning in well temperaments is that they more realistically reflect what composers of a particular era were trying to convey in their music by composing in certain keys.


Here is an example how much ingenious "composers are trying to convey in their music by composing in certain keys":



They don´t play any role at all for them. Geniusses compose in any key they want, have their music ready in their head, without any need for tinkering with "key coloring". True for Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Alma Deutscher and all other geniusses, (sometimes selecting certain keys for a better playability...)

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Thank you for that contribution, Bernhard. It was truly remarkable. But the fact is, that she could have done that the very same on a piano the way you tune it or the way I do or yes, even in Reverse Well.

Staveoff, the foundation of Well Temperament but also any other temperament, including 1/4 Meantone and any that followed, such as the 1/5, 1/6 and 1/7th Comma Meantone, any of the temperaments classified as the Modified Meantone and any of the very numerous Well Temperaments was that the key of C was always the "home" key, always the smoothest and most harmonious. It follows that any key closely related to it such as F and G would also be nearly as smooth and harmonious but after that, the more sharps or flats in the key signature, the further away from that absolute tonal center they would be.

It is true that even back in the early 18th Century, several theorists imagined that music of the future would want to incorporate all 24 major and minor keys and would want to modulate between them. This leads many to believe that virtually all music composition and tuning made a sudden and quantum leap from 1/4 Meantone to ET and that was that, but it clearly did not happen that way. It was a gradual progression towards ET.

At some point, the distinction between any kind of temperament that was useful somehow in all keys and what we know of today as true ET became blurred. Nothing prevents anyone from playing 18th Century music in ET. That is the way we usually hear it, after all. Nothing prevents any of it from being played in Reverse Well either. I still know of at least three technicians who tune for concerts locally and who always tune in a mild version of Reverse Well.

If you tried to point that out to them, however, they would be highly insulted and get very angry with you. They would say, "Temperament doesn't matter...etc.", and clearly, if they maintain their positions as concert technicians which they have for decades, it doesn't matter. The backwards effects of it get lost in the complexity of the music, going unnoticed by the artists and the audience alike but that does not mean those backwards effects are not there. They are, and I, for one, do not want to hear them.

There is even one local technician who does what you are implying. He normally tunes in Well Temperament or 1/7 Comma Meantone but if an artist insists upon ET, he offers them Reverse Well because he figures that is what they really mean they want and are used to having.

I disagree with that, of course and refuse to do it. If someone expresses that they really want ET, I found a way to tune a Quasi ET where all M3's and M6's sound the same as ET (no tonal distinctions) but the 4ths & 5ths are equalized and the F3-F4 temperament octave is the conservative 4:2 type. That provides for all of the M3's and M6's to be more gently beating than they would be otherwise. It also provides for all 4th's, 5th's and octaves to sound alike. It also provides for all multiples such as double octaves and octave-5ths to sound the same as each other: virtually beatless. The piano is more in tune with itself from one end to the other, even though the cycle of 5ths key color is absent.

Here is a clip of an artist playing some Bach in that Quasi ET which I call the "ET via Marpurg". The artist wanted ET only, so I tuned the piano this way for him. I would have rather heard Bach in an 18th Century Well Temperament but yes, it can be played in ET or Reverse Well too as it often is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78_uTlOAnUs

If you let You Tube go to the next selection, you will hear some more modern music with an amazing flutist. You will hear that the piano does serve well both the 18th Century and modern music. It is all captured on a cellphone, so that is the limitation but it is amazing what a Samsung Galaxy S6 could capture in 2015.


Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com
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