When you mentioned re-freting your instruments, I went looking for
that guitar fingerboard with "wiggly frets." This is what I saw but
couldn't find it at first.
Apparently it only works well in a few keys. So it's not much of a
While looking I enjoyed reading that one player was in
"microtonal heaven" with a quarter-tone guitar invented by Harry
Partch. What innovation did Partch ever NOT do?
I too don't see any alternative to equal temperament for fixed string
instruments. Surely every other possibility was been tried long ago
with things like 50 strings to the octave (archicembalo) or split keys
(separate keys for, say G sharp and A flat).
There was a maker of metal reeds in western
Mass. in the 19th century who made a parlor organ that used meantone
temperament, which provided pure thirds and fifths, but was not true
in all keys. He had a lever mechanism that would shift a rank of
reeds instantly when a different key was needed. Of course metal
reeds were cheap and light weight so it was a practical solution of
sorts. (His major clients were makers of mouth harmonicas.) He also
used his metal reeds to make a bugle that could be
heard for a half mile. I heard a blast on it once, and believe me I
am certain it would carry that far. It would be used for army
signals. There were maybe 8 reeds on a dial that was turned to get
different notes. That's Yankee ingenuity!!
It will be interesting to see if anything comes of Ross Duffin's book.
Sometimes something like that creates a sensation. But my lute pals
will surely keep meantone temperaments in the forefield. But of
course that music doesn't modulate very much, so equal temperaments
need not be used with their dissonant intervals. They are really
gettinmg quite adept at alteringtemperaments by shifting the tied on
==AJN (Boston, Mass.)
This week's free download from Classical Music Library is
Tchaikovsky's "The Seasons," Op. 37b for Piano Solo
Go to my web page:
For some free scores, go to:
Equal temperament has become so prevalent, I doubt it will be
except in the early music repertory.
For fretted instruments and keyboard instruments it is simply a
question of compromise to be able to play through all the keys. That
degree of modulation won't be given up, so equal temperment is here to
And it is interesting that you are aware of the problems, and have
done something about it with
The awareness of this has grown tremendously among guitarist/
musicians, and with the work that luthiers like Gilbert, Byers, and
others have done, there is no excuse for having a poorly intonated
guitar. As I said, where it becomes critical is in ensemble work.
Wish you'd come up to Boston some day. Anything down there around
Charlotte and I will be down to Carnegie Hall to hear the premiere of
a commissioned piano trio by one of my students, Robert X,
We'll be around for a few days and I'd really like to hear your
group.. (I'll check back with you closer to
Nothing booked in Boston as of now, but I'm sure we'll be up there one
of these days, we've been in about 35 states so far. The group is on
hiatus from touring from now until the summer because I need to be
around town having started a few new projects, and several of the
players in the group are involved in other NY projects. But we are
just starting to book next year, if a Boston date comes in I'll let