My old Korg MT-120 tuner, which allows tuning multiple
temperaments, has gotten really flaky. Last Sunday, when we were
trying to use it to tune a harpsichord for a performance, we had
to give up and use a cheaper tuner that only does equal
temperament. So I decided it was time to buy a new tuner.
A builder on the harp list had recommended a strobe tuner, the
Sonic Research Turboo Tuner
So I ordered it Sunday night, and it arrived yesterday at lunch
I immediately tuned up both harps in equal temperament. It did
go faster watching the lights than it does with a needle, but I’m
not sure whether it’s because I’m not obsessing about getting
lights to stand still the way I was about getting the
needle on 0. In any case, it sounded like a pretty good
So far, I’ve been having trouble using the strobe for telling
whether my recorder playing is in tune, but it could be that I’ll
get used to it.
This morning, I entered quarter-comma and fifth-comma meantone
temperaments, and will go downstairs and try them on the harps and the
I was worried about whether it would be possible to enter
something as complicated as a temperament on a box with only 8 buttons,
and it was a bit slow at first, but I picked up speed as I got
used to it. And it isn’t something you’re going to do every day.
It does seem like a lot of data to enter on a device that can’t be
backed up, though.
For those who have no idea what a temperament is, try the
For those who wondered why I wanted fifth-comma as well as
quarter-comma, read Why
I hate Vallotti… by Ross Duffin.
The way I translate the name of a tuning into the numbers to
enter into the tuner is via a program called scala.
It comes with almost 4000 tunings defined, and you can load them
and look at all kinds of data about them, or export them so that
MIDI players can use them.
Of the two Ross Duffin books below, I haven’t read the one on
temperaments but based on the article pointed to above, I would
expect it to be much more readable than most of the stuff written
about such things. Shakespeare’s Songbook is an
indispensible reference if you’re going to do anything at all with
music in that period.