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Sweetened Tuning For Extended-range String Instruments?
How important is 'type' of tuning for more than 4 strings on an instrument? Violins, Hardingfele, Nyckelharpas, Viola d'amore... maybe Guitars, too!
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ELCBK
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We've talked about tuning systems in the Traditional Fiddle Intonation vs. Classical Violinist Intonation Thread, the Intervals Thread, and elsewhere. 

Guitars can have quite a few strings & are known for using 'sweetened tunings'.

But what about for bowed string instruments that have an extended range - more strings than 'normal'?  

I KNOW TUNING IS IMPORTANT - just not sure I'm tuning the best for my playing & for my new 6-string Fiddle.  Especially when most Fiddlers tune to perfect 5ths, by ear - there's a % of human error probability, right there... certainly seems a fine line to walk. 

Well, I got a little excited today (🤗) when I came across a YT site that shows not only tuning for 5, 6 & 7-string Violins (pizzicato AND bowed!), but MANY MORE bowed strings - including Hardangar Fiddle & Nyckelharpa... even scordatura!  'Best Music Tools' has a 186 video playlist of Bowed Instruments Tuners

BUT... what bothers me - is the video description for the 6-string Violin (A=440) video (and others) says "This was recorded with an original Violin (12TET)"!!! 😳   

Is tuning a violin to 12-ET an unforgivable act, a 'bad thing'?  ...won't 12-ET mess me up if I want to take advantage of the innate nature extra strings provide - sympathetic resonance?

But does this always mean I have to tune all strings to perfect 5ths? 

I was originally a little concerned with tuning 5 strings, but now I'm more concerned with tuning my new 6-string Violin. 

Noticed lately, with everything else I've been working on, maybe I've gotten lax with trying to make sure I have ringing tones.  I think my attitude has changed a lot, especially playing in some keys/modes that just don't have ringing tones - maybe I just don't have a good enough instrument (or ears 😏) to hear them all.

*(edit) Had to go play a few Irish tunes just to see if it really has been my playing, or 'choice of tunes' I've been playing lately (that don't ring)... thank goodness, it's NOT me. (whew!)

I also listen to a lot of music with dissonance used... not sure this a 'good' thing - getting used to hearing/playing dissonance.  AND, when I took some piano as a child, I still hear those major/minor scales & arpeggios like played on piano - that's 12-ET, NOT Pythagorean played scales! 😳  I feel like maybe I'm wishy-washy on intervals because of this. 

I know we can play in different tuning by changing the intervals we play. 

Here's a look at the differences between Pythagorean, 12-ET, and Just intonation - for Half & Whole steps, Major & Minor 3rds. 

But, how much is tuning tied into intonation?  

 

Violinna has some good videos dealing with when to change intonation - in one she says that String Quartets will often tune their strings to 'narrower 5ths' to help.  There IS a big difference (to me) in playing the intervals we use for scales vs double-stops & chords. 

So, do I try to 'sweeten' my 6-string tuning... settle for 12tet, or tune all in 5ths & just deal with intonation on a per-tune basis?

 

🤔... like to look closer at how folks really tune 8 or more strings.  Anyone got any info?

 

@AndrewH - I remember you mentioned how you adjusted your tuning for your lower strings, but I can't remember where or to what. 

 

...and ALL I want for Christmas is to sound good playing in EVERY KEY & MODE! 

afe72ceacdf8466e9299c4efde0e1ccb.jpg

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Sasha
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December 12, 2023 - 9:33 am
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Here is the mantra I use:

 

Every tuning is a compromise. If it sounds good, it is good.

I don't have any thoughts on extended range instrument tuning.

As far as sweetening tuning for each song, I will not usually do that for practicing or for a performance, but when it comes time to record I will definitely tweak the tuning so it sounds best to me, though for me it is mostly with my guitars.

But then there is the context of it all too. If there are a lot of keyboard parts, which I normally keep in equal temperament, if the 'sweetened' tuning clashes I will tune to fit the keyboards and re-arrange the other parts to fit in.

I guess my point is, trying to find a one size fits all system is always going to be limiting. Which makes me lucky, because I have a pretty limited concept of music so it happily all works together. :D

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ELCBK
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December 12, 2023 - 8:40 pm
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240e1834b4d0fbd16198be1d53cc79c6.jpg

 

@Sasha -

Thanks for your perspective - very helpful! 

I'm just getting acquainted with my new fiddle's personality.  I've been playing more & more music that isn't trad Irish and was wondering if it would be worth experimenting with tuning. 

The thought has crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn't be too concerned about how many notes ring if I'm just going to control reverb playing electrically. 🙄  

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ELCBK
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I don't want to get too crazy... think I'd like to experiment if I'm going to be playing more chords/harmony - just not so sure I can hear well enough to even matter. 🥴

 

Discovered a diatonic accordion rabbit hole while in the Haunting Music From French Composers Thread and Accordéon Diatonique Music for the Fiddle Thread - found it interesting because of the unique sounds produced by it's offset tunings. 

An example of 4 Tunings for Accordions - they can be made to deliberately beat, so it sounds like vibrato!  Each tuning is is described in the video description. 

 

We've had so much discussion over the past few years on vibrato, all of us trying to learn... no wonder some of that 'beating' sounds good to me! 

Vibrato-itis!

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Sasha
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I'm just getting acquainted with my new fiddle's personality.  I've been playing more & more music that isn't trad Irish and was wondering if it would be worth experimenting with tuning. 

The thought has crossed my mind that maybe I shouldn't be too concerned about how many notes ring if I'm just going to control reverb playing electrically. 🙄  

  

Oh, I think it's definitely worth experimenting with tunings.

I've been reading and following some videos lately that deal with some topics like this, and it has been opening my mind a bit to other things. I find it all interesting and do not want to get too far in to the weeds on it, but when it comes to tuning (equal temperament), notation (standard clef notation) and music theory, it does a fair job at encapsulating the music of the period it was intended to. European music from 1700 - 1800s. 

It certainly does not fit other culture's music, in notation, theory or tuning. 

But I think there is an implication saying: This is the right way.
When it surely is not, except for the limited context mentioned previously.

Consider blues, and from the basics. The 'blues' scale is usually represented as a pentatonic with a flat fifth added. However, except for piano and a few other instruments that cannot bend at all, that blues note was actually a fourth bent up, but only a quarter tone or a bit beyond. Certainly not up to the actual flat fifth. 

While in the end, we just shoehorn it in to the western model. Now, I am not saying that model is bad. It's just not right for everything.

Okay, I think I am done derailing this conversation for now. :D

Play, have fun, and if it sounds good, it is good.

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AndrewH
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I do tune my lower strings to slightly narrower intervals -- the purpose is to keep the viola C string from sounding out of tune against the violin E strings. The problem is that, if you stack just intonation fifths, the intervals between the top and bottom note get more and more out of tune -- about 2 cents for each stacked fifth. Within a four-stringed instrument, that's not a real problem because the error is not large enough for humans to hear it easily. However, the error between the violin E and viola/cello C strings is audible.

What I end up doing is: I tune my D string to a perfect fifth against the A string, but tune the G and C strings to something that's in between the just intonation and equal temperament fifths. I've gotten a decent sense of what that should sound like from experience, and if I have the opportunity to tune in a quiet space I also use a tuner app to make sure. I aim for the C string to be about 4 cents flat according to the tuner, which is where the violin G strings are when tuned in just intonation fifths.

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ELCBK
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@AndrewH -

THANK YOU SO MUCH!  a9a8cea37980a067879656dacbd853ef.jpg

Hey, I'm not sure about anything yet, but could you try to find time to record your Viola open strings plucked AND bowed - while tuned like that (no hurry)? 

It would be be an extremely helpful reference for me to hear!

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@Sasha -

THANK YOU! 

You make some VERY interesting points! 

It's NOT derailing this topic, especially when so much about tuning pertains to harmony & tone for any string instrument with more than 4 strings - and different styles of music!  

I would LOVE to hear more of what you have found! 

Microtones are an important subject for me & fit's right in here as expressive lengthening, or shortening, of intervals is great for emphasizing tension & release in harmony and melodies.  I've seen plenty of microtone use in several genres - but NOT that any fiddler adjusts 'tuning' by microtones... unless I've missed something. 

We've talked about 'scordatura' & 'cross-tuning' on violin/fiddle in the Cross Tuning on the Fiddle Thread - in Old-Time, Cajun, Nordic & Classical, but I've never found anyone talk about 'sweetening' tuning for violin. 

In fact, AndrewH is the only one I've heard mention how he sweetens his Viola tuning. 

 

Guitarists & Bassists not only use some really great open & sweetened tunings, but they also seem quite at home adding any CRAZY number of strings - for a huge range!  I would expect tuning issues - so, going to have to start throwing questions out on YT! 

FOURTEEN STRINGS - Downright LOVELY!  I want to pick Ichika Nito's brain! 

...6 strings is MORE than enough for me!

I don't want to tune or play exactly like a guitar, but I have been feeling uneasy just tuning all to perfect 5ths, or to 12-tet, on my new 6-string.   AND, I find myself fussing with it, or sometimes avoiding open-string melody playing (not complaining about using 4th finger), which I didn't do with only 5-strings.  

Christmas Microtonal - Adam Neely talks about 19-tet & 17-tet - both make flats 'flatter' & sharps 'sharper'.  He tunes 2 of his Bass strings down 50 cents - so, each a ¼ tone.

christmas-music-notes-18.jpg

 

idk(?)... ho, ho, ho!   

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ELCBK
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December 26, 2023 - 11:44 pm
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Okay, talk about a different way to play an extended range of strings! 😳

Almost forgot I wanted to post this... you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'? 🤣

Bowed?  ...😱

 

 

I'm not so sure he thought too much about tuning until near the end when he finally decides to use open C tuning.

...all good for a laugh anyway.

Kinda cool about the pickups.

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ELCBK
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After all my fun pokin' around here, I've resigned to just tune all 6 strings to 5ths by ear (which mine aren't perfect, by any means). 

I'll only listen, take a closer look, at open strings on tunes I play along with 'if' I find I'm constantly searching for better intonation (more than usual 🤭), or enough seems off to warrant tuning down, or up, a little. 

Otherwise, if I ever get to play with anyone live - I'll check to make sure I'm tuned the same as everyone else. 

Playing by myself, though - I seriously doubt I'll ever be able to accurately tell if anything is off by only a few cents, but maybe more interval training will help.  ...I'll just add that back to my super-long 'to-do' list!  😖

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Sasha
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ELCBK said
After all my fun pokin' around here, I've resigned to just tune all 6 strings to 5ths by ear (which mine aren't perfect, by any means). 

I'll only listen, take a closer look, at open strings on tunes I play along with 'if' I find I'm constantly searching for better intonation (more than usual 🤭), or enough seems off to warrant tuning down, or up, a little. 

Otherwise, if I ever get to play with anyone live - I'll check to make sure I'm tuned the same as everyone else. 

Playing by myself, though - I seriously doubt I'll ever be able to accurately tell if anything is off by only a few cents, but maybe more interval training will help.  ...I'll just add that back to my super-long 'to-do' list!  😖

  

I was thinking about this, and you are right, a couple of cents isn't an issue. But if you are tuning the A and then other strings off the A, it does make that lowest string off by nearly 8 cents, which could be noticeable. So I was thinking (I try not to do that) that there is nothing sacred about making the A string the reference, except possibly in orchestras.

Perhaps using the D string for the reference would split the difference a bit better?

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8d7f4fd7143c02ae52582ab0239f0dac.jpg@Sasha -

Thanks for the suggestion! 

I have actually done that!  I've also checked against different sources of Viola tuning, since that's right in the middle. 

Thought I had something I liked - made an audio recording to use for reference... but you probably know how that goes (maybe hear something 'better' the next day).    

Guess I really haven't completely settled on a tuning - kinda wishy/washy about this topic, sometimes choosing different strings & positions to play on vs adjusting string tuning... need more time.  

Wish it was as simple as just avoiding open strings altogether, but jeez - don't feel I can ignore genre, or the tuning of a recording (that I play-along with).  AND, I really love taking advantage of a great ringing open string if it happens to be a tonic, or root note!  If I can use the open low F (anywhere) in a piece, it's tuning is definitely a priority. 

I'm still playing mostly melodies, even though I want to add more harmony... so, I'm trying to stay aware/open to possibilities. 

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ABitRusty
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"..Guess I really haven't completely settled on a tuning.."

I dont think you have to settle.   Go into whatever tuning strikes you that day!

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AndrewH
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Generally I wouldn't say it's that important to worry about one or two cents, even if I do -- the only time it matters for me is when I play an open C string while violins are playing on their E string. Otherwise, I'm going to adjust my tuning with my fingers regardless of how the strings are tuned.

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@ABitRusty & @AndrewH -

Thank you - your opinions always help me!  

Think I'll be alright, just don't want to do anything that would make intonation even harder on myself.

OMG!  😳😆 I have seen guitar/banjo tuners on some violins!  CRAZY! 

"Tuning changes During The Song" 

 

I revisited this 'Harmony for Jazz Violin' Lesson video by Steffen Zeichner.  He uses 5 strings.  This video is mainly about 'shell' voicing with root, 3rds & 7ths).  So, Steffen's chords omit the 5ths, but he is pretty adamant about using perfect 5ths tuning! 

de1903ea12e75766dcb2e9dbc7b2fc6e.jpg

I haven't even tried out tuning options on my 'Akai MPK Mini Play' keyboard, yet. 

Do you ever change tuning within a music editing software? 

Hope I'm not just repeating questions here... started asking about tuning in YT video comments of some 5 & 6-string violinists/fiddlers of different genres (tonight)... will see if I get any replies. 😉 

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ABitRusty
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@elcbk said...".do you ever change tuning within a music editing software?

Tge short answer is no...BUT.. there was a moment in time i was messing with some tune and either changed the the concert pitch setting of a string plugin or the keyboard tuning.  nothing i was doing that should work was in tune.  Im talking like having an G or D drone or chord wasnt matching.   cant remember exactly what but i leave those settings be now because ill forget exactly where the change was made and spend time backtracking. 🤤

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ELCBK
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new-year-clipart-owl-2.png@ABitRusty -

🤭 I could see that happening 😖 doesn't take much for terrible dissonance.

Or, maybe 'voila'... 🤗 instant accordion! 

I always 'think' I'll remember settings. 🙄  Lately, screenshots help... probably ought to set phone reminders to check them. 🥴  Wish the app (screenshot) was smart enough to remind me to label them - now THAT would be something!  

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Sasha
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OMG!  😳😆 I have seen guitar/banjo tuners on some violins!  CRAZY! 

Do you ever change tuning within a music editing software?   

The NS violins only have fine tuners. :)

Snuffles has those Wittner geared tuners on and wow, I like those. I get pegs are traditional but it is so much easier and more stable.

And the weirdest one I have is on a Les Paul that has the robot tuners. Press button, strum all strings and watch it spin the tuners and tune itself.

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ELCBK
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So, Steffen Zeichner was kind enough to respond to my inquiry. 

I was a little disappointed, only because it sounds like one of us doesn't understand the difference between 'scordatura' and 'sweetened' tuning (thought 'sweetened' was about 'micro tones').

Me: "Thank you for this wonderful lesson!  On your 5-string Violin, do you tune ALL strings to perfect 5ths?  Or, do you sweeten the tuning?" 

Steffen: "Personally I tune to all 5ths, but there are definitely some fiddlers out there who use a wide variety of scordatora tuning! This lesson is definitely geared towards understanding how a mandolin or violin works through a perfect 5th system though." 

 

I'm seriously suspecting there is something more to the difference between the tuning of guitars & violins than just 4ths vs 5ths - possibly related to the steel strings & FRETS (?)  Yet, I thought Tenor Banjos are tuned to perfect 5ths (?)*

(*edit) Just found this on Wikipedia:

Note that while the guitar and other modern stringed instruments with fixed frets are tuned in equal temperament, string instruments without frets, such as those of the violin family, are not. The violin, viola, and cello are tuned to beatless just perfect fifths and ensembles such as string quartets and orchestras tend to play in fifths based Pythagorean tuning or to compensate and play in equal temperament, such as when playing with other instruments such as the piano. For example, the cello, which is tuned down from A220, has three more strings (four total) and the just perfect fifth is about two cents off from the equal tempered perfect fifth, making its lowest string, C−, about six cents more flat than the equal tempered C.

So, there's a difference in standard tuning 'temperament' for guitar vs violin - 'equal temperament' 4ths for guitar strings (except G & B are 3rds) & 'Pythagorean temperament' 5ths for Violin strings. 

BUT, seems (to me) an emphasis should still be placed on the lowest pitch available somehow (for non-fretted string instruments) - because we can fully adjust basically EVERY OTHER PITCH available with our fingers (up or down), except THAT one. 

I don't have to be concerned with 'Wolf Intervals', on a 6-string Violin w/Pythagorean tuning, if I'm adjusting intervals with my fingers (by ear) - do I? 

So... able to fine tune with my fingers (like AndrewH mentioned), except for the Low F.  I suppose this subject will always be sitting in the back of my mind, but I think it would make my life SO much easier if I just tune ALL 6 open strings to perfect 5ths!  

Anyone's thoughts? 

 

@Sasha -

I also use the geared Wittner pegs.  I remember the 1st time I tried to tune with them - afraid I'd break them if I pushed in on them, so tuning didn't hold until I went back over the instructions. (lol)  I have 2 older 1/2 size violins - they scared me to death the 1st time I tried to move their pegs (wasn't used to sticking issues), afraid I'd break them!  Amazing how much stress those little pegs can cause, but the 'robotic' guitar pegs blow my mind!  

I've seen the NS Design with only Fine Tuners, but LOVE there's some VERY sharp-looking modern machine pegs on violins & old-fashioned-looking brass ones. 

b0010552e129b657142b8810e150ed50.jpg

There's a combination of peg types used for this Hardanger Fiddle transformation. 

Screen+Shot+2014-04-25+at+4.14.58+PM.png

fandb.jpg

 

 

← After seeing this style electric violin, makes me believe the automatic 'robot' tuning mechanism could possibly work on a violin, after all!  

...does a fretted violin need to use 'equal temperament' tuning?

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ABitRusty
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The term "sweetened tuning" is not one Ive heard or read used except in your topic.   Even in guitar circles.  Im not saying its not a common term or anything.. but for guitars the term alternate tuning(s) is almost always used.   At least from the sites ive been a part of and youtubes...in person instructors.

that may be why you seem to hqve gotten a less than satisfactory response.

I do know that the tuner weve bought refers to sweetend tunings.  Maybe a regional thing...or something more academic?

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