Well temperament

The Pythagorean tuning favors the fifth and runs into problems with thirds. The meantone temperament favors the third and the fifth bites us like a wolf. The dialogue begins to look like a dispute ... What choice do we have?

We answer with a new tuning system: well temperament. These temperaments spread the Pythagorean comma or the syntonic comma between several fifths and make possible to play in any key.

What is a Pythagorean comma? If we follow a cycle of fifths ( C - G - D - A ...F - C), the last note will be a little higher than the original note. The Pythagorean comma is the difference in pitch between these two notes.

What is a syntonic comma? The difference between the major third in the harmonic series and the Pythagorean major third.

Some of these temperaments:

Examples of temperaments

Kirnberger III

Kirnberger divides the syntonic comma between four fifths (in yellow). The fifth between F sharp and C sharp is a little bit larger than the reduced fifths and it is the same size as the equal temperament fifth:

Werkmeister III

Werkmeister divides the Pythagorean comma between four fifths (in yellow):

Listen again Prelude in A flat major BWV 862 by J. S. Bach, this time with the Werckmeister III temperament:

And again with the meantone temperament:


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José Rodríguez Alvira.