how to listen to jazz

#16- A Guide to Tuning and Temperament


This week, Scott, Karl, and Trent dive into a brief introduction of tuning and temperament: The math, the musical history, and the relationship of the theoretical with the practical.

The tuning of musical instruments is as ancient as the musical scale. Together, tuning and temperament is the adjustment of one sound source, such as a voice or string, to produce a desired pitch in relation to a given pitch, and the modification of that tuning to lessen dissonance.

Scott says, “Most of our Western music is built around the idea that there is a home… going away from this home key, this tonal center, instilling more or less tension, and resolving that.”

The trio also talks through the problem with equal temperament and atonal modern music. Karl says, “It’s floating, unrooted, occasionally interesting, but it never gets to a tonic center.”

Why should you spend time trying to tell in-tune from out-of-tune? As Trent points out, understanding these concepts is key to understanding why you like the music you like.


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