Essay on It's Time to Move Beyond Equal Temperament

Essay on It's Time to Move Beyond Equal Temperament

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All these years, we have been brainwashed by hearing many classical and even rock pieces played on electric pianos. Music played on those instruments has made our ears become too dull to appreciate the true art. There is no need for that kind of equal temperament system of piano tuning anymore. Modern technology has developed to a point where one can simply press a button on an electric piano to change the key of any piece. The equal temperament today essentially limits an artist’s expression of different pieces to a universal standard. Equal temperament tuning has only made the artist capable of playing musical works in all twelve keys. But in doing so, has robbed the listener of the purity of tone made available by on equal, closed temperaments. However, traditional temperaments such as “Aaron’s mean-tone” were used widely during the baroque period of music, and varied in its tone for different pieces. Even though one could not play in all keys of the piano, the tuning system was so versatile that one could deliberately tune the piano in an infinite variety of interval relationships to express the artist’s mood at that time. Wouldn’t you want to hear music differently?
Why is there a need for equal temperament in piano tuning? The short answer is that one cannot have pure octaves if all of the other intervals in the diatonic scale are tuned pure. It is impossible to have or play octaves, fifths, etc. all pure at once or, in other words, because the ratios of different pure intervals are incompatible. An example in music theory is if we start on key C and tune up twelve pure fifths, then we would arrive on B#, which is the same key as C on a keyboard. However, that B# is not in tune with the C, whi...


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Lindley, Mark. J.S. Bach’s Tunings. United Kingdom: Musical Times Publication, 1985. Print. 8 Oct. 2013

Loy, Jim. “The Well-Tempered Scale.” N.p., 1999. Web. 7 Oct. 2013

Meier, Marilyn Anne. Chopin twenty-four preludes opus 28. Doctor of Creative Arts thesis, School of Creative Arts, University of Wollongong, 1993. Print. 5 Oct. 2013

Pinkevicius, Vidas. “A Guide to Learning the Music of Johann Sebastian Bach.” N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2013

Prout, Ebenezer. Analysis of Bach’s Forty-Eight Fugues. London: E. Ashdown, 1910. Print. 10 Sept. 2013

Samson, Jim. The Cambridge Companion to Chopin. Cambridge University Press, 1994. Print. 6 Oct. 2013

“Scales: Just vs. Equal Temperament.” Physics of Music-Notes. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Nov. 2013

Yu, Fred. "Preludes: Intro." Chopin: The Poet of the Piano. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.

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