Thursday, May 03, 2007

Some Microtonal Music Tuning Terms

Microtonal Music

Generally, any type of music that deviates from the standard tuning of twelve tone equal Temperament. Some people are more restrictive in their definition of microtonal music.

Xenharmonic Music

Music that uses strange harmony. This term is often used to distinguish microtonal music that uses experimental tuning systems from microtonal music that relies on historical or ethnic tunings.


The interval that represents a frequency ratio of 2/1. Notes that differ by one or more octaves are considered to be the same note and have a similar sound, even though their pitches are different. Some experimental forms of music are based on nonoctave tunings.

Just Intonation

A tuning system that uses only purely tuned intervals that represent simple whole number ratios like 3/2, 4/3, etc. This approach can result in less dissonant harmonic combinations, but can cause difficulties when changing keys.

Twelve Tone Equal Temperament

The common, standard tuning in modern Western music. It divides the octave into twelve equally spaced intervals. This makes changing keys easier and provides a convenient tuning standard for performers and instrument makers. However, all its intervals, except the octave, are tempered away from pure, justly tuned intervals. Other equal temperaments are formed by dividing the octave into any other number of equally tempered intervals.

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