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How do microtonal basses work? - !?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Judah Yumul, May 2, 2015.

  1. So, I came upon two consecutive videos which had a microtonal instrument. First was a demo of a microtonal guitar then the other one was Mononeon completely owning some funk with a microtonal bass.

    So soon after I came to ask myself: How do frets work on a microtonal stringed instrument? How would the frets be counted? A-half of A-A#? XD But I'm serious. I read that microtonal music is music that includes intervals not only found in 12 notes, but outside of that perimeter as well. So I'm guessing that the "micronotes" are frequencies in between two notes found in the regular 12-note spectrum and that it'd be pretty blunt to say that a lot chromaticism is included in microtonal music. What do you guys think? And also - instead of just 12 notes, how many notes (not frets) could be played with a microtonal instrument? Please correct me if I made any wrong assumptions.

    I'd really like a visualization of what each of those notes are on those frets.

    Last edited: May 2, 2015
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Standard western classical musical notation doesn't handle this stuff. In the musical traditions where microtones are used a lot, I think one typical "mapping" does kind of "go on top of" the standard notation, in that you get several "choices of flavors" to use for the scale tones - not just major/minor 3rds or 6ths, for example, but like 3 flavors of each to "choose from" - no idea what notation is used though. And there are other ways of thinking and talking about them that aren't so western oriented - but I'm clueless what they are.
  3. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY

    scourgeofgod likes this.
  4. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    If you really want to trip out have a look at a just-intonation fretboard. :)
  5. jasmangan


    Jul 13, 2008
    Playing it upside down makes it makes it even sweeter
  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    A few links below to get into this highly complex and subjective world. Most of the work done these days in microtunings is in the realm of electronic music where it is very easy to deal with. Most examples don't use all the possible tones within the octave, much like Western music doesn't often use all 12 tones in the octave. World music makes good use of this in melodic form. Western music with its highly developed use of harmony is less open to its use.

    A common use for microtuning is to have a few more notes in an octave, such as a 19 note scale, or to use the micro tones to replace scale pitchs in an otherwise standard 12 note scale. For instance, the difference in Western tuning between a major scale and a minor scale is the 3rd scale step. Instead of lowering the 3rd a half step to make minor from major, you could lower it only a 1/4 step and in affect have a scale or chord that was neither major or minor. The 7th scale step is also a good place to apply this idea, taking away the leading tone in the scale (or the 3rd of the dominant chord).

    Micro tuning has a long history in music. It is a rich and interesting study. The links only scratch the surface. Enjoy the journey.

    What is microtonal music?
    Tonalsoft Encyclopedia of Microtonal Music-Theory
    Microtonal Synthesis
    knumbskull likes this.
  7. Belka


    Dec 10, 2003
    Kiev, Ukraine
    I tried to order a microtonal bass as a fretless. Also I prefer an unlined fingerboard so I specified my microtonal bass with this as well. However, when I requested this all the luthiers laughed at me - can't think why.
    scourgeofgod likes this.
  8. Belka


    Dec 10, 2003
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Should you tune a microtonal bass to 440 or 432hz?
    Jeff Scott likes this.

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