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Just Temperament on Bass?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Bruce Lindfield, Dec 7, 2000.


  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This came up in another forum and I wondered if you had ever used this or knew any fretless (solo?)bass players had used this - I seem to remember that Michael Manring experimented with micro-tonality but couldn't remember whether he had looked into this?

    I only know about it because of the series on Channel 4 this year on the history of Music, which looked at 5 big things which had changed the face of music. One of the programmes was devoted to the way that Equal Temperament was adopted by the West from Bach's time onwards and had almost wiped out every other type of tuning now.

    I know that "Just Temperament" means that each key would have a different sound and notes would be tuned differently depending on the intervals, so that an F# will be slightly differently to a Gb for example - is it just impractical or something worth experimenting with?
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Bruce,

    for me, one of the great things that I've discovered about fretless is that you can alter intervals minutely to sound more 'in tune', even if it takes them off the lines. I saw Alain Caron talking about this before I got a fretless and couldn't believe that you could hear it, but now i've got one and it's my main voice, I'm more aware of doing it.

    Equal temperament is a convenient way of not having to own 12 highly modified basses, and to my ears sounds fine. What sounds 'more fine' is having the ability to alter certain intervals to make them work better.

    I think it's a worthwhile persuit to seek to play music that is as expressive as you can - I've experimented with quarter tones and such like, but have yet to find anything in my own playing that grabs me enough to make me devote serious time to it. I'll continue to try to find ways of knowing music better, having more options open to me, one of which is correcting intervals away from equal temperament.

    Experiment with it and see what you come up with...

    cheers

    Steve
    http://www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    > Steve Lawson :
    >I've experimented with quarter tones and such like, but have yet to find anything in my own playing that grabs me enough to make me devote serious time to it.

    Same thing I've experienced, Steve, when practicing / experimenting. Especially with lower notes and if the tone doesn't have much upper-mids, they add little discernable expressivity. I use them sometimes in passing between two notes to make a line fit better, but it is almost coincidental that they may be quarter tones.

    In group settings they just tend to beat against whatever else is going on if they are noticed at all. So...


    >I'll continue to try to find ways of knowing music better, having more options open to me, one of which is correcting intervals away from equal temperament.

    Definitely, playing chords, one can fine tune intervals. I'm pretty new to bass and fretless, but perhaps that technique can become natural. I know it did when playing sax. I've felt that in ensemble work one is always adjusting to sound the most consonant if the musical style actually allows it to happen (ie, many single line instruments and not too huge of a balance coming from even-tempered keyboards, etc).

    Vocal choirs, string and woodwind ensembles, orchestras, etc, probably have a tendency to play with just intonation and each chord / choral grouping's root becomes a new fundamental for the tuning. That consonance is what director/conductors are often shooting when they work on certain passages and sections, without perhaps even realizing the distinction between Just and Even temperaments.

    At least I've never heard one mention this concept... But I think the overtone series is subconciously informing them, and hopefully us : }


    <-- greenboy ---<<<