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Outside Equal-Temperment

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Wintermute, Mar 21, 2006.

  1. Wintermute

    Wintermute Running in circles

    Quite a strange question this one, but have either of you ever experimented with tunings outside the Equal Temperment system? I know it's impossible on a fretted bass without having out specially built for the purpose, but it can be done on a fretless.

    I've got an upcoming assignment that has to be in an outlandish and weird tuning system - such as a 31-note octave, or something wildly untempered. I'm working on retuning some samplers to different temperments and even microtonal scales, but I would like to work in some fretless bass as well.

    If either of you have experimented with these, have you any recommendations or hints? About the systems in general, not just using them on a fretless.

    Thanks! :D
  2. not to hijack the thread away from steve and michael, but i know there was some talk on talkbass on a bass player who had a 72 tone temperament...or something like that...i didn't really get it i guess

    EDIT: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=214647
  3. Wintermute

    Wintermute Running in circles

    Thanks for that - it's a pity his website doesn't tell you more, I suppose I'll just have to drop him an email. :)

    But that's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. I basically came here to look because most other people I've asked haven't really understood what I'm asking, and since Manring is one of the most well known people for messing with tunings, I thought he'd be a good bet for having tried this kind of thing. :D

    (And if not, why not? :p)
  4. Burg


    Nov 29, 2001
    Superbassman2000, I checked out the other thread you linked to and you mentioned Reed Mathis.
    Never heard of him, can you give some more info, googles being a bit shy.
  5. Bob Bl.

    Bob Bl.

    May 1, 2003
    Hansford Rowe has done a bunch of work with Just Intonation. See:

    I met him recently when Gongzilla played in town. He seems like a real nice guy - I'd bet he'd answer any questions you have. You can get in touch with him through his site or through Lolo Records. I think Gongzilla has a MySpace site, too...

    His "No Other" CD has some good examples of this kind of tuning system used in a very approachable, NON-experimental setting. You know, the kind of music you could play for your parents, neighbors, or workmates, and NOT have them think you were totally weird. ;)
  6. reed mathis is another genius bass player for jacob fred jazz oddysey
    i think that reed has got to be one of the greats when it comes to effects usage for bass...the guy amazes me...i can't wait to see him live someday.
  7. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Intonation systems are a fascinating and huge subject -- unfortunately, way too vast to get into any detail here. For the whole story, I strongly recommend a book called Genesis of a Music, by a great hero of mine named Harry Partch.

    The kind of altered tuning I use on the bass is a different concept from the alternative intonation we‘re talking about here. For the most part I stay in conventional Western 12-tone temperament, i.e. using notes that are on the piano. Alternative intonation systems use notes between those on the piano. Many such systems have been devised and used throughout history and the Partch book gives a thorough, if arguably biased, analysis.

    If you’re interested in goofing around with other systems of intonation, I’d say fretted bass is your best bet. It’s dang hard enough to play fretless in tune within the system we’re accustomed to. When you start moving into more exotic schemes, especially those with finer increments than ours, it becomes a real bear. The method used by Jeroen Thesseling of stringing a fretted bass with the same gauge on each string and tuning them to slightly different versions of one note is an excellent plan. Doing this I’d think you should be able to get nice microtonal equal temperament -- although with a dramatic decrease in the range of the instrument. Hansford Rowe’s Just Intonation bass seems like an excellent way to goof around with more “pure” tuning. Both sound like big fun to me and I‘ll have to check out what these guys are doing!

    As a good Partch disciple, I can’t let the discussion go without encouraging you to ask yourself why you’d want to use a particular system of intonation, particularly equal tempered systems. There are all kinds of variables involved in any tuning scheme and the intonation you use has a huge impact on the music you make. In any case, there’s little doubt this is an enormous and largely under-explored frontier in music. I hope you’ll have fun experimenting!

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