List of approaches to musical tuning
Musical tuning can be approached in many different ways. Here are some of the currently-established theories and approaches:
- Equal-step tunings: Tunings that use a single interval (and combinations thereof) to form a subtle monoculture of intervals. These include edos (equal divisions of the octave), but also many nonoctave tunings (sometimes called edonoi).
- Moment of symmetry (MOS): Tunings (or better, scales) that use iterations of a generating interval, modulo a period interval, to produce scales of two step-sizes.
- Just intonation: The tuning of pitches so that their fundamental frequencies are related by ratios of whole numbers. An infinite world of numerous models:
- Regular temperaments (including linear temperaments): a centuries-old practice that has recently undergone a mathematical facelift, in which just intonation is selectively and regularly detuned in various ways, to better meet a variety of compositional desires
- Timbral tuning: An approach similar to just intonation, but using an instrument's actual, non-harmonic overtone spectrum (e.g. the partials of a metal bar, drum head, or synthesized timbre) to relate frequencies instead of the harmonic series.
- Musical traditions of indigenous, ancient, and/or non-Western cultures:
- Historical western temperaments: The (somewhat forgotten) use of Pythagorean tuning, meantone tunings and well temperaments in Western common practice music.
- Tetrachordal scales: the use of divided fourths as building blocks for composition.
The following approaches describe the subjective exploration process or its representations rather than its objective, audible result:
- Empirical: This is a form of hands-on field research as opposed to a form of acoustical or scale engineering, where tunings are specifically derived from listening and playing experiments carried out in the pitch continuum.
- Pretty Pictures that represent scales in one way or another
- Notation (pretty pictures for the purpose of writing music down)
- Nominal-Accidental Chains A common approach to notation
- The notion of a Scalesmith who builds scales, with various methods, perhaps for single occasions
- Mathematically based scales
- Acoustically-based scales (resonant frequencies of performance space, for example)
- Scale transformation and stretching
- Counter-intuitive, random, arbitrary scales