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Unusual tunings within VI
Last post Tue, Nov 13 2018 by Macker, 36 replies.
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Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 03:03
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5379

I thought to look at the tuning options in VI after reading the thread about non-tempered tuning.  

I am wondering about the use of these, as I have not tried them previously.  They are available under "matrix options" and include "Werckmeister,"  "just intonation," etc.   Do these simply apply to all notes played in the given channel?  I tried a "just intonation" setting and heard no difference from normal, but maybe it was the particular notes being played (?)  

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 09:13
by stefan_telser
Joined on Wed, Mar 14 2007, Posts 86

As far as I undestand these tunings apply to all notes.

On an equal tempered system (modern piano) all notes are slightly out of tune. This way it's garanteed that all scales (and their intervals) sound equal. There is no difference between E-Flat Major and C Major.

On a just tempered system (based on a certain Basenote) you have a perfect fifth between tonic and dominant. You do have this on an equal tempered system. There the fifth (and other intervals) is - as I said - a bit off. IOn a just tempered system it's perfect according to the basescale.

If you compose a piece in C-major I guess you would choose a just-tuned system based on the "C", or a well- tempered system (like werkmeister) where the scales have different characters (C Minor beeing perceived very dark and E Flat as being triumphant).

Maybe many of us have lost the ability to perceicve these differences, being so accustomed to the equal tempered system.

Stefan

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 09:47
by fahl5
Joined on Fri, Feb 04 2005, Hall One, Posts 953

Originally Posted by: William Go to Quoted Post

I thought to look at the tuning options in VI after reading the thread about non-tempered tuning.  

I am wondering about the use of these, as I have not tried them previously.  They are available under "matrix options" and include "Werckmeister,"  "just intonation," etc.   Do these simply apply to all notes played in the given channel?  I tried a "just intonation" setting and heard no difference from normal, but maybe it was the particular notes being played (?)  

Since they are "matrix options" they apply as far as I know only to the certain matrix for which you chose this option, what means as far as you have several matrices in your preset, you could (and should if you need all in the same tuning) set for each this option again and of course also for each other matrix of another involved "instrument" (Preset) if you have multiple instruments.

This is a great feature especially for ancient music and historic instruments but perhaps likewise for modern or experimental composition while I have'nt tried that yet.

I hope I was able to help a bit.

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Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 11:05
by stefan_telser
Joined on Wed, Mar 14 2007, Posts 86

For experimental reasons I have my Bassoon Solo first performed in equal temperament, then in F-Major (where it belongs).

Bassoon Solo

I did the editing in Melodyne. Im not sure I did it right though...Do you hear the difference?

Stefan

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 17:40
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 49

Good for you, William. I admire your adventurous and enterprising spirit. I like what you've done in the Althyria suite - very wistful and mysterious with lots of dramatic twists and turns, and I love the opening with the simple yet very atmospheric arpeggiated harp and celeste accompaniment for the wistful leitmotif.

Re-intoning a piece like Althyria will involve quite a bit of work, and I'd suggest trying Pythagorean intonation (PI) to start with and see if you like the results. Eventually it may even turn out that this piece is best left in ET for the sake of the characteristic bluesy minor third in the delicate principal leitmotif.

Just intonation (JI) in practice is unfortunately an EXTREMELY awkward mule to use as an overall intonation schema, and really a JI piece must be composed in JI from scratch. I spent several years wrestling with JI until I concluded that the theorists were full of s**t. And indeed it turns out that in actual practice JI has never ever been widely used - it's little more than a theorists' pipe dream of using pure, natural intonation for everything. For an excellent historical perspective on JI, see:- 

https://youtu.be/XhY_7LT8eTw

Meantone temperament (MT) was, before ET replaced it, the schema of choice for centuries in European keyboard instruments, especially church organs, since it does away with JI's practical awkwardness yet sounds sort of, kind of, similar-ish to JI. Moreover, unlike JI, MT can be scored normally as if it was standard PI.

The vast majority of 'exotic' tunings are either attempts to overcome the limited modulation range of fixed 12-note tuning in PI or MT, or are non-European and thus require special cultural understanding to use properly. These days I have little or no interest in any of them. I've tried out a few classical Indian scales but gave up on them because modulation as we know it doesn't exist in classical Indian modal music - traditional modal music in Europe also never involved modulation. So I've stayed focused on the two most historically significant intonation schemas used in Europe - PI and MT.

So let's look at how you might get started retuning your Althyria to PI. Unfortunately and weirdly, in the collection of Scala-format .scl microtuning files provided with VIPro, PI appears to be missing. Not to worry, we can easily make them in VIPro. I’ll provide a list of PI microtunings in cents for all 35 notes in standard western music nomenclature, at the bottom of this post. There is a Scala editor app intended for creating and editing microtuning files in .tun and .scl format, but it's ancient and the most horribly nerdy app I've ever encountered - I loathe and detest the damn thing and certainly don't recommend it.

Hope you don't mind, I've made a rough sketch of the first several bars of Althyria in Logic to try out VIPro's microtuning. I'm very new to the VSL world and have had VIPro only for a few weeks. Plus I'm currently struggling with my "freecasting" subsystem in an older and pretty flaky version of Logic, since in a recent update, Apple broke some stuff that's essential to me. (Thinking of migrating to Cubase Pro.)

I'll add the next bit to this post asap - hopefully within a couple of hours.

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 19:22
by stefan_telser
Joined on Wed, Mar 14 2007, Posts 86

I think Just Intonation Tuning is beautifull for single passages of strings or winds. Or Solo Melodies. Where you need pure thirds, fourths and fifths in a certain key to shine. No or very little vibrato.

I agree it is not very usefull in a modern chromatic orchestral compositions all the way through.

I wish it would be possible to switch tunings and rootkeys via Controllerchanges in the VI Player. Havn't found the possibility though so far.

Stefan

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 19:46
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 49

For William, Part 2

Ok let’s get down to it.

Rule No 1: don't expect a single 12-note microtuning file to cover every note you've scored in a piece - this is the 21st century and we're used to the freedom to modulate all over the place; indeed western orchestras have been using somewhere around 29 or 30 or so notes within the octave in their repertoires for a very long time. So wherever you've modulated out of the range of one particular tuning file, it's simply a matter of switching to another VIPro matrix in which you've set up a microtuning file to cover the notes at that particular place in the score. For the sake of economy of effort, obviously the trick is to try to minimise the number of times you have to switch between different 12-note microtunings. Of course the note tunings you put into each microtuning file don't have to constitute a scale when considered as a whole. For practical purposes I call any 12-note collection of microtunings a "cast", as in a cast of actors on stage at any one time. A cast may or may not be a scale, it doesn't matter. Switching to a different 12-note set of microtunings is “recasting”, and there will typically be substantial overlap between any two successive casts.

Rule No 2: The score must of course show precisely what each and every note is intended to be, i.e. a natural, flat, sharp, double flat or double sharp. (Oh yes, ET has let many of us become lazy in this regard, in which case it's time to brush up!)

In Logic I've slung together a rough sketch of the first 12 bars of Althyria and I've assumed the first arpeggiated accompaniment chord is Cmin maj7 + 9, and the opening leitmotif is Eb, D, B, C, Eb, D. 

Let’s start building a PI cast in VIPro with these microtunings, leaving the other notes at 0 cents for now: C = -6, D = -2, Eb = -12, G = -4, B = +4. We’ll see how far we can go with it.

The first 3 bars fit nicely. Then the truncated melodic and harmonic sequences begin in bar 4, where I think there's an F# - an interesting sequence transposition across a just minor third - or, sticking to PI transposition, it would be Gb but that could then lead to very remote tonal areas. Probably best if you take it from here. As and when you need a new note to be microtuned, just add the appropriate cents in the VIPro matrix tuner. And when you encounter a new note that’s different to what you’ve already set up in the matrix tuner, it’s time to switch to another matrix and tune it from there.

List of microtuning cents for PI (All referenced to A)

Fbb -35,  Fb -22,   F -8,   F# +6,   Fx +20

Cbb -33,  Cb -20,   C -6,   C# +8,   Cx +22

Gbb -31,  Gb -18,  G -4,   G# +10,  Gx +23

Dbb -29,  Db -16,  D -2,   D# +12,  Dx +25

Abb -27,  Ab -14,   A 0,    A# +14,   Ax +27

Ebb -25,  Eb -12,  E +2,   E# +16,   Ex +29

Bbb -23,  Bb -10,  B +4,   B# +18,   Bx +31

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 21:16
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5379

Wow, thanks for that info Macker.  I will work on it though may take a while!

Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 21:37
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1615

Long story short: if you want the more basic concords, for instance, afforded by a just intonation, or a 'limited' rational intonation for a certain tonic, this applies to everything in a matrix. Now, if you modulate, the ratios of course no longer apply. So you may establish this kind of intonation in another matrix for that case scenario (for the new tonic).

That's one intended use for 'classical'-oriented musicians. The non-western ones aren't really for extended modulation; exception being the maqam-type modulation where there will be a second intonation at the IV level.

You can easily create your own. Just find them on your system and open them with a text editor in order to note the format of a scala file. These are just text files formatted this particular way.

MacBook Pro 15,1: 2.9 GHz 6-core i9
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Posted on Thu, Oct 25 2018 22:00
by civilization 3
Joined on Sat, May 16 2009, SF Bay Area, Posts 1615

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post
Just intonation (JI) in practice is unfortunately an EXTREMELY awkward mule to use as an overall intonation schema, and really a JI piece must be composed in JI from scratch. I spent several years wrestling with JI until I concluded that the theorists were full of s**t. And indeed it turns out that in actual practice JI has never ever been widely used - it's little more than a theorists' pipe dream of using pure, natural intonation for everything.  

In fact it's an evolutionary step before modulation was a thing. But as to extremely awkward, it's not difficult at all to create a matrix for every step we're going to modulate to in JI or whatever Werckmeister, what-have-you.

It strikes me as quite strange to see someone dismiss JI in the way you did. I would take your struggles as your struggles and not anything on the order of objectivity.

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post

Meantone temperament (MT) was, before ET replaced it, the schema of choice for centuries in European keyboard instruments, especially church organs, since it does away with JI's practical awkwardness yet sounds sort of, kind of, similar-ish to JI. Moreover, unlike JI, MT can be scored normally as if it was standard PI.


Except where you run into problems which are quite like the problems of using JI for modulation.

Originally Posted by: Macker Go to Quoted Post
The vast majority of 'exotic' tunings are either attempts to overcome the limited modulation range of fixed 12-note tuning in PI or MT, or are non-European and thus require special cultural understanding to use properly. These days I have little or no interest in any of them. I've tried out a few classical Indian scales but gave up on them because modulation as we know it doesn't exist in classical Indian modal music - traditional modal music in Europe also never involved modulation. So I've stayed focused on the two most historically significant intonation schemas used in Europe - PI and MT.


Well, yeah, if you want Indian intonation to modulate very far, it's the same problem as JI, isn't it. 
People that do follow the culture and seek knowledge in it have another disposition than do you.

That said, the sitar has actually been set in an orchestral setting, for instance. You could modulate up a P4 and not get into terrific trouble, depending on your tuning (frets placement). In fact you could design the piece for such. Quite like designing a VI Pro preset, with attention to your matrices variances.

IE: the difference between a major tone (9:8) and a whole tone in 12tET is not large. 

OTOH: There are raags using the sarod where the intervals are quite smaller than a semitone (the definition of microtonal) but this is just a product of that music's expressive capacity. (The vioiin of course is another fretless stringed instrument.)

Back to something useful: One may find that instrumentalists in an ensemble strive towards some simpler consonances than 12th root of 2 equal temperament affords. This is a reality-based assessment. 
Major third in 12tET is 13.69¢ sharper than 5:4, for instance. One may be well conditioned to this after a time, or one may find this to be what it is physically, less concordant (one may even having noticed that find it to be not the best sounding thing, in this or another usage. 5:4 may be felt as 'flaccid' or the like. You may want more than one intonation for the single tonic, 5:4 vs 81:64 or the 12tET version, you-name-it).
So here is a use case for eg., JI in the VI Pro instrument. 
One may not find all of it necessary. But it is a simple matter of modulation just using a matrix for the next tonic(s).

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Posted on Fri, Oct 26 2018 04:15
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5379

Oh yeah that would be totally simple.  Multiple matrices at every modulation.

Try that in this music and then get back to me on your simple, efficient workflow- 

Althyria

But thanks for the chiming in.  It is interesting to experiment in a basic way with these tunings.  

Posted on Fri, Oct 26 2018 08:35
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 49

Glad you get that I'm talking from my perspective, Civilization3, cuz I don't know of any other valid way for organic beings to communicate.

Posted on Fri, Oct 26 2018 15:51
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5379

Thanks for that material macker. I want to experiment with this, though it is complicated on that score by using Dimension strings with all the 24 separate players.  

Posted on Sat, Oct 27 2018 12:23
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 49

You're very welcome, William.

VSL's approach to tuning is a welcome baby-step but it's far too localised, requiring an awful lot of tedious chores to use in modern compositions, as you've discovered.

I for one will be lobbying for VSL to centralise their intonation facilities in future versions of VE, VIPro and presumably a future Synchron Pro player. It should at least be possible to apply switchable retunings centrally to all matrices in each instance of VIPro, if not globally to all players in each instance of VE. Ideally it would be global throughout the DAW, like I have in the centrally-controlled intonation subsystem I've designed in Logic's Environment. Apple's built-in global intonation facility in Logic is impossible to control or change on the fly, making it useless for all except simple pop productions - and even then (I think) it works only for the Logic instruments provided by Apple. 

My Logic-based intonation subsystem is intended to be a proof-of-concept experimental prototype, hopefully useful as an aid to DAW and plugin instrument developers in formularising their own proprietary takes on advanced, flexible and slick intonation facilities. I'm also hoping it will be useful to some composers (Logic users) who don't mind experimenting with a prototype (though I have yet to address fully the intricacies of using huge numbers of library channels in slave computers). I intend to provide a free (no-strings-attached) release of the thing next year (assuming Apple have fixed the broken 14-bit MIDI processing in Logic Environment by then!)

Cheers

UPDATE: The "Synchronize scale of all matrices" button works (it didn't seem to work for me when I first tested it but maybe I was doing something stupid). So within each instance of VIPro at least there's no need to copy tuning casts or enter individual note tunings for each of its matrices. However, when this sync button is engaged it's still potentially a big inconvenience to have to duplicate channels in VE just to give each channel a new tuning cast, for each and every tuning cast that's required in a piece. That could easily amount to an awful lot of duplicated matrices in a piece that modulates extensively.

Posted on Wed, Nov 07 2018 00:35
by tchampe
Joined on Wed, Apr 25 2018, Posts 47

I have followed this thread with considerable interest, despite the fact that my musical (and acoustical physics) knowledge falls woefully short of understanding everywhere you are going. There is one form of tuning that I am wondering if it has a name. I have never actually been taught this concept, but on reflection, I think it is the way I actually tune in many situations. What I'm talking about is tuning wherein the lead voice states the melody in equal temperment and the harmonizing voices adjust their pitches to keep the chord in just intonation relative to the lead. For example, if the lead voice happens to fall on the 3rd of a dominant 7th chord, the root and fifth not only have to keep their interval perfect relative to each other, but they also squeeze the pitch up a bit to place the third of the melody note into the perfect spot. You don't really think about it, but I think that is what's going on. What do you call that?

Posted on Wed, Nov 07 2018 02:29
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5379

You are right, it is tuning based on hearing at the time.  This happens all the time in orchestras as you know.  It has nothing to do with equal temperament and is probably most represented by just intonation, but that is debatable.  A very complex subject!  

I personally love throwing things out of tune.  I am getting a little too extreme in that regard.  When I played in orchestra or band, I was always concerned about being in tune.  Now that I am using samples, I want everything to be OUT of tune. That is weird...

Posted on Wed, Nov 07 2018 15:13
by Macker
Joined on Tue, Aug 21 2018, London, Posts 49

Tchampe, if we're to be precise, you might be referring to the "Hermode Tuning System" which requires a special software mechanism in computer based music production.

I'm not aware that orchestras or ensembles of any kind in general usually have the skill to play in ET accurately and reliably without guidance from an ET instrument such as a piano or organ. ET is a mathematical convenience for certain fixed pitch instruments only; very little about it is natural or intuitive or easy to learn for other instrumentalists or singers. Indeed these days when we hear certain pop singers sounding like they've overdosed on tranquillisers or something, I bet you'll find the mix engineers have overdone the ET-based auto-tuning!

I believe I heard the Vienna Philharmonic switch into ET deliberately and sustain it for a minute or so during one of their New Year's day performances several decades ago, but I guess that was merely to show off their superb and almost unmatched virtuosity.

A-Capella singers may execute a multitude of wondrous feats of intonation while performing in ensemble, but I very much doubt if their top melody lines will ever conform to ET, intentionally or otherwise - it's too unnatural and difficult to learn.

But I'd say what you describe is similar to what orchestral players have to do frequently as a normal matter of performance, which is to maintain melodic lines as far as possible in Pythagorean while the supporting parts may here and there have to harmonise in just intonation to certain individual melody notes. 

• Website describing the Hermode Tuning System:

www.hermode.com/index_en.html

• Link to download a pretty lengthy PDF, in which the co-inventer of the Hermode Tuning System, Werner Mohrlok, describes the invention and what led him to invent it.

http://extras.springer.com/2005/978-1-84628-113-6/pdf/hermode.pdf

• Short video tutorial by Kurt Sassmannshaus of violinmasterclass.com, titled "Intonation: Which System to Use When"

https://youtu.be/QaYOwIIvgHg

Posted on Wed, Nov 07 2018 21:16
by tchampe
Joined on Wed, Apr 25 2018, Posts 47

Macker, thank you, I will check those sites. I realize now that we are actually talking about two different things; you guys are discussing intonation systems that can be applied to fixed-pitch instruments, I'm talking about "being in tune." I've probably overthought it...the lead tries to sing/play his/her part in tune with prevailing pitch of the ensemble and the rest of us adjust until the beats go away and the chord rings. Period. (And woe be unto you who cannot make this happen instantaneously!) In terms of VSL, this may have an application, primarily with chords played by individual instrumentalists on axes with a pure, straight tone (i.e., 4-part horns). Massed strings, all playing with minor variations of pitch and cranking a vibrato about a semi-tone wide, will not show this effect as clearly. Macker, you correctly mention the world of a-capella singing. After many years in bands and orchestras, it was not until I started singing close harmony in quartets and octets that I really became aware of this. In particular, my brief flirtation with barbershop harmony, with its almost religious fixation with pure intonation, was revelatory. Again, the effect is much less apparent in large choruses than it is with 4 individual singers.

One interesting thing about a-capella: the clear, ringing chords only really happen when you stick to the lower end of the overtone series, like the barbershoppers. Anything much fancier than a dominant 7th loses the effect. When you get up into those extended Duke Ellington harmonies the sound is exquisite, but when it comes to tuning, you might as well line them up with a piano...there is no spot where you can just "feel" the note hit like you can with 3rds and 5ths.

Posted on Wed, Nov 07 2018 22:56
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 5379

Yeah the hermode system is an attempt at doing that real-time tuning which happens in orchestras or ensembles.  It is true that what is tuned in a live ensemble is as you put it, "playing in tune" which is definitely not anything corresponding to a keyboard's equal temperment.  Probably would have to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis to compare it to various systems.  

Posted on Thu, Nov 08 2018 00:10
by tchampe
Joined on Wed, Apr 25 2018, Posts 47

I checked the links Macker provided to the Hermode system. What an incredible analysis and effort that was! Mohrlok has certainly sought to reproduce exactly the effect I was talking about. I was really excited...until I listened to his examples of various well-known excerpts, many of them produced with VSL instruments, recorded with and without his HMT tuning. I hate to say it, but the improvement was, to my ears, extremely subtle. I mean after a few audtions I figured the "without" version would start to sound like the River City Boys Band, but it just didn't happen. Probably the best use I heard was the really pure sounding pipe organ stops, which, although cool, is very artifical (except for the gee-whiz setup they've done to make one particular organ auto-adjust using their software). It was actually pretty discouraging...I've always felt like I had pretty good ears and I've never had anyone gripe about my pitch...but I just wasn't getting a profoundly improved sonic experience. I'm not sure if I have just gotten used to the distortion of ET or my ears are shot...I have tinnitus screaming at various pitches above 8k that is usually the loudest "sound" I am perceiving.

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