Just thought I'd direct your attention to this
morning's L.A. Times. The article is entitled "Piano
Tuner's Blues." It deals with the digital vs. ear tuning
debate among other things. Hope you're doing well.-- Ex-Student,
Nice to hear from you, Travis. Thanks
for the heads-up on this article. It clearly demonstrates
that there is a lot more
to tuning than the average music user realizes.By the way,
there is an on-line video version of the article at <http://www.latimes.com/piano> One
must register in order to see it, but registration is free.
Pitch and rhythm
It seems that the music world treats the topics of pitch and
rhythm separately. Is this just my naive impression of the
While pitch and rhythm must be combined
in order to create an actual musical expression, they are
very different perceptually. For example, a red car has both
"red-ness" and "car-ness" but these attributes
have no essential similarities. One must contemplate "red"
and "cars" separately in order to understand them
Therefore, when learning about the
nature of pitch and rhythm, one must deal with them abstractly
and separately. As you likely realize, we can experience one
without the other.
The *interplay* of pitch and rhythm
then is another subject, but obviously better understood when
each has been understood separately. I hope this helps. --
You have helped me bridge the gap between the world of music
and the world of physics. I have bought and studied all your
and material at this point. I have also purchased the
software from Justonic - Pitch Palette. Do you have a bibliography
of recommended books and/or articles for further study? --
Actually, I haven't, Vuk.
My writing has been more or less "for what it's worth."
What you get is what makes sense to you. I haven't kept track
of all of the sources and practical experiences that have led
me to my current point of view on these matters.
A good source of information
about what's in print would be the Yahoo "tuning group."
These folks are very much into the subject of microtuning --
both acoustic and electronic -- and frequently discuss the "literature."
Send a blank email to
<email@example.com> -- Jerry
Where should I start?
I'm a student at Cal State San Marcos. I haven't ever taken
a music class but I was reading an interview of one of my favorite
hip hop artist, Del the Funky Homosapian, and he referred to
"Lies My Music Teacher Told Me" as the best book he's
found on music theory. I plan on reading this book, but I was
wondering if you recommend reading the "Sounds of Music..."
book first since I'm not very informed on the subject. Thanks
for the help. Linden
Thanks, Linden, for your
email. For folks new to music theory, I recommend reading "Sounds"
first. "Lies" is specifically for people who have
had some training and are still trying to figure out the sense
of it. "Sounds," on the other hand, is for readers
like you who have little or no background and want to make sure
all the basics are in place. Enjoy! Jerry
I found "Lies" to be amazingly lucid and useful.
Now I want to read "The Sounds of Music: Perception and
Notation." Tee Campion
I guess it can work the other way,
You have to have been around to know what the lies are. If
you expect to read this book and catch your teacher in the lies,
you won't have the knowledge to explain, and probably your teacher
is too ignorant to understand. I've learned most (99%) of my
music from books and teachers, which explains why I am not musical!
I recommend this book to anyone who is good with theory, but
has a suspicion that there is more to music than what they've
been told or read. D. K. Wilkes, Seattle, Washington
Thanks, D. K. You may be correct here.
But I suspect you are more musical than you admit. Remember,
a good music listener requires musicality. Your interest in
music suggests that you are likely at least that. J
"Sounds" is a fairly comprehensive explanation
of the theory of music and provides an excellent alternate
to the standard perspective. It's different from the other
books on this topic I have read in that it starts "at
the beginning," with very basic facts about human
perception and the physics of producing sound, and follows
an unusual but cogent route to a deeper understanding
As a lifelong student of music (and recently-turned-professional
performer), I was delighted to find this new perspective
filling in a number of little holes in my understanding
and challenging me to reconsider some of the ideas I had
about music and which I never thought about very deeply.
I recommend it highly for those who find value in multiple
perspectives on the subject of music theory! Wes
Carroll, San Francisco
This is interesting,
Wes, in that it has been suggested that I didn't have
a clear focus on my "audience" while writing
"Sounds." Initially, I tended to agree in the
sense that writing the book was somewhat of a cathartic
for melargely a process of "getting it down"
for whomever would take a fancy to read it. In retrospect,
however, I remember taking care that everything should
be as simple and clear as possible so as not to lose the
novice. On the other hand, I remember imagining experienced
readers "looking over my shoulder" and gaining
a fresh perspective on the topic. Your comments above
indicate that my apparent lack of audience focus is not
really a problem. Thanks. J
Do you have a list of your favorite works that
you use to show the functionalityand utility of the tritone? Specifically,
I am interested in the works of Bach, Mozart, and Bethoven.
Although I frequently
have the impulse to start such a list when I hear good examples,
I have not followed through on the idea. Actually, almost any
"functional" music (as in the music composed by the
three composers you mention) must of necessity contain many
instances of tritones directing the harmonic flow of the composition.
I play stringed instruments. Mainly guitar and bass. The guitar
sounds best with frets. The wire stopping at a fret makes a
beautifully bright tone which cannot be replicated with a finger.
Plus there is much less sustain when the wee wire is stopped
by my fleshy digit (I know this from experimenting with a fretless
guitar). Plus there is the whole Chord issue. If one cannot
have fixed pitches, how does one place frets?
Sometimes, after reading about the problem of fixed pitches,
I get so frustrated, that I feel compelled to have nothing
to do with guitars and just play percussion and sing.
There must be a way to fret an instrument in tune.
You may be interested
to know about a colleague of mine who is both a guitarist
and microtonalist. John Schneider is well
known for his "just tuned" fretboards. Since the pitches
are necessarily fixed, this is not exactly the same as the
produced by voices or violins. John's personal page on the
Pierce College web site provides some interesting facts about
interests and activities. Perhaps a visit there will turn
up something of value. -- J
Fascinating reading. I'm quite intrigued by it, coz I was always
plagued by it in band, and played constantly into a tuner, which
took a lot away from making real music.
Now I know that my instrument was made very poorly and had
a horrid scale. Held me back musically, but sure did open up
ear 'oles! I look forward to the results, and may even have
to check out your "tuning" Yahoo list. How does one
sign up? I'm no expert, but a very willing learner. -- Happy
Holidays, Lesa Walter
Thanks for participating,
Lesa. Encourage your musical friends to do so as well. To get
into the tuning list send a blank email to
Wow! In the Jerry 10 example I heard the third of the chord
rise in the last couple of seconds. It made me realize that
what I had always considered to be an "in tune" chord
was actually not. The high third at the end is the sound I have
come to prefer, but now I'm not so sure.In the Jerry 00 clip,
I definitely heard the third alone at the end and it sounded
flat. Was it really the same pitch that had been sounding all
along? I am a singer (tenor) and choir director. I have a Masters
Degree in choral conducting and am in the process of pursuing
a doctorate at the University of Utah. Mark Pearce
Interesting, Mark. Apparently,
you heard the "low" (acoustic) third in Jerry10
and the "high" third in Jerry00. I find that
when I focus on the pitch of the third in Jerry10, I tend
to hear it low.
However, when I focus on the sonority as a whole I hear the
"high" third (and sense that it goes down when the
second chord begins. Try doing that and see if your conscious
"focus" makes any difference. Let me know, please.
Yes, I am told by the creator that the frequency of the third
is the same throughout in Jerry00. Jerry
Let me, Fred Reinagel, introduce myself - I have been
involved with the application of historic tuning systems
in the performance of vocal and instrumental early music
for over 25 years. As a result, about 5 years ago I designed
an electronic tuner that provides 17 historic temperaments,
called "the PitchMan". I learned of you
and your "Lies" book on the tuning list net group, and immediately
bought the book (through Amazon.com - very good service).
In general, I am in violent agreement with your sentiments
the deplorable ignorance and misinformation being taught
The solution is farther
from practical than I had earlier suspected. I am finding
that even teachers who
fresh point of view regarding the teaching of music fundamentals
are reluctant to forsake the "tried and untrue." We
are considering publishing ancillary materials (student
handbook and teacher's manual) to be used with my
textbook "The Sounds of Music:Perception and Notation." Hopefully,
these will encourage more college teachers to help turn the
There are a few aspects, however, which I find puzzling
- perhaps you can clear them up. On page 28, you
imply that the average musician can readily notice that
a pure 5th is wider than an equal-tempered 5th. The difference
between them is only about 2 cents, which is one beat per
2.3 seconds at middle G. Even if the listener does detect beats
(admittedly, the upper partials will beat faster), I doubt
if any but the
very most aurally gifted would be able to perceive the _sign_
of the pitch discrepancy (upper note sharper or flatter).
On the other hand, the major 3rd, the equal-tempered version
being almost 14 cents wider than the just, would make
a much more perceivable and dramatic demonstration of
the evils of equal temperament on acoustic (ie, harmonically
The practice of tuning, as I understand
it, is not simply to adjust pitches a few cents up or down
rather to "float" them
into agreement with other sounding pitches. Even my "baby
students learn to tune a perfect fifth in this manner with
little difficulty (once they catch on to what the goal
is). It's a matter of finding adjustment of the pitch that
it to "disappear" into the sounding fundamental.
After considerable practice locating
these tunings harmonically, I find that one can place them
rather precisely melodically as well.As a result melody
sparkles with a new freshness that a piano can only dream
am also confused by several passages which suggest that rendering
chords and intervals in just intonation makes
compared to "normal" (ie, equal-tempered) tuning.
These occur in the first paragraph on page 32, the second
paragraph on page 35, and the second paragraph on page
38. Discounting the 5th scale degree which should be
very slightly higher than tempered (and in fact, when
them I always stretch them even a tiny bit on the wide
the 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale degrees all need to _lowered_
one comma to make them just. In the many years I've
coached a cappella groups, I've always had to hound them
those tone's pitches to get good harmonic tuning. Comments,
In my experience, many, if not most,
singers and string players tend to find a "locked" major
third slightly higher than tempered when both the
root and a well-tuned fifth are sounding. I have demonstrated
times, even when the groups are not warned ahead
of time what the point of the demonstration is. (The
procedure is described in the "Mystery
of the High Third" discussion on this site.)
Regarding "adjustments" of
other scale steps, I hear scale step 6 finding a " lock" higher
(8/13?) when tuning to the tonic than when tuning
to the subdominant (4/6?-- subject to the above observation
we agree that scale step 4 when sounding as the seventh
of the V7 is not the same pitch as scale step 4 sounding
the root of IV.
Your book, Lies My Music Teach Told Me, confirms a lot of things
I have thought about music but have been too timid to express.
Thanks for writing it. Harris Lemberg
Thank you, Harris. Your
note is a confirmation to me, as well. I have received a great
many similar responses to Lies which lets me know
that I am on the right track. Best wishes for the holidays and
I am a private music teacher in violin, piano, and theory.
I teach Suzuki Violin and piano to all ages. I have a BM in
Piano, a BME in Music Education, an MM in Music throry and composition,
a DMA in Composition and a BSN in Nursing! I received an epiphany
when I read your book, and plan to immediately incorporate it
into my teaching. I have taught both acoustics and music theory
on college level.
My father was a pianist and my mother a singer. I grew up listening
to them practice, humming alone, experimenting with my own voice
in relation to their harmonies as well as to the (yes, indeed!)
the whine of the vaccuum. When I took college theory, it was
a process of hanging names on things I already knew from discovery.
Reading "Lies My Music Teacher Told Me" was like validating
my whole childhood experience.
Unfortunately, my formal music training did not carry on that
experience. My mother was so afraid that I would never learn
to read notes (I was reluctant to do it) that she forbade me
to play by ear, so my early ability to reproduce what I heard
at the keyboard died an unnatural death. Do you think I could
teach my fingers at this age (56) to improvise beyond very elementary
I am going to order your "Natural Ear Training" to
help me teach my students to trust their ears. I think this
is the answer to the violin student who does not play in tune
in spite of the fact that he or she has a normally discriminating
ear (Can distinguish changes of one Hz on the electronic tuner
and tell which direction the pitch goes but does not carry this
over into playing. This has mystified me for years.)
I am wildly grateful for your book and any other guidance you
might feel inspired to give. Meredith Nisbet
Your email has brightened
an otherwise dreary day, Meredith. It is always exhilarating
to hear that my ideas have connected with a kindred spirit.
Thanks for letting me know of your epiphany.
I know of no educational principle that would prevent 56 year
old fingers from taking cues from a revitalized musical awareness.
I suggest you go, girl. (Or "boy," as
the case may be.)
Let us know how the "tin-eared"
violin student does. Jerry
I just got "The Sounds..." in the mail. I
put on the CD and skimmed and listened through the whole
book in one sitting, reading as fast as I could and
only pausing the CD briefly to catch up inbetween. Wow!
What a joy to find a book that so thoroughly explains
music theory from a fresh viewpoint and in such an organized
fashion. I can't wait to reread it now (slowly) and
take it all in. I'll definitely put it on the top of
my reading recommendations for my friends.
I especially appreciate doing away with the myth that
Equal temperament is OK and addressing the attitude
that pure ratios don't matter because the differences
are imperceptible. Balderdash! The nerve of the Harvard
Dictionary of Music! The true sound of the third and
flat seventh is so beautiful not to mention all of the
other intervals. I also appreciated the use and clarification
of such new (to me) terminology as "digitals"
and "pitch recognition". Not to sound too
weird about it but, I just love this book!! Peter
Abood,Worship and Fine Arts Pastor, Central Christian
In one sitting?
That's pretty impressive, Peter! After you have re-read
more liesurely, be sure to send us your thoughts and