A Tempering Experience

At the Whitewater Early Music Festival the first weekend in June, I bought some second hand instruments, a bass cornamuse and an alto recorder at A=415.  I took my good tuner (Korg OT-120 ) with me to check the instruments before buying.

The cornamuse was first up.  I turned the tuner on, noted it was set on a mean tone temperament at A=440, and thought I’d just try it.  Wow, I was impressed — almost every note, right on pitch.  I went up and down the scale, played arpeggios, bits of tunes and stopped occasionally to check the tuning.  Every time, very close to perfectly on pitch in mean tone!  Cool!

Then the alto recorder.  I had my expectations, but for grins and giggles, left the tuner in mean tone temperament, tuned it down to A=415, and started playing and checking.  Not nearly as good, most notes off a bit, some off a lot.  Then I shifted the tuner to equal temperament, and tried again.  Bingo, most notes came into tune according to the meter easily, and as I ran bits of tunes stopping occasionally to check notes, they were pretty much right in place.

None of this is particularly surprising, but it was quite interesting to see it in action.