Poll : Do you have perfect pitch?

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BC
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Location: Scotland

Post by BC » Fri Aug 31, 2007 2:08 pm

We have strayed from the original subject. As previously indicated, I have no views on which temperament system Bach preferred. My arguments are that the tuning of a guitar necessarily involves approximations; that these may be heard as dissonances by a person with a sensitive ear; that Bach did not work out this problem (at least in the sense of solving it) but accepted a “compromise”.

The Temperament section in the Oxford Companion To Music supports all of these propositions. I offer the following quotations:

many people have a vague idea that Bach himself invented the system………..[but] The Spaniards seem to have used it in the placing of the frets on their guitars at least two centuries before Bach was born

[For avoidance of doubt I am not suggesting that you believe Bach invented the system, merely pointing out that the guitar is not only an equal tempered instrument but seems to have some claim to have been the first]

Instead of the few big wolves of mean-tone temperament there are……. in equal temperament…….. a large number of little wolves -- so little that their howls are unheard except by very keen-eared people.

It seems that our beginner guitarist was simply one of those keen eared people.

Finally,

Despite all Sunday-school teaching, life is necessarily a compromise; perfect truth is unattainable, and so is perfect tuning……….. and if in music we want to move easily amongst the keys………… we shall have to accept approximations


As Bach clearly did.

jbuck919
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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 2:36 pm

Nobody "invented" equal temperament. All performing forces that play instruments where the pitch can be adjusted as needed to deal with whatever key they are able to play (or sing) in the first place have always made true intervals out of what piece they might be playing at the time. The issue was the incapacity of keyboard instruments tuned in older manners to make the same compensation. Older methods of tuning were idealizations of some semi-imagined uncompromised ancient overtone system and an artifact of the Renaissance.

Though there is no documentation for this, I have not the slightest doubt that Bach could hear that every interval except the octave is slightly flat in equal temperament. It was preferable to the organ or harpsichord sounding out of tune with all the other performing forces in the key of choice, and in that sense, yes, it is a compromise.

BTW every serious chorister or choral director has to deal with this issue. "Do not listen to the piano for a fifth." Good singers figure it out quick enough.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

living_stradivarius
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Post by living_stradivarius » Fri Aug 31, 2007 3:45 pm

I've trained myself to hum A440 from memory so it is possible to train yourself to have perfect relative pitch :)
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jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 26867
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Aug 31, 2007 4:03 pm

living_stradivarius wrote:I've trained myself to hum A440 from memory so it is possible to train yourself to have perfect relative pitch :)
Many people, including myself, can hum the tone that is played by the hobo, er, oboe at the beginning of every symphony concert. It is not the same as absolute pitch.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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