How to get into learning about/appreciating/noticing/making music using microtones?
Apparently some blues music uses them (I thought the blues note was just the tritone note, because that's how you'd play it on an electric guitar using the "blues scale", sans slide, anyway)?
In terms of listening to microtonal music, do I start with Radiohead? Who did they rip off/get inspired by in terms of microtones? (is it Aphex Twin again?)
Who is famous for microtones? (doesn't have to be Western music mainstream; if they're people from the Middle East or something, I don't care)
But artist names, records, etc. would be appreciated.
Is there even a chart for this kind of music? It's not really a genre, per se, so I don't think there is…
Before attempting anything microtonal, please read this:
Most microtonal music is unlistenable noise because people think it's just splitting ordinary scales into smaller divisions. I'd love to hear some more consonant microtonal works.
Yeah they do.
> The band Radiohead have used microtonal string arrangements in their music, such as on "How to Disappear Completely" from their album Kid A (Wilson, Penderecki, and Greenwood 2012).
The question is, where do you go from there?
>Most microtonal music is unlistenable noise because people think it's just splitting ordinary scales into smaller divisions.
Well, aren't those Arabic music or whatever microtonal? Do you know anything about those?
almost all non-western music is microtonal according to western standards.
Western music uses equal temperament, where the notes are divided on a logarithmic scale.
most other cultures use just temperament or something close to it, where the frequencies of the scale tones are fractions of the frequency of the tonic, like in >>55674619's picture.
I don't know much about Arab music but I do know that Indian classical ragas (scales) usually use microtones in improvisation (almost like heavy tremolo) and in certain scales, though it has more in common enharmonically with Western classical than you might think.
>almost all non-western music is microtonal according to western standards.
So basically they're modal, in a sense?
Or are ionian, dorian, phrygian, etc. the only "modes"—as in, stuff that works according to the Western division of notes while not working with the standard major/minor stuff?
Like, would you call a scale that's not divided like Western temperament a "mode"? Or is that just a completely unrelated topic?
Also, how do people compose for different temperaments? String sections are a bit more understandable, but even then, how do you try to fit in guitars, pianos, etc. which are of Western temperament? Do you just not?
The most notable traditional "microtonal" music is Indonesian gamelan music, which is mostly tuned percussion. The tuning systems were developed by ear based on what sounds good, and because tuned percussion has weird harmonics compared to most Western instruments the scales are naturally different.
You can't use just any tuning with any timbre (see >>55674619 ). The only microtonal tuning with any hope of sounding good on rock instruments is 19-tet, and even that is sub-optimal.
"Art music" doesn't care about sounding good (eg. 12-tone), so ignorance of how to generate consonant sounding tuning systems is no obstacle for them.
>The most notable traditional "microtonal" music is Indonesian gamelan music
So wait, do most "traditional"/"world" musics just use something approximately like the Western temperament, except just have the notes in a different order (pentatonic, some other unusual mode, etc)? Is music that doesn't use Western temperament surprisingly rare, even in the world at large, including "traditional" genres/songs?
IMO the difference between equal and just temperament is too minor to be considered "microtonal". And Western music uses just intonation too - listen to some barbershop.
Any musical tradition based around string or wind instruments will inevitably end up harmonically very similar to Western music because that's the best tuning system to get the full range of consonance and dissonance using those timbres. Tuned percussion gives you more options, and for real flexibility you need synths.
Yes, you need to re-fret. And you can't do any tuning unless you are making "art music" and don't care if it sounds like noise. Tuning depends on timbre. Standard Western tuning is the best option for Western instruments for good mathematical reasons.
>Tuning depends on timbre
Elaborate, please? I wasn't really thinking this way/aware of this, but I talked with some drummers once, and I came to realize that their understanding of "good" tuning is different from string players. What's that all about?
It's explained in detail in Sethares' paper:
Basically, humans like sounds where the harmonics are either almost identical or clearly separated. The ambiguous case where they are sort of similar is heard as dissonant. String and wind instruments are based on a vibrating string or column of air that is fixed at both ends, so all the harmonics follow the harmonic series. 12 divisions of the octave makes it easy to construct consonant chords using these timbres.
Drums are based on vibrating membranes that are fixed around the edge, so they have different harmonics, and therefore different tuning will sound good with them (although in Western music drums are mostly used for rhythm not harmony so the tuning isn't so important).
It's a poor intonation thing.
I really don't think you can lump the intentional composition of a piece using microtones with accidentally playing out of tune on a string instrument together
"A form of microtone known as the blue note is an integral part of rock music and one of its predecessors, the blues. The blue notes, located on the third, fifth, and seventh notes of a diatonic major scale, are flattened by a variable microtone (Ferguson 1999, 20)."
yes it does mate. The human voice naturally makes use of microtones, mostly in glissandi (sliding between notes)
blues was one of the really noticeable early uses of bending vocal notes.
opera had been doing it with glissandi for a long time, but blues really milked those slightly off notes.
Let me post some great microtonal music to educate you:
(microtonal solo vocal trills against a tonal backing)
(microtonal inflections in a melody)
(full fledged microtonal pop based on Harry Partch's 43 tone scale)
(Arabic music - probably the most beautiful use of microtones, one that we could all learn from)
Arabic and turkish makams are a great way to start using microtones.
chose a scale from this site:
in a DAW you can fine tune notes, making all your Bs 25cents flat (in the Rast mode) for example
I used the Segah scale in this song:
The scale looks like this:
F, G(flat 30cents), G#, A(sharp 30 cents), B, C, D(flat 30 cents).
you can hear it in the synth runs from 1:55
gives it a sour and unusual sound.
There's even some 10 cent steps in there, slightly changing the timbre of what sounds like one note.
I understand that humans like certain combinations of sounds because of physics. there's a reason the perfect 5th interval and the octave sound so good, but with modern 12TET tuning many of these intervals are squeezed and unnatural.
I think microtones can give you a wealth of expression, if used carefully and naturally (the way a singer or whistler would use them, slightly bending or inflecting notes) When you record a human voice singing or whistling you see all the glissandi and off notes, the very things that give the human voice its charm.
This album is well worth checking out if you're interested in microtonal music. very cool and unusual music.
There's something about that sour microtonal sound that I love, especially combined with (or in contrast with) standard tonality.
this organ piece for example:
Fucking love it. the transition from atonal sourness to those perfect cadences. so dope
Here's a microtonal piece from 1555:
Microtones also allow you to use the harmonic series correctly. 12TET doesn't work exactly with the harmonic series (you know, the naturally occurring overtone series?)
This is the prime reason to use microtones: they're the natural state, occuring in nature as the overtone series. 12TET is a bit of an abomination (albeit one that works well in tonal music with lots of key changes)
>yes it does mate. The human voice naturally makes use of microtones, mostly in glissandi (sliding between notes)
Yeah, but do glissandos REALLY count as microtones? I mean, they technically are, but they're used more as a sound effect than to treat all the notes in-between the scale tones as actual pitches of the temperament.
I mean, at that point, you would just say that vibrato uses microtones, which it does, technically, but isn't that overstepping a bit much? It would be like saying a chorus effect pedal on a guitar was a "chord generator" or something.
>sour and unusual sound
It doesn't have the be that way. Match your tuning to your timbre and you can have sweet sounding microtonal chords. Your song is "art music" and it will never be mainstream popular.
>with modern 12TET tuning many of these intervals are squeezed and unnatural
It hardly matters. You can usually tell the difference between equal and just temperament in solo performances (and instruments with free tuning eg. solo voice or violin will typically use just intervals if the performer is any good), but add some more instruments and it all gets lost in the spectral density. This kind of nitpicking is only of interest to music theory nerds. And don't forget that real instruments don't have perfect integer ratio harmonics. Piano tuning is even stretched to compensate for this.
The blue not is a flattened 5th. Not a microtone.
What he is referring to I assume are half bends, which yes I suppose are microtones, whether done intentionally or out of laziness, and they aren't limited to the 3rd 5th and 7th notes of a diatonic major scale. I don't know what Ferguson is getting at there.
>The human voice naturally makes use of microtones, mostly in glissandi
So then we could say a wide vibrato is a use of microtones.
>blues was one of the really noticeable early uses of bending vocal notes
It really wasn't
Wendy/Walter Carlos was experimenting with the relationship between tuning and timbre before Sethares mathematically formalized it. Well worth listening to.
And again you are calling just intonation a "microtonal" technique when that's not at all what most people mean when they talk about "microtonal". Yes, I occasionally listen to barbershop, I do somewhat care about this, but 12-tet succeeded because in practice it's good enough.
Yes I count all of those as microtones.
Try writing a piece for voice (or any instrument that can do microtones) it will sound very flat and boring without some glissandi or vibrato, both of which make are microtones.
take this example:
I whistle one melody, with no glissandi or microtones.
Then I whistle the same melody with the natural glissandi and microtones I would usually do, and suddenly it comes to life
I wrote a flute piece recently where I tried to capture some of these microtonal inflections.
Without adding in the quartertones/ eight tones to the score, the performance would be very flat (although I could have included the performance instruction: "With lots of glissandi" to help out, but I preferred to score out the actual notes I wanted bent)
Define "perfect". Thinking in terms of ratios is an oversimplification that by coincidence happens to work reasonably well with most Western instruments. Don't fall for the Pythagorean mysticism, real psychoacoustics is as messy as any biology. Even Sethares' model is only an approximation (although it's a good one).
yo radiohead was doing 'microtones' in exits music and how to disappear not cause of aphex twin but cause of the composer pendrecki
Well, if you asked a musician who played a glissando to play the scale the piece is in, I'm pretty sure that person won't include quarter-tones or eighth-tones that might have been used in the glissando.
would the overtone/harmonic series count as perfect? its pretty microtonal (the + / - being cents in this pic) and occurs naturally
unless they were playing that stockhausen piece...
The flute really is great for microtonal playing: