Instruments for Unequal Temperament
Sponsor: Bill O’Brien, Associate Professor of Physics
Equal Temperament divides the octave into twelve equal parts. The methods for tuning the piano in Equal Temperament were realized early in the 20th CE, resulting in the large majority of Western music being written for ET. We have successfully designed and completed two instruments that are capable of playing in a diversity of tuning systems. We have made recordings with various temperaments, measured and unmeasured, and have shared our project with others, asking for their opinion and even testing their ears, and letting them try to match pitch and sing over them. Our design for the instruments changed as we learned about the differences between tuning pins and tuning machines. In creating these instruments we have learned much about woodworking and tuning systems. We have also been able to develop several ways of playing the instruments: strumming harmony, melodic plucking, both simultaneously, as accompaniment, with multiple bridges, on the different sides of the bridges, moving the bridges while playing, on the strings between the nuts and the tuning machines, and percussively.