#1October 15th, 2005 · 10:00 PM
1 threads
1 posts
United States of America
Just Intonation: Need Help
I'm a little confused about just intonation. Why are scales required at all?

I've read that you can design one just intonation scale which has a different 'color' or 'flavour' to another that is similar. Is this true? Can you play in a mode of it and still have your music sound good?

I've also read you can have many different chords, i.e. for minor it could be 1:1, 6:5, 3:2, or 1:1, 7:6, 3:2. These would both be minor, but different ones. Is this true?

The way I understand it, there are two types of transpositions. One is where you use the same intervals, but choose another note as a tonic. This means your music will sound the same, only higher or lower.

The other is where you use the same notes with a different tonic, which changes the intervals between notes.

Is this correct? I know in equal temperament, both of types of transpositions can sound good in the right place. Is the same true for just intonation?

So back to my first question. Why use scales? Is it because each scale has a mood, and changing scales changes the mood? If you can work out from any one note which notes will sound good with it, then you should be able to just use this rather than a fixed scale... is this true?

Lastly, i'd be interested in knowing if there is any software for composing in just intonation.

Thanks in advanced, any help would be appreciated. I'll check back here in a few days.
#2October 16th, 2005 · 03:13 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
i'm not as well researched on the subject of Just Intonation as i should be but i know a thing or two here and there...

so... why use scales...

1) it makes it easy
2) they have different personalities
3) they evoke different emotions
4) why not

if you go by your theory that "if an interval sounds good, use it" then there is very little structure to help guide you on where to go with your music - you must first get in the box before you can get out of it

meaning if you can't see the bars of the cage, how are you ever going to break free? you'll never know when you've done it or not.

scales are an age old tradition going many many many eons to the first humans on the planet who had only their voices as their instruments - they noticed as others have, that certain areas of the sound spectrum sounded best when combined with a drone and together when ascending and descending the spectrum of sound they locked into these intervals and learned to find and play them at will. then they realized that not only were these intervals pleasing to the ear but that certain set combinations of them were better than other random and arbitrary combinations...

the theory being that harmony is generally more pleasing than chaos, which seems to hold true most of the time

so now we have combinations of notes chosen out of the just intervals to form "sets" or "scales"

each scale has it's own particular flavor, personality and emotion

in the eastern world there are 22 notes known as "shrutis" as compared to the standard 12 notes of the western scale... each of these notes can, in a way, co-exist with the other notes and some are so similar and close to each other that they can take up the same "place" as their counterparts...

e.g. a random and uneducated example would be that for example shruti's 8 an 9 are both so close to a minor third that you could use either one, but which one you choose will lend a more unique and identifying flavor to the scale

as for the "transposing" you asked about... the first kind works well with just intonation and the second kind (tonic moves notes stay the same) doesn't work so well - and that is one of the main caveats which Equal Temerament has overcome and one of the reasons that "tempered" scales were invented (there are more tempered scales than just Equal Temperament)

when you do things like keep the notes the same but move the tonic - the mathematical ratios change, and they change in ways that might be quite unexpected... the originally pure mathematical ratios become increasingly asymetrical chaotic complex and displeasing... one famous and more simplistic example of this that you can look up is the Wolf Interval

the same thing happens when you add more than two voices - i.e. more than a drone and a melody

there are ineed as you asked earlier in your post, different ways to derive the mathematical tones of the just intervals... when you get deep down into the study of it, things get quite mathematical and their are various and conflicting schools of thought on how to derive all the intervals

Pythagorus thought that all just tones should only ever be derived from "Perfect 5ths" which have the ratio of 3:2 but there were problems with the application of his theory... other people use different combinations to derive their scales and thus the mathematical ratios of a "minor 3rd" in one type of just scale might be different than the mathematical ratio of a "minor 3rd" in someone elses just scale

so yes "they would both be minor but different one" and it is true...

just intonation lends itself quite well to the usage of modes but they end up being used perhaps in a different sense than you might think of - they are modally shifted by changing the notes as opposed to changing the virtual tonic - so the tonic stays the same and the notes you choose change... i.e to go from dorian to ionian you change the minor 3rd and 7th to a major 3rd and 7th - but there is no shift in "space" i.e. higher or lower only shift in note combinations

the understanding of this is better arrived at not with my explanations but by reading thorough books on western and jazz theory and then reading books on eastern and just intonation theory... you probably won't acheive a fully comprehensive or working understanding of this territory unless you do so... good luck
#3October 16th, 2005 · 03:39 AM
2 threads
10 posts
United States of America
#4October 29th, 2005 · 05:28 PM
1 threads
1 posts
United States of America
Thanks, that really helped! I will do some reading, when I find the time. I suppose even in this digital age, books are still the best, most comprehensive sources of information.
#5January 18th, 2006 · 08:51 PM
171 threads / 24 songs
2,327 posts
United Kingdom
re: Just Intonation: Need Help
what an interesting barrage of questions................

u raise some interesting points.
ill deal with a couple tonite and then get back to you on the rest .........if needs be

first of all..............................what is a scale?????(bearing in mind you are a obviously a ' western' musician)

A scale is just a pattern of notes...............ascending or descending............... it just so happens we use the notes as laid out on the keyboard..................but it doesnt have to be 'do re me' etc.............u can have any pattern u like with as many or as little notes as u like................look up pentatonic on say google for starters......

the next best thing u could do is talk to your music teacher at school or college

he/she should be able to answer your questions
face 2 face

answering these 'Artistic' questions is really difficult by typing an answer........u need a conversation with someone to help u and sees that u understand. Plus u get a load of garbage off the net!!

a teacher

the fish
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