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instruments and scale
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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instruments and scale

are certain musical instruments, especially "world" instruments played mostly on certain or specific scales only? if so why is this?

as opposed to something like a piano that i assume is commonly played across lots or every scale.
Old 1 week ago
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
Yes.
Old 1 week ago
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Hazmatic's Avatar
Try playing a chromatic scale on a slide whistle.
Old 1 week ago
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chaocrator's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by rubez View Post
as opposed to something like a piano that i assume is commonly played across lots or every scale.
every western scale, i would say, with 12 semitones per octave.
Old 1 week ago
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xanderbeanz's Avatar
I’ll give a more detailed answer later on today if I remembe.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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European derived music has been using a tuning system called 12 tone equal temperament for about 250 years. It's a compromise to allow a scale in any key (the note you start a scale on) and it's equally accurate ( = slightly inaccurate). You are correct that some musical traditions stick with their own scales and tunings that are different. So one will build or at least tune an instrument for those specifics. What you can wind up with is an instrument that will sound in tune, often interestingly so in the key you've tuned to, but a scale in another key will not sound correct.
Old 1 week ago
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itisnick View Post
European derived music has been using a tuning system called 12 tone equal temperament for about 250 years. It's a compromise to allow a scale in any key (the note you start a scale on) and it's equally accurate ( = slightly inaccurate). You are correct that some musical traditions stick with their own scales and tunings that are different. So one will build or at least tune an instrument for those specifics. What you can wind up with is an instrument that will sound in tune, often interestingly so in the key you've tuned to, but a scale in another key will not sound correct.
This is all correct. But to simplify for the OP:

* Scales and their specific tunings around the world are mainly tradition or convention (there is no single “correct” tuning system).
* So the way the piano is tuned is indeed merely a convention, albeit one that has become quite dominant globally with the spread of Western musicianship (something which makes this a difficult topic to research).
* Nonetheless, there are probably are a few universal properties to scales and tuning around the world, including:
a) The interval of an octave and its tuning (found in all musical cultures) and the 5th, to a lesser extent (how 5ths are tuned varies from place to place and time to time);
b) discrete, stepped pitches as the norm (ie not portamento),
c) scales have tend to be within the range of about 5-25 steps (rarely less and very rarely more). Intervals besides the octave and fifth may appear across several cultures, but they are often tuned more differently than similarly, so that it isn’t really true to say, for instance, that minor 3rds are universal.
d) more or less of a recognition of the first few intervals locatable in the harmonic series (though this really is quite rough and not in fact universal across cultures - eg our own equal temperament is a departure from the harmonic series tuning).
* some music traditions have scales lacking definite tunings, eg Gamelan (Indonesia).

Last edited by Praxisaxis; 1 week ago at 11:59 PM..
Old 1 week ago
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So with that laid out, here’s a more direct answer to the question: Instruments’ tuning corresponds with their culture’s tuning system.

This is just as true of the piano, which can only play scales tuned to the Western system (for instance, on the piano, you cannot play the flattened fifth that is an important feature of Blues. A “crushed note” technique is used instead, sliding briefly from one note to another, approximating the sound of an interval that is not present on the piano).

Instead, the piano has a cunningly devised tuning system which allows an identical series of intervals to be generated regardless of starting note, or in other words, each semitone on the piano is equidistant. This allows transposition of a melody to remote keys (as mentioned earlier in this thread), and it also allows modulation (aka key changes) inside a single piece; thus has complex and intricate harmony become a focus of the Western music tradition, and indeed has permitted us to think of harmony abstractly (which has had many important consequences). This system is called equal temperament.

Last edited by Praxisaxis; 1 week ago at 12:01 AM..
Old 1 week ago
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Some instruments cannot play more than a couple of scales, due to the way they are built, the amount of strings, the spacing of frets, or lack of them.

Even instruments that are *able* to play all keys, have a few keys which work “best” for them, due to the way the tuning relationships are set up, eg guitar.
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