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MMD > Archives > November 1998 > 1998.11.09 > 20Prev  Next

Tuning Organs Using Electronic Tuning Aids
By Rob Goodale

Matthew Caulfield asked:

> Are these designed solely for use in tuning stringed instruments or
> could they equally well tune wind-blown instruments (band organs)?
> Or is the nature of the band organ forgiving enough that investment
> in such high-tech and capable tuning instruments is a waste of time?

Although these tuning devices are designed specifically for pianos,
they technically should be able to calculate the inharmonicity of any
instrument.  The mathematical theory behind it is universal.  I can't
think of any reason why it wouldn't work on a band organ.

I won't get heavy with theory here, but the reasoning for compromise
in the temperament is because our music scale is imperfect.  It works
on paper but not in practice.  Try tuning a piano with all of the
intervals pure.  You can't.  Eventually you will get to a point where
you find that there is an interval (called a "wolf tone"), that is
dreadfully wrong and won't fit in the scale.

In centuries past this problem was solved by tuning certain notes pure
and then playing only in certain keys and not others.  These are of
course the so-called historic temperaments such as "mean tone".  Today
we use "equal temperament" where all notes in the scale are equally
compromised.  Just how much compromise varies greatly from instrument
to instrument for a variety of reasons.

To answer your question, yes, there is inharmonicity in organ pipes.
All instruments must have it to a degree, some more noticeable than
others.  I'm sure an electronic tuner of the type I mentioned could be
a great help but I personally have not tried it on a band organ.  I did
tune a calliope this way, however, and it sounded pretty darn good.

Hope this information proves useful.

Rob Goodale, RPT

 [ For further discussions related to organ tuning see the MMD Archives
 [ for "Just Tuning".  Representative letters appear in 961122 (Fritz
 [ Gellerman) and 980109 (Steve Goodman).  -- Robbie

(Message sent Tue 10 Nov 1998, 00:03:46 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Aids, Electronic, Organs, Tuning, Using

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