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MMD > Archives > February 2001 > 2001.02.22 > 02Prev  Next

Werckmeister Tuning for Wilhelm Bruder Organ
By Hans van Oost

Without having seen the book music, I think that John Kadlec's
assumption is right (010221 MMDigest).  It is probably a tuning book
that was usually delivered with all new organs; unfortunately many of
these books were lost or just taken away by organ tuners.

Tuning a band organ starts with "laying the scale", a very intricate
process which needs an experienced organ tuner.  I am Dutch, so I don't
know publications in English about tuning band organs.  Maybe Russell
Wattam from England can help.

Smaller styles of Wilhelm Bruder organs had a scale according to the
Werckmeister tempering, which differs a lot from the equally tempered
scale used in pianos, but it is essential for the good sound of the

In the original Werckmeister tempering, the fifths C-G, G-D, D-A and
A-E are narrowed by 6 cents each, so the major third C-E will not have
any beats.  Then the rest of the fifths are tuned without beats, and
the last remaining fifth F-C should be a pure interval.  When this is
established, the fifths A-E and E-B are retuned so they are without
beats.  Now the fifth B-F# will be as narrow as the three fifths you
started with.

It may be necessary to start the tuning sequence on another note of the
scale: let the existing tuning be your guide and never cut off pipes
when they seem to be too long!  The organ may be tuned lower than usual
today: diapason in Germany was A=435 Hz before 1935.

I realise that this may be a difficult and even a confusing story,
but I would need to write a booklet to make things clearer.  I hope this
will help.  The elder Ingaz Bruder once wrote, "Be sure to lay scales
and intonate pipework only when the weather is fine".  I second that!


Hans van Oost, KDV, Netherlands

 [ Hans and I discussed temperaments a few years ago; the extracts
 [ below are simply our discussion so I can't cite references in
 [ tuning literature nor verify correctness.  Maybe soon!  -- Robbie

In the equally tempered scale every semitone is 100 cents.
This temperament was devised by the Dutchman Simon Stevin, who
published his solution in 1584 !

The Just Tuning method (probably by Pythagoras) says to start at
Middle C and tune the fifths to zero beat for six tones (to F#),
and then go back to C and go the other direction, tuning the fifths
(without regard for octave) and quit at C#.  There is one monster
"wolf tone":  the interval between F# and C# sounds terrible.

In the practice of tempering a scale this "wolf tone" (German:
Orgelwolf, Dutch: Wolfskwint) was usually laid between G# and Eb
(it is, in fact, a flatted sixth).  The difference of 24 cents
(a cent is the 1200th root of 2) is known as the Pythagorean comma.

The favorite tuning in Bach's time was the Wohltemperierte or
Well Tempered tuning.  The general principle of this tuning is
to spread the error of the Pythagorean comma among four fifths.

Mr. Werckmeister, a German organ builder, diminished the fifths
between C and G, G and D, D and A, and B and F# by 6 cents each,
thus closing the circle of fifths and allowing the organist to play
in all keys, with distinctive differences between them, giving
every key a distinctive tone colour.

The principle of the Werckmeister tuning is the division of the
Pythagoraic comma (24 cents) into four 5th intervals.  By placing
these narrowed fifths between c-g-d-a and b-f#, he created a
well-tempered scale in which the tonalities with few or no sharps
or flats sound better than the others.

The Werckmeister fifth has an interval of 1:49492696 approx.  Tuning
an octave from MIDI 48 (C) to 59 (B), you should have the frequencies:

  C  48   131.7
  C# 49   138.75
  D  50   147.16
  D# 51   156.09
  E  52   165
  F  53   175.6
  F# 54   185
  G  55   196.9
  G# 56   208.12
  A  57   220
  A# 58   234.14
  B  59   247.5

(Message sent Thu 22 Feb 2001, 22:04:52 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Bruder, Organ, Tuning, Werckmeister, Wilhelm

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