This video, via Kris Lennox, explores using a 24-Tone equal-tempered scale on the Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 synthesizer.
“One of the greatest strengths of synthesis over acoustic is the ability to program alternate tuning systems,” notes Lennox. “Not all hardware synths can do this, though. It is the preserve of only a few – and one of the strengths of DSI instruments and the OB6 i.e. creating and installing your own tuning system on the synth.”
The 24-Tone Equal Tempered scale (aka quarter-tone or 24-TET scale) contains all the notes of the standard 12-note scale, but adds 12 more notes in between. The additional pitches open up a huge variety of new harmonic possibilities, allowing for both traditional harmonies and ‘alien’ ones.
Acoustic instruments can be designed or adapted for use with 24-Tone scales or other tunings. But synths that offer microtonal support make it easy to explore a range of possibilities that would be impractical with traditional instruments.
Here’s what Lennox has to say about the video:
“Quite a shame to think – given the technology we have – the majority of contemporary composers aren’t exploring/creating their own tonal systems.
Most universities/conservatoires only briefly mention alternate tuning systems as part of coursework. If it is mentioned at all. Such a waste. Given there are an infinite number of notes between any two notes, every human being on the planet could have their own system of harmony.
Then again, this kind of material is and likely always will be esoteric.
PS actually seeing what I’m doing is, I trust, better than simply hearing a computer play back audio samples. Hearing the scale on its own, followed by some chords at the end of the video is handy i.e. both melodic and harmonic illustrations. Retraining the mind to perform 12-tone music on a 24-tone treatment of the keyboard is refreshing/slightly mind-warping!
Any pianist feeling life is becoming a little easy/predictable should try it.
If you’ve worked with alternate tunings, leave a comment and share your experience!