Robert Inventor

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Music Keyboard Retuning
One of the many features that come as part of Fractal Tune Smithy

Intro - Some of the treats in store - how it works - tuning tables - .TUN style tuning tables - what its like in practice - what to do next


Use your music keyboard keyboard to play in any tuning on many synths, soundcards or soft synths. Other features include keyboard split regions which let you play several instruments at once from the same keyboard, play several tunings at once, and so on.

If you are ready to download the program right away, go to what to do next feature. Read on to find out more about what you can do.

Tune Smithy achieves this using instant pitch bends. The synth must let you bend notes, i.e. respond to pitch bends - but there is no need for tuning table support.

The presets list includes a few examples to get you started. However, any tuning whatever is possible - including non octave scales, and tunings with as many notes as you like to the octave or scale repeat.


Some of the treats in store

You can split your keyboard to play several instruments at once from the same keyboard - so that e.g. left half of keyboard plays the Koto and right half plays Shackuhachi or whatever.

If your interest is in music from world cultures, try the exotic javanese gamelan tunings or Thai tunings, and the sweet tunings of Indian music.

Or try some of the extraordinary modern tunings by scale designers such as Erv Wilson and Jacky Ligon. This is now a very active subject indeed and there are many new tunings to explore.

Or if your interest is more in the realm of historical tunings - did you know that nearly everyone agrees that J.S. Bach's well tempered clavier was intended for a well temperament and not for equal temperament? There is considerable discussion about which one exactly he had in mind. You can try various well temperaments just by selecting them from a list.

Or try out the quarter comma meantone tuning that was in vogue until just before Bach, which is sweet - but has an awkward wolf fifth in one of its keys. Try the other meantones as well including a variable comma meantone which lets you vary the size of the comma using the modulation wheel on your keyboard.

Or try the open string type pythagoreans tunings of the earlier Medieval music based entirely on pure fifths and fourths. Or try the more evenly tuned nineteenth and early twentieth century well temperaments suitable for Chopin etc.

Modern tunings include the musical geometries of Erv Wilson, and ones based on the harmonic series, and non octave tunings (e.g. repeating at an octave plus a fifth rather than an octave).


How you use it

You can play in any of these tunings on any sound card or synth that can respond to a pitch bend wheel and supports multiple channels.You can alternatively play them on any synth or soft synth that supports MTS tuning tables (such as the FM7).

You will need to connect your keyboard to the computer. If your computer or laptop doesn't have midi in then you can use a USB midi device to add that capability. You need to keep the computer in the loop as you play, since FTS needs to be working continually to re-route the notes to appropriate channels for the desired pitches - also sometimes to insert extra pitch bends (e.g. for non octave or large scales) or instrument selections, controller messages etc.

Then choose the Midi In device in the In menu in FTS, and an appropriate Out device in FTS to play the notes, for instance a soft synth, your soundcard, a sampler, GPO, or whatever. Or you may want to play the notes on an external sound module, if so you can just connect it to the Midi Out of your computer, and choose the appropriate midi device for output in FTS.

If your keyboard has on-board sounds, you may want to play the notes back on your keyboard, so then will have a midi cable from the Out of your keyboard to the In of your computer to get the notes to FTS for retuning, then another one back from the Midi Out of your computer back to the In of your keyboard to play the notes on your synth after retuning in FTS.


Tuning tables - how to preserve the tuning when your keyboard is unplugged from the computer

If what you want to do is to retune your keyboard and then unplug it form the computer then you want to change the tuning tables on your keyboard. Tune Smithy can help in this situation in the rare situation where your keyboard is one that supports the Midi Tuning Standard sysexes, but that is very unusual. It can also help if the synth supports .TUN tables - see .TUN style tuning tables . Other methods of tuning using tables aren't currently supported in FTS.

However, Manual Op de Coul supports most types of synth in his SCALA program, and continues to add more, so you may well find you can use this. Since this is something that requires a lot of work due to the variety of tuning sysexes used - and is already so well supported in SCALA - it seems a duplication of effort to try and do the same in Tune Smithy. So, for now anyway, I have focused instead on other things that are less well supported elsewhere. I have no immediate plans to add any tuning table support to FTS apart from the .TUN tables and the MTS sysexes.

The pitch bend method requires the computer in the loop, as it can only set the pitch bend on a "per channel" basis. For instance if you want to retune to a twelve tone tuning, Tune Smithy would normally send a single pitch bend message for each of the twelve notes, for instance, the one appropriate for the Cs would be sent on channel 1 (say), the C#s on channel 2 and so on. That will work fine so long as the appropriate note is always played on the appropriate channel. But normally the only way to ensure that is to keep Tune Smithy in the loop. Tune Smithy keeps track of where the pitch bends were sent, and sends all your notes to the appropriate channels so that they are pitched correctly.


Tun style tuning tables

Many soft synths can be retuned using the .TUN format tuning tables. These can't be sent in real time via midi so are less flexible than the MTS sysexes. However they are useful since they are so widely supported - and also are human readable and easy to edit by hand.

Tune Smithy can generate .TUN files which you can use to retune suitable soft synths. The other way around, it can also act as a .TUN tuned synth since it can read these files and use it to retune the notes accordingly to emulate a .TUN tuned synth using pitch bends.


What it is like in practice

To play in the tuning, just select it from a drop list, or browse to find any SCALA format scale - or enter the ratio or cents values for the scale yourself.

You can then immediately play in the tuning. When you edit or change the scale, the tuning changes instantly.

To get more tunings, you can also make a drop list of the 3000 plus scales in the vast SCALA archive and search that for the scale you want - or make new scales yourself in FTS or in Scala - it is easy to move scales back and forth between the two programs.

You can take advantage of all the special microtonal features of FTS. Special features of particular interest here include - the capability to use monophonic legato with microtonal scales - the MTS tuning tables support for the few soft synths that support these (e.g. the FM7) - the Wave Shape Player inbuilt voices - the CSound support - and the ability to import .TUN tables as well as SCALA scales.


What to do next

Freeware / Shareware status: This feature is shareware.

You are recommended to try out the program first. If you decide to purchase, you need the Midi Relay level.

To find this feature after you download Tune Smithy:
Look in the Tune Smithy Tasks window for:Music kbd Retuning.

To get started, try the drop list of presets in the Midi In Options (Ctrl + 25) window - or in the main window for the Music Kbd Retuning Intro task.

The program comes with a Free Test drive with all the features completely unlocked (start the test drive at any time):

Download Tune Smithy

To continue reading about Tune Smithy, go on to the Microtonal features for composers - which describes how you can use Tune Smithy to retune your sequencer or music notation software as a tool for composition.



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To find this feature:
look in the
Tune Smithy Tasks window for:
Music kbd Retuning

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By Robert Walker

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