One of the fun things about researching a book such as Meantone Temperaments on Lutes and Viols is that you never stop learning even after the ink has long dried. The purpose of this blog is to provide updated information as I discover new things about tuning lutes and viols. I hope these new nuggets of knowledge or experience can help you as they’ve help me.
I’d like to draw your attention to the Lute Iconography Database where you can view countless iconographical reproductions of fingerboards. This is a great resource for future research in tunings and temperaments on lutes.
My thanks to Fred Reinagel, the inventor of the beloved VioLab tuner, for sending me his essay on double frets on the viol. I highly recommend this paper particularly for viol players as it furnishes much more detail on double frets than I was able to provide in the book. Additionally, it provides a succinct, clear, and accurate explanation of meantone temperaments with recommendations specifically geared toward consort tuning. You can access it here: Double Your Pleasure—or Double Trouble?.
It’s come to my attention that the audio files on the IUP website can be somewhat cumbersome to use. If you are having difficulties with them, please send an e-mail message to email@example.com, and I can send you a zip file with the original files so that you can use them more easily on your computer.
When you’re playing a piece in G Major on a lute in G, you usually only need mis at the 1st fret. A good example of this would be “John Come Kiss Me Now” from the ML Lute Book. In such cases, to avoid having to use a tastino on the 4th and 5th courses you might want to slide your 1st fret down to the mi position, but it’s going to be too loose to be effective. I’ve found that if I tape the 1st fret into place on the back of the neck, it’s usually snug enough. I keep a length of scotch tape stuck to the back of the pegbox so that when I need the 1st fret only as a mi when I’m playing in a context in which there are no instances where I need a mi at a predominantly fa 1st fret, such as when you’re in G Minoir, it takes me just a second to tape it into place.
Quite frequently I find myself going back and forth between instruments in 440 and 415. The biggest hassle, whether using PitchLab or Cleartune, is having to type in the pitch level. I’ve solved this problem by dedicating Cleartune to 415 and PitchLab to 440. Maybe his will work for you too.
Please see the Color Illustrations page for illustrations that were not included in the book.
Today, Cleartune finally provided an app update after multiple IOS updates and nothing from them. It is now compatible with IOS 11.
Years ago during our lessons, Paul O’Dette recommended that I attach my tastini with glue as he did, but I resisted because when I would change the tastini for whatever reason (new temperament, new string, etc.), I would make a mess of it. Recently, however, Grant Tomlinson showed me how to easily remove a glued on fret or tastino with a very thin palette knife such as the one pictured on your left. This led me to adapt Paul’s approach, and now I am much happier with the glued on tastini than the taped on tastini I recommended in the book. They are more secure and look better without the little icky feeling you get when your fingers touch the tape or that faint crinkling sound you hear if the tape isn’t completely flush.
Here’s how it looks on my theorbo. Much nicer, don’t you think?
PitchLab became available on IOS and thus accessible to me just before the book’s proofs were due, which did not leave me enough time to do anything more than report that it was a powerful and versatile app particularly for string players. As you know, in the book, I highly recommended Cleartune and still do, however, when I recently received the warning from Apple that Cleartune might not be available after the next system update, I started to use PitchLab more and have grown to love it. PitchLab has so many modalities that makes it a versatile tuner; in fact, I think I can tune more accurately with it than with Cleartune. And, though I’ve never felt comfortable with strobe tuners before, PitchLab’s version is very easy to use. Finally, it shares one of the primary advantages that Cleartune offers—the ability to create your own temperament, which as you know is going to be more precise than the preloaded meantone temperaments that don’t tell you where the wolf is. What’s more, creating new temperaments in PitchLab is even easier than in Cleartune. Given that we may not have Cleartune around much longer, I think it behooves us all to become more familiar with PitchLab.