Viola da gamba

Assuming that:

  1. the gamba’s fretted are more or less ET-spaced
  2. the gambist will tune the open strings to the harpsichord
  3. the harpsichord won’t be tuned to ET

What would a gamba-friendly and historically plausible temperament in general for basso continuo purposes? And then, more specifically, for the French gamba repertoire?

Thanks.

French - surely temperament ordinaire, which dominated. See Claudio’s book on Unequal Temperament.

When people discuss this it seems they want decimal point perfect agreement in frequency. I myself have never thought this and I feel any temperament mismatch is part of the sound, and the big tonal spectrum difference between gamba and harpsichord actually make the difference sound just fine to me. My very subjective opinion. But I think the scholars here will agree harpsichords weren’t tuned to ET to match gambas. I am fairly certain the exact same conidiations apply to lute. There are lute groups on Facebook where I know this is discussed a lot.

I think your assumption number 1 is already an issue. This is so dependent on the individual gamba player, and their willingness to move frets around. I don’t know any professional player on the East Coast of the United States who isn’t willing to tune frets to harpsichord temperaments. And gamba players I know seem to be happy with 1/6th comma meantone, 1/4 comma meantone (sometimes with “in between” frets added), and any of the common well temperaments. Andrew Bernard also makes a good point that in a real life performance, little differences are, in general, not that big a deal.

Le 18/05/2024 14:00, Dongsok Shin via The Jackrail écrit :

I think your assumption number 1 is already an issue. This is so
dependent on the individual gamba player, and their willingness to
move frets around. I don’t know any professional player on the East
Coast of the United States who isn’t willing to tune frets to
harpsichord temperaments.

It’s not an issue, it’s a fact: my gambist is not on the East Coast of
the USA, and she’s not going to move her frets around tomorrow. Hence my
question.

Dear Andrew:

This reminds me of a description I heard some time ago. A lutenist spends half his/her life tuning and the other half playing out of tune. (Often aplicable to gambists but they don’t have as many strings.)

Regards,

Andrew Wedman

.

Hi @TonmeisterAW I think that old chestnut actually came from somebody like Mattheson.

I still say temperament ordinaire. Do read Claudio’s book.

Assumption #2 may be wrong. Gambist could take the pitch from the harpsichord for say A and then tune internally consistently. Bass gamba players I know do that.

What works are you performing?

Le 19/05/2024 05:32, Andrew Bernard via The Jackrail écrit :

I still say temperament ordinaire. Do read Claudio’s book.

Does Claudio’s book deal with the practical question of tuning the
harpsichord in a chamber music context, when playing with a viola de
gamba and, perhaps, one or two other wind instruments (flute, oboe,
recorder)? I’m not sure what you mean precisely by tempérament
ordinaire, since everyone seems to have their own. In any case, not
having any better suggestions, I used my own “ordinary” temperament -
i.e. the temperament I’ve been using on all my instruments for all the
repertoire in all contexts.

What I mean is exactly as in Claudio’s book and papers - French temperament ordinaire, of which of course there are several common variants. I do not mean ordinary tuning in the sense of anybody’s old tuning they happen to use. The term ordinaire does have a well defined meaning, at least in this field, in English (!).

At 15 euros Claudio’s book is hardly expensive. I had reason to study the chapter on the ordinaire temperaments recently and I will say it is excellent. And yes, in answer to your question, there are extensive sections on fretted instruments - lutes, viols, and so on - and fret positioning by geometric means and more. No other book has this as far as I know.

If you don’t want to get the book there is a paper by @CDV on academia.edu, but Claudio points out it has some minor errors and the book contains extra newer information.

The books is not going to answer your query down to the last dot, but it will take you a very long way towards answers and practical solutions. I do not know of a better book on the topic.

@CDV make like to add a comment.

Pardon me not using accents. I don’t even know how to do them!

Sounds like whatever you did worked for you, so that’s good.

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On a trip in the middle of nowhere up in the Dolomites, took several minutes to get communication. Will be back home in June.

Enough to add that my UT book also discusses (in both historical and practical terms) whether or not (other things e.g. composer being equal), an ensemble deserves a different temperament than a single instrument.

Cheers!