Better blending through dynamic tuning


We can now tune the instruments of our digital orchestra dynamically, in real time, just like orchestral musicians do. The computer can tell what intervals are playing and then tune them to fit the harmony more precisely than any fixed tuning.

This is a huge advance over equal temperament … an advance that beautifully exploits the power of the computer to analyze and modify sounds on the fly. This approach is far more powerful than “Auto-tune” which merely shoe-horns notes into predetermined frequencies without any awareness of what harmonies are being played at the moment.  For example, dynamic tuning can sense that a major third is being played, and make it more consonant.  Later, one of those same notes might be part of a minor third, and so must be tuned differently to make the minor third as consonant as possible.

Pianos (and computers that blindly adopt their fixed tuning approach) cannot change the pitch of their notes on the fly, but orchestras, choirs, string quartets, etc. can, and do.  That’s part of what helps blend sounds into a pleasing whole.

In Bach’s day a compromise tuning system was all the rage. Keyboard instruments were tuned so that every note was equally out of tune. But the computer can determine what intervals are sounding at any given moment and tune them very close to their perfect form.  Indeed, that’s what great musicians do when they play together. And now digital orchestras can do it, too, using Hermode tuning in Apple’s Logic Pro software, along with the latest version of Vienna Instruments Pro by the Vienna Symphonic Library.

Earlier versions of the Vienna Instruments ignore Logic’s tuning commands.  And not all audio workstation software implements Hermode tuning.

 

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