The Microtonal Thread

Yeah using a standart keyboard with alternate tunings is cumbersome. But at the same time its the fun about it ) In practice you just have to keep in mind how many keys (both black and white) make up an octave - if your tuning is octave based. Then you just note which keys produce unpleasant “wolf” notes and try to avoid them. At least, this is how I make it when using Logic X.

In the modular world I use the Doepfer manual, which is “fretless” with the Tubbutec uTune, which is another experience, more intuitive so to say.


I recently got Oddsound’s amazing MTS-ESP tuning plugin and have been trying out lots of interesting tuning experiments. First, I made some music using just intonation for music theory learning purposes:

Then I tried creating my own just intonation scales and writing tracks with them:

Finally, I put some of the preludes from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier through various historical tunings and temperaments:

This has been horizon-broadening, to say the least! Have other folks used this plugin? What kinds of things have you done with it?


I’m working on a javascript library that outputs microtonal and just intonation scales. I’m aware of tune.js, but it’s huge (1.3MB, ~3000 tunings) and rather dated technically.

In addition to a standard npm-compatible version with all the tunings from tune.js, I’d also like to offer a slim version that contains the most commonly used scales, say 100 or so.

Any thoughts on which scales to include in this slim version? Is there a list somewhere, or another library (in any language) that contains a commonly used collection?

1 Like

You can use MIDI Tuning Standard (MTS) to map any pitch to any MIDI note number that you want, if that’s what you mean. I do that all the time, but the number of synths that support MTS is limited. Here’s one with Deckard’s Dream MKII, Sequential Pro-3, and Waldorf Kyra:

This is a great observation, thanks:

I find that timbre makes a huge difference in how “out of tune” a given scale sounds. One synth preset will make the scale sound harsh and alienating, while another makes it intriguing and inviting. This is true of “normal” scales too, but we’re just a lot more used to their affordances.

Like, you comment that the scale based on dividing the octave in seven sounds like an mbira but I think it’s in part that you’ve chosen that kind of sound for it.

Personally I find bright saw and square synth sounds generally unappealing when not in a standard tuning, perhaps because my mental model is just that the oscillator is out of tune. But if something is more in the realm of an acoustic instrument I can handle it a lot better.

I’m not using Oddsound but use Bitwig which has an OOTB micro tuning device that looks to work similarly. Very easy to just plug in fractions for the kind of thing you’re doing here. Also very easy to modulate tunings, which is a whole other world.


hey @timp !

i know it has been months and months, but i did put up a version of the kind of tool i use for this sort of spectralist extraction stuff. mostly sharing due to this conversation. no idea if it is useful to you - it’s pretty low level - but given a little interest (and maybe some coding help) it could be fancied up a bit.


Thank you! Will investigate



Duane recommended the Just Intonation Primer to me earlier this year and I managed to get a printed spiral-bound copy from David Doty right before he decided to stop selling them.


During the holydays I found some time to experiment a bit more with TET variations, I made a little video using the Popcorn melody as a base.
The results are weird and funny :))


Here is a piece from my recent album, it is based on resultant tones that can be created using microtonal intervals from early Ottoman tuning system
Played on a ney and shakuhachi


wonderful. I hear it INSIDE my head!

1 Like

Hey all!
I have the opportunity to write for an ensemble consisting of two vocalists, a violinist, and a cellist. I’m thinking of writing something in 1/4 comma meantone temperament. I’ve never had to notate that out for another person to read before. What’s the easiest way to notate this that won’t throw the musicians for a loop?

1 Like

If the piece doesn’t modulate too far I would probably use standard accidentals and describe the required tuning in a written introduction/instruction; possibly also provide a tuning guide/reference pitches (especially for the singers)

I think special accidentals are really only needed when the music uses a lot of cognates or deliberate microtonal motions (ie there are more than twelve pitches per octave); if it stays in the tuning/temperament and the number of pitches is constrained, a tuning intro is far more useful!

I love working in microtonal as a dynamic, like volume or tempo, ‘riding’ scales into different dimensions of tonality. In this sense the ordered nature of a scale is not particularly useful however I see its merit. One aspect I find really rewarding is pitch down aspects of melody as their reverberation/delay/feedback becomes more pronounced. I remember the first time I heard microtonality, was quite like this:

1 Like

I recently saw a beautiful piece composed and executed for a custom microtonal metallophone in 1/12th tone.
The recording has been later broadcast and is available online at this link (it is the second show of the transmission and starts at 1h22m):


20 characters of daaaaayum, that’s great. I played it on the laptop and then had to go play it on the PA. (edit) your whole record is wonderful.


Great stuff Steve! I’m traveling but will make a point to check that record out.

I have a just guitar with fretlets and a fretless, but I think straight frets at just ratios is a very sensible solution—I have sketched out a couple of fingerboards to that end but haven’t realized them yet (the order of business at the moment is to learn to play the fretless properly :sweat_smile:)


Really nice album! Reminds me a bit of Date Palms.

1 Like

I picked this up a few months ago, but haven’t had a chance to really dive into it yet:

It is similar in concept to ODDSound MTS-ESP Suite, but I think a little more approachable. In any event, it was fairly inexpensive, and the developer is very responsive (he even created a 32 bit version of the program at my (certainly annoying) request :slight_smile:), so I bought it even though I already have MTS-ESP suite. I believe that anyone who is putting time and effort into this topic should be supported.