The Microtonal Thread

Looking for some microtonal advice here. I play an EWI (4000s) and would love to make it a quarter tone EWI. Thus far I’ve managed to achieve quarter-tones with the pitch bend plates, but long term this is untenable as playing anything fast is very difficult. What I’d really like to do is hack one by adding a quarter tone up or quarter tone down button. I realize software synths (controlled via midi) is one thing and the onboard analog modeling synth would be another. But I dont even know what direction to look

Any ideas on roads to go down to make this a reality?

I appreciate any advice

I was not able to figure out how to use Scala files in Kontakt, last time I tried. Do you know how?
Edit: I seem to have overlooked the part about the Sysex dump, I’ll look into it thanks!

Well dang. A totally edit-able mircotonal engineering system, under our noses this whole time.


Take another look - I don’t think tie-on frets can zig-zag across the fretboard the way those do.

If you’re comfortable with playing modally without key changes etc. more power to you. Some great music is made that way. But saying that Tolgahan Çoğulu’s approach is “overly complicated” is off base. It’s as complicated as it needs to be for his classical-plus-microtones musical goals.

I would love to hear some opinions about the Tubbutec microtonal module.

I don’t think I said anything was “overly complicated”. Just the opposite–I’m all for getting into the weeds.

I misquoted you, though not in a way that distorts the sense - you said “unnecessarily”, not “overly”, thus:

Seems unnecessarily complicated. Tune to an open chord, use movable tie-on frets. It’s worked fine for most of the world for thousands of years.

Moving on:

you can get 85% of what Tolgahan does with a much simpler instrument. Just take a normal guitar, rip off the frets, and tie nylon frets to it. Tune the strings to some flavor of open C, adjust the frets to your preferred tuning, and have fun.

I respectfully disagree with your 85% figure. If anyone can play Bach in Just Intonation 5 limit with nylon strings tuned to an open C, I would really like to see it.

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I love the Tubbutec. While many promised features are not fully implemented yet (auto-tuning procedure for oscillators) all the main things work fine. It’s a very exact tuner, you can easilly check out scales using your midi keyboard and it’s bidirectional midi-to-cv.

Highly recommended.



Really enjoyed this podcast:


Listened to these guys nerding out about this this morning and now I want one


3/30/20 Sheets updated w/ Peak columns fix

I have a few microtonal synths and never fancied the rather arcane installation instructions for Scala on the Mac (XQuartz?) and don’t like involving a computer into my music workflow more than I have to. Plus it’s fun and educational to see all the numbers laid out in front of me. So I created these spreadsheets.

EDO Template (1).ods (48.8 KB)

Ratio Tuning Template (1).ods (36.2 KB)

Shruthi_Tuning (1).ods (51.4 KB)

Shruthi Tuning (example - read only)

Each of these sheets calculates the cents offsets for each note, and then translates that into the format used for entry on each synth. So far, the Peak, DX7 E!, and Minilogue / Minilogue XD / Monologue / Prologue formats are included.

The sheets are pretty straightforward to use. For the EDO sheet there are cells at the bottom to input an A reference tuning and the number of divisions per octave. Right now it’s got a 19 EDO tuning in there.

For the Ratio tunings, you will need to pick a reference tuning, put that in the appropriate cell (cell d72 for A5), copy that value to each cell for that octave, and then double or have it for the octaves above and below. Then enter your ratios for each note. (Or, you could put the same reference value in for every note, and double or have the Numerators of each ratio, but that seems like more work). Check the example tuning - note that the example tuning uses C as the reference, not A, while starting the octave (1:1) at E - just to show that can be done.

The example tuning was derived from Alain Danielou, Music and the Power of Sound .

It should be easy enough to modify the EDO sheet to get non-octave equal division scales, such as Carlos’s Alpha, but I haven’t done that yet.

Putting these in by hand for multiple synths is a bit laborious. For the DX7 E! I have no choice but for the others it should be possible to save the sheet as a CSV and have a parser generate a MTS sysex file. Haven’t tried that yet either.

Regarding the parser - if anyone has documentation for sending tuning files into the Minilogue or the Peak please pass it along! Neither synth accepts an MTS bulk tuning file and I am hoping not to have to install the librarian software for those synths and sniff the packets to find out what’s going on.

Anyway, please comment if you find this interesting. I’ve been feeling rather invisible lately with social distancing. :slight_smile:


As someone with a DX7 and a friend with a Peak, I thank you so much for this.

Thanks for sharing this!

I think because the sheets are read-only, it doesn’t seem possible to clone the spreadsheets or inspect the formulas in the cells. Maybe there is a more portable way to share this?

Just added Open Document Format versions; if they don’t work let me know.

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I just release a synthesizer for the monome that lets you choose whatever EDO you want. I started a thread for it here[1].

[1] A synthesizer for arbitrary EDO (equal division of the octave) scales, written for the monome in Haskell

Of interest to Sequential synth users (or other gear that accepts syses tunings):

I have a fairly new Prophet Rev 2 and was eager to dive into the custom tuning possibilities. After several days of trying and failing to get Scala to work on High Sierra (couldn’t get it to connect to a MIDI output) I discovered the Universal Tuning Editor and it works like a charm

$25 but worth it, given how much time I spent wrestling with Scala. It outputs a sysex file, which needs a minor tweak in a Hex Editor, then loads seamlessly on the Rev 2. Happy to have the workflow going now! It’s a blast to have hands on analog tweaking with my favorite just intervals!

Just found a copy of Wesley S. B. Woolhouse’s 1835 book: Essays on Musical Intervals, Harmonics, and the Temperament of the Musical Scale.

In which he used a division of the octave into 730 parts, now known as Woolhouse units, for measuring musical intervals.

This measure was chosen because in 730-tone equal temperament (730 EDO), the basic intervals of pure fifth of 3/2 and major third of 5/4 (and any combinations) are very accurate, 427.023 and 235.008 Woolhouse units respectively.


A cool demo of a organ with extra keys:

Some gritty key noise plus wonderful reverb in there, too.

A similar organ: The video has both talking explanation and some music.

Probably a really dumb beginner question, but I’m working with a set of three sine wave oscillator outputs and into another module which will mix them together in various ways, one of which will emphasize higher frequency partials related to the three inputs. I asked the module’s maker for advice for best results, and he suggested using simple frequency ratios like 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and common multiples of those. The thing is, I don’t yet really understand frequency ratios and how they work, and how I should tune my oscillators to accommodate those ratios. I generally just tune to C using the tuner built into my Zoom H6, and don’t yet have a Mordax Data for more precise frequency tuning. Can someone explain to me how this works in a way that doesn’t involve having tons of experience with music theory and/or music school training?