Music Theory

Lesson 5



Accidentals and the Chromatic Scale


By the year 1600 there were various methods of dividing the octave.  The overtone series, which is a natural phenomenon inherent in every pitch, was used to tune stringed instruments and to sing.  Unfortunately, this tuning system only worked well if the fundamental (the pitch which generates the upper partials) remained constant. If someone wanted to sing slightly higher or lower because of their vocal range, the new fundamental and its partials would be out of tune with the original set (vibrating at slightly different rates of speed).  This also made keyboards of the time really only in tune in one key.  Musicians switched to the well tempered tuning system in the 18th century.  Unlike the overtone series, where the distant between notes varies, the well tempered tuning system slightly alters each note so that every one is equidistant from another.  This means that all notes are slightly out of tune when compared to the overtone series, but only by a small amount.





© Copyright 2005

Mark McFarland