What is Microtuning?

Standard Western Tuning is called 12 Tone Equal Temperament which means that each semitone is exactly 100 cents apart. As an example on acoustic instruments this is rarely the case, for instance the Piano has slight variations at either end of the keys. Equal Temperament is a fairly recent Tuning system and there have been many tradition tunings which differ such as Mean tone or Pythagorean. Using a different tuning will produce different Harmonics in chords and can produce sound which is more harmonically pleasing, though can sound slightly out of tune as our brains are so used to Equal Temperament in the West.

In a wider sense, Eastern Music has many radically different tuning system which give that music it’s distinct sound, for instance the the Indian Shruti System uses 22 Notes for an octave as opposed to the Western 12. The different tunings that exist are enormous and as a result using these tunings to make music has come to be known as Microtonal music. Experimental music can often use large patches were 40+ notes are used spanning an Octave.

Another aspect is instrument simulation where the tunings of traditional instruments are copied and converted to scala patches; instruments such as Bagpipes, balafons, marimbas, pan pipes, Indian Flutes etc….

What is Scala?

Scala is open source software for creating tuning scale patches, there is an Archive of over 3500 patches available for download on the Scala website and the good news is that Astralis Orgone and Bion can work directly with these patches. The filenames of these patches tends to be quite obscure and so it is recommended that you change the names to something more meaningful when copying them across. Also some consideration has to be given to the Bank System (see below) when copying them across, it is not a good idea to just copy the whole folder across to a single folder! The Astralis Synths come with an installer which will install over 300 wide ranging patches which are already logically organised.

NOTE: I now offer a simple way to create Scala files as an alternative to Scala itself for more details see Scala Creator VSTi at www.hgsounds.com

How it works

The main difficulty in using tunings is that because midi keyboards are based on 12 Tones, many tuning will not easily map to the keyboard in a logical way. The Astralis system gets around that by offering several different methods of mapping the notes which will be discussed further down. Most Microtonal Systems use midi to accomplish the tuning offsets by using the pitch bend fine tune, the trouble with this is that you can no longer use pitch bend. Astralis overcomes this by using pitch detection and therefore using Pitch Bend and Glide is no problem!

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