ttuner is released!

I’m very pleased to announce the initial release of ttuner (Temperament Tuner)! This is a piece of software I’ve written to help with tuning instruments – especially harpsichords, since that’s what I usually tune, but it’s very helpful for any instrument at all.

For the impatient, you can find the downloads in the ttuner page.

What makes ttuner different from most other tuning devices (both hardware and software) is the way that a temperament it loaded into the program. To begin with, most tuners are limited to equal temperament, and can’t tune other temperaments at all. Others, like the near-ubuquitous Korg have a few historical temperaments, but don’t let you modify them in any way. A small number of tuners let you enter your own custom temperaments to use, but this is usually done by specifying the deviation, in cents, from equal temperament, which really has nothing to do with how these temperaments are really constructed or used. As well, they usually only let you specify in units of one cent – there’s no way to make a note .2 cents higher, for example.

Enter ttuner! This program calculates temperaments in the same way you would if you were tuning by ear. Starting with a reference tone (a tuning fork, for example) intervals are specified as being pure, or tempered by fractions of commas. A = E means that there is a pure fifth between those two notes. For example, the common Valotti temperament is entered like this:

  • A = E-1/6P
  • E = B-1/6P
  • D = A-1/6P
  • G = D-1/6P
  • C = G-1/6P
  • F = C-1/6P
  • Bb = F
  • Eb = Bb
  • Ab = Eb
  • F# = B
  • C# = F#

For convenience, you can also specify a temperament as a series of cent deviations from equal temperament, but of course it’s not as good as specifying the intervals themselves! This flexible way of writing a temperament also means that there’s no problem specifying enharmonic notes – my standard meantone file, for example, has B = D# and G = Eb, so both those notes are generated.

Another benefit this program has over most others is the ability to specify different sets of harmonics in the audio output. Instead of the Korg’s nasty sound, you can combine different sine waves to make something that suits the instrument that you’re tuning to. There’s no real limit to the number of different partials the sound can have, as long as you have the processing power to generate them!

For now, the program is just a console application – there aren’t any pretty windows or anything like that for now. That said, it’s very easy to use. Just open up a console window, (in windows, go to the start menu, choose ‘run’ and enter ‘cmd’ into the box). Then change directory (using the ‘cd’ command) to the program location, and type the following:

ttuner -t <temperamentfilename>

I’ve included several temperament files in the package already, so, for example, to load the Valotti temperament I showed you above, enter this:

ttuner -t temperaments\valotti.temperament

The default setup will calculate the frequencies based on A=415Hz, but if you want to change this, just enter a new frequency on the commmand line:

ttuner -t temperaments\valotti.temperament -f 440

Other useful commandline options: -h for harmonics. A pure sine wave would be -h 1, and a simple sound with a few partials might be -h 8,4,2,1,.5. As you can see, you can use pretty much any number here. It just takes the relative strength of each partial to generate the total waveform.

There are several other commandline options you can use, but I won’t get into them yet. Proper documentation will be forthcoming! (that’s what they always say….)

Once the program starts, you can change notes using the comma and period keys, and jump octaves using ‘<‘ and ‘>’. Press q to quit.

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