non standard tuning

khsbelring at a... khsbelring at a...
Tue Feb 17 11:56:46 GMT 2004

I apologise for any glaring inaccuracies as it is 45 years since I did music 
theory however for what it is worth here is my two pennyworth. 
The first tuning fork by John Shore in 1711 had A as 423.5 cycles per 
sec. Since then various "tuners" have used A pitched anywhere between 400-455. 
It was not until 1939 that A 440 was adopted as an international standard. 
Even now you can get any instrument tuned to any particular style or wavelength 
that one might require.
I think that describing a ring of bells that might offend your ear as 
MINOR would in most cases be entirely inaccurate.
I, as a matter of interest, organised the first peal on the minor 
DORIAN front eight of the nine at Basingstoke.
It is undoubtedly likely that most old rings of bells are lucky to be 
anywhwere near in tune. The old founders did not have the technology to 
acomplish what our modern day ones do. If you look on some web sites and see the 
complexity of how modern bells are tuned I think that by the seat of their pants 
old founders from years past did a wonderful job.
We then come to the point that it is likely that some bells were never 
tuned to fit in with existing ones just merely placed there with the others 
at approximately the right note. Nowadays instruments are generally tuned at 
equal temprament over the entire range of twelve notes from the octave. If you 
go to a three bell tower with old bells it is likely that first there was one , 
then two with the second bell at any note higher or lower. Then there were 
three and basically any note higher or lower or in the middle of the existing 
two would do. Now you come forward a few hundred years and try to augment your 
three to six and still make them sound tuneful and in what we might call an 
acceptable attempt at a certain key pitch.
Given the words major and minor keys we then get round to Dorian, 
Phygrian, Ionian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. These are words that 
medieval founders would never have heard of let alone be able to tune to.
If there is a ring of 6 it could be tuned to the front, middle or back 
of any of the keys. If you have 3, 4 or 5 that gives countless more 
Could we instead adopt a term, such as OLD STYLE , to show that the 
bells are not tuned to any particular key.
Howard E. J. Smith - Newcastle Upon Tyne
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