A tuning system that aimed to balance the purity of certain intervals while allowing modulation between different keys
"Meantone Temperament" is a historical musical tuning system that aimed to balance the purity of certain intervals while allowing modulation between different keys. It achieves this by slightly adjusting the sizes of various intervals, resulting in more consonant harmonies in specific keys but causing dissonance in others.
During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, musicians sought to balance the drawbacks of Pythagorean Tuning and the constraints of Just Intonation. Meantone Temperament emerged as a compromise solution. In this tuning system, specific intervals, such as the major third and minor third, are tuned to be more pure and consonant, while other intervals are slightly adjusted.
The most common form of Meantone Temperament is the "quarter-comma meantone", which divides the octave into equal parts, resulting in slightly narrower fifths and slightly wider major thirds compared to Pythagorean Tuning. This adjustment improves the purity of thirds in certain keys, such as those closely related to the tonic, resulting in more harmonious and expressive music.
However, Meantone Temperament has limitations when modulating to distant keys. Due to the adjusted intervals, certain keys become more dissonant, and some intervals sound out of tune. This led to the development of more flexible tuning systems like Well-Temperament and eventually Equal Temperament.
While Meantone Temperament is historically significant and provides insights into the challenges of tuning, it is less practical in modern contexts due to its limitations in accommodating modulation and key changes.