>When modern string players tune to a piano, they ask the pianist to play a d
>minor triad. Does anyone know why it should be that particular triad?
>I have heard gambists tune to harpsichords and the harpsichordist gives them a
>different triad for every string in what sounds like a nice little chord
>progression. My ears were not sharp enough to catch the progession; does
>anyone know what it is?
>Does the gambists' progression date from before the modern string players'
>single minor triad or was it developed by modern gambists as an improvement
>over the single minor triad?
I grew up tuning to a d minor triad and never even wondered why! My guess
would be that it includes the 2 middle strings of the violin, and that
using a triad instead of just the note A gives a more solid sense of where
the A is than an isolated note does. Many violinists prefer to tune to the
open D-A 5th rather than the minor triad.
I first heard instrumentalists tuning to chord progressions with New York
Pro Musica back in the early 1970s, and it immediately made sense to me.
That way you are tuning to a KEY rather than just to a NOTE. (Or to a
group of closely-related keys, perhaps.) I have no idea about the historic
background of either practice, but can picture the string players in an
unheated European church tuning up quietly while the organist is preluding.
By the way, violinists usually tune perfect 5ths, but that doesn't work for
violists or cellists because they tune down from their top string, and
tuning four perfect 5ths leaves you with a C string too flat to the
keyboard to be useable. It wasn't until I studied viola with William
Primrose that I discovered the very simple trick of tuning tempered 5ths
instead of perfect. (Maybe that's one reason orchestral string players
always tune sharp--yes, we do, and we know we do, but we aren't in tune if
John & Susie Howell ([log in to unmask])
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia U.S.A. 24061-0240
(703) 231-8411 - FAX (703) 231- 5034