Which temperament should I choose?

12-Tone Equal Temperament
This is the musical scale which "ordinary" guitars are constructed for - in theory. In reality, the best that can be achieved is a close approximation to Equal Temper, because the simple mathematical formula which is used to calculate the fret positions is based on insufficient information about the physical properties of vibrating strings. (See: "What's wrong with straight frets?") Most guitars tend to play a little sharp in the lowest frets, a little flat in the 5th - 10th frets, and fairly accurately around the octave. Up above the 15th fret anything at all can happen!

A True Temperament 12-Tone Equal Temperament neck has even and precise intonation throughout its register. It tunes the way the guitar is supposed to tune according to the mathematical formula - but with much greater precision than ever previously achieved, Open strings can be combined with notes way up on the neck, right up to the last fret.

12-Tone Equal Temperament is a compromise which enables us to play all intervals, in every key, with the same relative accuracy. It is an artificial, mathematical division of the octave into twelve equal semitones, which conflicts with the natural tone row - the pure intervals in the overtones of vibrating strings. When two or more strings are played together, each string generates its own overtone series. Since neither the frets, nor the strings, are tuned in pure intervals, the overtones from the individual strings are way out of tune with each other. The beat frequencies which are generated between conflicting overtones are not musical. This is especially evident when playing major third, minor third, sixth and seventh intervals with distortion.

Not even a True Temperament neck can cure this problem, as the laws of Nature cannot be broken. But a 12-Tone Equal Temperament TT neck brings the guitar exactly into line with the human mathematical rules!

Well Tempered
Up until now, the guitar has always been shackled to equal temper, as this is the only practical alternative when you have twelve straight frets to the octave. But the equal tempered scale is far from being the one and only way to divide the octave into semitones - many hundreds of different temperaments have been documented through the centuries. The True Temperament system finally makes it possible for the guitarist to explore alternative, very musical-sounding temperaments. (The majority of modern keyboards and music software programs have this ability to switch temperaments built in - but sadly, few users ever make use of this feature.) Some of the most interesting of these temperaments are so-called "Well Tempered" schemes.

Well Tempered tunings are designed to favour different key signatures to different degrees. In the favoured keys, intervals tune closer to the natural tone row than in equal temperament, which improves consonance and reduces intermodulation and beating. The price for this is that consonance in the lesser-used keys is sacrificed a little. The best well-tempered schemes make all keys usable, however, with a good balance of tonal colours.

We offer two different Well temperaments. Which one you choose depends mostly on which keys you want to favour most.

Thidell Formula 1

If you mostly play in "guitar keys" then Thidell Formula 1 is for you. Formula 1 is specifically designed for the guitar. It is optimised for all the standard open and barre chord patterns. Major keys in Formula 1 which sound closer to the natural tone row are: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D. Minor keys which sound closer to the natural tone row are: E, F#, Ab, A, B, Eb.

Die Wohltemperirte Gitarre

If you play a lot of "jazz" chords, in key signatures which brass players tend to favour, Die Wohltemperirte Gitarre is an excellent choice. Major keys in "Wohl" which sound closer to the natural tone row are: F, G, Bb, C, D. Minor keys which sound closer to the natural tone row are: E, F#, Ab, A, B, D.

For a detailed description of how these temperaments are constructed, see:
Technical details

The remaining key signatures in both "Wohl" and Formula 1 all sound harmonically acceptable to the ear, with varying degrees of tonal colour. Nothing sounds dissonant, but interesting, subtle effects are created which add harmonic "spice" to the mix. This applies to all well-tempered keys to some extent, and is a valuable tool which can add to the emotional "feel" of the music.

Before equal temperament came along in the mid 19th century, "Key Colour" - also known as "Key Character", or, in German, "Affekt" - was a familiar and generally accepted form of musical expression. "Key colour" is absent in equal temperament . As all its intervals are equal, the blend of intervals is the same in every key, so all keys sound alike. Well Tempered intervals are unequal, which gives each key its own unique blend of intervals and thus its own personality. Some keys sound sad or gloomy, some sound happy, some sound majestic, yet others frivolous.

Our well-tempered variants blend in well with "ordinary" instruments, the offsets from equal temper are not so severe that they sound dissonant. They have their own unique characters that never sound "wrong", but rather enrich the musical palette - they could be described as different dialects for the different temperaments.

For more on "Affekt", go here: About "Key Colours"

If you are in search of something really different, see: Meantone Blues

©True Temperament AB, 2006