Well, well, well, looking for something, are we? Well… you won’t find it here, I’m afraid!

Even more so than “Meantone”, the term “Well Temperament” is a modern invention which was never used during the times when keyboards were actually tuned in unequal temperaments. Unlike “Meantone”, though, which is based on a structural aspect of that type of temperament, the term “Well” doesn’t really mean anything at all. Obviously, it was inspired by the tittle of Bach’s famous collection of pieces in all keys, The Well-Tempered Clavier, but since we really know nothing whatsoever about Bach’s real intentions in this regard (contrary to Brad Lehman’s claims), there is no basis for borrowing that tittle for an entire family of temperaments.

The worst aspect of this terminology is that it is a linguistic Ungeheuer (a monstrosity). Something well-described has been given a good description. Something well-formed has a good form. Something well-planned has been given a good plan. Why then should a well-tempered harpsichord have been given a “well temperament”? This term was obviously coined by some absolute cretin who had no grasp of the difference between an adverb and an adjective, neither in German nor in English (nor just about any language, for that matter). No elementary school English teacher would let you get away with such a basic blunder, so why on earth should we accept it in the field of musicology, the practitioners of which are ostensibly well-educated? Or perhaps I should say, they have been good educated? Or have received a well-education?! That do sound gooder, I done thinked! As Pink Floyd put it, “We don’ need no ed-dyu-cai-shun…”

Every time you utter the words “Well Temperament”, anyone with a feeling for good grammar will cringe. Considering it has no basis whatsoever in any real historical or structural sense, the only thing it has to recommend it is to go along with the rest of the “crowd of cretins”. Personally, I recommend that you avoid it like the plague!

Where to place the tuning hammer for a Well temperament
A well