I have been researching and working with historical tunings and temperaments almost as long as I have been involved with historical instruments. Over the years, I have been engaged by numerous musicians, orchestras, and festivals to tune harpsichords, fortepianos, and small organs for concerts and recordings; tuning is one of the professional services I offer. I can also provide my clients with advice on temperament selection, drawing from an extensive library of both historical and hypothetical reconstructed temperaments.
In this section of my website, I intend to share the insight and understanding of this complex topic which is the result of my extensive experience combined with my ongoing research in the area of historical documents. The information provided here will be divided into two groups:
Naturally, this represents a vast amount of information, and this section will continue to grow and evolve as time goes by.
My previously available pamphlet, Temperaments for Dummies, has been temporarily withdrawn while I rewrite it to bring it into agreement with the latest research. If you would like to be notified when the new version is ready, please submit the mailing list form on the Contact page.
In 1698, 17 years after the first appearance of the well-known temperament now called "Werckmeister III", Werckmeister published a short treatise on realizing Basso Continuo for the novice keyboard player. He dedicated an appendix to the topic of how to set a temperament, specifically tailoring the discussion for the musician with little or no experience with either the practice or the theory of temperament. His comments offer us a unique glimpse of the situation at the end of the 17th century, written by a person who was at the same time a practicing musician, a certified organ inspector, and a renowned temperament theorist. Additionally, Werckmeister's own remarks cast serious doubt on the usefulness of his earlier temperament which today is ubiquitously applied to all manner of Baroque music. I feel this text represents one of the most significant surviving documents on the topic, and should be required reading for all students of historical keyboard performance.
A transcription of the original German text can be found here
Werckmeister's tempering instructions are not mathematically precise and leave some room for variation, albeit within fairly narrowly-defined limits. I have devised an XL spreadsheet which allows one to experiment with various solutions. The spreadsheet also gives the cents deviation values needed for programming electronic tuning devices as well as beats-per-second for all triads defined during the tuning sequence.