Meantone Temperaments on Lutes and Viols

9780253021236: Hardback
Release Date: 4th July 2016

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 320

Series Publications of the Early Music Institute

Indiana University Press

Meantone Temperaments on Lutes and Viols

Hardback / £41.00

Written for musicians by a musician, Meantone Temperaments on Lutes and Viols demystifies tuning systems by providing the basic information, historical context, and practical advice necessary to easily achieve more satisfying tuning results on fretted instruments. Despite the overwhelming organological evidence that many of the finest lutenists, vihuelists, and viola da gamba players in the Renaissance and Baroque eras tuned their instruments in one of the meantone temperaments, most modern early instrument players today still tune to equal temperament. In this handbook richly supplemented with figures, diagrams, and music examples, historical performers will discover why temperaments are necessary and how they work, descriptions of a variety of temperaments, and their application on fretted instruments. This technical book provides downloadable audio tracks and other tools for fretted instrument players to achieve more stable consonances, colorful dissonances, and harmonic progressions that vividly propel the music forward.

List of Diagrams
List of Tables
List of Audio Files

Part One: Precedent
Part One Introduction
1. Historical Performance, Thought, and Perspective
2. Surviving Fixed Metal-Fret Instruments
3. Fretting Pattern Iconography
Part One Conclusion

Part Two: Theory
Part Two Introduction
4. Inside the Numbers: How Tuning Systems Work and Why We Need Them
5. Tour through Tuning Systems
Part Two Conclusion

Part Three: Practice
Part Three Introduction
6. Physical and Environmental Factors
7. The Zen of Tuning
8. Continuo
9. Viols

Appendix 1: Cleartune
Appendix 2: Equal Temperament Offset Charts

David Dolata is Professor of Musicology at Florida International University and professional lutenist, appearing at such venues as the Glimmerglass Opera, the Florida Grand Opera, the Northwest Bach Festival, the Miami Bach Society, and on broadcasts and recordings for NPR, CBS, and BBC.

This book is welcome, aiming as it does to combine the historical, theoretical, and practical aspects of this sometimes vexed and controversial topic in a lively and approachable manner.

Richard Carter
Oriana Music: Early Music Editions, co-owner

This book will go a long way towards destroying the myths of many well-intentioned, but ill-informed scholars and performers.

Paul O'Dette
world-renowned lutenist and Director of Early Music at Eastman School of Music

There is a wealth of knowledge here for more advanced performers and those with an interest in historical temperaments.

Music Reference Services Quarterly

[This book] handles a difficult subject with clarity and vigor, and I imagine it will find a welcome place on the bookshelf of the serious student interested in exploring the unique soundscape attainable only through meantone temperament.


This is an excellent, well-written book. There is a wealth of information about how players of fretted instruments found different solutions to the problems of tuning; the section on the theory of temperaments is a good read in spite of the dryness of its subject matter; and there is much good practical advice to help us improve our playing by getting our instruments well in tune.

The Viola da Gamba Society Journal

While Dolata’s book is aimed primarily at lutenists and gambists, the wealth of information he provides is of potential value to performers and scholars outside this limited circle. In particular, those who perform with—or conduct—lutenists and gambists can profit from learning what is involved in setting up fretted instruments in unequal systems.

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

This book is well written in a friendly style, and it fulfills its tutorial intention very well.Summer 2017

The Consort