Secret notes your piano is keeping from you

by birtanpublished on July 2, 2020

unless you spent a lot of time in high

school playing clarinet you probably

don't think too much about scales in

music like are there only 12 notes and

an octave the way you see them laid out

on a keyboard no obviously not there are

so many other notes



if you grew up in a country like Canada

or the UK you're used to the traditional

Western scale there's a lot you can do

with that scale but it's always

basically seven notes it sounds good and

normal and covers everything from this

dog though to this


all the greatest songs ever written but

if you grew up in southern India

Carnatic music might be more your style


the Carnatic system uses what's called

Shruti considered to be the smallest

interval that the human ear can detect

some people say that that means 66 notes

in a scale but today it's generally

agreed to be 22 which is still an awful

lot of notes


Indonesian gamelan music is kind of the

opposite it uses different tuning than

Western instruments but typically fewer

notes some instruments in an ensemble

can only play a 5 note scale


the closest you'll usually get in

western music is twelve-tone serialism

which ignores the rules of keys and

scales and which twelve notes and an

octave typically sound good together and

instead has you use all 12 notes in an

octave equally twelve-tone technique is

used almost exclusively in the classical

world except for the one black flag

instrumental you not very good but those

twelve notes are still the ones that you

see arranged on a standard keyboard

there your grandparents twelve notes so

where are the other ones in western

music the space between available notes

is known as a semitone micro tonal music

describes any piece of music that uses

the notes between those notes between

the keys that you can see in an octave

on a piano it includes the traditional

Indian and Indonesian music that we were

rapping about earlier and this and the

entire keyboard of six octaves with a

couple overlapping keys is one thousand

two hundred and sixty-six buttons for me

the most exciting thing about microtonal

music is the lengths that people have to

go to in order to play it with the

exception of the traditional instruments

that we were talking about earlier you

kind of have to be super serious about

modding all of your


that's the fluid piano invented by Jeff

Smith rather than being tied to 88 notes

like most standard pianos you can just

retune it on the fly


add enough threats and you can

experiment on your own with a homemade

microtonal guitar

gnarlie that particular Hesher is named

longsword and he literally makes and

shreds 16 tonne micro tunnel guitars for

a living




last Sacrament our microtonal

death-metal as far as I can tell they

are the only members of that tribe but

they do have a funky cousin in mono neon


no big surprise that is a custom built

base so for the everyday consumer the

easiest way to enter the microtonal

world is probably with a tonal plexus

depending on the size you can spend

anywhere from 600 to $3,000 on one of

these or you could just jam a bunch of

frets into your acoustic guitar and call

it a day


there's also Harry Park the

exceptionally cool and innovative

composer responsible for some of the

earliest non-traditional DIY micro tonal

instruments most of his instruments use

his own 43 tone scale and are awesome

morning I've always thought it was

strange how music that we tend to

describe as innovative often still hues

to a fairly rigid formula whether it's

bass drums and guitar or the Western

scale and while it may not be the music

that I want to listen to when I'm

cleaning the kitchen are writing a

script it's cool to know that there are

notes that we just don't hear hidden

somewhere between the Baja men and Fred

Durst and that there are some other

braver souls that are still out there

exploring those spaces it's like finding

out that there are new colors wait


what do you think is microtonal music

something you'd want to jam on a long

road trip can you imagine being

acclimatized to a different sort of

scale so that Miley Cyrus sounds like

last sacrament to you let us know what

you think in the comments and be sure to

subscribe for new episodes of this

exists every week be excellent to each

other last week's episode was all about

TV hijacking and specifically the very

very creepy Max Headroom incident this

is our comment of the week the nerdy

glasses girl posted on the brand new

very cool this exist subreddit whoa this

exists not who I sexist or whatever it

looks like without the capitals woah

this exists and it references the AMA

that was done a few years ago by someone

claiming to know the person or persons

responsible for the Max Headroom

incident and motherboard has kind of

debunked this but it's still a

fascinating look into a possible

scenario in which someone was able to

broadcast a super scary spanked Max

Headroom onto to chicago-area channels

in the 80s if you want to dig further

into that insanely messed up in cool

little mystery I highly recommend

checking out that link which we've

included in the description and thank

you very much for posting on the

subreddit there's already over 300

people on there which is cool so we're

gonna start the shitheel Reading Club on

there and it's gonna keep growing so

check that out have a nice time


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