Bach’s Well-Tempered Tuning

Finally I can present the solution to the curious problem of Bach’s temperament. Not so much of a revolutionary or odd-ball tuning at all perhaps, but my research has not only demonstrated, by examples from the Baroque, that the marking on Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier is indeed a temperament indication, but I have also finally been able to correctly de-code it. Here is a short excerpt from the introduction of my recent paper:

The Rosetta Revisited
Bach’s Very Ordinary Temperament
Dominic Eckersley, Berlin 2012

“Did Bach indeed leave a record of how he tuned his keyboard instruments as Bradley Lehman’s 2005 article, Bach’s extraordinary temperament: our Rosetta Stone would have us believe?1 With a bit of cloak and dagger work, can we get to the bottom of this Da Vinci Code of tuning secrets? Has a Bach temperament solution miraculously appeared by way of a tantalising hint Bach may have left for us at the top of the title page of The Well-Tempered Clavier 2 in the form of a cursive calligraphic flourish, a secret codified message, a memory jogging reminder; or was it even just a doodle?

“Sadly, Lehman’s “Bach temperament” is not only incomplete, but misleading, suggesting something which is neither probable, nor representative of the tuning traditions of Bach’s time and likely vastly different from that which Bach knew, or used, or would have found acceptable. That the calligraphic scrolling glyph on the title page of The Well-Tempered Clavier is indeed a diagram of a temperament can be supported in that it can be broken down into structural elements which compare in structure and placement with intrinsic values of temperament intervals found elsewhere in the literature of the period. So how did he really tune his harpsichord?”

To read more please read the whole article click on Rosetta_Revisited or go to  “Rosetta Revisited: Bach’s Very Ordinary Temperament” in full. If you have problems logging into please contact me personally to view the article. 


Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in d minor BWV 903 using Bach’s 1722 temperament:


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