A newly added question had the tag "temperament" added in connection with violoncello and upon finding an impressive amount of text in the tag description, I conclude that it claims to cover concert-pitch issues ("frequency to tone assignments").

I would have expected, that "temperament" is only applicable to instruments to be subjected to different temperaments (as mean-tone, Werckmeister etc.), so continous-pitch instruments as cello would not qualify...

This viewpoint is somewhat supported by English Wikipedia:

Temperament, in music, the accommodation or adjustment of the imperfect sounds by transferring a part of their defects to the more perfect ones, in order to remedy, in some degree, the false intervals of those instruments, the sounds of which are fixed; as the organ, harpsichord, piano-forte, etc.

Is this agreed or was a concert-pitch tag already discussed?

3 Answers 3


I assume you are referring to this question I asked.

I believe you have a misunderstanding. Temperament can definitely be applied to cellos. When tuning the strings, one must tune with Pythagorean fifths, well temperament, or some other temperament, depending on whether the player wants big chords, open fifths, or small intervals to sound in-tune or not.

  • Guidot wasn't saying that temperament can't be applied to cellos. He is asking if some of the info on the tag info page - music.stackexchange.com/tags/temperament/info - might be extraneous. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 11:44
  • @topomorto Quoting the first sentence of the tag description: ""Temperament" generally refers to the system used to assign a frequency value to each specific named pitch." That assignment works both ways, so when the notation for a piece specifies playing F5, for example, the temperment specifies what actual (fundamental) frequency should be played to represent that note, which applies to any instrument playing that note, fixed pitch or otherwise. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 15:53
  • @ToddWilcox aha, my mistake - I missed guidot's second paragraph, which doesn't seem to relate to the question title IMO. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 23:56
  • 1
    Whitespace edit so I could reverse my mistaken downvote! Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 8:10

I would tend to think that temperament refers to the way that the pitches of an instrument's notes are chosen relative to each other, while concert pitch defines an absolute pitch of (typically one of) those notes. So I'd agree that temperament and concert pitch are separate concerns (that combine to give the you actual absolute tunings of an instruments strings / other oscillators)

However, I don't think this goes so far as to mean that temperament can't be applied to cellos, for the reasons Ansel gave.


'Temperament' normally applies to a compromise system of tuning applied to an instrument that can't change pitch by playing technique. Typically keyboards. Other instruments don't need temperament, they have intonation. Intervals can dynamically be tuned to perfection, with all the possibilities and pitfalls that that enables!

Whether there's any point in discriminating between the two in a SE tag is debatable. Unlike computer science, for which I believe SE was originally designed, topics rarely focus down to a neatly defined category and a 'correct' answer. I would estimate that a good 50% of questions here benefit from having their terms of reference expanded, rather than an ethos of 'just answer the question'.

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