“Chromatic” Just Intonation – fast version

Posted on Posted in Music, Tutorials

About a month ago I talked here about the math required to take a set of ratios and generate a set of +/- 50 cent alterations for tuning a chromatic scale to any 12-tone just tuning. There were quite a number of steps and a lot of math as I wanted to show how to do it in a way that could be applied to any programming language (or done by hand if you are feeling masochistic). Now I’m going to show a shortcut if you are specifically using SuperCollider.

SuperCollider has a method called ratiomidi that takes a ratio and converts it to the float MIDI number version. This replaces the need to multiply the ratios by a fundamental and mod 12 it as, because all our ratios are within an octave, everything will be from 0.0 through 11.99. In other words: it gives us tuned versions of pitch classes. This one simple method removes 2 of the previous steps.


gives us

[ 0, 1.0495540950041, 2.0391000173077, 3.1564128700055, 3.8631371386483, 4.9804499913461, 6.1748780739571, 7.0195500086539, 8.1368628613517, 9.3312909439626, 9.6882590646912, 10.882687147302 ]

Now that we have that, like before we need to get the cents in the +/- 50 cents, here in decimals. Once again we just need to subtract a series of integers from 0 to 11 like so:

( [1,17/16,9/8,6/5,5/4,4/3,10/7,3/2,8/5,12/7,7/4,15/8].ratiomidi – (0..11) ).round(0.01);

which gives us

[ 0, 0.05, 0.04, 0.16, -0.14, -0.02, 0.17, 0.02, 0.14, 0.33, -0.31, -0.12 ]

Great, that was easy! Now, you may notice by comparing it to the result we got from the other post that although the numbers are all the same, they aren’t in the same order. That is because before we based the tuning on A being the fundamental/tonic. Here C (array slot or pitch class 0) is the tonic. This is fine if you want C to be the tonic but what if you don’t? Simple! Arrays in SuperCollider also provide a method called rotate(numPlaces) which, as you might guess, shifts items left or right by a number of slots. So for our final version of this:

( [1,17/16,9/8,6/5,5/4,4/3,10/7,3/2,8/5,12/7,7/4,15/8].ratiomidi – (0..11) ).round(0.01).rotate(9);

gives us

[ 0.16, -0.14, -0.02, 0.17, 0.02, 0.14, 0.33, -0.31, -0.12, 0, 0.05, 0.04 ]

which is exactly what we got in the old example. Why are we using 9? If you prefer to think about this as a transposition operation then T9 = A. You could also put a -3 in there and you would get the exact same result. Totally depends on how you want to think about it.