Just Intonation Setup with Dorico + NotePerformer? Has anyone done it?

Just wondering if anyone has successfully implemented a way to tune the wind instrument playback from NP on a per-chord basis? I’m not talking about systems where say - an entire piece of music is justly tuned to a set of pitches, but a system where when looking at a progression of sustained notes in multiple wind instruments, I could manually adjust each note’s pitch in relation to the root note. I wouldn’t expect dorico to know how to do this automatically without me telling it what the interval/adjustment is, I understand that would likely have to be manually adjusted. For example: Major 3rds of a chord dropped 14 cents, 5ths raised by 2 cents, minor 3rd raised by 15, etc for each possible interval.

I messed around with the tuning systems dialog but I couldn’t quite figure it out. MIDI pitch bend seemed to kind of work, but it doesn’t have fine enough control - no decimal place percentages, if I convert the cents difference to the percentage of an octave.

This method of tuning chords for a large ensemble is prevalent in the marching arts scene in the US (at least from my experiences with competitive high school bands, DCI, and DCA). Those who write for these ensembles are looking to make “realistic” mock-ups for performers to listen to. This could really up the game in that department if it’s possible. I’ve done tuning adjustment with synths and certain sample libraries within a DAW, and of course my own instruments/voice. As far as I am aware, NP does not work in a DAW, and is a sample/modeling hybrid of sorts. so I’m trying to explore the possibilities there in Dorico!

Very brief answer: Define a tonality system (any desired precision rounded to n-EDO), putting the 7 white notes in J.I. with each other, and define accidentals as needed.

See this thread from a couple years ago with many details of my method.

1 Like

For another answer, I recommend the Helmholtz-Ellis Just Intonation (HEJI) accidentals, which are included with Dorico - but for the Dorico template for playback, you should visit plainound.org. If you search here for HEJI you’ll find lots of stuff as well - here is one example.

Dorico can play 12000 divisions of the octave (!) so you should be able to get your pieces to work!

1 Like

I’ll have to take a dive into this stuff. A lot there that I haven’t really studied much of. Thanks!

Ideally, NotePerformer should offer alternative tuning systems, as some other players do:


(There is even a standard .scl format for defining tunings.)

Have you requested to NP that they include tunings?

You want to use this system only to create a more realistic mockup?

Back in university I visited a course, where we tried out intonation stuff, how it works from e theoretical aspect but also in practice with our instrumnets, how to tune, that it sounds “good”, appearance of combination tones and all this stuff.

I don’t remember everything, but how to play in tune is more complex than just follow this chart.
Just some examples i do remember:

A -14 cent bass on a major third sounds really weird. I think most of the time, the bass sounded the best, if it was played well tempered. Especially if it plays a line that rises/falls step by step.

A similar problem occures in the melody. If you follow those adjustments, you create weird intervals in the melody. It might be in tune, but for example the melody of the flute sounds “out of tune”.

A minor chord sound odd, with a high played third.

A dominant seventh chord in just intonation loses a lot of its tension.

What do you do, if there is pitched percussion, piano, etc.
What do you do if there are more notes played then just a standard triad? You are running soon into problems, where close intervalls getting too close or too big to sound nice.

1 Like

@benwiggy: is that the Aria Player window? I’ve occasionally used the Aria Player if I wanted to experiment with alternative tuning systems, but I’d infinitely prefer to use NotePerformer.

I think that’s a new part of the expression map window in Dorico :wink:

1 Like

For the record, while NotePerformer’s built-in sounds have per-note tuning, our playback-engine translation has limited support for polyphonic detuning. For example, the playback engine can’t detune individual notes in a piano chord.


Yes. FWIW, Logic also comes with 97 scala files, which you can copy over for use in ARIA.

This is the answer we needed, thanks Arne.

I tried to get my tech to tune my grand to another system, can’t remember what it was now but might have been Just or one of the historical temperaments. He talked me out of it - had written articles to this effect in the piano trade magazines. The effects are subtle (listeners won’t notice) and it makes life much more complicated, plus all the practical implications for real instruments. He is the tech for our local major internationally known concert hall.

Interesting, I was the Drum Major in HS (California) and went to the statewide training camps and workshops, never heard of it. Also had top chairs in the all state Honor Bands (concert) which was same. Given the difficulty with the yearly player rotation I can’t imagine trying to do this on top of everything else, but it’s possible I suppose, maybe at a arts HS with heavy music emphasis. But this was back in the 80’s, maybe it’s a new thing now, but I’d have a hard time seeing it be prevalent.


Thinking on it further, as a player I would hate any band leader who tried this. My instrument at the time was clarinet, you know clarinets aren’t in self-tune, including top tier professional. I bought my A and Bb Buffet’s via audition, by going to the largest store in the state and playing every one. But each note is a little out of tune - some more than others, which is enough to manage, and don’t tell the poor Eb players! Eb’s are notoriously out of tune, my personal Eb is a PITA to play in tune comparatively. But the point is they are already out of tune for equal temperament which they are designed for, and how are being asked to throw it in another system all together, as a clarinettist I’d be like “forget it bub!”

Not to mention those Buffets are not going out on the field, you’ll use some plastic job for that with worse inherent tuning. My first Buffet ($10k in todays prices) cracked when I took it to a colder Northern California Honor band - and this was a concert hall band.

Practically speaking you can only adjust (with the embouchure) by maybe ± what, 5 cents or so? The chart above has up to 15 cents. So who sets the reference? Brass probably have an easier time of it, are they the reference the poor slob woodwinds try to lock to? And what about flutes, I’d imagine they have less ability to self tune.

Anyhow maybe it’s a big thing but damn, not for me :grimacing:

Thanks all for the responses on this! I did find this thread, which mentions add-ons to the expression map for NP which could work for my use case. Going to try that here in a few.

Winds detuning

It’s not used on every note, but say you have a 8/12/16 count sustained chord voiced to be an “impact” moment. I would typically tune those chords. Usually see them as Bb/F/Eb major chords, or open 5th + 9th.

1 Like

Ah, OK I can see that. I’m not aware of any studies or it being a known thing, but I can entirely believe that players will unconsciously tune a high point differently for added punch.

In that case I’d leave it out of my Dorico workflow, that’s pure performance related which I do in the DAW during mix. In this case I’d be tempted to throw the final stems into Wavelab where that could be done really easily, there’s probably only a small handful of such touch ups you’d do.

1 Like

But honestly. If it is for marching band outside, you won’t hear the 2cents of a fifth. Even the players playing the bass note will be out of tune more than 2 cents. Of course you always search for the perfect fifth, but creating balance and sound quality is more important than those 2 cents. Especially if it is a band with 40+ players AND outside.

if you play a contest outside, and play perfectly well tempered, you will have the best intonation by far(!).

Interesting thread. I’m a cellist and play a lot of string quartet and baroque music. Depending on style and context, we will very often try to finetune (yes) the intonation close to what might be actual JI (mean-tone temperament). But no chord is the same, of course. An E in C major will turn out lower than an E in an A major chord. An F# is way lower than a Gb in many circumstances: in the first position on the cello the difference is a centimetre. When playing E-F-F#-G on the same string, the (diatonic) distances between E-F and F#-G are roughly twice the chromatic distance F-F#. Intonation is hard!
Apart from that, string players need to tune the fifths between their open strings very slightly smaller than a pure 2:3 (702 cents), otherwise the cello’s low C will get too ‘far’ from the violin’s E string. Note that this is even without taking equal-tempered instruments like pianos into account at all. Our open-string fifths will be close to 700 cents, but well-tuned thirds and sixths are generally far from round numbers (the table in the OP sums it up quite nicely).


To me the main issue with rendering most Western music in pure intervals for study is that computer tuning via notation is rigid, while actual practice is very flexible. Indeed brass players and singers, especially, will gravitate toward slightly purer tuning than ET. But this is much closer to what is called “adaptive tuning” (q.v.) than to strict J.I. Indeed, very little Western music can be played in J.I. without comma problems. (A good exception is Gesualdo, who had special keyboards with more notes per octave.)

Early organ music sounds good in meantone; fretboard instruments like lute and guitar produce equal temperament easily. Piano tuning is fraught with subtle issues such as octave stretching to accommodate inharmonicity. A cappella singers are left thoroughly confused as to what “in tune” really means. Over decades of study and practice, I have found that the most satisfying ensemble tuning comes when people do it instinctively, and don’t think about it too much!


Nice to hear about how string players are doing that. I find when I play in a large ensemble like a big band, orchestra/wind ensemble, with pro players, everyone knows to make adjustments intuitively due to their experience hearing the sound, they also don’t necessarily need an accurate reference to the material.

My situation is pretty specific I guess. Just Intonation is totally possible in a marching ensemble, and I believe the chart I referenced is from the method book “Inside the Circle”.

And I did get it working with NP! Was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The “winds detuning” thread helped me out. I duplicated the default NP expression map, then put add-ons in for each type of cent adjustment I wanted. I Set each one to modify CC 102 + or - the cents value from 64, and made sure there was a playback technique attached to them, as well as a playing technique. If you do it that way, you do need to re-set the controller to 0 on notes you do not want adjusted. Seems like you could also edit the automation lane of 102 to make the adjustment without the playing techniques being created.

1 Like