preliminary proposal: New Unicode characters for Arabic music half-flat and half-sharp

Hans Aberg haberg-1 at
Mon Mar 30 18:10:52 CDT 2015

> On 31 Mar 2015, at 00:06, Doug Ewell <doug at> wrote:
> Johnny Farraj <johnnyfarraj at yahoo dot com> wrote:
>> The Arabic half-flat and half-sharp symbols do not mean exact
>> quartertones, but that's understood by Arabic music performers as the
>> exact intonation is then learned by ear. That fact does not make them
>> impractical to use, as they are used extensively in Arabic music
>> notation. 
> This is true for Western (European) music notation as well. Nothing
> about the classical written notation indicates which tuning system is to
> be used -- equal, just, Pythagorean, etc. -- and for many pieces the
> choice is left to the performer, but the notation is equally valid for
> all.

This is a good point:

In CPP (Common Practise Period) music, for variable pitch instruments doing harmony, the staff system expresses the Pythagorean tuning, which the strings are tuned to, but the harmony rules encourages to adapt into 5-limit Just Intonation. But chord pivoting in some common harmony sequences makes it impossible to play JI without further pitch adaptation - microtonalists call this “comma pumps”, as the amount may be a syntonic comma 81/80.

For fixed pitch instruments, one has in the past experimented with a plethora of tunings. A method for tuning a piano accurately to E12 was developed first in the beginning of the 20th century according to one source, though the concept dates back to Ancient Greece, and E12-like tunings have been used on lutes for centuries.

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