Equal temperament

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Equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. In equal temperament tunings, an interval — usually the octave — is divided into a series of equal steps (equal frequency ratios between successive notes). For classical music, the most common tuning system is twelve-tone equal temperament (also known as 12 equal temperament), inconsistently abbreviated as 12-TET, 12TET, 12tET, 12tet, 12-ET, 12ET, or 12et, which divides the octave into 12 parts, which are equal on a logarithmic scale. It is usually tuned relative to a standard pitch of 440 Hz, called A 440.

Other equal temperaments exist (some music has been written in 19-TET and 31-TET for example, and Arabian music is based on 24-TET), but in western countries when people use the term equal temperament without qualification, it is usually understood that they are talking about 12-TET.

Equal temperaments may also divide some interval other than the octave, a pseudo-octave, into a whole number of equal steps. An example is an equally-tempered Bohlen–Pierce scale. To avoid ambiguity, the term equal division of the octave, or EDO is sometimes preferred. According to this naming system, 12-TET is called 12-EDO, 31-TET is called 31-EDO, and so on; however, when composers and music-theorists use "EDO" their intention is generally that a temperament (i.e., a reference to just intonation intervals) is not implied.


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