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Music by Hans Straub

© Hans Straub

All music pieces on this page are freely available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence.

Microtonal music

5-tone tuning


The first successful result of my experiments in the field of alternative tunings. It uses 5-tone equal temperament, i.e. one octave is divided into 5 equal steps. Additionally, it is in 5/8 measure, which gives a far-going symmetry between pitch and time component, enabling me to use various slightly crazy mathematical techniques. Details to the latter can be found on Music and Mathematics.

Asîmchômsaia (SoundClick) - Asîmchômsaia ( - Asîmchômsaia (Jamendo)

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17-tone tuning


Piano composition in 17-tone equal temperament, i.e. one octave is divided into 17 equal steps. Besides, it is in 17/8 meter, which gives similar properties as for "Asîmchômsaia" - this time, however, there was not much math used. Played by Jacob Barton and Daniel Sedgwick on two retuned pianos, on september 26, 2006 at Rice University (Houston, Texas), in the context of the Seventeen Tone Piano Projects Phase 2.

sharks.mp3 - Sharks (score)

One minute prelude

Piano composition, also in 17-tone equal temperament. It was written for the 2010 60x60 Untwelve contest, which required microtonal compositions at most 60 seconds long. (My piece was not selected, though.) The piece explores some of the modulation possibilities of 17-tone equal temperament, namely the possibility to modulate to keys farther away (measured in steps on the circle of fifths) than would be possible in 12-equal. There is, e.g., a modulation to a key 8 fifths apart, the longest distance possible in 17EDO. (In 12EDO, the longest distance possible is 6 fifths steps). The tonality inside the keys is traditional-sounding minor, but the modulation steps are microtonal.

One minute prelude (SoundClick) - One minute prelude ( - One minute prelude (Jamendo)

Alla Turca

Piece in 17-tone equal temperament for two retuned pianos, harmonica (an instrument that is microtonal by nature), and percussion. It was written for the 60x60 Untwelve contest as well, the one of 2012/2013 (and also unfortunately not selected...). Her I use the ability of 17-equal to approximate oriental maqam scales (17-equal is in fact the smallest equal tempered system that supports this in a decent way), and a few of these (Bayati, Rast) are featured in the piece, combined with counterpoint lines.

Alla Turca (SoundClick) - Alla Turca ( - Alla Turca (Jamendo)

Rhapsodies for Cairo no. 1

Piano improvisations, in sort of classical-romantical manner, but with application of oriental scales. For solo piano, retuned to a subset of 17-equal.

Rhapsody for Cairo no. 1 (SoundClick) - Rhapsody for Cairo no.1 ( - Rhapsody for Cairo no. 1 (Jamendo)

New 2015-12-11:: Rhapsody for Cairo no.2 (SoundClick) - Rhapsody for Cairo no.2 ( - Rhapsody for Cairo no.2 (Jamendo)

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19-tone tuning

Gon Dance

Piano composition in 19-tone equal temperament, i.e. one octave is divided into 19 equal steps. Basiert auf einer Tonleiter aus 9 Ganztönen. Background was the same mathematical modulation model as for "On-To-Sû, So-Na-Ta". For details, see Music and Mathematics.

Gon Dance (SoundClick) - Gon Dance (score)

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22-tone tuning


Piano piece in the style of romantic piano music of the 19th century, originally my contribution to the 2011 Untwelve competition. It uses the concept of neo-Riemannian transformations, i.e. creating chord progressions via slight chromatic pitch shifts on a given chord. This applies very naturally to 22-tone equal temperament, since its 7-limit major tetrad has the property to divide the octave into 7, 6, 5 and 4 steps (like in the classical 12-equal tuning the major triad does with 5, 4 and 3 steps), which means that starting with one interval of a given chord of this type and applying slight pitch shifts (quartertones often), there are unusually many ways that lead again to an interval of another chord of this form, offering rich possibilities for natural-sounding chord progressions, modulations and surprising harmonic turns.

Nocturne (SoundClick) - Nocturne ( - Nocturne (Jamendo)

Val Fedoz

My contribution to the 2014 Untwelve competition. A piano piece again, using porcupine temperament, a regular temperament supported by 22-equal tuning. More specifically, it uses the porcupine[7] scale, consisting of one major wholetone (4 steps of 22edo) and 6 minor wholetones (3 steps). All melodies and harmonies are strictly held in one of the various modes of porcupine[7]. Special attention was paid to modulations (change from one porcupine[7] scale to another). The regular temperament paradigma offers a canonical modulation schema - the well-known circle of fifths in the case of meantone temperament; the analogon in porcupine temperament is a circle of minor wholetones. As in the meantone case, there are "neighbouring" tonalities where the modulation of one to the other is done via alteration of one note. The concrete modulation patterns are different, of course.
The measure is 11/8, suiting the tuning. The title refers to the val Fedoz valley in the swiss alps, close to Sils Maria. The main theme of the piece was composed during a hiking tour there.

Val Fedoz (SoundClick) - Val Fedoz ( - Val Fedoz (Jamendo)

Val Fedoz is also available on the Untwelve 2014 competition page

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24-tone tuning


Harpsichord improvisation, mainly in the oriental maqam "Husseini". C# and F# are tuned a quartertone down, Bb a quartertone up, the rest of the keys are in standard tuning.

Sinai (SoundClick) - Sinai (

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96-tone tuning

Morph 96

Originally composed for 1/16 tone piano (a piano with 97 keys, which span only one octave). This recording, however, uses a synth guitar sound of the csound software synthesizer. It follows the paradigm of minimal music with a short basic musical phrase that is constantly iterated with gradual transformations. The concrete transformations that appear are mainly "morphing" transitions between chords, made possible by the extremely slight pitch variations that 96-tone equal temperament offers.

Morph 96 (SoundClick)

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And now something from my personal "stone age"...

Music on the Commodore 64

All sounds of the following pieces were programmed on a Commodore 64. This machine, when programmed in the right way, can be turned into a surprising musical instrument. (Well, it's not actually high quality; the pieces are here mainly for nostalgic reasons, since my Commodore 64 including all of its synth software was scrapped in 2002 - *sniff*).

C64 Random Impression

Random-generated melodies without rhythm, without structure, without development. Boring to death if you insist on listening "actively", but not that bad as background. Based on a whole-tone scale, which creates slightly impressionist effects.

C64 Random Impression 1 (SoundClick) - C64 Random Impression 2 (SoundClick)

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One of the great things around the internet is that it offers possibilities for people interested in the most exotic things to come together in an easy way. Microtonal music is no exception; the internet hosts a living and multifaceted scene dedicated to all kinds of theory and practice of microtonal music. The currently most living forum with plenty of discussiona is probably the Xenharmonic Alliance II on Facebook.

Xenharmonic Allicance II (Facebook)

Before Facebook started to exist, the best place to go for discussions on microtonal music was for many years the Tuning forum on YaHoo, working as a web forum as well as a mailing list. Nowadays, there is unfortunately nearly no traffic any more, but the impressive archive over years of discussions offers a lot to search for.

As platform for the enormous wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated over the years, the Xenharmonic Wiki has been established. You can find comprehensible introductions as well as advanced theoretical treatises, a wealth of links to music, academic papers and much, much more.

Xenharmonic Wiki (english)

© Hans Straub
Date: 2018-05-05

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