- Guy Oldham
- and Mark Lindley
The name given to two undesirable and unpleasant sound effects which may occur in musical performance, one having to do with temperament and tuning, the other with a structural peculiarity in an instrument that sometimes gives rise to intonation difficulties.
On keyboard instruments with tuning systems that do not provide a note intended for use as A♭, playing G♯ instead, with E♭ in the same chord, produces an unpleasant effect, supposed to resemble the howling of a wolf. In Pythagorean intonation the wolf 5th is smaller than pure by 23½ cents, a quantity known as the Pythagorean comma. But the wolf 5th in any regular mean-tone temperament (where the ‘good’ 5ths are tempered two or three times as much as in equal temperament) is considerably larger than pure (see Mean-tone). The tuner who follows a scheme containing a wolf 5th might choose some other location for it than G♯–E♭. C♯–A♭ was occasionally used in the 15th century and D♯–B♭ in the 17th for mean-tone temperament; B–F♯ was favoured, or rather disfavoured, by many 15th-century practitioners of ...