In music, 23 equal temperament, called 23-TET, 23-EDO ("Equal Division of the Octave"), or 23-ET, is the tempered scale derived by dividing the octave into 23 equal steps (equal frequency ratios). Each step represents a frequency ratio of 232, or 52.174 cents. This system is the largest EDO that has an error of at least 20 cents for the 3rd (3:2), 5th (5:4), 7th (7:4), and 11th (11:8) harmonics. The lack of approximation to simple intervals makes the scale notable among those seeking to break free from conventional harmony rules.

History and use

23-EDO was advocated by ethnomusicologist Erich von Hornbostel in the 1920s,[1] as the result of "a cycle of 'blown' (compressed) fifths"[2] of about 678 cents that may have resulted from overblowing a bamboo pipe. Today,[when?] tens of pieces[which?] have been composed in this system.


There are two ways to notate the 23-tone system with the traditional letter names and system of sharps and flats, called melodic notation and harmonic notation.

Harmonic notation preserves harmonic structures and interval arithmetic, but sharp and flat have reversed meanings. Because it preserves harmonic structures, 12-EDO music can be reinterpreted as 23-EDO harmonic notation, so it is also called conversion notation.

An example of these harmonic structures is the Circle of Fifths below (shown in 12-EDO, harmonic notation, and melodic notation.)

Circle of Fifths in 12-EDO Circle of Fifths in 23-EDO Harmonic Notation Circle of Fifths in 23-EDO Melodic Notation
Sharp Side Enharmonicity Flat Side Sharp Side Enharmonicity Flat Side Enharmonicity Flat Side Enharmonicity Sharp Side Enharmonicity
C = Ddouble flat C Ddouble flat Edouble sharp C Ddouble sharp Edouble flat
G = Adouble flat G Adouble flat Bdouble sharp G Adouble sharp Bdouble flat
D = Edouble flat D Edouble flat D Edouble sharp
A = Bdouble flat A Bdouble flat A Bdouble sharp
E = F E F E F
B = C B C B C
F = G F G F G
C = D C D C D
G = A G A G A
D = E D E D E
A = B A B A B
E = F E Ddouble flat F E Ddouble sharp F
B = C B Adouble flat C B Adouble sharp C

Melodic notation preserves the meaning of sharp and flat, but harmonic structures and interval arithmetic no longer work.

Interval size

Interval name / comments Size (steps) Size (cents) MIDI
Octave 23 1200
21 1095.65 Play
Major sixth (3 cents sharp of 5/3) 17 886.96 Play
"Blown fifth" interval (24 cents flat of a 3/2 perfect fifth) 13 678.26 Play
11 573.91 Play
Fourth (octave inversion of "blown fifth") 10 521.74 Play
09 469.57 Play
08 417.39 Play
Major third (21 cents flat of 5/4) 07 365.22 Play
Minor third (3 cents flat of 6/5) 06 313.04 Play
05 260.87 Play
Large step appearing between B-C or E-F 04 208.70 Play
"Whole step" between A-B or C-D (actually smaller than the step from B-C) 03 156.52 Play
02 104.35 Play
Single step - this is the interval by which and modify pitches 01 052.17 Play

Scale diagram

Step (cents) 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52 52
Melodic Notation note name A A B B B Bdouble sharp
Cdouble flat
C C C D D D E E E Edouble sharp
Fdouble flat
Harmonic Notation note name A A B B B Bdouble flat
Cdouble sharp
C C C D D D E E E Edouble flat
Fdouble sharp
Interval (cents) 0 52 104 157 209 261 313 365 417 470 522 574 626 678 730 783 835 887 939 991 1043 1096 1148 1200


This section is missing information about 23EDO modes. Please expand the section to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page. (February 2019)

See also


  1. ^ Monzo, Joe (2005). "Equal-Temperament". Tonalsoft Encyclopedia of Microtonal Music Theory. Joe Monzo. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  2. ^ Sethares, William (1998). Tuning, Timbre, Spectrum, Scale. Springer. p. 211. ISBN 9781852337971. Retrieved 20 February 2019.