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I am not a musical person, in fact I am trying to learn the guitar now which sort of made me think of this question. How did the Greeks, or any ancient peoples, tune their musical instruments? From cursory research people say they either just made sure they were in relative tuning with each other or that they used a tuning fork, but if it was a tuning fork, how did they know that the fork was the correct tone?

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    I'm thinking one of the Music SE sites would be a better fit for this... – Lars Bosteen Apr 1 '18 at 14:07
  • Related question, on Music.SE: How did people tune their instruments in the past? – yannis Apr 2 '18 at 14:48
  • @yannis - Thank you for finding that, but after reading that thread, it still really does not answer the question though, first it really only deals with tuning as early as the 1600s, nothing before. Also they again say "by using tuning forks," but that doesnt answer the question of how did they know the tuning fork was the correct tone. – ed.hank Apr 2 '18 at 16:23
  • @ed.hank Define “correct tone”. If all people in an ensemble use the same diapason, everything is fine. In fact, the notion of absolute pitch (rather than relative pitch) didn’t exist in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that a tuning A was arbitrarily defined as 440 Hz. – 11684 Apr 3 '18 at 22:39
  • Furthermore, we know very little about music from the Greek and Roman societies. Some instruments were depicted and described, but the modes they used were most probably not the ones we use now; best guesstimates do not fit our twelve-tone system at all. Additionally, although some notated music has been found (some famous Greek epitaph) we don’t really know how to read it (although some recordings exist it probably didn’t sound like in those recordings at all). – 11684 Apr 3 '18 at 22:42

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