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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:07 pm

swillafew wrote:I had conductor in school once who was obsessed with blending each section, and pitch discrepancies were beaten out of us like a disease. The time investment was huge, and the blend and pitch were what you'd expect after all that trouble. Our tuba sectionals were devoted to playing whole note major scales until we sounded like one person.

In the same term I was a guest in another ensemble at a different school, where no time was spent on such matters. The music sounded like somebody banging on pots and pans.


Again, tuning is learned, and not innate.
Tuning (honoring a group of specific pitches) is the "language" of western music, and seems to be most honored in "classical" music, just as annunciation and clarity of speech is most honored in classical (Shakespearean) theater.
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Re: tuning

Postby Patrase » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:29 pm

Interesting points about people learning the pitch. I have been playing a long time and had previously been taught by very good brass players. But rarely was intonation the focus. As such my intonation was pretty ordinary. I certainly didn't have a very good ear.

But then one of the pro players I was playing with in a a very good band made a suggestion. He suggested I get a drone app and play along with that. It was a revelation. I learned to lip up or down to get rid of the 'wobbles.' In band I suddenly found myself trying to lock into the 1st chair intonation and doing so very well.

I am still a little weak on intonation when it's just me playing. But as as long as I have something to lock into (piano or a good player) then I can play in tune. I would like to learn about the different temperant tunings.

I have since wondered why teachers and band directors don't prescribe a tuning drone app to all their students. I wonder if most amateur bands could eliminate nearly all of the really bad tuning if the members used a tuning drone in personal practice. Would be interested to know their attitudes towards them
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Re: tuning

Postby Doc » Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:34 pm

A tuning drone can be a helpful tool just like a metronome can be a helpful tool. Ultimately, you cannot rely on either or use either as a crutch, but both can be a great tool for learning and edification.
All that, plus $8.00, will get you a venti at Starbucks.
Or in my case, a large can of Folgers.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Tue Mar 13, 2018 5:52 pm

Matching pitches is a necessary skill.
Learning pitches (as they sit in equal temperament) is an endeavor.
Again, this is what some refer to as "perfect pitch".
That's a poor name for it. It's often not quite "perfect" (what is perfect that humans do?), and (again) it is learned and not innate.
Some can learn pitches very quickly.
me...?? It takes me longer than the so-called "perfect pitch whizzes" , but I can do it, and continue (in every practice session) to work on it.
The more I'm around (very specific) pitches, the easier they are for me to remember...

...and I believe most people can do this, and many more quickly/easily than can I.

It's really pretty handy...
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Re: tuning

Postby Mark » Tue Mar 13, 2018 6:15 pm

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Re: tuning

Postby TubaKen » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:35 pm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Annunciation is the announcement to Mary that she would conceive the Son of God, or similar biblical revelations.
I believe Bloke may have had enunciation in mind.
Back to the topic: Most of my tuba-playing life has been spent reading notes on the page, and almost all of that has been classical. But I was once asked to sub (by my Dad) in a polka band. The leader handed me a very thick book, but he would play tunes as they came to him, very rapid-fire. After about 15 minutes, I realized the futility of trying to find the right chart, and just decided to play by ear. It was pretty bad at first, but after about half an hour, I started getting the hang of it. And after a few days, I discovered I could tell what key a piece was in (on the radio, say) just by the way it "felt". Unfortunately, that ability went away (which I believe would also occur to someone without absolute pitch who doesn't constantly reinforce this practice.)
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:43 pm

TubaKen wrote:From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Annunciation is the announcement to Mary that she would conceive the Son of God, or similar biblical revelations.
I believe Bloke may have had enunciation in mind.


oh no...not at all !!
I absolutely was talking about Mary and the Christ child...which should have been obvious to anyone... :roll:

bloke "yeah, I posted that via voice from my phone, and yeah...I can barely read this $h!t when I try to do that."

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Re: tuning

Postby timothy42b » Wed Mar 14, 2018 1:35 pm

Patrase wrote:I have since wondered why teachers and band directors don't prescribe a tuning drone app to all their students. I wonder if most amateur bands could eliminate nearly all of the really bad tuning if the members used a tuning drone in personal practice. Would be interested to know their attitudes towards them


I use a drone. And once Steven Colley showed up at a band rehearsal and played with us - pretty good horn player. (He's the creator of that Tuneup program)

But, what do strings do? String sections in a community orchestra can be..........well it's charitable to call them painful on any kind of moving passage. Whole notes they try to tune up.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:11 pm

A drone is useful, not only as a reference pitch, but because the continued sound of it helps to learn one of the (ref: equal temperament @ A=440) pitches.
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Re: tuning

Postby MaryAnn » Wed Mar 14, 2018 2:17 pm

For some people, hearing beats is so unpleasant that they will avoid them and hence be one of the "innate" types. For others, either they don't hear the beats, no one has told them they are not supposed to be there, or whatever. Never, ever, have I seen a community level OR college level conductor tell the damn trumpet section to listen for and get rid of the beats on a unison pitch. I've seen college level instructors yell at a flute section to "FIX IT!" but not be able to tell them how to do so. Steve Colley's Tuneup is all anybody needs.
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Re: tuning

Postby bone-a-phone » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:50 pm

Trombonists, above a certain proficiency level, generally don't like to lip notes unless you get a flat note in first position, or a sharp one before the slide falls off. We will play a false tone when the situation calls for it. Those of us who have studied that far generally like to put the slide in the middle of the pitch, which at first happens by ear (and that reaction takes some time), and eventually by muscle memory (with the ear as a correction). You have to learn intonation, but it eventually becomes more or less reflexive.

Most of us have to play in situations where we have musicians of mixed abilities. Some are concentrating on notes, or time, or counting measures, and wind up ignoring intonation for a while. Whatever the cause, it happens. If you have a skilled player and an unskilled player, the skilled player winds up either frustrated and constantly out of tune, or frustrated but in tune with the out-of-tune less skilled player. So you can be melodically in tune with yourself, or harmonically in tune with someone else around you. It's unfair because better players are more or less forced to let the less skilled dictate the tuning, since the less skilled simply don't adjust.

Although it's nice to talk about different tuning systems, its far from the musical reality a lot of us have to deal with. We're lucky to get a chord held for less than 2 seconds to eventually settle, to say nothing of running notes. The difference in my quartet between having 4 reasonably good players and just trading out one of the reasonably good for someone with a really good ear is huge. If two people out of four agree on the intonation most of the time, the other two will come in line more quickly than if it's an "every boner for themselves" sort of situation.

When I play in the quintet I'm in, it's easy to play in tune with the tuba and French horn, but less easy to play in tune with the trumpets, which is unfortunate. This is probably due to the players involved, not the instruments.

I think quartet playing has helped my intonation more than anything. At least playing with other good players gives you a chance of hitting the opening chord of a piece close to in tune, with small adjustments from a couple players reacting quickly hopefully before the audience hears there was ever an issue.

I'm meandering here, but my main point started out to be that true intonation can wander when you play with a mixed skill level group. To play in tune with one other weaker player, you have to give up to some extent being in tune with yourself. Given the choice between tuning to myself or to those around me, I usually go with those around me. It's easier to hear an out of tune simultaneous interval, but pitch memory is not as strong, so hearing two notes in succession you would tend to forget or forgive the bad intonation more easily.
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Re: tuning

Postby timothy42b » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:45 am

bone-a-phone wrote:Trombonists, above a certain proficiency level, generally don't like to lip notes unless you get a flat note in first position, or a sharp one before the slide falls off.


Yes. The tuning slide is in my right hand. The best tone I can get is if I play exactly in the center of the slot and adjust pitch with my hand. This option is not available to the euphonium. A really good euphonium lips or alternate fingerings into tune; in amateur groups I play in they aren't all at that level. On a unison line with a euph I end up dropping out while they go quarter step (or more) sharp.



Most of us have to play in situations where we have musicians of mixed abilities.

I'm meandering here, but my main point started out to be that true intonation can wander when you play with a mixed skill level group. To play in tune with one other weaker player, you have to give up to some extent being in tune with yourself. Given the choice between tuning to myself or to those around me, I usually go with those around me.


It's nice when the tuba is solidly on pitch. Then we can all listen down, and the trombone section can sort of enforce a core pitch. The better players will line up automatically, and the less skilled will float anyway. That also depends a bit on the tuba having a tone focused enough pitch recognition is easy - sometimes the timbre is a bit wide down there and it can be hard to place it precisely.

I played in a very good community band for some years that did most things musically well but had uncertain pitch. One night I was struggling to match pitch as it floated depending on what section was prominent at the moment, and a more experienced player said to me, "Tim, you're part of the problem. Don't follow them; insist on being right." That was a bit of a foreign idea to someone who tries to put ensemble first, but in this case he was right. (He left the group largely because of intonation, I think. We do lose the pro's that way.)
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