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Re: tuning

Postby Voisi1ev » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:01 am

bloke wrote:I barely remember writing this on facebook...Someone just "liked" this (old) post, which was my response to someone listing a bunch of "professional orchestra etiquette"...

...It's still the truth, so a found a thread here about "tuning", and am copying/pasting my facebook post here:

tuning note:
I usually do not play one. I play an instrument called the TUBA. The pitch is very flexible, I know where my slides' default positions are - based on the orchestra's tuning guidelines, and the consistent temperature of the hall (three in which I play: A=440), and the objective is to keep my instrument warm (next to my body) when not playing, so that it is ready to use, when it's time to use it. Those who actually do wish to involve themselves in some brief last-moment tuning assurance do not need a tuba player ("over there") going "WOOOOOOOOOOO" (with a bunch of rich overtones in the playing range of most of the other instruments, and with some of those overtones not lining up with the equal temperament tuning system) while they are trying to final-tune their instruments.



Man, I'm glad I'm not the only one that sort of thinks that. A quick check doesn't hurt anything but I find too many conductors that think a tuning pitch is the key to success. It also drives me crazy when groups take a pitch like this after a break. Like my horn is freaking freezing Mr. Bigglesworth.

I always try and teach/conceptual intonation myself as more like playing darts than measuring something with a tape measure.

Not sure if this is a ubiquitous or helpful concept, but I was also told once to consider being "in tune" something you do on a pitch, or checking with the tuning marching. Playing with good intonation is playing in tune on the fly with others in a group.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:10 pm

The more I experience pre-concert tuning, the more I equate it to pre-passage-playing nervous testing.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Thu Jun 21, 2018 12:38 pm

Here is something just a bit more blunt:

Most musicians in most symphony orchestras (from bottom to top) are better and more sensitive musicians than most tuba players in most symphony orchestras.

While those betters are doing what they do, the least tuba players can do is to ~try~ to keep their/our pitches between the ditches – at least, within two or three hundredths of a semitone either way...and with constant aural vigilance. To "just play" - as the sound a tuba makes it somewhat overwhelming at all volume levels – is just a bit rude, as bad tuba intonation will throw seventy other people out of kilter.
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Re: tuning

Postby ren » Fri Jun 22, 2018 3:08 am

We are definitely lucky to sit next to considerate trombonists. And I recently have in a non professional orchestra with a new tuba after not playing for 20 years.nevertheless a dflat came up and he matched my pitch and there was a following bassoon line followed by a line from that with the basses. We were in tune the bassoons and basses were 20 cents away from each other.

I don’t know who was right but I’m not in the NY Phil. It matters when it matters and we should learn our instruments with tuners in the stand. On stage is another matter.

If push came to shove and I had to play out of tune with a group with the best sound possible I wouldn’t think twice. That’s why I have tuning slides. But hopefully I could just lip it up or down.
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Re: tuning

Postby ren » Fri Jun 22, 2018 3:11 am

As an unnecessary follow up I would say just play in tune if your thinking too much about pitch your using the wrong side of the brain the side that knows the difference beteeen sharp and flat. The music side knows when something is out of tune and reacts musically. Imho
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:29 am

The vast majority of the time when a musician can hear that they are not in tune, but are confused as to how to solve the problem, they are SHARP.
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Re: tuning

Postby Radar » Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:59 am

bigboymusic wrote:I have been very lucky with my bone sections over the years...

There was a set of concerts that I played with a bass boner that had a tuner on his stand the whole time.... That was HORRIBLE..... He 'knew' he was in tune because he watched the dial....

Kill me now...

We have a trumpet in one of the bands I'm in that has a tuner clipped to his bell all the time, he often sounds out of tune even though his tuner tells him he's right on. When I practice Bass Trombone at home I use a snark Tuner on the bell to double check and reinforce where the slide positions are for the various partials, on the open Bb horn, the F horn, and in my case the (Eb horn) yes I'm still using an old dependent Yamaha (I have trigger finger in my left hand, and need the split thumb set up, the bottom level doesn't work for me). Sitting in a Band on either Tuba or Bass trombone I don't think about intonation I just listen and adjust as required. I do find that practice with the tuner at home gets me closer to where I should be in a band setting sooner.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 22, 2018 9:09 am

I don't believe I'm going to name-drop, but a [not-trombone, but brass] player, who moved on from one of the orchestras with which I play to another (not officially "big five", but that level, and paid at least as well as "big five") orchestra, used(s?) one of those clip-on tuners constantly, and did *not sound out of tune.
That particular orchestra (which that player left...the one with which I'm involved) is extremely good at staying in the neighborhood of its "official" (440) tuning, and is the easiest orchestra with which to play "in tune" with which I've ever played. I play with another "good" orchestra from time-to-time (same "official" pitch), but it's not uncommon for me to have to push my F tuba's tuning slide all the way in and my C tuba's slide most-of-the-way in.
Just about the easiest thing to do, it seems, is to "play sharp".
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*I could (??) link a well-known Stravinsky ballet suite sound file which prominently features that player...
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Re: tuning

Postby windshieldbug » Fri Jun 22, 2018 11:13 am

bloke wrote:Just about the easiest thing to do, it seems, is to "play sharp"


"better than playing out of tune" said by a lot of string players seemingly everywhere... :D
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Re: tuning

Postby paulver » Fri Jun 22, 2018 11:44 am

In the past, I'd played so much piano that I was able to correctly name almost every pitch that someone played. I could even walk down a hallway and name the pitches from quite a distance, then open the door of the room that the sound was coming from, and tell the person what key they were in, and also let them know which incorrect pitches they played.

As a band director, I could pretty much do the same thing, but I wasn't always quite as accurate...... Too many variables in players. In fact, I was able to tell who was playing/practicing in the band room,(while I was outside of the band room, and at the other end of the hall of the school).

Used to drive the choral director nuts when I'd suddenly open her door, stick my head in, tell her what key she was playing/rehearsing in, name the incorrect pitch she was playing/teaching, then sing the correct one for her and the choir, shut the door and disappear!!!! All in good fun!

So.... obviously, yes, identifying pitches can be learned. I've never had perfect pitch, but if one listens enough, one can easily identify pitches via aural cues from each pitch on a wide variety of instruments.

Also.... hearing with you eyes and seeing with your ears..... good ways to identify itches. Most decent musicians do this automatically after a period of time.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 22, 2018 12:59 pm

Watch out, buster...
Someone here - quite a few months ago – went to some trouble to show us videos and stuff to prove that pitches cannot be learned...
... The guy was so convincing, that I had to sheepishly apologize for having learned pitches.
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Re: tuning

Postby PMeuph » Fri Jun 22, 2018 1:05 pm

Ken Crawford wrote:Tuning is innate. If you have to discuss the act of tuning with those playing around you things aren't going to be in tune. The most out of tune groups spend the most time tuning.


I agree with what you're going for, but I'll disagree that it's innate (Especially the definition of innate meaning a skill that your born with ). For one, none of the college groups I played with would have been in tune if a teacher hadn't stopped us and made us realize that we were out of tune and explained to us how to tune a chord.

But you're right in groups in which the conductor spends time explaining how to tune, if the individual musicians doesn't hear it, or don't realize that their bass clarinet has some sharp pitches, or that sometimes you have to lower or raise a note depending on which place you hold in the chord and that ideal way to do this is do learn to do it naturally (as opposed to intellectually) no amount of lecturing will get the group to play in tune....
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 22, 2018 1:40 pm

not to discount your views, but - very candidly...

When my OWN state of mind - regarding tuning - begins to become: "I've got this...I can hear what's in tune...Tuning has become second-nature to me..." THAT's when I REALLY start getting out-of-control...i.e. I catch myself wandering - not only past the ditches, but - out into the pasture.

I tend to believe that the MOST in-tune performances are careful and attention-to-detail performance, and not "I've got this" performances.
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Re: tuning

Postby windshieldbug » Fri Jun 22, 2018 2:25 pm

bloke wrote:I tend to believe that the MOST in-tune performances are careful and attention-to-detail performance, and not "I've got this" performances.


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Re: tuning

Postby PMeuph » Fri Jun 22, 2018 6:28 pm

bloke wrote:not to discount your views, but - very candidly...

When my OWN state of mind - regarding tuning - begins to become: "I've got this...I can hear what's in tune...Tuning has become second-nature to me..." THAT's when I REALLY start getting out-of-control...i.e. I catch myself wandering - not only past the ditches, but - out into the pasture.

I tend to believe that the MOST in-tune performances are careful and attention-to-detail performance, and not "I've got this" performances.


Now that I re-read what I wrote, I see what you mean and how what I meant to convey could be misconstrued. I haven't "phoned it in" or played with a "I've got this attitude" in a really long time.
I really started working on tuning after I graduated college. I sat down with drones daily with all three instruments (Tuba, trombone, euph) and I stopped on every single note. I played rochut while trying to adjust each pitch. I did scales, flex, articulation etc trying to make sure that I could hear what was in tune and what wasn't. What I meant by intellectual vs natural was more along the lines stopping on each note and thinking exactly where it is. Instead of just listening and letting the instincts I developed kick in. I may be out to lunch tuning wise, but that's not a comment I often get, in fact I usually get praised for my ability to blend with differing families or how it's easy to play with me. I tend to lip a lot on the euph as many instruments we're playing with (Bsn, Bass clar, Ten sax, tbone) tend to be out of tune, especially in the amateur context.

Most of the time, I play with different people, or with decent amateur groups. Sometimes, I just try to lock in to someone and play what they're the same pitches playing. For example, I played a parade with a really good bass trombone player two weeks ago. I just listened to him and tried to match all his pitches/ articulations/ and timing as best as I could. I didn't question if we were globally in tune to the clarinets, or if I was raising thirds (I was paying tuba so equal temperament is the way to go), I just listened and matched. Even in relation to equal temperament, there are maybe pitches we could have been out by 15 cents, but if we're in tune, then it sounds way better than if we were both 15 cents apart. (The rest of the band isn't perfect)

Dissonance and intonation quirks sound worst the closer they are. If the trombonists is 15 cents sharp (on a unisson pitch), it'll sound worst than if it was 15 cent sharp 1 octaves above.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Fri Jun 22, 2018 7:33 pm

The equal temperament thing, admittedly, is a trap.
If something is played in equal temperament on a keyboard, it is what it is, and it can be nothing else...
...but (OK...how about) when those woodwind chords are played at the beginning of the Mendelssohn "Midsummernight's Dream" Overture? Well...those individuals are expected to fix the math on every single one of those pitches in every single one of those chords...so even some wind sections that perform together daily (and all Juilliard/Curtis/Eastman types, etc...) may have to stop and work through a set of chords such as those.
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Re: tuning

Postby sirtar » Sat Jun 23, 2018 1:07 am

My first teacher taught a very simple method in tuning. That teacher was Earl Hoffmann, bass trombone player in the NBC orchestra and San Antonio symphony. ( yes, somewhere in the last century) Every lesson we start with sing the scale, buzz the scale, and play the scale. Then he would take his trombone and we would match pitches. His favorite saying was always adjust. We did not have portable tuners and metronomes had keys that were used to wind them up.

i teach solfedge to all my students, teach as I was taught without the tuning machine. They sing and finger the pitch and learn to play as they sing. When I tell the student to sing through the horn..... Some of them really do.

Just so you know Some have better voices than others.

I have played in many groups where the pitch rises and falls within a measure. Sometimes within several beats of a measure. I have played in orchestras where we can start at 440ish and somehow end up at 442 or more and then back to 440ish. Staring at a tuner does not mean you are playing in tune with tthe ensemble. I still hear pop Hoffmann say, don't just sit and keep playing, adjust to what you hear.
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:14 am

Yes. Pitch-matching is a skill that needs to be mastered prior to tuning skills being mastered.
Pitch-matching is what I first learned to do when I began learning how to play the guitar (blowing on a $2 "pitch pipe" and then pitch-matching the strings to the "pitch pipe").
It took a few years, though, for me to understand about running through chord progressions and (via a compromise between the guitar's own "equal temperament" fret system and "pure" tuning systems (as piano tuning has found another way to attempt this...again: via "stretch" tuning) "tempering" the tuning of the open strings so that a Bb minor chord would sound no worse out-of-tune than an E major chord. Admittedly (and you hear some better guitar players do this - during talking "patter" between songs - who accompany their own singing), I would tend to slightly tease the open tuning to favor music played in various keys.
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Re: tuning

Postby MikeMason » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:29 am

Yes,but,as an ensemble member who primarily plays roots of chords, don’t you feel some responsibility to hold the ensemble at 440(Or whatever yours tunes to), at least to some degree?
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Re: tuning

Postby bloke » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:58 am

MikeMason wrote:Yes,but,as an ensemble member who primarily plays roots of chords, don’t you feel some responsibility to hold the ensemble at 440(Or whatever yours tunes to), at least to some degree?


Looking through some stuff that I've recently played - as well as excerpt books...and even Jezak music that I'm hired to play...and even what I play with the jazz band on the boat - I really don't believe I spend much more time playing chord roots than other chord tones...

...and no, ~if~/when the tuning level might "take off" (tired trumpets, frantic string parts, outdoor rehearsal, etc...) I don't accept any herculean assignments to "hold things down". I'm just one of the people in the mob...riding the wave...however high it gets...and with little power to resist. Finally, how can "the tuba player" - really - pull the pitch back down, when the tuba is (really) only being played about 1% - 30% of the time...??

"problems over which I have little control regarding their remedies" - the responsibility of the music director
"if those problems are not addressed" - the check cashes anyway

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