Intonation and section playing

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by MatthewMiller, Sep 16, 2005.

  1. MatthewMiller

    MatthewMiller New Friend

    Jun 5, 2005
    Manny et. al.,
    I am playing in my school's orchestra this semester, and am playing 2nd trumpet on Dvorak's New World Symphony. So far, we are sounding good, but there are some spots in the trumpet section (me and a grad student) that are a bit iffy in pitch.
    I'm really trying hard to match what the 1st trumpet is doing in terms of style and lining up the pitch exactly where he is, but so far, without much success. This concerns me, because my job as a 2nd player is to make the principal sound good, and though I'm really trying, I'm not holding up my end of the bargain.
    Has anybody else experienced this? If so, how do you go about fixing it? I realize that these may be "dumb" questions, but I just want to make sure I am doing what I need to do. I never really thought I had problems with intonation in a group before, but evidently I'm wrong about that.
    Also, just so you all know, me and the 1st trumpet are planning on getting together to get this stuff ironed out.
    Thanks in advance for the help!
  2. BigBadWolf

    BigBadWolf Piano User

    Nov 30, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think you may have answered your own question. You should get together and play. Don't just play the Dvorak, play through some duets as well. I think that the you just need to get a better feel for his playing and the only way to accomplish that is by playing with him.
  3. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    Playing 2nd trumpet clearly takes lots of practice and knowledge to make the first player (and your section) sound great. I studied with the 2nd trumpet player in the Phoenix Symphony for a number of years, and he would always make me sound fantastic when I was playing the first part. I had to tell him to “stop finding me†when we would play in lessons so that I could take the responsibility for our section intonation. He had a really hard time “turning off†his ears so that I could work on this aspect of my playing.

    First and foremost, you must play with a really vibrant, ringing sound. This sound quality in combination with another equally vibrant player will lead to some very impressive results. Check out the Monette video clips with Manny and Dave Bamonte. Wow! That’s what you’re looking for!

    Take a look at the 2nd movement of the Dvorak. Five bars before rehearsal 5 is a great example to work on with the principal player in your orchestra. First, try to imagine what this section would sound like with Manny and Dave! I can almost hear the resultant tones ringing in my ears!

    Now, how do you get those resultants to sound? Let’s look at the specific notes:

    1st Tpt.......C#.......C#........E...........E...........C#.......B...........A
    2nd Tpt......A..........A..........C#........C#.........A.........E...........C#
    Resultant....Ped A....Ped A....Ped A....Ped A....Ped A....Ped E....Ped E

    A Major 3rd needs to be narrow with respect to equal temperament (ET) (the intonation of the piano). A minor 3rd needs to be wide with respect to ET. The tricky thing about this line is that the E in the 1st trumpet part tends to be low (5th harmonic), which may put your C# lower than the original C# in the 1st trumpet part to make the minor 3rd wide enough.

    Additionally, there’s a key change leading into this line which will certainly lead to intonation challenges.

    When you sit down to play this line, look at that Pedal A that needs to be ringing for the first five chords. Can you hear the resultant tone when you’re playing? If not, try modifying your sound (more resonant, not louder). Also try modifying the balance (the top note should not quite be as loud as the lower pitch).

    Once you find this ringing sound, use your slides (no lipping) to keep that sound right down the middle. It may be that you need to trigger the A and the C# more than you think. I’m guessing that when you get to the C#, you will need to trigger quite a bit.

    Take as much time as you need to get each interval to lock in. This will pay huge dividends in your playing!

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