Issues with intonation

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Ness, Feb 28, 2012.

  1. Ness

    Ness New Friend

    Nov 3, 2011
    Recently I have been brought into working on my intonation. As far as my listening goes, however, I have some issues. I can always tell when I am out of tune, but for some reason I can't tell whether I am flat or sharp. What can I do to help with my listening skills?
  2. Mark_Kindy

    Mark_Kindy Mezzo Forte User

    Jul 11, 2010
    Gainesville, FL
    If you can have a drone playing a note, play the same note in tune with the drone. Take a tuner out to help with the following:
    Then, bend the pitch flat, and hold, and listen.
    Then, bend the pitch sharp, and hold and listen.

    This will at least help you recognize when a pitch is sharp or flat, relative to a drone, if you do it regularly.
    Over time, your ears start to tune in, and sometimes you can tell when you're particularly sharp or flat even without a drone.
  3. bach37

    bach37 Pianissimo User

    Dec 1, 2011
    In order to play in tune you have to hear the note in tune. If the imagined beautiful sound in your head is flat. Then your going to play flat. If it's sharp then your going to play sharp. Mark is on the money. Get the correct pitch in your head and keep it there. Learn to be able to see the note on the page and be able to sing that note. If I say sing a "G" and you sing a "G" your on the right track. The trumpet is a very interesting instrument. It requires a lot and I mean a lot of mental activity. If you are not mentally exhausted after a practice session you are doing something wrong. Just so I am not taken out of context. Not thinking about breathing, where my mouthpiece is etc. That is not where your mind should be. It should be in the sound and the sound only. Get the beautiful sound in your head and let it sing through the horn.
    Best Wishes
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I will take a different approach.

    Intonation is ALWAYS relative - to someone else that you are playing with. We learn to play in tune by playing with people better than ourselves (like teachers....). Using a tuner for more than the first tuning note is USELESS as wind instrument players do not tune "well tempered" like a piano.

    I will say that playing in tune is most quickly learned by ear. Simple duets, try to get the fullest sound. The rest becomes obvious very soon.

    Drones are also a possibility, BUT you need a teachers guidance to know what to listen for.

    Use a tuner and you will always be out of tune.
  5. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Easy question, Ness! Pull or push in your slide--if the intonation gets better, you've made the correct guess. If it gets worse, you'll know right away, and can adjust accordingly.

    Kudos for caring!
  6. Dale Proctor

    Dale Proctor Utimate User

    Jul 20, 2006
    Heart of Dixie
    I sometimes have the same problem if there are a lot of people playing at the same time. I can hear that something's off, but I can't tell if it's sharp or flat, or if it's even me! During the melee, I will stick a finger in my left ear while playing - you can then hear yourself better while still hearing the ensemble (it also throws a good dose of self-doubt into the players around you if they know what you're doing...they will assume that they are out of tune). Then, if it's me that sounds out of tune, I lip it a little either way to determine which way to go.

    If I'm practicing and certain notes sound out of tune, I'll stop and play octaves of the note(s). If they aren't in tune with each other, it's a little easier to tell whether the offending note is sharp or flat. Failing that, I pull out a tuner and check the note. Never play while watching a tuner, though, especially while playing in an ensemble. Tuning is transient thing, dependent on the ensemble and even the chords in the music you're playing. Listening as you play and making small lip adjustments when needed is the way to play in tune. Learning to tell sharp from flat will come with time and practice.
  7. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    Good point. There are lots of people (even in some of the better groups I've played with) who don't even think about being in tune (or not). THOSE are the people that you will be adjusting to when you play.

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