Tuning Issues

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by John Heckathorn, Nov 29, 2005.

  1. John Heckathorn

    John Heckathorn New Friend

    Jun 9, 2005
    Hi, I'm a senior in high school and I'm first chair in our school's top band. Until this year I've never really had any problems with tuning, but for some reason, I'm having problems. I can never seem to match pitches with the rest of my section particularly my second chair trumpet, and it's quite frustrating. Any tips on tuning would be great. I'm not anywhere near way out of tune, but I'm usually about 5 cents flat, and I want to correct it. Throughout reheasals, I'm always adjusting my tuning slide to see if I can get any improvement. I've never had any real tuning problems, I have just picked up the horn and played but for some reason I'm off this year. Any advice would be of great help.

  2. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    You adjust YOUR pitch to whomever the band uses as the "standard" (tuba?) Then get your 2nd to adjust HIS pitch to yours (if he isn't also using the same "reference" as you are).
  3. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Have you changed mouthpieces or done any alterations?

  4. joshuasullins

    joshuasullins Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2005
    Silverdale, WA
    changing to a different mouthpiece that you aren't accustomed to can force you out of tune. I had that problem really bad when I switched to a shallower cup. It took me a good year to get that under control.

    Aside from that, make sure that you are using one person as a central reference for pitch. Often concert bands will use the tuba, because it is almost always playing and it doesn't move very much (typically). Once you have "blended" your sound into the tuba, make sure the rest of your section blends into your sound. If you are listening to three different references for pitch, you will play with that slide all day.

  5. John Heckathorn

    John Heckathorn New Friend

    Jun 9, 2005
    I used a Bach 3D for marching band this year, and I switched back to my Back 3C for concert season, orchestra, etc. Another issue may be that our director switched the arrangement of where each section is. The trumpets are in the back row with the low brass, right behind our french horns. Our french horns aren't top notch, and most are switchover players. This may affect the overall sound, and lack of tonal stability, and tuning. Wow are they out of tune. In our band, we go through daily warmups, and scales before we rehearse any pieces. After warm-ups, we play what is called the "F-around-the-room" where each section plays thier concert F individually.(Tubas, then Baritones, then trombones, etc.) Also, I set aside at least an hour every night for my own practice not including playing in the orchestra, and band during the day. I always tune myself with a tuner after I warm up at home, and I'm usually fine. Does warming up differently in both band and individual practice affect anything? My warm up at home is alot more intense than the easy whole notes and such in our warm ups in class. Maybe my etude, and arban studies I do for warnup at home helps my tuning. I don't know. Any more comments?

  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    When I was playing in the National Guard band, the intonation in that band, and as a consequence, my own intonation used to drive me nuts! Don't be so quick to claim the problem as your own because the problem may not be you at all - let me give you an example.

    These are some of the intonation "anomolies" that I noticed in the National Guard Band:

    The 1st clarinetist would make a point to tune to a tuner, and tune the band to A-440, however immediately upon downbeat the band would jump easily 10-15 cents sharp.

    Tubas were notorius for playing out of tune with concert pitch and with each other, so where was the pitch? In normal circumstances, I would try to lock onto the tubas for pitch, but if they are all over the place, what do you have?
    In the trumpet section alone, me and John seemed to stay pretty consistent and together pitch wise, but there was one guy who was all over the place due to a weak embouchure, another guy who just seemed to hear things flat, another guy who liked to play "on the dark side of the pitch"- translation: he played flat on purpose. Either he couldn't hear he was flat, was mistaking his flatness for darkness or something, but he refused to correct it.
    Saxophones? Come on - it's easier to tune a lawnmower!
    Horns - splattering and spleahing all over the place and the intonation was all over the place too.
    Trombones? They don't call it a human activated pitch approximator for nothing.
    Clarinets? Nah, I don't think so.
    Flutes? We had some good flutes, oddly enough. No real complaints there, believe it or not, but flutes are generally not something you use as an anchor for pitch.

    For me, either playing a concert band rehearsal or playing a concert was a real exercise in endurance because I was constantly lipping the pitch all over the place because there was never anything consistent about the pitch within the band. I found that if I tuned to our concert master clarinetist, who was tuning to a tuner, and then immediately shoved my tuning slide in about 3/16 of an inch, I was pretty close to the general pitch the band was going to play at at downbeat, however, sitting between two guys with different sound concepts - one playing pretty much on the pitch and the other guy playing flat all of the time, not to mention the numerous and constant intonation quirks all over the rest of the band was a nightmare. I NEVER felt like I was playing in tune in that band.

    So, getting back to your situation, maybe it's a matter of timbre, maybe the band isn't playing close to the A440 standard - who knows? I feel for you, I really do. :D

    My guess is that the reason you keep adjusting your slide and it doesn't seem to be getting any better is because you have nothing to lock onto and the pitch is continuing to adjust and move randomly around you based on dynamic level and instrumentation.
  7. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    trickg wrote:
    I hear you Patrick. They use to drive me crazy. (yeah, that's what did it)
    The funniest thing, (not really) is that in the big band the brass would all tune to the keyboard or piano. We would then watch the saxes pass around the tuner, which may or may not be the same as the piano. We would all laugh as one by one they would look at the tuner, blow their tuning note and lip the pitch around until they got what they wanted. Very rarely would they actually pull out or push in their mouthpiece. What ever happened to LISTENING???

    We finally had a big discussion about this and tuning to the piano, but some guys still pull out the tuner between tunes and softly play into it.

  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous Forte User

    Oct 21, 2003
    Making that switch from the 3D to the 3C can make you go flat if you're not using a focused airstream. The shallower cup, for me, always made me go higher, so likewise when you go to a slightly deeper cup you'll tend to go lower.

    It's good that you're thinking about it and not being satisfied with bad intonation. Too many people (me included) settle for playing out of tune in high school.

    Think about directing a fast, focused stream of air right down the center of the horn. This will help lock in the notes so you can play in tune with yourself. Then, adjust the slide to put the whole horn in line with the band.
  9. Jimi Michiel

    Jimi Michiel Forte User

    Mar 22, 2005

    The difference between practicing in an ensemble and practicing by yourself is like the difference between absolute pitch and relative pitch. When you're practicing at home, you're listening to harmonic intervals. You're listening for intervals. Is the pitch I'm playing now the correct distance away from the note I played before it. When you play in an ensemble, you still have to play melodically in tune, but you also have to listen around you to the harmony. You have to develope an ear that tells you not only if the note is in tune, but the CONTEXT of that note. For example, the same E will not be in tune all the time, depending on what role the note plays in the chord. TRUST YOUR EAR. I think its a lot harder to do this, but will make a huge difference. As first trumpet, your main job is to get yourself in tune with the other sections. As long as you're in tune with the woodwinds and, in orchestra, strings, then its the section's job to find you.

    Good luck!
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Ok, help me out on this one - it can make you go flat relative to what? Are you saying that the different mouthpiece resonates at a lower pitch? If so, I get what you mean - I have two mouthpieces I use - a Schilke 14A4 that I gig with in the party band, and the 14C4 that I play when I want a fuller, rounder sound. They do not play in the same place where my tuning slide is concerned - the 14C4 is in tune with the tuning slide about 3/32 of an inch further in than the 14A4 - I know this and account for it by simply adjusting the slide when I make the switch.

    It could also be a matter of resonance - I have found that certain mouthpieces want to resonate better in certain places on the tuning slide and that isn't always in tune - has anyone else ever noticed this or am I imagining it?

    The most important thing here is to try to lock in to what is going on around you in the ensemble as a whole, and as I've mentioned, if your band is anywhere near as quirky as my Nat Guard band was, this is going to be easier said than done. ;-)

    Good luck!

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