Tuning Tricks for Awkward Keys

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Sethoflagos, Dec 6, 2014.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    Playing hymn tunes for an hour or so daily has given me the opportunity to do a bit of fiddling about with making the difficult keys sound nice without too much slide shunting or note bending. And I'd be interested in hearing what ploys anyone else has found useful.

    I'll kick things off with D major, which I used to find pretty horrid. If you've tuned your B to concert A, then none of the notes feel right.

    Open G is a bit sharp, E nasty flat.
    2nd valve F# and B (which you've just tuned to!) nasty sharp.
    1st valve D is nasty flat
    1st & 2nd A, C# and E are quite sharp
    1st & 3rd D is nasty sharp
    1/2/3 C# & F# are awful per normal

    Actually, I've found quite a good setup for this one. Pull 2nd slide about 2 mm (about 15 cents) to sort out B & F#;
    1st & 2nd should now be very close for A, C#, E (slight pull on 1st slide if not). Pull 3rd to tune all Gs and Ds to 1 & 3.

    Except for the usual tromboning on low C#/F# this seems to solve everything for the Yamaha at least.
     
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Can't say that I have these problems with any of my horns. Sure, my Bach C and Selmer D/Eb trumpets have a "flat" 4th partial, but nothing that would deserve the term "nasty". Valve combinations with 1+3 or 123 get either the first, third or both slides used for compensation.

    It could be an issue of tonality. For players that do most of their playing with ensembles, we develop a different feel for thirds, fifths, seconds - essentially all intervals. We don't play to a tuner, we play to the "feel" of the key signature.

    I have had issues in ensembles where someone runs around with a tuner and starts to criticize intonation. Generally I get up, pack my horn away and let everyone know that this is not my world. I won't even discuss the issue. Except for the tuning note (A or Bb), I refuse to use a tuner for anything else.


    My suggestion is to test and LEARN intonation with drone tones. Get a keyboard or computer to play the fundamental note of the chord and test the rest of the intervals. In major chords, all of the beats (heterodyning) are in that chord - there should be no dissonance.

    Play to the tonality not to a tuner.
     
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  3. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

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    Yeah, what he said.

    How does it work out on your Wild Thing? That's a wider-slotting horn, I think?

    Tom
     
  4. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    How many times have I said I detest tuners, Robin? My ear tells me the quality of a major triad. Especially the root triad D-F#-A, the dominant A-C#-E, and the subdominant G-B-D. When I run up the D major scale with those couple of alternate fingerings and slide pulls, the intervals sing to me, the instrument is spot on centred in it's resonance, and I'm not screwing my face up lipping stuff in or working the slides (save low F#/C#). Where is the downside unless you want to get a bit arsey over some timbre issue of playing Gs and Ds 1 & 3?
     
  5. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    I do find the Wild Thing a little easier to lip around Tom (in my case, this is all relative just now), and therefore it little less easy to judge the centre of resonance. Plus I don't play it so often. Maybe slightly different slide positions , but it seems to work the same. The Severinsen probably not so much as its slide lengths are a bit funny.
     
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    My point is, tonality requires a reference, not that you are doing anything wrong or that your findings are incorrect. Tonality as I define it in this context is not timbre. There are various "shades" of dark for minor chords. When thirds and 7ths are played as leading tones, they need to be very high in certain genres and for others they need to be spot on. A 6th (B to D) should be universally consistent compared to the root. I simply do not have ANY instrument this far out of whack and other than what I posted, have no explanation. As I posted, in tune major chords essentially only heterodyne in the chord, that makes them good for testing. All other intervals are subject to "interpretation".


    If a horn were that far out for me, I would use the drone fundamental and quantify the problem compared to other instruments. My Cleartune app gives me the frequency being played, so I would use headphones for the drone and compare intervals that have the same "feeling".


    I have had students that play in tune but it sounds out of tune due to "support" and "embouchure" issues. Perhaps the reverse is also possible? Perhaps there is a timbre issue here? I don't know. On my Monette Prana3 the first valve slide is shorter and for 1+2, I DO need to use the slide.

     
  7. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    How far do you think far is? If I say 1st valve D is 'nasty' in C keys, I mean it's flat enough (15+ cents) to sound wrong even to an amateur ear in the dominant chord. So why not at least consider playing it 1-3. Especially, if your chops find lipping up with any frequency quite tiring (as I do).

    And as you point out, As and Es played 1-2 are particularly sharp (25 cents) in C and need slide even with a piano accompaniment. Or you may prefer to set 1st slide static for a slightly sharp F and play A & E on 3rd IFF you're in an environment that calls for just tuning.

    If you don't have an ensemble to guide your intonation, what's wrong with letting the resonance of the instrument guide you, if all that is required is a couple of tweaks to set the relationships between the harmonics appropriately for the key?

    And you more than most should understand why developing a strong feel for and comfort in the centre of the resonance might be more important to me than some others just now?

    And not just me. How many threads on this site show people labouring under imaginary problems because they misunderstand the conflict between trumpet design and the scales? (All those 'perfect intonation' trumpet blogs for example).

    Bottom line is, anybody can try the tuning set up I suggested for D major and run up and down it a few times. If it does nothing for them so be it. If like me they find it helps them stay both in resonance and in tune on simple melodies then we've got something positive out of it haven't we?
     
  8. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

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    I worked once with a German trumpeter who learned from his professor to tune his trumpet for the key he was playing in. It should be noted that he played a rotary Bb and C that had no compensation aids (although the first slide 90 degrees from the leadpipe allows for an easy pull with the thumb). I found it interesting as a way to avoid compensating while playing. My colleague's approach worked well as long as the piece stayed in one key, but wasn't optimal for anything highly chromatic.

    As a graduate student, some of the best time I spent was with a Stroboconn that showed all twelve notes. I taught myself to play in tune to equal temperment and chord parts in different keys. For example, playing an open e on my C trumpet, it was too low for E major, but a perfectly in-tune third in C major.

    I use my first saddle quite a bit, but it is there for that reason.
     
  9. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

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    An important point, VB. But I think it at least interesting that it's possible to set an instrument up to be perfectly in tune for a particular scale from low D up (not true for every scale). And of course it does so by shunting the rubbish into the notes not used in that scale. In the D major example I gave D#/Eb end up being 40 cents flat; F/Ab/Bb about 20 cents flat. So a sudden lurch into D phrygian would be a bit iffy with that set up :-)
     
  10. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

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    Interesting. My horns have slots a mile and a half wide, so resonance and playing in tune with the chord are ridiculously easy... but that's how I learned to play. When I "tune", I sort of pick an average during the warmup of playing in tune with the ensemble, because I'm mostly tuning my ear, really. I can play the horn anywhere so the "tuning note" isn't really as relevant, if you understand what I mean. If my playing sounds "out", I know to move the tuning slide, but just playing a middle C, I can bend it all over, so I don't actually tune the horn that way.

    Hope you get what I mean, it's kind of hard to describe. :-)

    Tom

    A tight-slotting horn drives me nuts! (well even more than usual)
     

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