What Do I Listen For When Tuning?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by tedh1951, Sep 26, 2009.

  1. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

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    I have ALWAYS really struggled to know what to listen for when tuning to another instrument. (We generally tune to the bass or sometimes the tuba) and I struggle to reconcile my C to whatever they are playing - a G ??? :dontknow: Please, what is the clue? :oops:
     
  2. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

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    First off, you should get an electronic tuner and practice with that in the privacy of your own space in order to learn the tuning needs of your instrument, where you need to make adjustments in your playing in order to get notes to be in tune, as well as how to keep them in tune when they are sustained for longer periods of time. Once you have the intonation issues in your own playing resolved it's easier to work on tuning to others.

    You'll likely get a lot of answers and if you do research you'll find lots of varying opinions of just what to listen for, but here are some observations:

    1) when you're in tune with whatever sound reference you're tuning to, it should "feel" comfortable and like you're in a groove. If you're a bit out of tune, sharp or flat it should feel just a bit harder to keep playing, if you're sustaining a note.
    2) remember that all notes have an attack, but not all notes have much of a sustain (staccato 16ths for instance) so it's your attack that needs to be in tune -- anybody can lip practically any out of tune not to seem to be in tune if they hold it long enough, so if it isn't in tune within the first beat or so, stop and adjust your instrument.
    3) it's tough to tune across octaves, so it's best if you can get the band to use several different standard pitches: tuba for the low brass, then have a low brass play a higher note for tuning the middle instruments like the saxes and horns, then have one of them be the standard for one of the higher instruments (clarinet is good in my opinion, better than the oboe in most bands) which then provides the tuning pitch for the higher instruments.
    4) when tuning with an instrument in your same range this is more readily apparent - listen for "beats." Beats are an acoustical phenomenon which occurs when two instruments are almost but not quite in tune. They are felt more than actually heard, but they come across as a sort of "wah, wah, wah" effect when the two instruments play. The faster they come, the more out of tune you are, and as you gradually get more in tune, they slow down until they disappear entirely when you're perfectly in tune. These beats are much harder to perceive when tuning across an interval of several octaves such as trumpet and tuba.
    5) if everybody in your band owned and used an electronic tuner (at $30 for excellent tuners there's no excuse for any musician not to own one) then the tuning at rehearsal would be more a formality where people could actually listen for blending and balance since they'd all start out in tune to begin with.
     
  3. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

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    When you're out of tune with another instrument and you're holding out a note, you should hear waves as opposed to a solid line, and it should be clear that the notes are conflicting.
     
  4. s.coomer

    s.coomer Forte User

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    I agree with DHBailey, get a turner and work with it. The most important thing in tuning is being able to keep the same quality throughout your playing.
     
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I do not recommend tuners. I recommend duets.

    I teach my students to listen for the "beats" when they are out of tune. When we play the same note as someone else, and it is in tune, it is a solid tone. if we are slightly off tune, beats will be heard. If A 440 is our tuning note and someone plays 439 Hz at the same time, we get one beat per second, 438 or 442-2 and so forth. Even my 10 year old students get the hang of this after a couple of lessons. The long tones that we play in lessons are 2 different notes and we optimize the beats. it is great fun and the kids gravitate towards dissonance A and Ab at the same time, but in tune.

    Do a search on the term "drone" for in my opinion the fastest way to fix a tuning issue.

    Electric tuners teach you to follow instead of lead.
     
  6. Markie

    Markie Forte User

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    Hi Ted,
    OK do this. Play tuning notes with another instrument and as you listen, you'll hear "beats" in the sound which will slow down or speed up as you vary in pitch.
    Now for the fun stuff:
    Get another trumpet player and once you're warmed up, play a C together.
    Now, once the "beats" are gone, balance the sound to where you are not louder or softer than the other person. A weird phenomenon should take place. Look at the bell of your horn as you adjust the volume(if you're adjusting the volume it means you're already in tune) you will get the sensation of the other person's sound coming out of your horn. Its a really cool effect.
    As for general "getting in tune" adjust till there's no "beats" or pulsations in the sound.
     
  7. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

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    Many thanks All,

    I DO have a tuner (in fact I have one in each trumpet case) one in particular is a beauty that allows me to select it specifically for Bb instruments. I tune to my satisfaction at home as you have suggested and am happy having my cupboard full of clothes in tune with my trumpet.

    Seriously though, the out of phase effect that you describe is similar to the way I would align the phases on a set of paralleled generators, in that the closer the "signals" came to each other the slower the lights would flash (thanks for that description - it gives me an analogy within my experience - anybody who has paralleled generators on a B707 will know what I mean).

    So that deals with the home tune, and tuning to others in the section. However I have most difficulty "hearing" the tuning note of the bass over the caucophany of sound from the other instruments - I generally play 3rd chair and so have to hear 'through' the 2nd and 1st chairs, as well as the trombs over to the bass, all the time with flutes in my other ear. I just wondered, apart from tuning each instrument individually to the bass, one at a time, if there may be a simply 'trick' for a deaf old bloke?

    Hmmm, I wonder, what if the bass player turned the amp up a bit?
     
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Ted,
    experience rules. The beats are an easy way for 2 or 3 players to get sorted. When I tune our local wind band, I get the all players to blow wind through the instruments to keep them at operating temperature and tune one at a time. Just beat it! During the rehearsal, I will often retune problem sections like the flutes.
     
  9. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

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    Cheers Robin, that sounds like a workable plan.

    Once again - many thanks everyone - I'd like to extract all your comments if I may and pass them to our young Band Director - I don't wish to put him offside, but I do hope that we can play in tune. (Hmmmm, might solve the 2nd alto sax's problem too - now, if I can only get the percussionist to stay in Bb? ;-))
     
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    The head of a drum always be flat!
     

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