What is intonation?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by rowuk, May 10, 2011.

  1. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    A tuner has fixed frequencies, like a piano or keyboard. That is fine if we are tuning a piano where we are forced to comprimise. When playing instruments without fixed pitch, we have to "bend" the pitch to get the optimal intonation (generally least beats). Except for octaves, every note needs to be adjusted. The frequency of a A is different if it is in an A major, D Major, B7 or F Major chord. Tuners don't know that and that is why they are not really optimal for real life playing.

    I am pretty sure that it is not even possible to memorize the frequency for recall in ensemble playing. My experience is that we develop an ear for the "color" of the chord, or minimizing the beats that occur when out of tune.
     
  2. JNINWI

    JNINWI Piano User

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    It works for a whole orchestra, we all have them on our stands, should work for one player..
    It's not about frequency recall, it's about learning muscle memory to know what has to be done on the horn to prevent intonation problems. And it may not be for everyone, it works well for me. It was just a suggestion..... take it or leave it. :roll:
     
  3. JNINWI

    JNINWI Piano User

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    If you would like to hear how it works for a symphony, download "Vic Ferrari Symphony on the Rocks" from I-tunes. We recorded that last live year, about 5000 in the crowd, we all used them.
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Jninwi,
    The purpose of this thread is to highlight common mistakes and offer information and solutions. Muscle memory will not help your intonation any more than your eyes will. Your ears must be trained to hear proper intervals. That is stored as a pattern. A simple tuner teaches you to play out of tune. It is only really suitable for getting a single tuning note mathematically related to A440 or whatever. There are more complex tuners like the Conn Stroboconn that do a better job, but like every other tuner - a desaster in an ensemble.

    Intonation MUST be a part of every single lesson that we take. Only when it becomes second nature through constant repetition can we focus on the music. Intonation, like articulation or good tone is a basic tool of the trade. It is not like the speedometer on a car. You may have suggested it, but I will ALWAYS leave it. A tuner is the wrong way.
     
  5. JNINWI

    JNINWI Piano User

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    Whatever you say Rowuk...

    Everyone...throw out those tuners of yours, there worthless, mine just went in the trash....I feel better now...
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2011
  6. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

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    I agree .... You can't learn intonation by sight, even if you could, it would always be a crutch. The muscle memory that needs to take place has nothing to do with vision, it's entirely hearing. Anything visual is just a distraction.

    Even guitar players who rely on tuners for normal string tuning (me included) never look at the thing while we're playing. You don't look to see if a string has gone out of tune while the song is going on, you HEAR that it's out of tune.

    I think the best way to work on intonation is the drone method that Rowuk mentioned. This is magic for me and justified the purchase of a keyboard (I can also do it, at lower volume with my KORG tuner). Not only does it help you hear when your intonation is good, it sets into your system what the intervals sound like. "Intervals are everything" a violin teacher once told me ..... "Knowing them and hearing them clearly helps with every part of violin playing, including sight reading."

    Turtle
     
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    JNINWI,
    I don't understand your response. Tuners have a useful function - get a tuning note like A to match 440Hz. For players that have worked on their intonation, that gets ensembles in the "ballpark" quickly.

    For those that have not invested time in what intonation really is, a tuner may seem like an easy fix. Once that you have spent some time working on it, you discover that your original belief was "incomplete". Rejoice in the additional knowledge and work on improving. Then ensemble is more fun for everybody.

    It is not "whatever I say" and never will be. I only suggest to have been there and to be able to explain many of the things that we hear. Some I define too simplistically in an effort to keep the content readable to the casual reader. Mathematical proof can be offered. If you still are not convinced, why is there a first slide hook and third slide ring on the first and third valve slides? Only for C# and D?.
     
  8. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

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    I just found my really old tuner, and that little mongrel doesn't play in tune either - and they're ganging up on me. The rotten little electronic sods are AGREEING with each other - how does THAT work? :dontknow:;-) It's not the trumpet either, all five horns disagree with both tuners.
     
  9. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

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    I didn't read the whole thread so I might repeat what others have said. Really, Rowuk is right on this one. Intonation that sounds the "best" to us is that of natural temperament. As a result, a note should not be always the exact same note depending on its function. This is especially noticeable for us with the low C#, when used as the 3rd of the A major scale; without slide, it is way more out of tune than when simply used as a subtonic for the D major scale. A piano is hopelessely out of tune, even though only slightly so in most cases. A string or trombone ensemble could have perfect intonation all the time.

    This is also the reason why my teacher recommends to use only horns that have moveable 1st and 3rd slides. There is hardly a horn that can't have a saddle or ring fitted in the appropriate place if it does not originally come with it. Lipping the notes works to an extent, but it forces to play away from the center of pitch for the length of tube used.

    I find it mind boggling that violonists can make a sonata sound so good when they're forced to play with an instrument that has equal temperament. I'm sure they enjoy the freedom to tune "right" that a string ensemble gives.

    I can only recommend Gerald Webster's little book "Improving Intonation" to better understand this. If you can find it, it is a great read, and it sure was an ear opener for me.
     
  10. turtlejimmy

    turtlejimmy Utimate User

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    I have one of these trumpets without moveable slides, a 1924 Martin Handcraft. My teacher suggested that all trumpet players should learn to lip down notes ....... :dontknow: WHERE, I ask you, can you get more confilicting information than the trumpet???

    Although I can do this pretty easily (lip down), it's considerably harder on my other trumpets that have tighter slotting. I think it sounds okay, but I hear what you're saying, that one is always fighting against the resonant center of pitch. Maybe I should go ahead and have a 1st slide trigger installed. The 3rd slide would be very problematic, and probably require a custom made ring ....

    Turtle
     

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