The shocking truth about tuning.
I recently was experimenting with a dandy little tuner called CLEARTONE (I think) and decided that I played within a +/_ 20 cents window.
So, this time I bothered to tune very carefully and the difference was awesome ! (at +/- 5 ) !!!
Maybe I have a good imagination. Maybe I should take up the saxophone. (my second love). Maybe I need a better tuner. What if I were a soloist just going on stage?
The improvement with the careful tuning even encourages me to practice !!
What might be the pro approach to tuning?
And you think that the sax will be easier? I doubt it.
Unless you need to tune to any external source, such as principal oboe in an orchestra, a piano, or even the playing of an orchestra (as Ricci did when he was in the green room waiting to go on stage) then the only reference tuner you would need that is 100% reliable is the tuning fork. That makes you listen - no eyes looking at a needle flickering on a screen.
I'm not sure the brain remembers A440. People rarely develop perfect pitch. But you may be on to something when you mention timbre. I think it's likely instrument-specific, because each instrument responds a certain way to a pitch. I recognize the sound of my own viola playing A440, and I can tune the A string to 440 +/- 0.3Hz (i.e. within less than 1 cent) with no tuner or tuning fork or oboe A at all... but I can't do it with anyone else's instrument, only with the exact instrument that I've had for the last 12 years. I definitely don't have perfect pitch.
I can understand contextual and subjective tuning and what works is all that matters.
An orchestra should be tuned consistently, usually to A=440, but sometimes to something higher (a 442 is pretty common these days for its brighter sound, for instance).
Whenever I tune my viola to perfect fifths (no beats) I find that my open C and G sound flat relative to the violins. Trying to figure out why that might be.
Interesting fact, saxophone is relatively easy to play. The fingerings are consistent between the two main octaves(where as with clarinet they are not,) save for the octave key. The embouchure does not take as long initially to adjust to like the flute. It's very easy, especially with tenor saxophone where the embouchure is more open, to pick up and make a sound.
"Whenever I tune my viola to perfect fifths (no beats) I find that my open C and G sound flat relative to the violins. Trying to figure out why that might be."
I love the ClearTune app! I learned of it when I emailed the leader of a local early music consort with some questions about their tunings and temperaments. So remarkable that for $3.99 I now have (via app on my phone) a better tuner than the electronic tuners I paid much more for just a few years ago.
Paul and Mary Ellen - I know Will speaks the truth but some of us like it simple. Arithmetic dictates that if you tune to make each adjacent pair of strings a perfect fifth apart (factor of 3/2), the more perfect fifths you tune sequentially below A4=440Hz the flatter the pitch becomes relative to A4=440, A3=220, A2=110 etc. That's why the instruments of a string quartet are often tuned with the C/G and G/D intervals slightly too close, in order for the C strings to sound in tune with the violins' E. That's why it's so common to find orchestral cellos tweaking their C strings up a bit in mid-performance.
as opposed to what my tuner says, I keep both my E strings a tad sharp. sometimes not even enough to register on the tuner. my open strings are ok, maybe the D on one of them needs to be sharpened just a bit sometimes.
If you want to hear what is probably the closest to perfect intonation in action you can't do better than to listen to a good a capella ensemble performing renaissance vocal music by Byrd, Tallis (my favourite), Gesualdo (famous for his innovative harmonies centuries before Wagner), Palestrina, Victoria, Lassus, and a few others.
I use an app called Tunable which does a great job showing students how their tuning adjusts with bow pressure as well. I recently stumbled upon a book that talks about tuning theories from Tartini and Campagnoli. It then goes form the mathematical approach to what is perceived. Basically, if you have ever recorded yourself, felt happy with the intonation but then hear it back sounding horribly out of tune it might be that you were in tune but the notes need to be adjusted for the listener. The very short description from the book is squeezing half steps together, raising sharps and lowering flats.
I don't have this quite first-hand, but someone who knows a member of the Takacs Quartet told me that they use a tuning app in their rehearsals. Given that their superb sound doesn't just come from playing three Guads (and a nice cello), it may be doing some good.
Darlene, regarding octaves, I think of the octave (2/1) as the only sacred (inviolable) perfect interval, because without perfect octaves we would have no immovable ground on which any other interval could stand, no firm reference note (root), "no tuning" at all. As a melody moved from note to note, say perhaps using "just intonation" where each melodic interval were whatever that "perfect" (overtone ratio) interval would be between those 2 notes, you'd end up wandering around through what would sound like random pitches, never getting back to the same frequency twice unless you went backwards through the sequence. The natural overtone intervals just do not line up with each other, and so within the sacred octave some (or all) other intervals must be tempered (usually narrowed) so we never lose that root note as our tonal reference through all octaves.
I think vibrato can cover a multitude of sins. Your remarks about baroque and intonation are interesting.. (and true, I think.).
One thing I found when playing in a period-instrument pit orchestra for a Rossini opera (gut E, A, D-- varnished but unwrapped with metal) was that when properly set up with the correct after-length, overtone richness was quite significant.
The key is to play notes that sound good. That's correct intonation. If it sounds bad to you, then it's out of tune, and if it sounds wrong to others, then it's also out of tune. Just listen to the timbre and pitch of every note you play, and practice with a drone when possible.
As for tuning strings more accurately... I don't think it would matter unless people are using open strings extensively. Intermediate level players should already have little or no difficulty playing in tune with an ensemble on a badly-out-of-tune instrument.
I agree with Andrew. Only seems to be a real problem with lots of rapid double stop changes and fifths.
If you think you were playing in tune but upon listening to a recording of yourself, it sounded out of tune, then you were not playing in tune. Most likely you were listening to the notes you *thought* you were playing instead of the notes you were actually playing. Recordings don't lie.
Just curious. What recording devices/hardware do you suggest for students?
Whatever you have lying around is fine. I have Voice Record Pro (around $5, I think) on my iPad, and I just put my iPad on my music-stand when I want a casual recording. I use my iPhone for casual recording, as well.
I just pull out my iPhone in lessons when I want students to hear what I'm hearing.
Anyone else tune to A441? My teacher taught me this (her teacher was the concertmaster of the BSO for 40 years, and they tuned to 441) and it helps because my playing is pretty vigorous and all my strings start going a little flat whenever I play.
My orchestra tunes to 442. I hate it.