[Trombone-l] Intonation (Or...I think not, therefore I am.)

Douglas Ward dwdraw at gmail.com
Sat Mar 10 05:17:17 CST 2007

On Mar 9, 2007, at 10:28 AM, Steve Gamble wrote:

> Now about tuners: I've posted something like this before but maybe  
> this
> is a good time to do it again.  The bad rap on tuners comes from not
> using them correctly.  Basically, the only good way to use a tuner  
> is to
> never adjust to it!!  Instead, once you see that the tuner is telling
> you that your concept of a particular pitch is incorrect, change your
> concept.  Now play your new concept, then look at the tuner; again, if
> it doesn't match, don't adjust.  Keep tweaking your concept until the
> tuner tells you that what you are already thinking is in tune with the
> tuner.  That way you are practicing playing in tune in a way that is
> much more compatible with real-life music making with other real-life
> imperfect musicians who often play in between the little notches on  
> your
> tuner.

I can only add that:
* there is no substitute for ear training (my best theory classes  
taught theory at the piano rather than the desk)
* when teaching, introduce sound first, and just intonation numbers  
(and tuners) second
* there is no substitute for ensemble experience!

The tuners and theory serve to help you find your way when you're too  
far off to know which is home. (I get my students to use a piano or  
pitch CD before I recommend a tuner. A tuner and recording machine  
can both tell you if you hear/feel intonation sharp, flat, or  

Above all, JUST MAKE IT SOUND GREAT (stable) for your target audience/ 
situation before looking to see if you're correct on paper! Playing  
with a drone or keyboard is extremely helpful in training you to feel  
good intonation, but nothing replaces the random intonation, varied  
dynamics, and heterogeneous tone of an ensemble for which you must  
learn to adjust with the speed of an unconscious reflex. Listening  
will tell you if you need to use the Grave Minor Seventh or Harmonic  
Minor Seventh adjustment, or if equal temperament (or some other  
temperament) sounds best for the gig (audition, competition, et  
cetera). (Remember, no matter what theory says, playing two notes in  
a row by yourself, and raising the second note 18 cents because its  
function changes will sound funky in prelims to the string player on  
the audition committee even if the adjustment would have sounded  
great in the finals with the section.)

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