Making Use of Your Pitch Tendency Chart

After you have measured all the pitches in the chromatic scale and notated the results, then you can work on ‘hitting the target’ on the tuner and getting the notes in tune. As you do this, take notice of what you have to change in order to play in tune. Here are some of the things you should take notice of:

- Air speed, is it too fast? Too slow?
- Air direction, are you aiming too high? Too low?
- Embouchure, too loose? Too pinchy? Too wide? Too narrow?
- Support, pushing too much? Too little?

When you do get the note to register in tune with the tuner, pay particular attention to what it feels like to play the note. If you know how it feels to play the note in tune, you can check for that feeling while you are playing without the tuner. This gives you another method of monitoring your intonation in performance, especially in situations where you may not be able to hear yourself clearly.

It is of the utmost importance that you play the note first and then check the pitch. If you are more intent on chasing the needle or the little lights on your tuner’s display you will never achieve the quality of tone and intonation that you want! Start with a solid, well-centered tone and then adjust as needed.

After you’ve been keeping track of your pitch tendencies for a few days, you can use the information you’ve gathered to anticipate what you need to do to play each pitch in tune with the tuner before you measure it. If you’ve noticed that a note is consistently registering sharp or flat, by now you should know what to do to keep it from being too high or too low, whether it’s changing (or not changing too much!) the air speed, direction, etc. before you start to play.. If you’ve been paying attention to how it feels when you are able to play the notes in tune, you should be trying to reproduce that feeling.

The idea is to know what you need to do before you need to do it, rather than be guessing all the time. Measuring and notating your pitches helps you identify your pitch tendencies so you will have an idea of where you stand intonation-wise on each and every pitch. Learning what you have to do to play each pitch in tune with the tuner helps you develop a good center to work from and develop the flexibility to adjust your pitch to different playing situations. In general your playing will sound better, too, and that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? But this is just the beginning; there are a lot more things you can do to improve your intonation. There is much more to come!

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Comments:1

  1. Chris Sims Reply
    April 6, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Very interesting posts. I have often worked with my tuner, in various ways, but your method is well-thought-out and I’m looking forward to using it. One thing that I like to do is practice for a while, listening to my pitches (note the plural there), and then get the tuner to see “where I am”. I think this fits nicely with your “play the note first/center the note/then check the pitch” concept. I’m looking forward to my next practice, during which I am going to start my pitch tendency chart.

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