Tuners, Tuners, Everywhere!

It has been a long time since I bought my current tuner (a Seiko Chromatic Auto-Tuner) so I thought I would browse around and see what’s available now. I found lots of tuners and a large range of prices. Unfortunately, what I see most are tuners that only read pitches, without an internal tone generator or sound out port.

So what’s wrong with that? I did, after all write a practice book on how to use that kind of tuner to improve intonation. The problem is that this is only a beginning in the quest to perfect playing intonation. The feedback that a tuner’s readout gives you is only part of the picture, a narrow slice. It’s great for working on consistency, and learning the sizes of scales and intervals, but it can only help so much. In my opinion, what is needed is a tuner that can generate pitches as well as reading them.

By working with a tuner that plays the pitches, you can work on improving your ability to hear when you are in tune or out of tune, so you can function in the real playing world. Tuners are calibrated to an equally tempered scale in which all half steps are the exact same size. Unfortunately, when those half steps are combined into larger intervals, our ears don’t like that rigid equality. Different intervals need to either be expanded or compressed so our ear hears them as being in tune. Are our ears wrong? No, but it would take a long explanation to clarify this and others can do it much better than I can.

Besides the dissonances with equal temperament, the playing conditions, pitch tendencies of different instruments, and abilities of the players all play a part in the ever-moving target of good intonation. A little bouncing light or digital readout will not give you the information that you need to play in tune when you play with others. To learn this, you have to exercise your hearing and your ability to constantly adjust the pitch.

So, in my opinion, when you buy a tuner or download a tuner app, or whatever, get one that will read all the pitches your instrument can play, one that has a display that is easy to read, and one that will sound at least a full chromatic octave; two or three would be even better. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to do everything you need it to do. And leave your tuner at home when you go to rehearsal or a performance. Your attention should be on the music and your interaction with the other players, not on a gadget! Music is for the ears, and is not made with the eyes.

My Pitch Tendencies (today)

Many people happen across this blog while looking for information on the flute’s pitch tendencies so I am going to post my current pitch tendencies. This should be pretty interesting because I haven’t been practicing regularly so I have no idea how this will turn out. I do expect that that certain notes will be flat like they normally are and other certain notes will be sharp, but it is the others that I am curious about.

I am going to do this the same way I teach others how to do when making a pitch tendency chart. This means playing each note without looking at the tuner until I think I am producing the best sound possible, then looking at the tuner meter to see what the meter has to tell me. I will start by tuning the A440 so I can start in the same place as I do when I play every day.

I will start from the A (A2) above the staff and work my way down chromatically to low B, then go back to A2 and work up chromatically up to the second D above the staff, my normal practice range. My tuner has markings for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 cents sharp and flat, so I will notate the pitch within 5 cents. (I’ve tried to paste in a chart from Excel, but the divider lines aren’t showing, sorry!) Here goes!

B 15 s
C# 5 f
F 5 s
G 5 s
G# 10 f
A 5 s
B 15 s
C 10 s
C# 30 s !!!!
D 5 s
E 5 f
F# 5 f
G 5 s
A right on
B 5 s
D# 10 s
E 15 s
F 5 s
F# 10 s
G 5 f
G# 10 s
A 5 f
A# 10 f
B 10 s
C 20 s
C# 5 s
D 25 s

Pretty interesting! Some notes I was sure would be way out of whack were pretty good, like the D above staff. I count on that one to be pretty flat, guess I’d better adjust my thinking! Hopefully most of these will even out as I get a regular practice routine going again. In my next post I’ll address how I hope to even out the overall pitch so my basic tone, before making any pitch adjustments, is closer to being in tune according to a tuner. Now get out your instrument, make your own chart, and record your own pitch tendencies!

Intonation Book Update, it’s on Amazon.com!

Just a quick update: my practice book is now formatted for eReaders and can be purchased through the Kindle store at Amazon.com. The content is the same as the PDF version I launched earlier, but formatted specifically for Kindle eReaders. Soon it will also be available through several other outlets such as the iBooks store, I’ll post that information as it happens. The book is still available in PDF form through this site, just go to the Buy the Book page for ordering instructions.

Happy Fluting!

Update on the Book Launch

It has been a week since the launch of my first practice book, Improving Intonation Skills Book I: How to Practice With an Electronic Tuner and it is going great! I want to thank everyone who has bought the book. I can’t wait to hear how it is working out for different people. Thank you also to everyone who has checked out the website and the Buy the Book page. There will be more fun and interesting things coming soon in a new section of PracticingFlutist called the Intonation Store. It will feature all things intonation-related. So until then, keep practicing!

‘How to Practice With an Electronic Tuner’ is Ready!

Improving Intonation Skills Book 1: How to Practice with an Electronic Tuner is ready to go! I delayed launching because the delivery program I was trying to use wasn’t working the way I wanted it to, I can’t tell you how much time I have spent trying to figure out why files aren’t linking or naming or copying the way they are supposed to. I keep thinking that I am just one more try away from having it all perfect, but it isn’t happening. It’s very much like untangling a difficult passage, only harder. Much, much harder.

So I decided to go ahead with a manual delivery system. When you buy the book, I get notification and within 24 hours I will send the book in a PDF file to you via email. Tried to have a program do it automatically, but I’m not skilled enough with the programming issues yet. Besides, this way I can write a thank you note to those who buy the book! A personal touch is better, especially when a venture is just starting out. Those first contacts will help shape what it is to come.

Go to the blog page under the Buy the Book heading above for more information on how to get the book for yourself.

Book 2 will follow in a couple of months. It’s focus will be on improving your ear and becoming independent of the tuner’s meter. The two books together should have the fundamentals of Intonation Practice covered. I’ve tested all the exercises and know they are effective. I hope they will be helpful to everyone who uses them!

Now back to practicing for this week’s Christmas concerts, then on to the next project!