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!

Just a quick update: my practice book is now formatted for eReaders and can be purchased through the Kindle store at 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!

Fluting in the New Year

Well this year is off and running! I’ve had my first orchestra rehearsal and conducted the first flute choir rehearsal of the year. We’ve got new programs to learn for both groups, oh boy! I’ve submitted my intonation practice book for publication as an eBook for people with Nooks, Kindles, iPads, etc and soon it will be out on the eShelves, woohoo! (It will remain available as a PDF from this site.) Lots of challenges and hopefully lots of rewards from all these things.

Our flute choir has expanded by about half from the fall season, so balance will be an even bigger challenge. Our winter/holiday program went very well, so standards have been raised for the next performance. Here is the whole performance, if you are curious. My administrative partner will be breaking this down into separate tracks later. Feel free to ignore the overly talkative conductor.

Wrangling a group of flutists with widely varying skills and experience is quite an experience. Players who have never played in any kind of chamber ensemble, one where each part is independent and important, can be freaked out at first. There is no place to hide. Because the timbres of all the parts is so similar, if someone has an off day they will stick out like a sore thumb. The similarity of timbres also makes it ultra-important to balance the melodic lines so every significant gesture is heard. Players have to be made aware of when to sing out and when to blend into the background. When there are multiple players on the same part, they all have to do this together, as one.

Then figure in all the ‘flute’ challenges. Articulation, intonation, tone, technique, no surprises here. So many flute choirs sound ‘floofy’ to me. In other words, the overall articulation and interplay of lines is undefined, imprecise, not artful. They are groups of flutists playing the same piece at the same time. That’s just not good enough. There is so much magic possible in a piece of music that is performed well, with intention, thoughtfulness, attention to detail. Why not reach for as much of that as possible? I guess that is my job as the conductor. If I fail to make these things understood and to inspire my players to greater musical heights, we’re all going down in flames. Well, not really, but it would be disappointing. So I guess I’d better go study my new scores!

practice vs rehearsal

I believe that words have power. Whether I’m teaching or coaching or practicing on my own, I try to use words to communicate my meaning clearly and positively and to evoke the most productive images possible. What does this have to do with ‘practice vs rehearsal?’

While on a break from orchestra rehearsal this week I overheard a cell phone conversation where the orchestra member was telling her conversation partner that she was ‘at practice.’ Why does this make me crazy? Because ‘practice’ is what musicians do at home to prepare for ‘rehearsal.’ Individual issues of technique, phrasing, tone, etc. are the subject of practice sessions. We practice so we can make the most of the always too-limited time we have to rehearse. ‘Rehearsal’ is for bringing the ensemble together, adjusting balance, correcting intonation in context, learning how to fit all the different parts together. And everyone knows that insufficient practice leads to unproductive rehearsal.

The orchestra member that I am referring to is a good player and works hard in rehearsal, so it is not that I have a problem with her personally. But words do have an impact on attitude and perception. Both words suggest effort being made, but for some reason ‘rehearsal’ is bigger, weightier, more significant. I have similar reactions when people refer to symphonies as ‘songs.’ When I think about it, I’m not sure the snobbier term ‘piece’ is any better, but it does help differentiate art music from pop. If you want to be taken seriously, use the right words. And now go practice for your next rehearsal!