Intonation Exercises for Brass Band?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by jobriant, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    It's absolutely true, as is the perception thing.

    Pro tuned perc players (especially jazzers, with their own vibraphones) often have multiple sets of bars - one in 440 which they'll use more often in the US and one in 442 which they'll use almost everywhere else. A lot of European orchestras tune to 442, dunno why. So European tuned perc suppliers tend to supply 442 by default. Perceptually it's apparently easier for a 442 vibe/glock to appear in tune with a 440 band than the other way around - I can't claim to understand the physics massively but it maybe to do with the perceived "brightness" of metallophones as opposed to other instruments, and the number of overtones present in the sound.

    I think "absolute" accuracy is a practical impossibility - even synthesised sounds find this difficult in equal temperament, because it requires bending (quite a lot, in the case of some notes) the laws of physics in ways that aren't entirely logical, and when overtones/partials are involved the maths gets horrific very quickly. Maybe we should all play Harry Partch style instruments made out of scrap and just relish the scrunchiness... [cue the jokes about "I think my band already does that" etc etc...]
    midlandman and Euphonium Lite like this.
  2. AMbrass1

    AMbrass1 New Member

    Hi Jim,

    The first thing to do is make sure that the instruments are in tune with themselves. Not in a band situation but on an individual basis. When I conduct "new people" I know we will have problems if all of the valve slides are pushed in. Whilst we would expect their individual teacher/tutor to tackle this with regret it doesn't always happen. My approach is assume it has not been done. Having said that like many posts on here they tell you what to do but not how to do it with this in mind:-

    Get everyone to download an electronic tuner on their phones, tablets, pads (best for you to find one yourself and recommend it once you feel it is fairly accurate) Then get them in their own time to play down a chromatic scale and to check how in tune each note is. Again on the basis on how to do it. They should play each note without looking at the screen then look to see how accurate it is.

    They should tune the instrument C upper preferred firstly then play each note descending (play then look each time). The likelihood of second valve being out much is low, Of course the more valves you put down the sharper the instrument (relatively) will get. Do nothing about the tuning of each valve until they have observed where the problems lie.

    I would then tackle A or E flat. Move the 3 rd valve tuning slide to tune these notes. It may need a compromise if both notes are not in tune.

    Move onto A and E natural tune the first valve again get as good compromise as they can if they are out with each other.

    C sharp (lower) and D is likely to be sharp if the instrument has no triggers in this case they need to again compromise with other note to get the best "average" Those with triggers you have no excuse! :). you will have made them aware that every brass instrument made will be out of tune with itself therefore you are looking for a "good average". By watching the tuner (play note then look!) they should be become more aware of where the the issues lie. Once this has been done then its over to you Jim.

    Hymn tune. yes they are a must for each rehearsal but you can play as many hymn tunes often as you like but if you don't know what to do with them you might as well just blast through a few marches. (sorry a bit flippant there) The approach is to start as you mean to go on and play the first note as a long chord. This is where it gets labour intensive for you, listen and rectify where the problems are. Find within the chord where the parts are in unison or octaves and get them to play the chord no 3rd or 5th at the moment. (one small trick is to ask them to pick on someone else in the band and for them to be the "ears" of that person as they play the chord, this makes them listen) ones you have the unison/octaves in tune. move onto the 5th, so you have unison and 5th's going on once you are happy then add the 3rd. They should be ok with the unison and 5th's as tuning (or lack of it) is more easily recognised. Then when that is done play the chord over and over again with different dynamic levels so they know what in tune sounds like. Odds on they will go sharp once they pump up the volume. If that is the case tell them to keep their throat nice and open. So that's the first chord. hopefully the second won't need the same treatment. Needles to say make sure you have tuned the band up.

    If you want them to be challenged one thing you could try is get one of your strong players in the section to play a low b then go down the line individually and ask the player to play that b on open fingering, this will obviously take some "lipping down" but some will manage it. This demonstrates to the band how notes can be altered using the lips.

    Finally when they play tell them to imagine they are singing the note they are playing. If the cavity behind the lips shapes up like they are singing, not only will it be a richer sound the intonation may become better.

    God luck I hope this is of some help.

    Alan Milnes L.G.S.M., G.D.L.M., P.G.C.E.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2017
    Chuk_rok and 2nd tenor like this.
  3. Baton twirler

    Baton twirler Member

    Thurcroft, South Yorkshire
    After the reply you gave to the well-meaning Accidental I am surprised anyone posted anything else. In the UK many bands use Hymn Tunes when they start a practice to warm up and tune up. I have a set of exercises that I have used to help with intonation but unfortunately will not be sending them to you!
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I'm not really surprised that anyone should feel as above. The OP's response to Accidental was a puzzle to me and I just put it to one side whilst retaining an interest in the original question and what the answers would bring to other viewers of this thread - we read, we learn, we improve. By way of example this reader found Alan's response (#22) above helpful so, Mr (or Ms if that's the case) Batton Twirler, firstly it's great to have a long term member back and commenting again and secondly, despite the OP's comments, please do share your knowledge with the rest of us.

    Jim appears to have taken no further interest in this thread and hasn't logged on for a while; let's not let his puzzling response divert us from enjoying tmp, please.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
    Slider1, Baton twirler and 4th Cornet like this.
  5. Jerry

    Jerry Member

    Kennington, Oxfordshire
    Re: Principals' solo tuning - in my, frankly average, experience it works well for cornet solos to be (ever so) slightly sharp in order to sound a little brighter. In any event, it should prevent any notes within the solo going flat, which is always much more noticeable and sounds so much worse than anything being just a tiny bit sharp. Unless of course you have a nice long note that really is noticeably sharp ... so, it's all a question of degrees and - as ever and all-importantly - listening to yourself and the band when playing anything!
  6. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    That strikes me as a really helpful suggestion, 2nd Tenor - I'll give that a go as a regular part of my warm-up routine from now on.

    With best regards,

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