intonation on tenor horn

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by starperformer, Jul 26, 2005.

  1. starperformer

    starperformer Member

    I have a simple problem with my tenor horn playing - I always seem to be very flat when not playing fortissimo or fortississimo. The tuning slide has to be right out to really perfect the loud bits.
    Having spoken to some other horn players it seems that this is a very common problem, but the usual suggestions (don't overblow all the time, try taking up bass trombone, etc.) seem to ruin the balance of the band.
    I'm at my wits' end - I even considered cleaning out the instrument.
    I wonder if anyone has any useful suggestions?
  2. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Have you considered lessons?
    It sounds like you are having a problem with breath and embouchure support (although without seeing/hearing you it is impossible to say - the big problem with all internet advice). A couple of lessons with a good teacher might be very useful.
  3. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    Practice with the tuner, you can have the slides in and out forever, but if you dont have the correct pitch in your mind then you will never get there...

    Practicing with your tuner will get you used to how your aperture, ombiture and airflow feel at the correct pitch.

    If that doesnt work take up keyboard...
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... just out of interest, and I believe this is a good and relevant question ... in remedial cases like this, how does a teacher determine when a pupil is using the correct support for a given note? As an example, what would you look out for on say, a middle C for a player on any instrument? Would you advise a compromise setting of 'pucker' and airflow so the player can adjust for lower and higher ranges? I would think that the existing range of the player can be a determining factor in advising any change ... just my opinion! :redface:
  5. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    But with practice, the range of the player should be the range of the instrument.

    As a Tenor Horn player myself, I can safely say there is no reason why any well practiced player should not be able to play from bottom f# (and pedals) up to top D, E, F... (unused notes...)
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Okay then, notes are 'slotted' given the harmonic frequencies of the natural instrument combined with slide or valve use. Players can hit these notes using varying combinations of lip tension and air flow, with variable success regarding absolute pitch! As the range increases, the natural tuning of the notes are not tempered (perfect) and we have to use other devices to keep them correct (alternative positions/ valve combinations or lip-use). My hypothesis is that if a player is struggling with high or low range and intonation/tuning is duly affected, the basic embouchure/airflow setup could be wrong to support the full range of the instrument. If a player cannot hit low register notes, it could be that the fundamental setting is too high! The opposite would go for lack of high range, where we see players apply too much mouthpiece pressure to get the lips vibrating. There must be a central point in pitch (depending whether the instrument has 3 or 4 octave capability, both directions) where maximum efficiency can be used to the player's advantage.
  7. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    The amount of support/air/pucker etc will vary from student to student, instrument to instrument. Online it is very difficult to both describe what to look for and how to adjust what one might be doing. Hence my suggestion that a real-life teacher should be consulted.

    If it sounds good and is well in tune, it is probably being done properly. If they can bend this down to a B, whilst keeping the tone, it is more likely to be well-supported.

    Depends upon the player. I try to get my students playing on one setting that allows them to go between upper and lower register playing without any adjusting.

    Existing range can be a factor, but if someone is doing something fundamentally wrong, or has an embouchure that is working against them, or isn't supporting their tone properly, then their existing range has nothing to do with what their eventual range might be.
    If you start someone off with good fundamentals, they will, hopefully, have few problems. If someone is started with poor fundamentals, they could end up in real trouble later in life, meaning that they will need some assistance or adjustment.
    But these are very difficult to diagnose, especially over the internet, where you cannot see what is being done, how a player sounds or whether it is just the instrument at fault - which could also be a determining factor here.

    One further reason for going to see a good teacher is that they will be able to take a look at the instrument and tell you whether the one you are using is suitable or whether it might be holding you back.

    Oh, just for the record - the instrument doesn't have a range, to speak of. It is the player that will determine how high an instrument can play. Many cornet players will say that a Bb cornet will only play up to a C above the stave (the "standard" range if you consult the text books), good players will be happy up to an E or even an F, the instrument will go much higher than that. When I last play-tested a Prestige cornet I took it up two octaves above the stave (it still sounded like a cornet too :sup ). That was my limit, but the instrument would go yet higher in the right hands.

    Just some thoughts

    for the original poster, my advice still stays the same - go and see a good teacher, who can see what you do, in person.
  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... thanks for your reply Mike! Oh, I wasn't really talking about the super-high ranges a player can get, only the natural ranges expected in the orchestral/band repertoire. 4-valve (or triggered) instuments have the ability to bridge the chromatic range between the fundamentals and use of of the instrument's natural pitch range, but in brass bands this is a generally recent development (in respect to banding history) and players still have problems making embouchure/air-flow adjustments in this 'new' range. I would expect it only natural for players to further adjust to compensate.
  9. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    The thread is about a Tenor Horn Player...

    If a Tenor Horn player can play anywhere between bottom f# and top d then they will never need any more.

    Pieces are not generally written outside that...
  10. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Unless you're working up St Magnus for Butlins ;)
  11. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    Ive not played that, what does that have?? :confused:
  12. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    If I remember correctly, solo horn has a run up to F#, although it is with flugel and back row, and 1st horn is also pretty high.
  13. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    Just found this on another thread...

    Aidans a class horn player.
  14. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Have you considered the mouthpiece? Changing can affect the tuning considerably.

    (My sneaky method for hitting the top notes on the Tenor Horn, is to practice for half an hour before rehersal on a cornet. Then top A's B's etc are a doddle. ) ;)
  15. Chris Sanders

    Chris Sanders Active Member

    But your lip is knackered within 20 mins...
  16. flahshorn

    flahshorn Account Suspended

    As a tenor horn player that has had lots of intonation probs in the past, here's what I've found:

    1. Practice - Sounds simple, but the more often you play notes in tune during practice, the more likely you are to play in tune during performance. :)
    2. Tuners - Very useful for making sure youre in tune during practice as above, I've got a cool one that clips onto the instrument and measures the vibrations rather than using a microphone that can get distorted by external noise so it's always bang in tune!
    3. Mouthpieces - Shouldnt make a difference as long as you know what to do when using a particular mouthpiece to make it in tune. The more mouthpieces you use, the more combinations you have to remember so you're better off using a general one (DW2 is the good all-rounder) and work on the high range rather than switching to a smaller mouthpiece for St Magnus (what a great piece btw!).
    4. Loudness - I had the opposite problem, I'd get sharper as I got quieter but if you know what's happening then you know how to correct it. If you're getting flatter as you get quieter then lip up during descrescendo's and lip down during crescendo's. After practice you'll work out how much you need to do and eventually it'll become natural so you stay in tune at different volumes.

    I'm no expert and I still suffer at times but practice does make permanent :)
  17. Vickitorious

    Vickitorious Active Member

    hmmm.. Why don't you start off by playing long, Low notes pp or as quiet as you can, and try not to let then wave around.

    Then practise scales and arpeggios, again long notes at all different dynamics, try cresc and dim in the long notes over 12 beats or something like that. Scales are there for a reason :wink: hehe!

    I don't know wether that would work, worth giving it a go though.. and maybe playing piano or keyboard would help, getting used to the difference between the notes! :confused: i know what i mean! lol! :rolleyes:

    Hope it helps!!

    Vicki xx
  18. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Active Member

    Vicki, knowing your playing (mainly by reputation) you are probably aware of this, but the intonation on a piano/keyboard won't be exactly the same as a keyboard. A great idea, in principle, but if you want to work at the upper level (which I know you do) I wouldn't be too reliant upon a keyboard's intonation. Work in the context of the high level bands.

    A good ear will tell you whether you are in tune much better than a piano, or even the tuning box that many MDs will produce to tune a band.
    A keyboard may give you a place to start from, but a well trained ear will be more accurate.

    BTW - I think your first suggestions
    are very good suggestions and would probably be how I would be diagnosing the problems in a lesson.

    Holding a steady tone (WITHOUT vibrato) is one of the hardest things that brass players are asked to do - it is a standard exercise that I have had done to me (from my teachers) and I use it with ALL of my students, from absolute beginners to post Grade 8. If you can't hold a steady note (with good tone), the rest of your playing can only go so far.
  19. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    What instrument do you play. Everyone seems to have assumed this is a playing problem not a hardware problem. The louder you blow and out of tune instrument the easier it is to get it in tune in my experience, if you are playing something like a Courtois in the middle of a load of sovereigns then even if your G is in tune the rest of the notes probably wont be. just a thought.
  20. Simon_Horn

    Simon_Horn Member

    So, you are playing really flat when NOT playing fortissimo? ...but you need to pull right out to get the loud bits???? i.e even flatter??

    Yes, I have a suggestion: take up flugel!!

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