Practising Intonation Tracking...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by BrianT, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    Any suggestions on how or whether it's even possible for me to rehearse intonation (I mean tracking another player's pitch so there's no "beats") with my Trainer Band?

    I know it's possible with very small numbers, i.e. 2s or 3s, but I'm not sure about larger groups (20 or so). I suspect it's not actually possible, but I'd really like to be shown wrong, as I'd like to rehearse this with the band somehow.

    And the follow-up question is, if we don't rehearse intonation within band, how do we get experience? I'm certain it's something adjudicators listen for, and it's something audiences value even if they can't put into words what it is.

    Suggestions please!
  2. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    A very difficult question to answer. Ear training with the ability to actively de-tune comparative notes is really the only way to focus beneficial learning exercises. But that only covers tuning! Intonation (opening a can of worms here) is something that constantly varies depending on harmonies and melodic structure. You have to constantly fine-tune and adapt to players around you (or vice-versa).
  3. I find that using a mute can make intonation problems much more obvious. Trying to hold straight notes can result in much wavering and wobbling. Your effort to get it right pays off, as when you revert to open playing, you have more control and sensitivity.
  4. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    OK - Auralia does something like this - but that's a one-person-at-a-time exercise. I want to know if it's possible to practise this sort of thing in band? In very small groups we concentrate on the sound of a unison, and the sound of a perfect fifth - these intervals become a single sound when they're perfectly in tune. Eventually it's possible to just think higher or lower and the pitch will change by just a few Hz until it's bang in tune. Also, it's revealing to start with two players doing a unison, and then one hop up a fifth.

    But I don't know about bigger groups. Unless this skill gets practised it won't improve... Perhaps there should be a tuning exercise in music exams.
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    I feel it has to be individual tuition rather than a group demonstration. I cannot think of any other way it can be taught. I do not believe tuners can help on this occasion. Maybe something fixed like tuned percussion can help to teach by getting players to to use their ears to pull the instruments in tune by lipping or by triggers/slides but it is not an instant fix.
  6. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    Something that I've seen help...

    1. Tune the ensemble individually to an electronic tuner, so everyone knows that they're in tune.
    2. Play a piece, and record it.
    3. Play the recording to the ensemble. Somebody will say 'Tuning's terrible...'
    Repeat as necessary...
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    ... but the topic is about intonation. If you play a tune and say stop on a leading note resolving to it's tonic, it's more likely to sharpen than be perfectly in tune. Same with flattening notes like minor sevenths falling on to the third of the new key ... you are likely to flatten it slightly so it would sound more musical. Most of this is done at a subconscious level and tuning individual notes, in my opinion, really doesn't help if intonation is at fault.
  8. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    Er, I think a tuner lets you get one performance of one note in tune. But it doesn't follow that all my playing will be in tune because I've tuned a single note correctly using a meter.

    The skill I'd like to develop in my band is the one where they constantly use their ears to track each other so that the combined sound is a perfect unison, or a pure interval or whatever. I've heard so many people say that tuning is a hard skill, but it's a musicianship skill like any other, and can be learned, I'm sure, by following the correct exercises.

    I'd like some sort of simple exercise that we can do that the youngsters would realise that it's not as hard as they've been told.
  9. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    Unless the players have heard the overall sound, how do they know what the (current) overall sound is?

    To train ears, surely you need a 'target'? - such as hearing the less than wonderful ensemble sound, and getting the ensemble to try to rectify matters themselves, and loop as necessary?

    OK, maybe most effective with learner/intermediate level groups, but worth a shot, surely?

    (In reply to Brassneck...)
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2006
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    An example of the Intonation vs Tuning argument I quote regularly comes from Danish trumpet/flugel player Allan Botschinsky and the remarkable First Brass CD recorded in the late '80s. 4 players, 16 parts (usually) and they recorded (dubbed) the parts whenever they could away from their busy schedules ...
  11. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    I know that, you know that - but, until they've heard it themselves, do a learner ensemble know that?
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - surely most brass instructors have traditionally taught by playing brass instruments or using their voice to demonstrate/lead by example rather than use a tuner?
  13. Jacob Larsen

    Jacob Larsen Member

    I have made a CD with Sinus tones for my students... Then they practise scales and chord on top of that... And within a very short time they are getting better to play in tune... Also a good thing to remember is that 5th goes up and 3rds goes down. But remember to focus on balance...

    If any publishers could be interested in this.. I have made both CD and a book with studies...
  14. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Having a wee think about this and what I and others have experienced that has helped intonation is simply this ... listening and playing with recordings or ensembles that are in tune. As a kid, I was always playing my part against recordings and trying to keep in tune regardless of the tape or turntable speed.

    I also went to my local championship band (before I became a member of one myself) to sit on the front row and woe betide me if I was not in step with the section (Enoch Jackson was their conductor and I was 12/13 years old!).

    Two things here ... listening skills and discipline. The individual has to make a determined effort to listen to others around themselves and adapt when necessary. Bands even have their own characteristics with respect to intonation, phrasing, production and dynamics that make them unique and distinguishable from other bands. It's all to do with everybody pulling together as a team, using those characteristics to blend and knit together. An outsider coming in ignoring that is likely to stick out like a sore thumb regardless of how perfectly in tune or rythmically correct he/she thought he/she was. It's not all to do with metronomes or tuning devices.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2006

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