Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by davidwalton, Oct 13, 2006.

  1. davidwalton

    davidwalton Member


    This was raised in a recent post, ie. the use of a tuner for "SPECIFIC" purpose. However, while I was slammed for even considering it might be a useful tool, zero reasoning was given.

    I am therefore asking why it is a bad tool to USE. Yes, I understand it can be over-used, ie. abused to the point it is relied on, but it is still a tool.

  2. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    If someone is convinced they are playing in tune, an MD can usually prove they are not with a tuning machine? if they are so inclined :)
  3. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Well Duncan Beckley (I think that's how you spell it) uses a Tuner and that's good enough for me. Mind you it is the biggest, baddest Tuner you'll ever see. Mains powered too!
  4. JohnnyEuph

    JohnnyEuph Member

    the one with the HAL style red light on it?
  5. starperformer

    starperformer Member

    unfortunately it's usually the other way round. people get convinced that they are in tune because the tuner says so. they don't understand how irrelevant that measurement is.
  6. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    Explain a bit further
  7. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Not sure that I fully agree 100% with that comment SP... but I do take your point. If players cannot use their ears, then adjust their sound accordingly - there really is little point in using an electronic tuning device.

    I suppose purely from a technical angle, to attain the correct pitch for a band/group/orchestra as a whole, ones instrument ought to be tuned to 440 - but from there, it is most certainly up to the individual to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to subsequently play in tune with everyone else. An electronic tuner can be used to set the benchmark for the remainder to follow, and for checking that the instrument is not producing a pitch that is so far out of tolerance that it should be binned!!!

    Two examples I have come across in my MD'ing to-date are (1) when a certain Bass Trombonist was not happy that I hadn't tuned him to C-440 and he was blaming that for his - and thebands - intonation issues. He wasn't that bad a player actually, but obviously had issue that I hadn't used the electronic tuner to set things right; and (2) a certain Euphonium player who once commented that he hadn't seen me tune the players/band before any of the contests he played in with us. The issue there was that (a) we won each of those contests, and (b) of course I had been listening to the intonation and tuning of the band and players - and over the previous few years had trained the band accordingly to listen and adjust as required. On top of this, that player was indeed... errrm... shall we say... not as good a player as he actually thought he was.

    What I think I am trying to say here is that an electronic tuner is not always required, just sometimes.
  8. starperformer

    starperformer Member

    "i can't tune this note without a tuner" => "i don't know how to go about getting a note in tune" => "my playing will mostly be out of tune".

    "now these specific notes are in tune, i will be generally in tune" => "i don't understand how tuning works" => "i am bound to be out of tune most of the time, even on the notes that i have tuned"
  9. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    The thing about tuning is that it is relative. When an MD sticks a tuner infront of you and asks for a note, you have no point of reference. I prefer the "old fashioned" method, taking a note from the lead player and tuning from that. When I have been in a position to tune players, I always use this method, and ask each player what they think, rather than stating flat sharp etc.. It trains players to think about tuning more, rather than waiting to be told they are out of tune, and it be fixed with a machine.
    Tuning is about what people hear, not what a meter says.
  10. starperformer

    starperformer Member

    and in fact the one thing that tuners could be good for (but commodity ones are not capable of) is tuning difficult intervals accurately.
  11. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    They have their uses....

    ...but try asking the tubular bell player to flatten it off a bit just after he's put his hacksaw away ;)
  12. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    I think that MusicMan has a good point there.

    An electronic tuner is a tool not a solution!
  13. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    There are a lot of people who assume that equal temerament is 'in tune'. The reality is very different. For example, the 3rd of a chord should naturally be a bit low to work, but if it is tuned seperately, of course the electronic tuner will say that it's flat when it's really in tune. There are so many bandy conductors out there who don't realise this fact (yes it is proven scientific fact) and just blindly go by what a little gadget tells them.

  14. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    Of course if C was tuned to 440, then it would be an A ;)
  15. FlugelD

    FlugelD Member

    An MOT certificate (honestly attained!!) proves that a vehicle was roadworthy at the time it was presented for inspection - it says nothing about the vehicle after that date. I've known people buy cars with current, valid MOTs that had dodgy brakes, lacy exhausts, jamming & frayed seatbelts...

    A tuner can be used to get , say, a middle C right - but does nothing about the top or bottom A 32 bars later....

    It's an indication of a common starting point for a band, but after 'tuning' then everyone's got to use their ears.

    (BTW, I reckon we might be better tuning to the glock, or xylophone, whatever - something that doesn't alter much, but can't be altered itself ;) )
  16. davidwalton

    davidwalton Member

    If you take an example of:-

    You are at home and you can not hear in your head the note written. Pitching it becomes difficult, and tuning is mostly likely to be way off. This is something I recently went through when changing from Bb instrument to Eb instrument. Note in my head was Bb pitch, so that is what I wanted to play. It was a mental and physical excersice to start thinking in Eb pitch.

    Another: A fairly new Bass player to the Band picks up an instrument not played before. Finds he is out of tune with the other basses, but open notes are in tune. The mechanics (tuning slides) of the instrument needed adjusting. That was done against one of the other basses, but if at home, a tuner would of been useful.

    Surely, you need to start at the basics, and revist the basics every now and then, and that includes checking your natural tuning on each note?

    Most of the replies to date have been about the use of a tuner in a Band environment, not individual use. I agree that a tuner should have a very limited use in a Band, as that is about playing with others, and adjusting your tuning accordingly.
  17. alks

    alks Member

    An interesting thing happened in band a few months back.

    We had two tuners out, one was a Korg(ac30) and the other a Yamaha. Both set correctly yet they both read slightly differently ! one was reading slightly sharp the other slightly flat. ? Weird huh? So you cant really trust anything to be 100% accurate can you?

  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    One really annoying use of tuners is during a 'run' when maybe two instruments sound out of tune and the conductor brings out the machine and corrects both players. I have found on a regular basis that when slides have to be pulled, it can make the situation worse generally for band tuning. I also deplore tuning from top down (cornets first) in a band. By the time the basses turn comes along, the poor players have heard too many changes of pitch and adjustment and can lose what they originally thought was internally correct. :ranting2:
  19. Bungle

    Bungle Member

    And the instrument has gone cold, altering the tuning. Getting the MD to ask the player if they think they are sharp or flat sounds a good idea. Don't know if this is right, but when I check my tuning at home, I close my eyes play the note then look at the tuner. I have to lip my bottom C down to be in tune against my tuner, I doubt I could tune the note against a cornet playing their tuning note.
  20. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    A fairly substantial number of players in my experience don't actually play just one note. Either through poor initial training or for some other reason, many people seem to wander between any of several pitches when playing a supposedly straight note.

    The best idea anyone has come up with so far has been to tune to one of the instruments that can't change its pitch, eg the glockenspiel.

    A tuner is useful not so much for tuning the band or even for personal practice, but it can make you realise just how much your pitch wanders through the course of a note and possibly help an individul to play a truly straight note.

    Another possible use is to help a player develop the skill of reproducing precisely the same pitch each time. I get fed up sometimes of cornet players (in particular) who cannot, apparently, produce the same pitch twice in a row. That's where intonation problems start.

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