Tuning machine or not?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Kernow, Mar 29, 2004.


Should bands be tuned up using an electronic tuner?

  1. Yes. Use a tuner

  2. No. Bin all tuners

  1. Kernow

    Kernow Member

    An adjudicator at a recent contest commented on electronic tuning machines and suggested that they should be thrown away. This sparked off quite a discussion between players and conductors.
    I usually tune a band by ear but leading up to a contest I do use an electronic tuner to make sure that the band is tuned exactly to 440 Htz thus ensuring that the band is exactly in tune with the tuned percussion i.e. Glock, Vibe etc. Over the years I have had the pleasure of playing under some of the great conductors, and some of these have used this same method. I have come across some players who sit with a tuner switched on, on their stand during rehearsal, which I think is taking things to the extreme and a pointless exercise.
    What do you think? Should tuners be thrown out and conductors go back to one of the old methods of tuning a band such as tuning to the flattest instrument? or, is the use of tuners now an accepted and valid way of tuning a band?
    Have your say and vote for whether you think tuners are good or bad.
  2. Maestro

    Maestro Active Member

    I use a tuner when I am doiing my home practice. In the band room, from a playing point of view, I rely on my ear. If I am conducting a band, then prior to a concert/contest, then I will use the tuner.
  3. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Useful for individual practice, useless for band. Someone once told me that 'each band has its own individual tuning', which is fair up to a point, but....

    ...the other thing to do, of course, if you have tuned percussion, is to tune to them as their tuning is fixed. Lost count of performances (recorded and live) where bands have been at a different pitch to glock/tubular bells etc. and it is PAINFUL! ;-)

    Point is, you have to develop a method of keeping a band in tune. When we're talking lower sections, we're talking of some players who don't practice every day, some of whom don't practice from one rehearsal to the next, therefore, lip muscles, diaphragm muscles etc. are sufficiently under-used to make pretty sure that if you asked those players to blow a concert Bb into a tuning machine twice, you'd get two rather disparate results. At Croydon, we don't have percussion at the moment, so I try and work out the 'average' tuning by getting them to play a series of chords based on the 7 finger and slide positions, as I believe it is easier for players to sub-conciously do something about sour intonation when playing in a chord. Once I've established that, I'll get them to play unison notes. Works most of the time, but as I said, when you deal with players who genuinely can't or genuinely won't practice regularly, you have to devise methods to get the most consistent method of tuning. It's called 'fighting a losing battle'! ;-) ;-)
  4. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    I should add that my opinion is formed from occasions where I have spent 15 minutes of a rehearsal on a number of occasions using a tuning machine and finding it no better a method than to get a band to collectively 'use their ears'. I also try and encourage players to hear their own tuning. If they rely on me all the time to tell them whether they're sharp or flat, they'll never learn for themselves. In any case, in any band I guess there are, on the flip side of the coin, several players at least as equally adept at discerning pitch differences as the MD.

    I'll shut up, now (for now..... ;-)
  5. Kernow

    Kernow Member

    You are right about "fighting a losing battle" I have lost count of how many times someone has been sharp, they have pulled their slide out, played the note again and been even sharper.
    By the way, if you tune lets say to the Glock, isn't that basically the same as using a tuner, as the Glock is tuned to concert pitch?
  6. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Though I have dabbled in percussion, I'm no expert. I do know, however, that the glock Fulham recently purchased was set at (I think) 442Hz. Is this regular/acceptable percussionists, (MRSH, Naruco etc.) or do we need to take it back from whence it came? Your expertise would be much appreciated.

  7. Kernow

    Kernow Member

    Our Glock is tuned to A=440 Hz, though you can get them where A can = 442, 443 or 444Hz, so the one that you have isn't a "duff" one. I am not an expert in percussion but I am sure that there will be a few who visit this site. Maybe one of them can clear this one up.
  8. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    We do occasionally tune to a machine, particularly before anything special such as a weekend away. The problem as has already been said is educating people to use their ears at all times, and also to realise that, particularly with the larger instruments, if you are pulling out the main tuning slide you are likely to have to adjust the others as well! It amazes me the number of players who never think to check the tuning of the other valve combinations once their "C" or "G" has been fixed!

    The other point is that any sort of formal tuning will only be effective once all the instruments are properly warmed up, and there will always be some players who think once the tuning slide has been set once it never needs moving -"It was good enough for HM, so I'm not moving it for you" :shock:
  9. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    That sort of attitude riles me! 'I've always 'ad my tuning slide at this point' (despite the fact that said instrument probably hadn't been touched all week). I try to explain that all sorts of atmospheric conditions, indoors and outdoors - not keeping instruments warm etc. can affect tuning (aside from any technical playing ability). Some listen, some just leave their tuning slide where it is. For yonks!

    Now, what was that I said ablout a 'losing battle'? ;-)
  10. dyl

    dyl Active Member

    And some even mark it with a pencil to make doubly sure that it stays in the same place every time! :roll:
  11. johnflugel

    johnflugel Active Member

    I agree with this.

    A tuning machine does not solve all problems ofcourse, but the discipline of making a band work on listening and adjusting accordingly against fellow players helps certainly helps. Making a whole band play a middle c/g/b in tune will not solve all tuning issues but it will adjust peoples ears which goes a massive way to the improvement of intonation.
  12. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    A tuning machine is useful in comparing tuning.

    There will always be instruments whose tuning can't be altered, beit a tuned percussion or an instrument whose slide can't be pushed in any more.

    You look, on the tuning machine, to where the immovable instrument is tuned and then set the other instruments to be the same. I don't see any point in tuning to A440 and demanding that everyone is that note

    (in contests where the tuned percussion is supplied, how do you know what it is tuned to???)

    But I agree you have to listen to what your peers are doing and tune each note by ear.... (Though I must admit on Euph I'm never sure if I'm sharp or flat as I don't hear the note direct - all I know know is that I'm "out" because I'm fighting getting a good note. It IS one thing that I find easier on the bass :) )

  13. (Quote fixed, PB, Mod)

    Grammar david. No need for "from" when using "whence"! May have cloth ears but am grammatical about it :lol:
  14. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Capital letters for Christian names, Paul.... :lol:
  15. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Well, you'd like to think that's the least it could co..... :lol:
  16. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    I've always thought of tuners as a tool not unlike a metronome - it gives you the idea of the goal, but is still subject to small changes to get things right.

    Overdependence on tuners can lead to very bad things. I once had a part-mate who kept a small electronic tuner on the stand all the time, and was constantly fiddling with his slides. But he didn't understand the tuning quirks of his particular instrument or the environmental differences that affect tuning, so it just made things worse. And when the tuner wasn't there or wasn't working, he had no clue had to adjust and kept fiddling with the slides.
  17. alot of electronic tuners have a pitch-adjustment device on them somewhere...find your conductors and do your best for a fantastic bandroom prank
  18. George BB

    George BB Member

    Actually getting players to play the correct note can do more for the sound than all the electronic tuners in the world.

    The best use of one that I have come across was from a conductor who asked each player in turn to play a single crotchet note whilst he watched the meter and he immediately came back with "sharp", "flat","OK"or "Wrong note". Twice Quickly round the band and there was a distinct improvement.
  19. Dawnys_flug

    Dawnys_flug Member

    I only use a machine when tuning at orchestra because the oboe tunes to one and so on...
    We use it occasionally at band but i'm not sure about using it all the time. I know that our principle cornet would sooner have them thrown away and she hates using it.

    :lol: That would be funny!!!
  20. Naomi McFadyen

    Naomi McFadyen New Member

    I saaaaaaay...

    Bin 'em!


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