The Importance of Owning an Instrument Tuner
No matter your level of expertise, you're sure to experience pitch and intonation issues when you play with other musicians. Being able to hit all the right notes in the proper rhythms doesn't matter if your pitches clash with all the other instruments. A single out-of-tune instrument can ruin the sound of an entire section. When pitches clash in an ensemble, it can have an impact on the beauty of the performance.
Every musician wants to improve the overall sound of their group or section, not make the section sound better when they cease playing. That is why pitch is a crucial part of the training of any instrumentalist. Luckily, there are steps you can take and tools you can use to work toward playing and, crucially, staying in tune.
First, you must become aware of the issue by keenly listening when you are playing with an ensemble. See if you can distinguish whether the group ever sounds better when you stop playing.
Next, get a tuner and practice at home, trying to play in tune. Any tuner will do when you're playing alone. In a band setting, however, you will need a clip-on tuner mic like the Peterson TP-3, a wireless WiFi tuner or a one-piece clip-on version like the Korg AW-2 or Snark Chromatic.
Using a tuner isn't difficult, but many musicians use them completely wrong. They manipulate the shape of their mouths until the tuner reads "in tune" and when they start playing music, it's out of tune because they never altered the position of the mouthpiece. Cheating the tuner cheats the entire ensemble of the best possible sound.
To correctly use a tuner, you must first warm up your instrument. Next, turn on your tuner, close your eyes, and play until you get a good sound. Now, look at the tuner to see where the pitch is and adjust your mouthpiece, barrel and head joint, not your mouth position. Repeat this same process until your instrument is tuned.
Make a habit of always tuning before you practice, but remember it's not possible to be perfectly in tune all the time. Every musician needs to train their ears to recognize when their instrument is out of tune, but don't obsess over intonation. Perfection in tuning, as in all things, is impossible.
Don't be overly hard on yourself if your intonation varies from day to day and from note to note. As long as you get a tuner and use it properly, you are training yourself to become a better instrumentalist and ensemble member.
Woodwind & Brasswind is proud to offer high-quality musical instruments and accessories including tuners for all musicians. All items are backed by The Woodwind & Brasswind's 45-day satisfaction guarantee, assuring that you'll love your purchase.
Los Angeles based freelance saxophonist Greg Vail is among the most versatile woodwind players on the west coast. His work in jazz, pop and contemporary gospel music spans over 30-years. Greg maintains an active digital presence at www.gregvail.com.
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