Tune for Intonation

My “ode” to Josh Oxford.

I can’t say that I’m a pitch nazi – but – I do like playing in tune. I wonder sometimes, and really wonder, if others pay as much attention to their own pitch. I can’t count the number of times Josh and I have argued over the pedagogical study and development of intonation – how one should approach it, when it should be introduced into ones lesson, etc. etc. Or, even on a much deeper level, how intonation can shape a phrase – like, playing something slightly under the pitch. And by that, I mean outside of conventional harmonic treatment i.e. playing the third “xyz” flat so it coincides with the major chord…blah blah blah.
You get the idea.
We’re talking about playing entire phrases slightly flat or sharp to change the timbre, mood, and indication of a phrase. It’s a fascinating concept, and one I wish I had more time to study and research.
One day…when I’m done with “conventional” schooling. BUT…
Ones idea and concept of pitch is, I believe, contingent upon ones ability as a musician. Developing your ear is just as essential and important as developing your technique or legato or…anything. I find that the older I get, and the more aware of the pitch tendencies of my instrument, the more horrendously annoyed I become when others take such a reckless approach to their intonation.
How important is it to know the tendencies of your instrument? UHM…REAL IMPORTANT. How will my horn play when it’s completely cold or after I’ve been playing for an hour…two hours. These are important things to know, especially as a performer and even more so as an orchestral player.
And please don’t think that, while I’m on my soap box, I play perfectly in tune ’cause that’s false. I struggle with it just as much as others, I worry about it, and many times stress about it – because I know for me it’s what makes or breaks a performance. It’s really hard to get passed bad intonation – especially when it’s egregious.
A lot of this is boiling to the top because of my ensemble playing lately. We walk into rehearsal, tune at A-440, half way through rehearsal we’re at A-442 and sometimes, I swear I’m playing at A-444 when I leave. I CAN BITE BUT SO MUCH!!!!
I accept this, I understand this, and have learned to adjust to the tendencies of the said ensemble.
Sometimes I really do wonder what teachers teach their students about intonation. How do they approach it? I don’t think a majority of a students lesson should be focused on intonation, but I do think that students should be taught how to identify when and how they’re out of tune. A tuner is just as important as a metronome. On the flip side of that, a student has to use the tuner as a guide – not a know all, be all.
Nothing really sparked this annoyance. Well, that’s a lie, I’m just choosing to be judicious about what my impetuous was for this blog.
My tangent has gone on long enough – I need my energy to scream at the medical staff at the student health in the morning…a blog…for another day.
Happy PITCH MATCHING and music making!

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