Can the room effect intonation?

Discussion in 'Recordings [DB]' started by PB+J, Jul 7, 2013.

  1. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    Or maybe, can the room make intonation errors seem better or worse?

    I ask because I've been doing a lot of home recording in preparation for my band spending some time in a studio. I hear myself as horribly out of tune, and that may be just the end of the story--I'm horribly out of tune. Obviously, "in tune" is pretty much and objectively verifiable thing--you either are or are not in tune.

    But on a LOT of classic jazz recordings the bass is out of tune here and there. Not long ago my daughter was playing the Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown Xmas album. Man, Monty Budwig was out of tune a lot. Paul Chambers was often out of tune here and there. But it doesn't bother me much

    So do my intonation errors sound bad to me because

    A: they are just really bad, end of story
    B: They're mine, and we're all more sensitive to our own mistakes
    C: the room acoustics are making them sound worse

    The clip below was recorded in my little home office, a small untreated room lined with books and guitars and cluttered with stuff. The drums are a loop, the guitar was recorded direct by me and faked into stereo. The bass was recorded in the room through a condenser mic. The track has compression and eq and a bit of verb. Is it me, or memorex?

    When Lights Are Low
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Columbia SC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Well, the answer is of course no. Rooms can affect how you hear, they can reinforce parts of the overtone series in funny ways. But nothing changes intonation.
    Look, even Gary Karr says he struggles with intonation. And my teacher once said to me that, after you've been playing awhile and have a good physical approach, the more your intonation bugs you, the more in tune you sound. Because it gets to be a micro exercise instead of a macro one.
    The recording does a lot to mask the fundamental (at least on these headphones), but it's not so much intonation for me as note choice. So I have to ask, how much of that line are you hearing as an arc? And how much are you playing the "geography" of where the notes that make up that chord change live on the instrument?
    Because that was always the thing for me; if I HEARD the line, playing in tune wasn't a concern. When I stopped hearing the line, then there would be problems.

    And then, of course, there's thumb position. Or as I like to call it, the fretboard. Because, when I'm up there, I have to worry about what's gonna come out...
  3. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
  4. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    The tune that got me started on this was the Vince Guaraldi "christmas is coming" which my daughter was just playing yes in July. In the walking part of that tune--you can here it on the itunes preview--Monty Budwig is out of tune quite a bit, but he has good tone and great attack and the line swings, so the intonation errors pass by more easily.

    Starting about 1:04

    This has been very useful to think about. The gearslutz guys are more willing to blame room acoustics, but that's their thing
  5. oren

    oren Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2007
    Salem, OR
    I agree with what Ed said - if I hear the line in my head that solves a huge part of my intonation issues. Yesterday I was playing with a friend and we were just reading through tunes, and I found I had a really hard time playing in tune when I couldn't conceptualize where the harmony was going.
  6. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I also agree with what Ed said, but I just did some experiments recording the bass through my Ehrlund pickup, rather than through a condenser mic. It was sonically much much worse, but the intonation mistakes weren't jumping out at me the same way.
  7. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member


    IMHO - The guitarist is playing "unconventional" chord changes on the A sections of the tune. Are you and the guitarist reading his chord changes or has he communicated ( written or otherwise) his harmony for the A sections of the tune?

    Here is what many play on the A sections:

    // Ebmaj7 Fmin7/ Gmin7 Fmin7/ Ebmaj7 Abmaj7/ Gmin7 C7 b9/ Fmin7 Bb7/ Db7#11 C7b9/ Fmin7 Bb7/ Ebmaj7 Bb7 b9,#9//

    I realize that playing chord/melody on guitar is a handsful, but it sounds like you two should arrive at some agreed upon harmony for the A sections.

    Also, on the Bridge:

    //Abmin7 Db7/ Gbmaj7 /Bmin7 E7/ Amaj7 / Dmin7 G7 / Cmaj7 / Cmin7 F7 / Fmin7 Bb7// -I don't always hear your outlining of the // ii7 V7/ Imaj7//, especially on the "Imaj7". I like to hear clear root movement when the harmonic rhythm moves this quickly.

    I like that you're playing the Benny Carter bridge. I learned it the "wrong" way 30 years ago - (the Miles Davis' version!).
    As far as intonation, nobody bats a thousand... We're all just trying to play more in tune, more often, (for more bread!).
    Thanks for your time and interest.