Pitch / Intonation

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by anonymous0726, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I think this had been touched on before, but I haven't conquered it yet and am therefore still obsessing on it.

    Due to a couple of things; my 'Me and PC' experiments, and then happening across this bassist (via a link from BollBusters site); got me to thinking about pitch and how to perceive it to get what I want in terms of intonation as well and timbre.

    What the bassist above is guilty of, as am I, is playing flat. At least I think that's what it is. I've found that playing, while both acapulco and with others, is that if I play what seems sharp to me (at the time) that in an acapella thing that I tend not to wander flat out-of-key, and with others to nail pitches much more.

    Also, when I approach it like this the sound (timbre) seems to get real sparkly and more 'tenor sax' like rather than the awkward 'baritone sax/bass with a bow' kind of tone.

    Now, the difference that I'm talking of is incredibly slight. When I have the next note in my ear, I simply want to hear a 'bright' version of that note (pitchwise) and the effect is achieved. It is a little 'tiring' though, and for a long period of time I'll lose site of this sound. It's a matter of training, I guess.

    Has anybody else given this much thought?
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Wow. 33 views and no replies. Maybe I AM losing the plot.
  3. Kelly Coyle

    Kelly Coyle Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2004
    Mankato, MN
    I think, at least in my case, I need to spend some time on my instrument (fretless, not DB -- sorry) exploring the idea. It isn't a "look at and get immediately" kind of thing. You're being too deep!

    So I'll get back with you.
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I find your use of the word "bright" interesting in relation to hearing pitch. I find that's a quality or feel I'm hearing and reaching for -- there's a brightness or a shiney quality to what I hear as the in-tune note.

    I think my own "shiney" is perhaps a bit sharp, though. I've been thinking about that for a while now. Solo I'll often creep sharp.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Can't speak for arco, but this is how I approach playing all the time. To my ear, there is a "sweet spot" on the front edge of each pitch, and that spot is not on the flat side.
  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    CF: Interesting for a pianist as your sort tend to like things right down the middle pitch-wise.

    My ears are different every day, some days close to perfect pitch (rarely thses days, it seems) and some days I'm near tone-deaf. I'm going to mess with this a while and see if I can retrain my ear to want a 'brighter' pitch.
  7. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Ray, are you talking about how i.e. playing sharp makes the bass stand out in relation to a 440 tuned piano? The positive effects of playing like this?
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I believe so, but I might also be talking about the difference in perception between what a note sounds like when you're playing it on a bass v. what it sound like out front. I could be talking about me just hearing things flat. I'm not really sure. I do know that (I think) an awful lot of bass players do play flat and this is what I'm trying to work on / figure out. The link of the Turkish guy that I posted above is a great example, I think, because he plays his ass off and gets a great sound and all of that, but it's missing 'something' and in listening close and comparing it to what I don't like about my sound, I believe that he's on the 'back side' of the pitch and this makes the tone much more lifeless than it could/should be.
  9. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Interesting. I've pondered similar (some the same?) topics. Someone on TB once posted that Ray Brown would tune the house piano to A=438 - presumably so he could stand out more at 440 (who knows, maybe HE tuned to 438 though). I Find that certain notes sound sweeter at different pitches. I have accepted this. If a certain note sounds fine to MY ear, I leave it there, if it matches the pitch I've referenced in my head. But, this is, knowing that I have prtty good internal pitch! My point is, "does it sound good?" I'm not in this to win an intonation prize - the music comes first. BUT this does not excuse me when I play really out of tune and KNOW it and don't LIKE it. Especially if someone is paying me for the gig!

    I'm at a challenge now since I've moved to plain gut (and have no intention of changing to steel anytime soon, at least for the D & G strings). the pitch is funny on gut, harder to control, especially arco - takes more work, which is fine by me.

    Ray, did a lot of these thoughts emerge from you playing arco? For me, I find that I tolerate intonation idiosyncrasies quite well on pizz. For arco, I go nuts when I hear it even a little "off-tune". Maybe it's just because on arco, pitch is quite clearly discernible!

  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Arco has a lot to do with it. I find that what it sounds like when I'm playing it isn't what it sounds like on playback, as far as pitch. I'm pretty consistently flat on playback, but it sounded ok when I was playing (I thought). But -- now it has me wondering if I just tend to hear flat or if it is that perceived pitch is different out-front v. where you're standing when you play. This is true for horn players, but also involves transmitted frequencies through the skull.

    I know that when I play unaccompanied -- for long enough without an open string -- I'll almost always come out flat.

    I'm not sure what I'm hacking at here, but I do think it's going to result in a great leap in my bass playing. Or cause my cigarette budget to grow.
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
  12. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    One word: COLTRANE.

    Ever check him out on those tenor-battle records? My kid turned me onto Tenor Conclave with 'Trane, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Hank Mobley. Man, every time 'Trane comes in, you feel that 'zing' and every time he leaves you say, 'Wha hoppah?' A large part of that phenomenon is that 'Trane plays on top of the tuner. (And of course, 'Trane is just playing **** Mr. Cohn never thought of.)
  13. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Jackie McLean too, he plays sharp but he stings!
  14. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    interesting thread. whenever I am singing -say a lead sheet - I always sing sharp. If i hear an intro to a tune and i start to sing the head, once again,always sharp.

    I in accord with Chris when thinking of the next note...
  15. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Naw -- Coltrane is sharp and I can barely listen to him because of it. Jackie McLean is SO sharp that I can't even tell what he's playing -- and have to leave the room because it hurts. I'm talking about the bright-side of 'in tune'.
  16. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Naw, never notice that - I'm usually too busy shouting at the drummer :p

    BTW, Where's Paul Dubya? I wanna hear his comments - Paul!
  17. This hasn't anything to do with equal temperament scales? That because a piano is tuned in equal intervals it's never exactly right in every key, whereas on the double bass you can produce the correct note every time if your ear is good enough? If so you may occasionally be sharp compared to a piano, right?
  18. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    No, I'm not addressing this, but -- well, hell, I guess I'm still not sure exactly what I'm addressing, exactly -- but I do know that I tend to lean flat, even when it sounds 'in tune' to me, and it also seems to be the common cold of in-tune bass players, particularly when wielding The Stick. The slight difference in pitch tightening up the timbre.
  19. Oh, man! This thread is messing with my head! Prompted by this discussion, I started checking the definitions of "Equal Temperament", and "Just Intonation", and this link on Kyle Gann's page, proved most informative. A very interesting read, but be warned! it might change the way you hear music…


    - Wil
  20. I've also encountered the phenomenon you're describing, Ray. A bassline, whether arco or pizz, played with good rhythm and metre, still somehow sounds leaden and plodding if it's played flat. Especially if there's double stops involved. To my ear, playing on the front of the beat rhythmically helps drive the tune. Playing on the front side of the pitch adds a life, a brightness to the line that's difficult to describe.

    My tendancy is to creep up the neck. When I practice in keys like Ab, Dd, Gb, where there's not many opportunities to check against an open string, I'm inclined to play sharp. Maybe people have a natural inclination one way or the other, might be how your ear/ brain is built, might be difficult to change...

    My regular gig is with 5 saxes, 3 'bones and 3 trumpets. When it works, it's magic. Some nights, nuthin' I do ever sounds in tune with anything. It's like listening to traffic. Very frustrating.