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Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by dragonetti11, Apr 3, 2004.

  1. dragonetti11


    Jun 20, 2002
    Does anyone have any helpful ideas or techniques used when tuning up with an orchestra?
  2. Plastering your ear up against the side of your bass's neck helps you hear yourself through the din. In many of the orchs (community) I've played with, the conductor has been kind enough to let the brass, woodwind and string sections tune seperately, which also helps.
  3. Invest $16 in a little Korg tuner (from Bob Gollihur) and tune to 440 before the whole orchestra tunes. Our oboeist uses a tuner when she gives the note to the orchestra, so I'm already there.
  4. imo, using an electronic tuner is not very professional, and it's not really going to get you in tune in an orchestra setting. I sometimes use a tuning fork to get close while I'm warming up or something, but I think it's very important to get in tune with the rest of your section and the rest of the orchestra. Perfect pitch helps, but really the only way to get good at it is just practice. Another point; if you can't tune your strings in an orchestra setting by ear, how the heck do are you going to manage to play the notes in tune?

    And remember; always tune up, not down, and make sure your strings are settled and not going to de-tune themselves five minutes into that Bruckner symphony...
  5. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I just got the Intellitouch PT-2 "Bare Bone" tuner for $39.99 by Onboard Research Corporation. You just clamp it onto the bridge and it tunes by the vibrations of the bass. It does not seem to be affected by any noise around the bass. I use it to tune up at orchestra rehearsal and it also holds it own in a loud jazz swing band situation. It usually works well. Sometimes I have to turn it off and on and if the bass is really out of tune it won't register very clearly, but it works most of the time. I might not be clamping it on just right. Just getting used to it. Before that, I would just lay my Korg tuner on the bridge and I could usually tune, but the new clamp-on tuner (easy on, easy off) does a pretty good job.
  6. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    I agree completely with Toman. If you plan to pass auditions or play in chamber music settings, tuning by ear is necessary and will become natural and efficient only if practiced regularly.
  7. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Too bad the brass section sitting behind the bassists doesn't have this kind of sensitivity.

    I did a gig without a pickup for my doublebass yet, and I could barely hear myself beyond the racket from the strings slapping the fingerboard. Now I wonder how rockabilly really got started.
  8. Monte


    Jan 9, 2001
    DFW Area, Tejas
    If you already have a tuner, buy a tuner pickup. A little clamp that attaches to your bridge and plugs into the tuner input. Allows you to tune in a noisy environment without it affecting your tuner.

    Costs about $12-15.


  9. I had a bass teacher in high school who would have me spend 30 minutes of an hour-long lesson tuning up. It was frustrating, but looking back, well worth the time spent. I don't even use a tuner for my electric bass. I just use harmonics and listen to the snare-drum strainer!
  10. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    I don't think there is anything wrong with a tuner other than the fact that it is generally frowned upon in an Orchestra setting.

    It isn't that hard to tune by ear using the bow and cross harmonics. A few weeks of practice and you'll have it. You really even want to use harmonics to match pitch to the oboe or whatever reference you are using.

    You should definately get one with a pitch generator and practice at home tuning by ear. You can always test it against the needle after you've made your best guess. I would also suggest getting one with some flexibility, as it is fairly common for Orchestras to tune to something other than 440.

    The St. Louis SO tunes to 442. Maybe the conductor once owned an Oldsmobile.


  11. Obviously, you have to develop your ear to 1) hear if the note is in tune, 2) whether it's flat or sharp. If one can't determine those two things, there is a problem. Given that, there is nothing wrong with using a electronic tuner, to help check your tuning, especially as a means to hear your own pitch over the sounds of other instruments. I use the tuner, with a bridge clip-on pickup off stage, as a reference point if you will, then with my ear pressed against the neck of my bass, check my pitch with the oboe, and the rest of the orchestra. The Principal with The Boston Symphony, Edwin Barker, uses such a tuner w/ a clip-on the bridge, before he plays. I think in the past it was not acceptable, but that is slowly changing. Unless it is the ONLY way you can tune, it is not a problem. IMO, the best technique is using cross string harmonics when tuning. It takes practice to find the exact spot to achive a clean, ringing harmonic, but it is the most accurate way to check the pitch.


  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Buy yourself a good 'Tuning Fork'. Learn to Tune by Vibration and String Wave with the Harmonics in the 3rd position. 'A' is on the D-string, fourth finger and on the A-string, cross and use the first finger to play the same harmonic. After tuning the D-string, match the A-string. Play them together at the same time and tune till you 'Hear' only One note. Then Match G to D and A to E. Do it one more time with the Fork and start with the D-string again as the bass adjusts slightly.

    This is how a Musician would tune back when the 'Ear' was important. Tuners are for Guitars and Trumpets !! In the Orchestra, you tune to the Oboe and then to yourself.
  13. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    I used to be hard core about tuning by ear only. Oboe or tuning fork, period. Can still do that, but since the electronic tuner on the bridge is dead accurate (if calibrated), why not? It hears a lot better in the din of an orchestral warmup. You still have to listen and adjust when placing fingers on the board. Perfect intervals still must be beatless, so let the tuner give you a head start. I've also been using pencil marks for fifth, seventh, twelfth, and seventeenth frets for several years, and was gratified at the 2003 ISB convention to learn that some guys in major orchestras are doing the same. If you play basses with different string lengths, it helps. The audience doesn't care if you made a valiant effort, they'd rather hear the right pitch.
  14. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA

    If your bass has frets, what do you need the pencil marks for? :)
  15. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    my ears are not perfect so I use the intellitouch also.
  16. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    I use an electonic tuner to get me close befor the A is sounded.

    What make me crazy is in one of the orchestras I play in the first fiddle has "perfect" pitch. She won't tune the orchestra to the oboe, so, the oboe is always a little out of tune. We also play with a pipe organ from time to time it's A is 438 so we all tune down, ececpt you got it the oboe. Oh, I did check the oboe and it right on A440.

  17. Yes, those endowed with the gift of perfect pitch are usually nothing a big pain in the keester for us mere mortals :smug:

    I saw Edgar Meyer in concert a couple of weeks ago, and he spent a large amount of time tuning between selections. He even apologized at one point saying, "If this were an audition, they'd tell me to hurry up and get on with it!"
  18. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    ever have an oboist that couldn't hold an "A" ? In one orch that i played in if you didn't get the note within the first 2 seconds that he played it you'd never get a solid 440...funny and so sad.
  19. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    one thing about using an electronic tunner is you know your at A440 when your done.

    I have found that if you let someone tune their bass to where they like it. Then check their tunning with an electronic tunner and I have never seen the green light by itself come on. always a little flat aor a little sharp, just a few cents, not enougf to matter.

    I have always wondered what is the resolution to human hearing. Just how many hz can we be off and not detect it.
    I know you can hear the beat as the pitch gets close to each orther but without playing in unison could you hear the diffrence between A440 and A442 played say 2 seconds apart?
    time for a google search.
  20. Bubbabass


    May 5, 2004
    On a Seiko metronome/tuner you can hear a difference between 440 and 442, but I think you're right-in a section of three or more, it is negligible.

    The rule I always heard was the interference beats heard per second equal the number of Hz difference between two pitches. Thus, sounding 440 and 442 together should give two throbs per second.

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