Using a Strobe Tuner

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Rumblejohn, Mar 20, 2011.

  1. When using a Peterson Strobe tuner, do you prefer concert pitch, or bass "sweetened" settings? The bass and guitar settings lean to perfect 5ths, the violin and cello settings lean to perfect 4ths.
    I play in an orchestra, and want to fit in with everyone.

  2. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    if you want to fit in with everyone else, buy a tuning fork and learn to tune to the a! half-jokes aside, just use the orchestral setting. I personally tune to A=441, and know some bassists who tune to A=443 because the violins go so damn sharp.


  3. Learn them all, so you can reproduce them as required.

    Being able to do plain equal tempered at will is the basic place to start from, and then be able to tweak it to whatever is happening around you.
  4. PaulCannon


    Jan 24, 2002
    Frankfurt, Germany
    NS Design / AER Endorsing Artist
    Are you using the tuner to tune the open strings, or for general practice?

    Intonation is an aural, rather than visual, skill. Being in tune within an ensemble is experiential, and I'm not convinced practicing with visual cues is productive beyond learning the very general placement of notes as a beginner. I like to work with drones and occasionally with recorded or midi piano accompaniment.

    Equal temperament is a fine "default," but any ensemble lacking an equal tempered (keyboard) instrument is going to tend toward more just temperaments. Unless the repertoire is particularly chromatic or atonal, a string ensemble is going to sound out of tune if it plays in perfectly equal temperament.
  5. I was planning on using it for open string tuning. The three community orchestras I play in all have piano, but there are intonation problems with all three groups. Should I go with the rest of the strings, or with the piano. Brass is at odds from time to time also. Sound like we need intonation practice as a whole group!
  6. G-force


    Jul 1, 2004
    oslo Norway
    This is it in a nutshell for anyone who thinks using a tuner= playing in tune.
    I see many players who use tuners so much that it becomes a sort of visual habit rather than actually listening to what is going on.
    Once I started using the drone in my daily practice my hearing skills got much better. Even if it meant I heard I was out of tune more often :(
    Nothing sux more than an out of tune bass section.
  7. Except an out of tune woodwind section.:eek:
  8. I tend to agree with PaulCannon above in that using a tuner for all notes is mostly for the beginner. A cheap little Chinese watch-sized clip-on electronic tuner will do this well. Even then ASAP go over into aural training and tuning the bass by harmonics.

    Most people can clearly hear a 5th, Octave and 10th based on the open D as tonic, either alternating between D and the other note or playing them as double stops.

    Many other TB members believe in playing scales to D as a drone. I don't! The electronic drone or tuner, like the strobe tuner, is an external crutch (support) that I react to, rather than being pushed hard enough to pre-hear and aim for the notes that I am about to play.

    I would rather carefully hear the scale as two tetrachords, the basic building blocks of a structure (Scale comes from the Italian word Scala, meaning Ladder) that is confidently applied to any chosen tonic note. Each group has the intervals Tone Tone 1/2 Tone with a Tone in the middle between groups. Pause slightly between each group and repeat octaves. This creates more "landings" in the long "flight of stairs" called the Major scale over three octaves and makes it much easier to stay in tune throughout. Set aside a quiet time to examine placing the two middle notes E and F sharp in between D and G, then B and C sharp between A and octave D. Try doing this in the dark to heighten your senses. Then repeat the process for the adjacent E flat scale, then any scale, then both forms of minor scales, then arpeggios. Pre-hear notes coming just as though you are aiming darts to hit a bullseye every time.

    The level of intonation you can achieve in your practice alone at home might be called Absolute Pitch. As soon as you play with someone else you need good Relative Pitch, because for any number of reasons you have to be able to adjust your tuning quickly and accurately. The piano can't adjust to you so tune your open strings to the same-name notes piano around the middle of the keyboard. Try to play duets, trios, quartets with other bassists and instruments, and chamber music where you are the only bass. This will boost your confidence in smaller musical settings.

    Fitting into an orchestral Bass Section is initially not easy. Within the rough-and-tumble you have to find your voice and tread a tightrope between playing too loud and "leading from the back desk" or playing too soft to hear yourself, risking being " a rotten apple in the barrel" that undermines the section result. You have to be able to recognise when you are right and adjust quickly if you are wrong. This goes for rythm, bow length and direction, timing entries and pizzicato, and style etc too. Your ears and eyes are constantly scanning. Being absolutely note-sure and finger-sure of your music at home first is a great help.

    Finally, the better the other players in the section are the easier it is to play in tune with them, because you can hear a definite centre to each note and the section sound becomes bigger and more important than each individual player. Remember that each one of them has had to go through the same process and will be understanding if you make mistakes.

    Have courage!

  9. I'd say a couple of out of tune Eb clarinets is as bad as it gets. Out of tune basses are common, but fortunately not usually migraine inducing.
  10. Indybass091


    Mar 1, 2009
    Just keep your orchestra's oboist with you at all times. That might be my own personal preference, but it seems to be the most accurate.
  11. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett
    Which model are you using, the strobo flip?
  12. For the double bass I use the new Strobo Clip.

    I agree that using your ears, and recognizing your intonation is best. In the three community orchestras I play in, one conductor is a stickler for open string tuning (equal temp), one is ear only, one we tune with the concert master's open A and we are good to go.;)
    As far as playing in section, I am it, the entire section.