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What's the best way to tune?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by SottoVoce, Jan 14, 2001.


  1. SottoVoce

    SottoVoce

    Sep 16, 2000
    Canada
    I don't have very good ears for tuning so I would normally use an electronic tuner. But I'm just wondering what I could do in the absence of one.

    Is double stopping strings with a bow, playing the 1st overtone of the lower string, a reliable way of tuning? For example, tuning the D to the A string by lightly touching the A string midway to get a D-A perfect fifth interval.
     
  2. And you never will develop your ear using an eyesight tuner.
    When there's a piano I'll tune my open strings in descending order to the piano (unless the piano is out of tune). Learn how to use a tuning fork. I have a fork pitched to A=440. Strike it lightly on the heal of your shoe and stick the end with the ball between your teeth. Strike the A harmonic at the seventh semitone position on the D string and match that to the sound ringing in your head. Then match that to the harmonic at the 5th semitone pos. on the A string, etc.
     
  3. I tune 'inside out' to stabilize the bridge at the center, i.e., A,D,G,E (or A on the D string, A,G,E). My disciplinarian teacher takes the approach that tuning is part of the lesson. Fork only, and if it takes 5 minutes, that's my problem, not hers. It comes off the time for the lesson.
     
  4. I used to always tune with a fork D,A,E,G on the harmonics (once I was able to find them consistently) until I began studying with my current teacher who insists on tuning my open strings to his keyboard. I know he does this to be able to check any suspect intonation, but I have to admit it's fast and easy. I only do it that way myself when there is a piano or keyboard and its in perfect tune. Often on a gig with a noisy crowd it's faster and easier than trying to hear harmonics.

    About lesson time: whenever possible, which is most of the time, I book my lesson in my teacher's last time slot for the day. This has a few advantages. By the time he gets me he's really fed up and agitated by the students he saw before me, so he's extra critical, taking me to task for the smallest infractions. And with nobody coming after me, my hour lesson will go 20 or 30 minutes, a few times a whole hour, over. I've had lessons where after 30 or 40 minutes of Bach and 30 minutes or so of an etude or orchestral excerpts I got an hour jazz lesson, or we sight read duets or jammed on some standards.

    You know, ask this question about the best way to tune on the BG board and the answer is weed.

    [Edited by David Kaczorowski on 01-15-2001 at 10:36 AM]
     
  5. I understand what you're saying about developing your ear David, but I'm not sure I agree completely. Listening for pitch is certainly what I spend a good deal of my time doing most of the time while I'm playing as well, so I feel I get plenty of practice then. I do prefer to start with an instrument that I know is dead in tune (assuming all the other instruments you are playing with are also tuneing to the same standard). That provides a strong foundation for tuning the rest of the notes to your open strings, and providing that your instrument is relatively stable in holding its pitch, you don't need to constantly second guess whether or not your strings are in tune. (but of course, you should still be open to the possibility that your bass may have gone out of tune since you last tuned it!)

    My other reasons for using a tuner are more practical, on-the-job considerations. When warming up in the middle of a large orchestra of say 50-100 musicians, you can't always hear yourself that well to tune. I will then use my tuner with a clip on microphone. Also, IMO, the amount of time given to officially tune when the oboe sounds the 'A', is usually insuficient to do a really thorough job of tuning a bass, unless it's pretty close already - and for those of us with 5 string basses, it takes even longer. Of course all of this assumes the oboe is blowing the same 'A' as what your tuner is set to - most orchestras use A 440, but I will double check with the first oboe if I'm playing somewhere new.

    Another thing to consider is that if you start with a solidly tuned instrument, you can start to develop a certain degree of motor memory, which can aid in giving your left hand a good starting point for the placement of each note. Of course, fine tuning is always required! Developing a strong sense of motor memory will help a lot in loud brass and percussion passages when you can't always hear yourself properly. If you have done a lot of practice with a 'well tuned' bass, and your bass is currently well in tune, you should be able to finger notes mostly in tune, even when you can't hear what you are doing.

    For me, tuning every single pitch along the way while playing is paramount. I just believe that starting with a solid starting point makes the whole process easier.

    I will again state that just because you have used a tuner, it doesn't mean the rest of the instruments you are playing with have. You must be flexible. I do think it is good to discuss it with your colleagues though - come to an agreement on how you will all tune up. If you all start from the same place, things will work a lot better. I think a lot of bad intonation out there would be fixed if people were more open to discussing it on the job.
     
  6. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I agree. You are constantly fine tuning each note as you play, and I would rather spend my time doing that sort of playing/tuning than getting my foundation tuning squared away. Plus, its pretty easy to tune (for me) to a tone, so I don't see much learning value in it - I would rather spend the time playing along with a record or something and improving my identification of notes in the first place. In short, I would rather plug, make sure I am good, then proceed. However I don't play with an orchestra, so I can't comment on the large group tuning issues.
     
  7. I'm fork-prone with one exception: when in the midst of aural chaos, I'll use the tuner. Setting up in a club with Muzak, dishes and glasses banging, and people yakking, I leave my virtue in the car and plug the speaker wire into the tuner. I can tune precisely, quietly, and quickly, allowing more time to enjoy my Johnny Walker Red.
    Orchestra rehearsals are another matter. There's so much G$# D@#$ noise. I tune before I get there, arrive early, tune again as necessary. When the oboe sounds, I hit the fork and touch the bridge. They don't always agree.
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    gomez (v.) - gomezzed, gomezzing [G., gomezzen; It., gomezzo] To play with dubious intonation, either flat and/or sharp, while attempting to cloak the inaccuracy under pretensions of hipness or expressiveness. Also known in some circles as "ratzoing".

    Ed: for the longest time I thought that you were just making sh** up when you used terms like that, but damned if I didn't just find that one staring up at me from Webster's when I went to call you on it...I'll bust you next time though...

    And, lest somebody misinterpret this post and get the wrong idea, those guys happen to play on a couple of my favorite records: Eddie on Chick Corea's "Three Quartets", and Ratzo on Kenny Werner's "Introducing the Trio". No flame wars please!
     
  9. acousticdave

    acousticdave

    Dec 29, 2000
    Does anyone play on gut strings? this time of year it seems if i'm not tuning every 5 min's they're out. (and the a harmonic on d is basically useless.)
     
  10. I use Pirastro Olivs, gut wrapped w/chromesteel. I don't have any problems with them. I had to tune them every few them every few minutes for a few weeks after I put them on. Then the frequency decreased. By the time they were on for a couple of months I didn't have to tune much more than w/steel.

    Maybe I'm a rebel, but I've never even owned an electronic tuner. I like the fork, it's small, there's no wires to fumble with. The fork is never difficult to hear when clenched in my teeth making my whole head ring at A=440.
     
  11. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Ed you're right. But even though it may be unpopular to admit it, I defintely don't have the intonation thing perfected. So there's a good chance, especially on the more groove based or slow tunes, that I am doing some adjusting note to note. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to make a habit about it, and I am getting better at immediately committing to the right note, but its not always right in there. Its better to hear you're a little off (knowing your instrument itself is in tune) and adjust, than to not even know you're out, right? I've always had a lame-ass ear for intonation, which is actually why I like DB - it has helped me so much. All of the sudden I can almost carry a tune when I sing, etc...so I can tell my ear is getting better...and once your ear has it, you practice, practice, practice, and eventually your muscle memory falls in line, right?
     
  12. I find that using a tuning fork works best for me. The real trick to using the fork is placing it on your two front teeth as it is vibrating. This will allow you to literally internalize the pitch.

    Contrabasso Classico
     
  13. the great one

    the great one

    Jan 25, 2001
    Phoenix, AZ
    Just use your favourite song?
     
  14. rablack

    rablack

    Mar 9, 2000
    Houston, Texas
    Hey Great One - What kind of rosin do you use?

    You are a new member so let me explain something to you. There are two boards here at talkbass [BG] (bass guitar) and [DB] (double bass). Always check to make sure you're posting in the intended forum. If you want to see what can happen to unsuspecting souls who wander down here check out the Rosin thread from early January. The topic here is tuning a double bass - a much trickier proposition than tuning the electric. I pulled my electric out of the case last week for the first time in 9 months. It was still in tune. The DB's more organic nature means tuning is a constant issue.

    [Edited by rablack on 01-30-2001 at 02:38 PM]
     
  15. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Yeah how about tune to me playing it?
     
  16. The best way to tune for me is to spend 15 minutes with a droning A, and tune open strings. Tuning by harmonics lets more and more error creep in as you get farther from the "in tune" string.

    If I arrive less than 20 minutes before a reheral, I tune using a meter to maximize my actual playing-warm-up.
    ***There's no excuse for not being COMPLETELY in tune before rehearsal starts***, no matter what gig you're at.

    Practicing good intonation is another matter: THAT'S where using a moving meter will do little for you, since you're not practicing being in tune *with* anything. You wouldn't even be in tune with a piano in equal temperement, unless you and the piano were playing *only* unisons, no chords. Equal Temperement is NOT in tune, to anyone's ears but an average pianist - and the finest pianists always do their own adjustment on their own pianos anyway.
    Even if you don't realize it, when you play with a piano, your ear still makes adjustments to what is really in tune, based on tonic.

    For more info on what this translates to, check the following link out - it's for a slightly cheesy new product, but it contains very valid information:
    http://thetuningcd.com/newpage1.htm

    Gotta practice with a Drone pitch: tonic of the key in which you are about to play.
     
  17. the great one

    the great one

    Jan 25, 2001
    Phoenix, AZ
    I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!vI'm sorry!vI'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!I'm sorry!
     
  18. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    I dont own an electric tuner. Like Mr K I use the tuning fork. But Ive been forgetting to take it with me lately- in winter the bass is often flat when it comes in from the cold. A couple weeks ago I did a trio gig with guitar and neither of us had a tuner. We agreed on A and everything was fine. I tune quite often at home with the fork, when I'm out I feel I have a good idea internally of A440. I believe using electronic "sight" tuners can only degrade one's sense of pitch. These noisy places with jukebox going right into downbeat make me reconsider but I'm still holding out.
     
  19. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    If you use a sight tuner for 60 seconds before a gig and use your ears the rest of the time I don't think you have to worry too much about losing your sense of pitch.
     
  20. But, if you use a electric tuner that you play ino then it tells you how "right" you are. I get your point though. I know several people that use tuning forks.