Using electronic tuners

Basics of Flute Playing, Tone Production and Fingerings

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Honeybee
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Using electronic tuners

Post by Honeybee »

hi. I'm very new at flute and I would like to ask a totally stupid question which is HOW DO YOU TUNE IT WITH AN ELECTRONIC TUNER? lols. cause i'm currently self-teaching and things like that, which are very very basic, i can't just get them anywhere! All i know, from my friend who play the flute in band is that you have to play the F2 with the tuner to tune yourself. and i read something like A=443. so do i play the F2 note or the A note? lols. thanks a bunch to anybody who can answer this silly question!

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flutepicc06
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Post by flutepicc06 »

Pitch is a very complicated issue, as there is no concrete frequency at which a note must always be played. Depending upon its function in the chord structure, a single note may need to be played at two different frequencies within a single piece. What instruments you're playing with will also determine where you have to play, depending on whether you're playing with well-tempered, equal-tempered instruments, or some instrument using a more obscure tuning system. This all means that even if you get the "green light" from an electronic tuner, you may not be playing in tune for the circumstance in which that note is to be performed.

The best way to tune yourself is to set the octave length as described here, as it will ensure that the scale is as even as possible:

http://www.langemusic.com/Articles/flutetune.htm

Even if you get the needle to stop exactly where "in tune" is, your flute's never going to play in tune naturally. You need to adjust with your air to compensate, and if you're a beginner yet, you probably have not developed the embouchure flexibility to be able to handle that. If you're going to use an electronic tuner, be sure it's set to A-440. Such contraptions are really only useful once you've set the proper octave length, in order to be sure that your intervals are the correct "size" (and even then, it's just a basic building block and may or may not sound in tune in practice), but you'll never get to play "by the tuner" when you perform with other instruments, so you need to be flexible in pitch and focus on listening. You'll often hear people telling flutists to move the headjoint to tune, but that's just going to make it more difficult to play each pitch where it should be, by changing the relationships of the toneholes to the embouchure hole unevenly so ignore that advice (or, if you're feeling brave, you could challenge them on it). Anyway, tuning is a VERY complex issue, and electronic tuners are by no means the best way to learn to play "in tune." In any case, since you're new to the flute, I would be less concerned with pitch right now than learning fingerings, developing an embouchure, etc. When it comes to learning to play in tune, the best way to do so is to practice playing with and listening to others.

brina
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Post by brina »

if a practice with a tuner, i set it on 442 Hz because most of the pianos are 442.

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flutepicc06
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Post by flutepicc06 »

brina wrote:if a practice with a tuner, i set it on 442 Hz because most of the pianos are 442.
SOME pianos are tuned to A-442 (particularly in Europe), but A-440 is still the international standard, and this is where you should be practicing. As I mentioned above, regardless of what you do with a tuner, you need to be flexible enough to play a note at a wide range of frequencies. Whether or not the pianos you're performing with are at A-440, A-442, or something else, you won't be able to "play by the tuner" with them because they use a different temper, so using what a piano is tuned to to decide how to set your tuner doesn't make much sense, IMO. As I mentioned, it's far more important that you learn to listen and tune rather than that you be able to play exactly where a tuner says you're in tune. It's very possible to adjust pitch 2 Hz (and more, depending on flexibility), so in this case it doesn't matter much.

fluttiegurl
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Post by fluttiegurl »

I agree. As you grow as a musician, your ear will be far more important than the electronic tuner. It is a great tool, but that is all it is . . . a tool. Training your ear to hear pitch will become far more reliable and most definately more readily available :D

brina
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Post by brina »

of course. when u play with a piano, you don't use a tuner! but we also tune 442 in orchestra. maybe in Europe is different.

fluttiegurl
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Post by fluttiegurl »

That often varies from conductor as well as geographically. I have friends from Taiwan who typically tune to 442. The band programs that I work with here in the US tune to 440. Chances are, there is a very logical reason as to why your orchestra uses 442, but that does not mean that every ensemble will do the same. I have friends from Taiwan who have used 444 at times.

On a side note, my piano is tuned to 440, as is the one in the hall where I play most often. I am honestly not sure why I know that.

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 »

It is also common for orchestras to say that they tune to 440/442 when they actually tune to something like 443/445. They dont neccessarily do it on purpose, but it happens anyway because it is quite difficult for the oboeist to give a genuine A at 440/442 [an oboe friend of mine complains all the time about how hard it is to get the pitch low enough to be 'in tune' with a tuner].

But, pitch is all relative anyway.

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pied_piper
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Post by pied_piper »

Fluteguy18: If your oboe friend is having trouble getting down to A440/442, perhaps it is a reed issue. Most oboists make their own reeds, but if the reed is too short, that would cause the oboe to be too sharp. Oboe reeds are typically about 70mm in length, but that might need to be adjusted to compensate for the individual's embouchure or instrument.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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sidekicker
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Post by sidekicker »

I'll be the wet blanket here and just say that, as a practical matter, tuners are pretty much worthless. I threw mine out years ago. One learns to play in tune by listening to the players around him/her; or, when playing alone, paying close attention to making sure intervals are properly spaced pitch-wise. Practising with an A-440 tuner is not going to help much when your oboist tunes the orchestra to A-438 one night, A-442 the next, and so on.

Also (and I know I'll probably get flamed for saying so), the old uninformed-band-director "push in / pull out" thing is pretty much bunk as well. The flute headjoint is meant to be pulled out just ever so slightly, and that's all. From that point onward, it's up to the player to adjust to the relative pitches around them. I assemble my flute the exact same way every time, never push in or pull out to adjust pitch, and simply listen. That, in my opinion, is the best way to play in tune.

So junk the tuner. After that start listening very carefully to those you play with and, when practising alone, play different intervals repeatedly to develop your ear toward knowing where you need to be physically in order to play the two notes in tune with each other. That will get you much further than wasting time trying to get the needle in that box to stand still.

SK

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flutepicc06
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Post by flutepicc06 »

I agree with everything you wrote SK.

fluteguy18
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Post by fluteguy18 »

I completely agree as well.

As for the subject of reeds... I actually have two oboe friends. One of them is the Principal oboeist at our University [so, we spend quite a lot of time together in rehearsals] and they other is the oboe/double reed professor here [she and I are on informal terms because we go to church together].

They both make their reeds by hand. And I mean completely by hand. The cutting, shaping, shaving of the cane, wrapping it and everything. The Principal Oboeist hates making reeds and she honestly admits that it isnt a talent of hers. However, the Professor is an absolute master at making reeds [her Doctoral Dissertation was about the history of reeds, how they were and are currently made etc. etc. She is absolutely amazing, and is widely recognized as one of the best reed makers in our geographical region [mid south] if not the entire country].

Both oboe players said that the A was just a difficult note to produce with a steady pitch with a full sound that is relatively close to 440. But, I definately understand exactly what you mean about the reed being too short and how that would affect the tuning. So, it is quite likely a reed issue.

All of this being said however, I am not a reed player. So don't take my word as gold. I am just repeating what I have been told by my reed instrument friends/professors.

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atoriphile
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Post by atoriphile »

The original poster is a new flutist who probably has not yet developed an ear for playing in tune. (You never know though, some people have so-called "perfect pitch".)

Honeybee - Are you planning to play with others? If so, find out what pitch (440, 442, 444, whatever) that they play at and use that as the setting on the tuner. If you're not planning to play with others, it doesn't really matter what the tuner is set at.

I sometimes keep the tuner on the side of my stand while playing a piece or etude and glance over at it once in a while (especially for extreme high or low notes) to make sure I'm in tune. Having a tuner with lights on it helps a lot with this.

However, I don't use the tuner when playing with others. In those cases, you want to avoid the "beats" that can be heard when you're out of tune. The faster the beats, the more out of tune you are. When there are no beats, you are in tune (generally).

Tuners also come in handy when purchasing a new flute to check the scale.

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