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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000474.txt from 2005/08

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Tuning vs. Intonation
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 2005 14:11:09 -0400

On 27 Aug, "Steve" <> wrote:

> There have been many very good thoughts on this subject in the last week,
> but they stop short of one very important observation.
> It is not enough to tell a player to "listen". One must know what to listen
> for!

I think this is so. And, though I *still* haven't properly evaluated Steve's
system, which he was kind enough to send me -- it is certainly based on
principles that I know to be true.

If everyone understood how and why we need to be flexible with regard to
intonation, and how 'playing to the meter' isn't remotely near that, we would
all be much better off. I'm very pleased that Richard Bush has found that
Steve's system works.

I have a couple of other observations.

What Kevin Fay said his conductor said:

"To play in tune" he said, "you have to *want* to. Listen hard and figure it

...and what Sarah Elbaz said:

"When there is a general tuning problem in an ensemble - the reason is

...can often be combined in an approach that doesn't involve stopping to tune
individual chords.

If the players are sufficiently good, then saying to them, "Listen, there's a
problem with the intonation in the middle of bar 342. Let's play a little
slowly from bar 340 to 345, and listen carefully as we go through bar 342,"
is often enough to correct the problem.

If the players aren't sufficiently good, it may help to make an analysis.

But, beware! The very fact of being stopped and analysed changes how
everyone plays -- and it can be quite hard to disentangle the
balance/intonation/sound quality trio of culpability -- and you can spoil the
musical sense of the passage by making everyone worried about that bit when
they play it subsequently.

(I lived through a time when people playing period instruments were fighting
to play in tune in the wind section of the orchestra. Playing in an
orchestra was new to many of them, and their natural reaction was to ask some
other player, "What's your note there? Oh, I have an Eb too, let's get
together on it. Play me your Eb."

But of course, both Ebs might have been wrong in context, and I would
sometimes say, when asked to play my Eb, "No! I'm trying to play my Eb in
context, and so should you."

But now, they hardly ask. (We've got better, you see.) And when they do
ask, it's in a much larger context -- a context that Steve's work, as I
understand it, is designed to support.)

The other thing is that I have found that it's much easier to play in tune in
better ensembles -- ones in which everyone else understands. I suggest
that's true of everyone.

So, if I'm worried about my own contribution -- especially if I'm playing an
instrument not entirely familiar to me -- I do things like practising
sections of my part against a relevant note in the harmony produced by my
Korg, set to the agreed pitch. What I do may need tweaking in context, but
at least it's a beginning -- and it may help others, too, to find it easier

> After attending a rehearsal of Tchaik 6 with one of the top orchestras in
> the world, I spoke with the Principal Clarinetist. This person completely
> redefined my concept of what was possible on the instrument. When I said,
> "You make it sound so natural", his reply was "You think I was born this
> way? Hell, no! I had to fight to develop this skill just as much as any
> other".

This is wise, too.

Adam Michlin added:

> I truly believe the difference between the good players and great players
> is that the good players impress you with how hard they make it look and
> the great players impress you with how easy they make it look. The great
> players make you walk away feeling like anyone could do that, at least
> until reality sets in at your next practice session!

I'd say, what Steve meant by 'natural' doesn't translate well to 'easy'.

And, it's rather, the *good* players who make it seem easy -- whereas it's
the *great* players make it seem natural -- in the sense that what it takes
to do it just isn't present to us.

We rather honour them for giving us the music.

_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE
tel/fax 01865 553339

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