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 using a tuner pick-up
Author: johng 2017
Date:   2006-08-15 13:54

There have been a few threads about using a tuner pick-up in an ensemble as a way to isolate one's sound when tuning with a tuner. I would like to suggest another use that will assist in training the ear to hear intonation.

A tuner pick-up is an inexpensive device that gently clips on to the bell or other convenient place on your instrument and plugs into the input jack of most tuners. It picks up the sound you are making without interference from outside sources. I know of two brands: Matrix MPU-2 and Arion ARC80.

If you have a sound source with a constant pitch, like a second tuner, another player, or a tuning CD, you can play a variety of pitches and compare your pitch with both your ears and with the tuner display. If you are playing the same pitch (a unison) then it is easy to hear the beats between the two notes and bring your pitch in tune to stop the beats. For other intervals it is helpful to get a visual reference in order to tune to a pure interval.

For example, the interval of a 5th (like a C and a G), a pure interval between the two requires the higher note (G) to be ever so slightly higher than the tuner requires at it's equal tempered scale. +2 cents to be exact.

For a pure major third (C and E), the higher note needs to be lower than the equal tempered note on the tuner (-14 cents) For minor thirds (C and Eb), the higher note needs to be higher (+16 cents). On my inexpensive Korg CA-30 there are even marks on the display to show where you should be to get pure major and minor thirds.

Although it is difficult to use these tunings in larger ensembles even if you do want pure sounding chords, it is great training for the ear to be listening so carefully. The tuner and tuner pick-up are a visual aid for that ear training, but you still have to trust your ear when it comes to intonation.

John Gibson, Founder of JB Linear Music, www.music4woodwinds.com

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