Presented by Dennis Granlie

“The best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago.

The second best time is today.”

Chinese Proverb

------------------------------------ THEORY -----------------------------------------


Sound is produced by vibration
Irregular vibrations create noise; regular vibrations produce tone
Vibrations travel faster through warm air than through cold

Properties of Sound:

Pitch - determined by frequency of vibrations
Intensity - determined by amplitude or physical strength
Timbre - determined by presence and relative strength of overtones
Overtones: Overtones describe sounds naturally emitted by a fundamental tone that are higher and weaker than the fundamental
Equal Temperament
Intervals in the overtone series are “pure” or “just”
•Intervals on a fixed pitch instrument are “tempered,” that is adjusted

“Although no interval except the octave in the equal tempered scale is acoustically correct or perfect, the system usually does not disturb our ears, because we have become accustomed to it.” -Robert Garofalo

Comparison of Equal Temperament vs. Pure Intervals:

Interval difference between equal temperament and pure interval

P Octave none
P 5 th adjust 2 cents sharp
P 4 th adjust 2 cents flat
M 3 rd adjust 14 cents flat
m3rd adjust 16 cents sharp
M 2 nd adjust 4 cents sharp

When to Invest:Invest: to use time, money or effort with the expectation of realizing some benefit

Data shows very young children can discern the beats that result from out of tune unisons, octaves, and perfect intervals

----------------------------------- APPLICATION ----------------------------------


When should intonation instruction begin?
when students can produce a steady tone

How often should intonation be addressed?

The package deal:
Intonation is part of sonority’s triumvirate -

you can’t have excellence in one without excellence in the others

Balance Intonation

Ed Lisk’s steps to blending sound

1. If you can hear yourself above the ensemble, play softer
2. If you can still hear yourself, adjust your pitch
3. If you can still hear yourself, adjust your tone

(the path to “beatless” tuning)


Students must

•know and be able to describe what “out of tune” sounds like.
•be able to demonstrate their ability to hear beats/waves
•know that slower beats = better in tune and vice versa
• know “in tune” has no beats and sounds like one instrument (that instrument could be the band/orchestra)


Students must discern

•whether unisons are in tune or out of tune (like instruments)
•whether beats are slower or faster after/during adjustment
•when beats stop and note is “in tune” (sound disappears)
(repeat above application with all perfect intervals)

Students must understand

•where to adjust instrument length to achieve beatless tuning
•how to lip pitches up and down to achieve beatless tuning


•Students show whether they feel unisons are in or out of tune (avoid lemming syndrome)
•Students move hands at same speed of beats
•Students show whether they feel pitch improved or was worse after adjustment

(tuning harmony)


ALL major and minor intervals need tempering, but 3rds are most important
•Students must “memorize” the sonority of well-tuned chords; chords that “ring”
•Students must be taught some tuning tendencies of their instruments


•Major 3rds must be lowered 12-14 cents to eliminate beats
•Minor 3rds must be raised 10-12 cents to eliminate beats

Steps to tempering:

1. Tune root and 5th of chord (beatless)
2. Add 3rd at slightly less volume than root and 5th
3. Adjust 3rd up or down to eliminate beats (disturbances in the force)
•Use chorales in easy keys to develop listening skills
•Tune “landmark” chords in literature (ultimate chords of phrases, etc.)


•Use sonority as the assessment for good ensemble tuning
•Do chords “ring?”
•Record rehearsals as well as concerts and listen critically to recordings

TRAPS: (beware of these that detract from good intonation)


•Bad posture (proper posture is the easiest thing you’ll ask for)
•Bad embouchures (call attention to tone, not physical minutia)
•Poor breath support (teach phrasing from the very beginning)


•All slides must work
•Reeds must be strong enough to support good tone and intonation


•Make good intonation a top goal -- it’s what makes the sound mature
•Don’t accept bad sound, whether from intonation, tone, dynamics


•Pick literature that allows students to deal with more than technique


•Teach level-appropriate tuning techniques right along with other skills
•Pick literature that allows attention to intonation
•Make ear training a vital part of every rehearsal
•Don’t leave tuning out of the process when learning new literature
•Know your score so you can get your head out of it


•What you notice is more important than what you know
•Find ways to listen objectively to both rehearsals and concerts
•Invite others to listen and critique
•Listen to better groups than your own
•Play (or replay) examples of excellent intonation
•Beware of sound pollution


•Keep dynamics in control when teaching tuning (and teach tuning all the time )
•Dynamics are too easy to adjust--don’t take your eye off the intonation goal


•Students learn to tune by tuning, not listening to an oration about tuning
•Talk less, play music more -- 70% playing; 30% or less talking per rehearsal
•Don’t allow talking during rehearsals --silence is the most important element in preparing for critical listening


•Untuned timpani can cancel out all other tuning efforts


•Teach students WHAT to listen for
•DO NOT tune the entire band with an electronic tuner - that’s eye training
•Create warm-up exercises that force students to listen critically


•Beware of decaying intonation standards--you MUST listen to better groups than your own or you chance accepting poorer and poorer intonation.

The only music you are likely to hear badly out of tune is from your own group

It’s All About Ears! (the students’ and yours)

(90% of all the information received by the brain enters via the optic nerve!)

What are the implications for:

-teaching students to tune?
-using electronic tuners?
-the director trying to read the score while rehearsing?


FOCUSED listening questions:

During warm-up:

•On the scale, which instrument/voice could you hear the most?
Why? (volume, note length, poor tone, range, etc.)

•Which scale degree was best/poorest in tune?
•Which section(s) was the best/poorest in tune?
•Which chord was best/poorest in tune?
•What section cut off last on the final note?
•What did you hear after the cut-off?
(add your own here)

During rehearsal: (warm-up questions may also apply)

•How many different musical parts are going on?
•Who has the melody?
•Who has the counter melody?
•Who has the accompaniment?
•Who has the same part as you?
•Who has almost the same part as you?
•Who has the same rhythm as you, but different notes?
•Who is your best reference for keeping steady rhythm?
•Is the last chord (or chord of your choice) major or minor?
•Which note(s) is most dissonant? How is it resolved?
•How long is the phrase?
•Is everyone ending the phrase the same way?
•Where is the greatest intensity in the phrase?
•Is everyone making notes the same length?
•Is everyone putting the same amount of silence between notes?
•Is everyone attacking the notes the same way?
•Is everyone shaping notes the same way?
•What was wrong with that phrase/section?
(add your own here)

During a listening exercise: (most rehearsal questions apply)

•What kind of group is this?
•How many performers?
•Is texture thin...thick?
•What is different between the two examples? Why?
•Listen to the ________.
•What is the main melody?
•How is the melody different the second time it occurs?
•What is the form of this piece?
(add your own here)

FOCUSEDlistening AND musical decision-making statements :

•Match this note. (play or sing an example or pick a student to do so)
•Play this back to me. (sing or play an example)
•Play a complete musical thought, and stop.
•Play that differently. (no guidance.....sadly, happily, angrily)
•Play it with warmer sound.
•Play it the way you did the first time (or yesterday, or at the concert, etc.)
•Play it with the pyramid upside down.
•Play that the same as _______.
•Find the wrong note. (one student, section or group is a plant)
•We’ll call that forte; now play it mezzo piano.
•Let me hear only the melody/bass line/accompaniment.
•Play only when you have the melody, or parts of the melody.
•Play 30% softer than the melody.
•Begin where the ________ comes in.
•Start at the bridge/trio/recapitulation etc.
•Close your eyes and play that phrase; start when you hear ______ breathe.
•Turn your music stands toward me and play that phrase/section.
•Let me hear those with the suspension.
•Make the chord ring.
•Put a little edge on the tone (or vice versa!).