Flute Punch

Humming for Intonation

Posted on: August 19, 2009

Whenever I see a clinician working with a high school group (or some similar situation) and they work with the group on tuning, they invariably ask, “Can you hear that it’s flat/sharp?” and the students all nod their heads. I have to smile to myself, because the truth is, hardly any of them can hear the difference. But they all nod because each of them thinks he/she is the only one who can’t really tell who is out of tune and how to fix it.

I know this because I was one such student, and it probably wasn’t until my late 20s that I really started being able to hear differences in intonation. I never felt like I could ask for help with it because I felt somehow it was something I should have already known.

One of the first things every player has to to learn is how to tune themselves to the given pitch. It’s always easiest to hear the pitch when it’s given by a like instrument. But no matter what instrument provides the tuning pitch, a little trick that has been most helpful to me is to hum the pitch quietly to myself, leaning forward into the stand to hear myself better, if necessary. Once the pitch feels like it’s resonating in my head, I then play the pitch and it is much easier to find the center of the pitch.

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