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Thread: Playing Flat???

  1. #1

    Playing Flat???

    So, I've gotten back into playing with with ensembles over the last year and have noticed my tuning slide creeping close to almost completely pushed in to tune to pitch. I'm hoping someone can give me some clues as to what could be affecting pitch, within the limited space of digital text.

    Admittedly I have not been practicing as much as I use to, and when I do I have to use a Wick Travel Mute that not only makes the instrument sharp but also crunches the Bb-Bb above the staff octave to a major 7th -without any adjustments. Also back when I was 'in shape' during college the tuning slide was only out maybe an inch, so perhaps I am making a bigger deal out of nothing or simply need to find a way to ditch the mute and focus on long tones. I seem to remember someone in college making a generalized comment about 'players who play flat/sharp are typically doing ____ " technique-wise, but wish I'd written it down in a notebook (and kept it!).

    With that said, I did notice a slight difference when I tried different mouthpieces (the tuner confirmed this too). I had moved to a Schilke 52E2 do to liking the larger rim diameter, but perhaps it's just too large and I should switch back to the 51D I used in college. Also I am playing on a Willson 2950 that is nearing 17 years old, and after a number of cleanings and (ab)use maybe it's starting to show some age? That's unlikely to be the case, but the idea of a 'quick fix' with equipment in enticing - NOT the price tag however!

    tl;dr - noticing I play quiet flat comparatively, it's most likely me but maybe it really is my equipment?

  2. #2
    If you're playing with a practice mute whenever you practice, you might be getting used to the massively increased resistance and not supporting the air as much as you would need to without a practice mute. I have to use a practice mute regularly every other week, but when I do I make sure I at least do long tones (and ideally lip flexibilities) without the mute in and then do no more than 30 minutes with the mute in. And when I play with the mute I'm trying to still put as much air through the instrument as I would without it.
    Harry Weir - Besson Sovereign 967-T | K&G 4D+

  3. #3
    The temp of the horn/room affect pitch as well - cold room/cold horn == flat pitch and hot room/hot horn == sharp pitch. Make sure to do a full warmup with lots of long tones, low studies, get the air moving and warm up the horn and THEN check pitch. If it's comfortable for you to play and you are making a good tone, it's ok the tuning slide is all the way in. Try to worry about making a beautiful sound first, pitch will come with it.
    Adams E3 0.6 with SS Bell
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    Founder and Solo Euphonium
    San Francisco Brass Band

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
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    Sacramento, CA area
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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeGuilbo View Post
    The temp of the horn/room affect pitch as well - cold room/cold horn == flat pitch and hot room/hot horn == sharp pitch.
    I would have thought that cold room/cold horn == sharp pitch because metal contracts/gets smaller in the cold. And the opposite, hot room/hot horn == flat pitch because it gets larger when warm/hot. Generally speaking in music, smaller = higher pitch. Please correct me if I am wrong here. I would love a layman's explanation of the physics of this.

    - Sara
    Baritone - 3 Valve, Compensating, JinBao JBBR1240

  5. #5

  6. #6
    In short, cold air vibrates more slowly and produces a lower pitch. Violins will go sharper when cold, but they are not channeling a column of air.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    Summerfield, Florida Sturgis, SD (previously)
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    1,697
    Quote Originally Posted by Sara Hood View Post
    I would have thought that cold room/cold horn == sharp pitch because metal contracts/gets smaller in the cold. And the opposite, hot room/hot horn == flat pitch because it gets larger when warm/hot. Generally speaking in music, smaller = higher pitch. Please correct me if I am wrong here. I would love a layman's explanation of the physics of this.

    - Sara
    There can be a small (very small) pitch change on a brass horn contracting and expanding as you think, but this is almost negligible. Particularly when compared to the effect of cold vs. warm air. rgorscak, in a post above, has a link to a good technical read on this.

    It is very useful and important to know that when your horn is cold, it is flat as compared to when it is warmed up. This relates to a pet peeve of mine, which is, the tuning of your instrument, often with the band's or orchestra's oboe at the start of rehearsal or performance. My peeve is when folks show up 30 seconds prior to this tuning event without having played one note on their horn, and then expect to be able to tune up properly. As you warmup and play, your horn will (typically) go sharper. Of course, if you just brought your horn into an air-conditioned rehearsal room after having it sit out of the case in the back seat of your car in the Arizona sun in summer, then the opposite effect may occur as you warm up and your horn acclimates to the room.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
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    Kingdom of the Sun (KOS) Concert Band, Ocala, FL (Euphonium)
    KOS Brass Quintet (Trombone, Euphonium)

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