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Author Topic: Tuning  (Read 8801 times)
ubizmo
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« on: December 09, 2008, 02:28:25 am »

If you don't have an electronic tuner, you can check your tuning here: http://www.seventhstring.com/tuner/tuner.html.  This tool is useful to see just how much your breath pressure can change the pitch of a note.

ubi


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BillErickson
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2008, 04:41:51 pm »


Yeah, the variation in pitch you get with breath pressure is really quite amazing.  It's one of the initial challenges in learning to play the ocarina.  But once you get it down, it adds so much to the expressiveness of the instrument.

I've noticed that I tend to play with a lighter breath pressure than the MO was designed for.  It still sounds pretty good at this pressure, and it's a little softer (something my family appreciates  Wink  ), but by the tuner I'm consistently about a quarter to nearly a half step flat.



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Karl
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2008, 08:45:45 pm »

Yes, Bill, what you said sounds about right: "...by the tuner I'm consistently about a quarter to nearly a half step flat."

When you play alone, tuning doesn't matter, as long as you are in tune with yourself. I often play quietly if my children are in bed or if I am sitting right next to someone at the kitchen table as I play. (Or I use an ocarina silencer.) At those times, even though my instrument is playing flat, it sounds fine because the notes are in tune with each other.

The tuning of our instruments is based on my personal experiences and the experiences of others. When you play with other musicians or in public, there is often a tendency (and a need) to play more loudly, to project your sound.  Thus, our instruments are tuned for those occasions, when tuning matters.  You'll also learn from your tuner (and your ears) that you are meant to blow strongly on lower notes also, at least in comparison with many recorders, whistles, and ocarinas. Why?  First of all, this allows you to play more energetically, with more expressiveness and passion. Also, since our ears tend to perceive higher pitched notes as louder, instruments that force you to blow very softly on low notes only excentuate that imbalance.

Just like you, one of the things I love about ocarinas is that they respond so nicely to changes in blowing pressure. You can be so expressive! At the same time, that variable pitch presents some tuning challenges, which I don't want to minimize. (Of course, playing in tune on any instrument has it's challenges!)

I often tell folks not to worry about tuning right at first.  Rather, play the instrument a lot and make it your own before putting it up to a tuner.  When you play with others, just like in singing, let your ear guide you. Just think! How is it that we ever manage to SING in tune with others? Somehow we have this amazing ability to listen and tweak the pitch of our voices accordingly.

Is there a way to train our ears to play in tune?  Well, one way to practice playing in tune would be to play along with some of the midi files on this forum. (We plan to provide more and more midi play-alongs over time.) If you are a little flat, blow a little stronger, and if sharp, a little softer. Over time, your ear becomes more sensitive to tuning.

I still remember the first ocarina I bought at a music store years ago, before I started making ocarinas.  With a tuner, neither the store clerk nor I could tell what key the ocarina was in.  Later, I realized that the tuning of that instrument wasn't too bad.  I just didn't have any clue about blowing pressure during the initial tryout at the store.

I remember playing an ocarina duet with my son a few years back at a big anniversary party for my parents.  My son played fine but, like most kids, he was completely unaware of tuning.  How did we play our unison and duet parts in tune? Well, I listened and blew accordingly. His tendency at the time was to blow quite strongly, so I did the same, and the song was a tremendous success.

One more thing: I think it takes a while before people learn to project well with their ocarina to produce a clear, full sound. When you first take up our ocarinas, blowing strongly might not sound great.  After a while, though, you learn to play strongly with a nice full, clear, carrying tone.  It's not an instant thing, though.  As impressed as I am with all of you who make videos after only a day, or a week, or even a month (and I am extremely impressed!!!), I know that you will sound even better a year from now--sometimes dramatically better.

By the way, I don't want my long post to be the last word on this.  I'd enjoy hearing from others about this also!


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Secretagentdan
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2008, 08:52:28 pm »

I've realized that when I'm playing with my guitar or uke pre-recorded I actually play in tune with the recording. I think my ear just adjusts to the slight variance/as well as my breathing pressure adjusts to make up the difference! Something I didn't realize till I listened to some of the recordings I've done. I agree with Karl, just takes some practice to get it right! Peace, Daniel


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ubizmo
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 01:59:39 am »

Echoing what Karl said, said, said, said, said....

If I'm playing in a relaxed manner, I also find the tuning is a bit flat, and a bit moreso in the lower notes; it catches up as I go higher.  If I play more aggressively, I'm a bit flat in the low notes and pretty much spot on in the high notes, or even occasionally sharp.

This is the way it is with simple, even primitive, instruments with holes rather than keys.  It's just about impossible to create an instrument with every note in tune throughout its range, with holes and no keys, and also keep the fingering simple.  Tin whistles have similar issues; notes in the high end tend to get sharp, so they have to tune the notes in the low end a bit flat to keep the whole thing in reasonable tune, and you correct with breath pressure.  On an ocarina, pitch is even more fluid, which is one of the cool things about it.  Not only that, it is capable of a chromatic scale, which the whistle isn't.  This presents additional tuning challenges.  So the ocarina designer has to make compromises.  Some notes will be closer to "ideal" pitch than others, but the player learns to compensate a bit, without thinking about it.  I notice that F# is a bit sharp on both my C and G.  There's no alternate fingering.  In a fast passage it doesn't matter.  If I have to hold the note, I just try to adjust it.  It's just part of the challenge of this instrument.

ubi


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Karl
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2008, 02:03:51 pm »

Ubi, for a flatter Bb, try covering the two thumb toneholes and your two index (pointer) finger toneholes... or both thumbs and the index and ring fingers on your left hand.  I appreciate your musicianship, by the way.  You add a lot to the forum!


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Karl
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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2008, 02:10:19 pm »

Sorry, I just saw on another thread that you already finger Bbs with the two index fingers. I'm trying to get up to speed on our own forum, but some of you guys are way ahead of me. Smiley This should prove once and for all that Cliff and I are actually different people.  Cliff is up to speed on our forum.


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Secretagentdan
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2008, 12:36:58 am »

I think Cliff and Karl are like that dude in total recall who's got that little dude that lives in his stomach! Smiley I've yet to see a video of Cliff so this is a plausible theory at this time! Smiley


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Peace, Shalom, and Salaam to all here at MO forum!
Spatolo
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« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2008, 11:07:16 am »

I think Cliff and Karl are like that dude in total recall who's got that little dude that lives in his stomach! Smiley I've yet to see a video of Cliff so this is a plausible theory at this time! Smiley

I WAITED FOR THIS MOMENT SO LONG!!

Come on Cliff it's up to you. Pick up an Ocarina and record yourself!


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Cliff
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« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2008, 12:32:20 pm »

Quote
Come on Cliff it's up to you. Pick up an Ocarina and record yourself!

Spatolo and Dan. Who is this "Cliff" that you are referring to. I don't see him in the member list???

-Ffilc


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Spatolo
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« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2008, 01:09:16 pm »

Dude. Precisely what I thought.

Come on Cliff, I mean, Ffilc, or do you want to change nickname daily?  Grin Grin

After all, if *I* found courage to put some (few) videos online, ANYBODY can!


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Secretagentdan
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« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2008, 02:16:41 pm »

Here, put up a shade and do a video Wizard of Oz style! This could be a compromise! Smiley


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Spatolo
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« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2008, 11:39:54 am »

Back to tuning.

I was thinking (only thinking, eh) about drilling an hole onto the end of the ocarina. Starting with a tiny hole, and gradyally enlarging it.
That would perhaps allow to play in tune while playing softer; so to play with others (or over recordings) without the need to exploit all the powerful volume of the OC.
That probably would also make even more difficult to get clean high notes, anyhow...

Thoughts?


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Karl
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« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2008, 12:28:25 pm »

Spatolo, if you drill a hole like that, it will affect the lowest notes quite a bit but it won't affect high notes much at all. So, you could play quieter low notes, but you would still have to play loud high notes.  I'm not sure that's the solution you are looking for.  (I should be packing for my trip, so I'll log out now. Smiley)


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