Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lesson #35 (Jazz #3 12/4/2011): Intonation

We went over intonation during this entire lesson. Adam also went over these helpful tips with me, but I think this time it clicked for me. A lot of times I have to hear (and do) it more than a few times to get something. Clayton went over the same concepts that Adam did, and also demonstrated it and then had me find the correct pitch for each exercise.

Clayton also does not recommend using the tuner and says that using a tuner is useful if I want to play in tune with a piano, but being "in tune" really depends on the context. Adam also recommended against using a tuner, but after removing my tape on the fretboard I needed some kind of guidance because I had absolutely no clue how to tell whether I was in tune! Both of them seem to be on the same page, so I guess I'll try to use my tuner less, except to tune my A. This is going to be hard...

So I went from a visual aid to hearing aid, and now I guess the next step is a feeling-watching aid! Lol! :). That is, feeling and watching when my cello and strings resonant to tell me whether I'm in tune.

Helpful tools for intonation:

1) Being in tune depends on context
  • If I'm in C major, than my F# will be a lot flatter than if I was playing in another key and depends on what key I am playing in. 
    • To check this I would play the arpeggio - another reason why we went over arpeggios for 5 or 6 keys, which I'm still trying to remember and study... lots to do! 
    • If I were to play the chord and play the same F# in a D major than it would sound out of tune compared to when I play it it the C Major scale
  • It also depends on what instruments I'm playing with and how they are tuned, so using a tuner isn't helpful in these situations. Therefore, I must have "flexible intonation."
    • So intonation isn't a rigid as I thought it was and getting the tuner to stay green isn't that helpful if I am playing out of context
      • Clayton mentioned that he used to use the tuner for his intonation and would do the same thing I did, i.e. to make sure that I hit the note so the needle on my tuner sticks straight up and so the light would stay green, but when he started playing in a chamber group and listened to himself play with the group he was always out of tune, despite the fact that he was in tune with his tuner!  
      • Adam tried to explain this to me once, but I think I wasn't ready for the information yet and it kind of went over my head. I do remember him explaining it to me though, I just didn't quite understand it then...I have a thick skull and apparently it takes awhile to start training and hearing the difference! :).
    • Practicing the arpeggios with the specific keys should also help me start training my ear to hear the chords which especially helpful in jazz
  • Adam had me tune my tuner at 142 and Clayton uses 141, but said that over the years the pitch has been getting higher and higher, so again it really depends on the context of who I'm playing with and what piece is being played 

2) Ringing tones
  • Listen for ringing tones and watch the other strings vibrate 
  • For now, he wants me to work on getting the open strings to vibrate and to move my finger up and down very slightly to test to see where the strings vibrate the most and to also listen to the overtones, i.e. there should be a higher pitch that plays after the string is released 
    • I can only hear the higher pitch overtones some of the time because my ears aren't trained that well yet 
  • Assignment: 
    • Listen for the ringing tones / resonance 
      • D (4th on A)
      • G (4th on D)
      • C (4th on G)
      • A (1st on G)
      • D (1st on C)
    • Play short and long bows 
      • Short bows - listen for ringing / resonance
      • Long bows - watch for string vibrations

3) Chords
  • Check against open strings or against the fourth or fifth notes which are the more consonant chords 
  • I should listen for the beats to see whether I am in tune or not
    • I still can't tell whether I'm hearing beats or not, I can only tell when its really obvious and way out of tune. It's also easier to hear the beats when I listen to someone else play as opposed to me playing and trying to hear it at the same time

4) Harmonics 
  • Clayton also had me find the harmonics. I was able to find and hear the difference, which I wasn't able to do very well because I kept pressing my finger down to hard. I also have to remember to bow closer to the bridge and move my bow more quickly on the string
    • I think harmonics kind of sound pretty when I run my finger up and down the string - it's what I'd imagine a rainbow would sound like! :). Or maybe a colorful sparkler during the Fourth of July... depends on how fast I run my finger up and down the strings! LOL!
Yep -  I'm still trying to associate sounds with images, emotions, feelings, etc! :).
  • He recommended feeling how the strings react. If I've found the harmonic, than the bow will slide across the string smoothly, but if I'm not quite on the harmonic, than I should be able to feel some resistance in the string  
  • To find if I am in tune (in general) for my third finger in first position, I can lightly press down my third finger to find the harmonic

5) Drones
  • I seem to be okay as long as I have a reference point, i.e. if a drone is on or if I'm playing with someone, and my main issue is when I'm playing solo 
  • Instead of using the tuner, Clayton recommends using the drone instead because the notes will be different in each key so my fingers should adjust unconsciously to match the correct pitch 

6) Transcribe songs
  • Clayton recommended transcribing songs, that is, listening to a song and then trying to recreate it without looking at music sheets. This will help train my ears and to associate notes with sounds
  • I told him that this would be very difficult for me and that I don't think I'll be able to do this because I can't even tell what notes are being played. However, I think he just wants me to at least try... ugh!...a train wreck waiting to happen...
    • I have to admit I am a little resistant to this idea because I really don't think I'd be able to this...I'll give it a go, maybe in a couple of weeks or so...this is going to be tough...*sigh* 

This was basically a reiteration of one on my lessons with Adam, and Clayton covered the exact same points, but I think my lesson with Adam was only a few months into my playing so it didn't really sink in. It's actually comforting to know that both teachers are teaching the same thing, just explained differently! Although I haven't heard Clayton play in a concert or in a solo yet (I should ask him to play a piece for me! :D), they definitely produce a completely different sound!

However, I think re-visiting intonation exercises every few months will be very helpful for me since it takes a while to train a person's ear to hear certain pitches and/or recognize relationships between notes.

I still can't seem to hear whether some of the pitches are in tune or hear the beating between some notes yet! Although it has gotten better. :)

Jazz Book
I also brought in a few books I purchased for him to review. He decided on Mello Cello for our method book.

Jazz Method Books:

General Jazz Instructional: 

It seems the musical theory is starting to sink in as my technique seems to be weakening. Maybe because I'm focusing more on music theory more than on my technique. I guess I'd better start focusing on my scales again! 

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