The third idea for tuning to the piano needs the help of your pianist to play each note repeatedly.
On the flute you will be playing a backwards C scale starting two octave above the flute low C, at the top of the middle register. Ask the pianist to repeatedly play this note while you sustain that note on the flute. Your job is to match your flute note to the piano note being repeatedly played. (More to come shortly about using beats for tuning) The reason for the pianist repeating the note is so that you can continually hear the note you are trying to tune to.
Once the pianist and you think the two notes match then you move down to B natural and repeat the process. Continue on down for one octave checking every note of the C scale.
During this exercise you may need to adjust the head joint to be overall more in tune with the piano. (See previous two posts) And of course you can do this exercise on any scale. I like to do this exercise in the key of the piece I am about to play to find the tonal centre of that piece.
The second idea for helping you to tune to the piano I call The Swoop.
Have the pianist sustain the note A. (You can do this yourself using the sustain pedal). Play your flute A along with the sustaining piano A but then stop your flute sound and listen carefully to the piano note. Did you feel the pitch moved up, or swooped up to the piano pitch? If so, then your flute note is flat and you need to push in.
If when you stop your flute note you feel the pitch sag down to the piano pitch then you are sharp and you need to pull out.
When you are in tune with the piano, once you stop your flute note there will be no movement of the pitch either up or down to the piano note. They match!
Tuning to the piano seems to cause many people a lot of grief so the next few posts are going to offer some suggestions to help with this.
This first approach I like to call The Process of Elimination.
Play the flute note before hearing the piano note so that you don’t try to adjust your A to the piano A you’ve just heard. Play an honest, mezzo forte, low register A. Have your pianist play a single A (a sixth above piano middle C) and then ask them to add in the F and D below that A to create a D minor triad. This triad gives more of a pitch centre to aim for than just a single note.
Once you’ve heard the flute and piano notes use The Process of Elimination:
Is it ok?
Is it not ok?
I’m not sure.
If you think it’s fine then play.
If you think it’s not ok then you’re probably sharp or flat. If you think you’re sharp then pull out. Recheck your A. Did it improve? If so then you are on the right track. If not then you possibly went the wrong way.
If think you’re flat then push in. Recheck your A. Did it improve? If so then you are on the right track. If not then you possibly went the wrong way.
If you are not sure then keep reading the blogs and continue to work at improving your overall intonation skills.
Just ask yourself; is it ok? Is it not ok? I’m not sure, to gradually improve your ability to tune with the piano.