Why are the instruments no longer correct?

Tuning the trumpet: How to do it right

Even as a brass player, you can't avoid tuning your instrument. In contrast to many other musicians, you face very special challenges. The basic mood is only one other side of the coin; In addition, there is the influence of the approach and playing technique, as well as the fine tuning. Here are our tips on how to properly tune your trumpet:

Check it - Trumpets tune with sense and understanding

  • The interaction of the different components
  • The risky influence of hearing and imagination
  • Possible fine tuning of the gap
  • Tuning with a tuner

Tuning the trumpet: the interplay of instrument, attachment and ear

As with all brass players, tuning a trumpet is always the interaction of the instrument with one's own intonation skills. It is well known that you can correct the tones to a certain extent using the approach. The tricky thing: you will do that even if it's not hip. This correction does not only work in a positive way. If you want to tune the trumpet, your hearing plays a decisive role.

Basic tuning with the main tuning slide

When viewed from the mouthpiece, the main tuning slide is the first turn of the trumpet reed. By how far this slide is pulled out or plugged in, the instrument is - roughly - tuned lower or higher. The distance available for the air column is lengthened or shortened. From the layman's point of view, it should be sufficient to tune the keynote played without valves with the tuning slide.

The opinion circulates among beginners that the remaining notes - played by the valve - should then also be correct. Well, the opinion remains. In practice it is often completely different. In the trumpet, numerous components are responsible for the correct tuning.

Design-related disenchantment: tuning the trumpet is always a compromise

The sobering truth is: A trumpet cannot tune correctly over the entire tone spectrum due to its design. The trumpet is designed as a natural instrument with a system of uniform semitone steps. There is a “well-tempered piano”, but there is no such thing as a well-tempered trumpet.

Responsible for the fact that the instrument on its own has no chance of delivering all-round in the best mood are in particular the overtones that resonate with every main note. From a purely physical point of view, the design of the trumpet cannot harmonize the overtones across all registers, at least not across all keys.

Your trumpet needs active help

Your instrument needs support. This support is you. To put it more precisely: your approach, the blowing, playing and even breathing technique. And then we are allowed to deal with the concept of intonation. You have long since realized that you can still be clearly wrong with a roughly hit tone. If you want to tune the trumpet, it can be tricky.

Once the instrument has been properly tuned, only other causes can be responsible. And again you are guilty: You are the main cause. In order to intone the accurate tone, your hearing and brain must be trained and trained. Especially when it’s about playing intervals (pitch) and melody lines.

Tonal imagination and ear training

The fact remains: Before you play a note, you have to have an exact idea inside yourself of what it sounds like. The trumpet, in turn, is to a certain extent your medium, your tool, your means of expression. It doesn't make sense to just start honking without knowing what to sound at the start line.

The attunement in symphonic orchestras usually follows this pattern: The oboe sets the reference tone - the concert pitch a ‘. All other instruments now compare their tone and adjust until there are no more so-called beats.

Explanation of terms: Beating is the difference between two tones that do not vibrate at the same frequency. If one tone sounds at 440 Hz, the other at 440.5 Hz, this difference is 0.5 Hz. And this difference can be heard clearly - even as a third tone. The tuning result is optimal when there is as little beating as possible.

Incidentally, it is common for classical orchestras and other wind instruments to tune the instruments to a total of 442 or 443 Hz. There are several reasons for this in addition to the historical development. At first, higher-pitched instruments and arrangements sound more dynamic, especially since the overtone spectrum also shifts. Deep moods, on the other hand, appear warmer and more emotional. For tuning the trumpets in the orchestra, the c2 (i.e. the Bb2) is recommended as the reference tone.

Basic tuning and fine tuning

If you want to tune the trumpet, you do not dedicate yourself to different notes one after the other as with other instruments. It is said that the "keynote is balanced". The other tones follow - as far as possible - the basic tuning. However, there are various ways of optimizing tuning and intonation until there is a remaining “residual risk”.

Gap - the gap between the leadpipe and the mouthpiece

In order to be able to tune the trumpet, the dimensions and proportions of all components must match each other in their entirety. Often it is decided by the nuances. One of the neuralgic points is the so-called "gap", which describes the distance between the leadpipe inlet and the mouthpiece outlet.

This plugged connection is initially specified by the instrument maker and by the mouthpiece used. The mount on the leadpipe has a fixed diameter, as does the shaft of the mouthpiece. If you find that the instrument is not right even with an ideal athletic approach, fine-tuning the gap can bring considerable improvements. There are a few tricks for doing this.

Under no circumstances should you make mechanical changes yourself

Please keep your fingers off any mechanical changes such as grinding off the shaft of the mouthpiece or shortening the mouthpipe; don't even try that. The resulting damage is usually irreparable. This is a job for specialized instrument makers and workshops. So, steer clear of radical measures and self-made modifications.

Much better DIY solution: thin adhesive strips

You can try around with the thinnest plastic strips possible. For this you use simple adhesive tape, for example smooth and transparent scotch tape. You can cut the strips in the middle again so that they are narrower. Now you glue one of the strips lengthways onto the shaft of the mouthpiece, put the mouthpiece on and check to what extent the pitch has changed. If the measure is not enough, you can try further strips to narrow the radius.

Tune and play the trumpet with the tuner

The question remains whether you should always play with a tuner. The burdock on your music stand that constantly controls you with every note. The secret service comrade who does not hide any false frequency from your trumpet and immediately reports it to higher places.

You should definitely practice with the tuner over and over again. Wrong memories easily creep into the musical memory and thus also wrong reference tones. The tuner helps you to correct yourself and gives you immediate feedback as to whether you are correct. The ideal solution for this are chromatic tuners, which ideally react quickly and are easy to read.

Use the tuner carefully and selectively

But don't overdo it, playing on the tuner shouldn't become an end in itself. It should be a helpful support - nothing more. At the latest for your next performance with the wind orchestra or with a band, you have to get by without this double bottom of the tuner anyway.

In this context, let's remember that the final yardstick for the correct pitch is your hearing. And the ears can be lured on the wrong track by annoying noises, other instruments or simply by fatigue.

Precisely for this reason, it is recommended that you as the voter cannot see the ad. Otherwise, an undesirable side effect could be that you subconsciously correct the tone through facial expressions and approach. Much better so as not to fall into a self-deceiving trap: Another person looks at the tuner and signals to you in which direction the tone - i.e. the vocal arc - has to change.

Side tip: It makes perfect sense to vote only after importing. This way you reduce intonation problems. Both the instrument and your approach are warmed up and allow more reliable results.

Keywords: wind instruments, brass instruments, intonation