Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How to tune a flute quartet or flute ensemble

Dear Readers,

This is another topic from the search box on my website which I thought really deserved some helpful tips.

"How do you tune flutes together in a group?"

Firstly, there are some teacher's tuning aids shown in this youtube video.
I'm an enormous fan of the Tuning CD, the shiny-surfaces marking pen, and it has been proved time and time again that with these two items you may never need to "Tune your flute players" again when rehearsing in flute groups.

Here's what you do:

1. Teach everyone in the group how to use their cleaning rod to check their cork, and have the teacher move those corks that are out of correct placement. Make sure students know not to twist the crown, and where to get repairs if their cork is sliding due to shrinkage.

2. Teach everyone in the group to set up their flute with the headjoint drawn out 1/8th to 1/4 inch and to blow warm air down through a closed tube (all keys down) until the silver reaches room temp. before tuning and during rests in pieces played in cold rooms.
Often flutes are flat when they're cooled down even after a bar or two rest, so teach them to be aware of the pitch drop caused by cooling tubes.

3. Whenever a flute student or member of your flute group plays absolutely in tune with the teacher for a chunk of minutes, take your shiny-surfaces black magic marker and mark their headjoint tenon with a tiny line which will then become their set-up line for the next few weeks. This line can be removed by rubbing or by swabbing with alcohol. If this headjoint marking is used and continues to work well, you have found their "headjoint draw" on that flute for that player at that ability level. It may, of course, change as they develop, but they can buy their own marking pen and mark it themselves next time they discover the perfect headjoint position. This marking can also double as a headjoint rotation alignment if you make two "tick marks" on the barrel on either side of the tenon-draw line. See video.

4. Use The Tuning CD in your flute lessons and in ensemble rehearsals. Teach the students how to use it. Full instructions at the website that sells them.
Totally fun to use for all sorts of etudes, scales, exercises and chord building. Best invention since the thumbport!!! As I say in the video. Still true.

Hope this helps, and after four years of using the above steps I now have three flute ensembles that just set their flute to their markings and GO!! No need to tune. Everyone just starts exactly in tune already from minute one.

Hope this helps,

Jen the softhearted-search-box-report-reader

Comments welcome from other teachers and students with flute group tuning tricks!