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 Post subject: Exercises For Improving Intonation
PostPosted: 09 Aug 2012, 16:34 

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Exercises For Improving Intonation

by Krešimir Cindrić


Playing in tune, i.e. with correct intonation, is extremely important. If intonation is off, performance of any music for the ocarina will sound dreadful, regardless of any other factors. This is even more important when playing in a group of ocarinas, because out of tune ocarinas will create very unpleasant clashes (buzzing and howling).


The ocarina is an instrument with highly unstable intonation and extraordinarily sensitive to breath. Tiny differences in blowing strength can create significant differences in pitch. Just covering the correct holes and blowing is not enough to produce correct pitch - precise strength of blowing is essential.


There are ways to practise playing in tune. It is necessary to become sensitive to intonation. Anyone with healthy hearing can do that - nowadays no serious music educator will say that somebody is "tone deaf". The term "tone deafness" was invented many centuries ago by people who did not understand the nature of music perception. Anybody with healthy hearing can learn to be in tune, hear all the intervals correctly and have a good perception of pitch. For some, it may take more practice than for others, but anybody can do it if they are motivated and dedicated.


Probably the best way to become sensitive regarding the intonation is to sing. Try to be in tune when singing. If possible record yourself singing. It will most likely sound horrible to you at first (one's own voice is usually the ugliest), but do not get discouraged. Singing is the best way to learn to hear!


If you are not, you may want to invest some effort in becoming ear trained, i.e. able to identify intervals, harmonic functions, rhythm, melody and chords by hearing. It is a skill, so it is not something that cam be learnt by reading about it, but only by doing it. The best way to do that is to have a teacher, but you can do it yourself with a lot of dedication. An excellent (and completely free) piece of software that can help is GNU Solfege.


When it comes to ocarina specifically, it is very helpful to have somebody to practise with - not only because it creates additional motivation, but also because it strengthens the sense of intonation and the sense of time. Playing duets is very beneficial, because it is much easier to hear bad intonation that way. If you do not have a companion, record yourself playing one part of the duet and play the second part along with the recording. It is not as good as playing in two, but it is better than nothing.


There are exercises that can help help playing the ocarina in tune. The most beneficial exercise is playing melodic interval leaps. That is the traditional method of ocarinists from Budrio and, in my opinion, the most fundamental exercise for the ocarina.


Here are all the diatonic melodic interval leaps in C major:


Diatonic thirds:
Image


Diatonic fourths:
Image


Diatonic fifths:
Image


Diatonic sixths:
Image


Diatonic sevenths:
Image


Diatonic octaves:
Image


These exercises can be played in other keys, too. Here are, for example, diatonic thirds in G major:

Image


and diatonic fourths in Eb major:

Image


It is a good idea to do this in every key, for all diatonic intervals.


Additionally, these exercises can me modified to be a sequence of melodic patterns. This is not only good for intonation, but also a simple finger dexterity exercise. Here are some sequences I suggest, but it is certainly not an exhaustive list:


A melodic sequence of thirds:
Image etc.


A melodic sequence of fourths:
Image etc.


Three melodic sequences of fifths:
Image etc.


Image etc.


Image etc.


A melodic sequence of sixths:
Image etc.


A melodic sequence of sevenths:
Image etc.


A melodic sequence of octaves:
Image etc.


You should also invent your own sequences and play them. Many similar exercises can be found in Giorgio Pacchioni's Studi giornalieri metodici per ocarina, which can be downloaded on his Ocarina Library (registration is necessary, but all content there is free).


A bit more advanced exercises are chromatic interval leaps. These are quite difficult to play, but are very good practice. Here are all the chromatic intervals leaps that fit the range of a single-chambered ocarina (for simplicity of reading, every note has an accidental noted in front of it):


Chromatic major seconds:
Image etc.


Chromatic minor thirds:
Image etc.


Chromatic major thirds:
Image etc.


Chromatic perfect fourths:
Image etc.


Chromatic tritones (augmented fourths):
Image etc.


Chromatic perfect fifths:
Image etc.


Chromatic minor sixths:
Image etc.


Chromatic major sixths:
Image etc.


Chromatic minor sevenths:
Image etc.


Chromatic major sevenths:
Image etc.


Chromatic perfect octaves:
Image etc.


It is important to listen carefully to yourself, while doing these exercises. If you cannot hear whether you are in tune or not, it may be a good idea to use a digital chromatic tuner, at least at first until you develop a better sensitivity to intonation. If there is a microphone connected to your computer, try using the free software called AP Tuner. For a general assessment of intonation, there is a very interesting software called Flutini, which listens to your playing and afterwards creates a graph of intonation accuracy.


Keep in mind that most tuners will display the concert pitch, not the ocarina's relative pitch. For example, if the note C is played on an ocarina in G, the tuner will display G. It is important to be aware of this difference. It you are used to think in terms of ocarina's relative pitch, not the concert pitch (the method which I recommend) you will not use the tuner to determine which note you are playing (you should know that, anyway), just whether that note is off or not. To read more about this, see article What Does the Expression "Ocarina in G" mean?


When practising these exercises using a tuner (or any other piece for that matter) - once you manage to be able to control your ocarina to be in tune when looking at the tuner, force yourself to turn off the tuner and play without it. If you are in doubt about being in tune or not, try recording your self playing and check later with a tuner if you were correct. Make sure that your recording setup does not mess up the intonation, however.


While using a tuner may be a good idea, it is important to be careful not to allow yourself to become dependent on it. A tuner can be of great help, but it can also become a crutch and cause more harm than good. The most important thing is to become sensitive to intonation and listen to yourself.




Copyright © 2012 by Krešimir Cindrić. Please do not repost or use without the permission of the author. Feel free, however, to link to this post.



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 Post subject: Re: Exercises For Improving Intonation
PostPosted: 09 Aug 2012, 20:40 

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The exercises look great. I'll definitely add a few of those to my practising repertoire. Flutini looks very interesting too.

There's a great app for Android phones called Perfect Ear that you can use for learning to hear when you're not at home. It's fun.


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 Post subject: Re: Exercises For Improving Intonation
PostPosted: 04 Sep 2012, 18:34 

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Wonderfully beneficial article to anyone playing the ocarina.

Thank you for putting in the effort to create this, Krešimir.


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 Post subject: Intonation excersises?
PostPosted: 30 Apr 2013, 09:53 

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(edit: oops, not sure how I missed the sticky :facepalm:, anyway suggestions on the 'lag' mentioned bellow would be helpful).

Has anyone hot any good practice exercises for improving intonation, especially in fast music. In particular my breath seems to 'lag' behind my fingering causing notes to be sharp when leaping down or flat when leaping up.

Also is there any way of knowing you are in tune when playing alone, and stopping your pitch 'drifting'.

Moderator edit: Post moved to the corresponding topic. ~Bas


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 Post subject: Re: Exercises For Improving Intonation
PostPosted: 01 May 2013, 09:51 

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Thank's kres.
That's great exercises coletion


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 Post subject: Re: Intonation excersises?
PostPosted: 01 May 2013, 14:32 

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Robert Hickman wrote:
Has anyone hot any good practice exercises for improving intonation, especially in fast music. In particular my breath seems to 'lag' behind my fingering causing notes to be sharp when leaping down or flat when leaping up.
Practise very slowly at first, increasing speed as you become more comfortable. The more you practise, the better you'll be at it. Never practise mistakes - if you notice you're doing something wrong, stop doing it as soon as possible.


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 Post subject: Re: Exercises For Improving Intonation
PostPosted: 15 Jul 2013, 02:20 

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these are great....how did I miss them....such fun! Andy


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