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Discussion Starter #1
Apart from flying shoes and stuff...

I'm having problems playing in tune with backing CD's. To complicate matters, I don't realize I'm out of tune while playing, only when listening to the recorded practice session. :cry:

I'm currently practicing playing long tones with a tuner, but not sure if the visual feedback is of any help.

Are there any exercises that I can practice to help play in tune with the accompaniment?

Thanks,

Hernan
 

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Just keep using the tuner while you practice, you should keep the tuner on for your entire practice.
I usually keep it laying down next to w/e I'm playing or nearby, so I'm not totally focused on it, but I can take a look if i ever think i might be out of tune.
 

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Just listen. You don't need a tuner.

Play a note purposely flat, then sharp, then try to bring it into
tune by ear.

If you look at a tuner, you are using quite a different process
in your brain. Eyes, not ears. It will not train your ear, but will
just tell you when you are wrong.
 

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Egad! Remind me not record my practice sessions!!
 

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Learning to really listen to others while you are playing is a skill that takes concentration and practice. It is a big part of musicianship and becoming a good ensemble player.

I would suggest starting out by just listening intently to the accompaniment. Then listen to the accompaniment while silently fingering your sax and hearing your part in your mind. Then play aloud with the accompaniment hearing every other part louder than yourself. Gradually increase your volume to a good balance but still hearing the accompaniment as much as you hear yourself.

The fact that you only hear your out-of-tuneness on the playback reveals that you are not yet really listening as you play. Another great exercise is to finger your sax and sing your part along with the accompaniment. If you can sing the part in tune, you can play it in tune.

John
 

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What's really helped me was to play transcribed solos along with the recording of someone you know plays in tune.
 

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How about just doing root chord tones on a backing track, with a focus on listening and being in tune. Then, you can move on to arpeggios, and scales, all over the backing track. I'm thinking that you slowly let more "playing" in, while maintaining your ability to listen.

Other tips: don't mess with your gear for a while. Changing horns, mouthpieces, reed strengths, etc. could mess you up until you really get used to listening to your tuning while you play.

Pete
 

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Take, what we call, solfege lessons. Learn to sing from sheetmusic.
You have to be able to hear the next note you will be playing in your head to be able to play it right.
 

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How's your singing? Try to improve that!

Tuning your ears and brain to the music is a process that happens in your mind before of happening out of your instrument. You need to learn what playing in tune is with the instrument you know better and has been directly connected with your ears and brain since your birth, your voice.

listen to the sound of your voice, in order to help you with that, you might want to keep the music soft or use one ear-plug (you will ear yourself better through the vibrations of your jaw). Listen to your voice, then try to execute small phrases of tunes you know from childhood. Do not think at the fingers think of the intervals and try to establish a connection betewwen mind-ear-fingers.......you can leave the eyes out , music reading is not going to help you much with being in tune.
 

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kavala said:
Just listen. You don't need a tuner.
If you look at a tuner, you are using quite a different process
in your brain. Eyes, not ears. It will not train your ear, but will
just tell you when you are wrong.
Absolutely! Using a tuner for extended practice will actually hinder the process of learning to play in tune for this very reason.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for the comments everybody! Lots of goods ideas here...

Will concentrate on listening to the backing tracks more.

Pete: no worries about buying more equipment here :)
 

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Okay, maybe this is stupid, but are you sure the lead sheet you are using is transposed for your instrument, i.e. playing alto but reading tenor? etc.

Just thought I would throw that into the mix. Nothing worse than playing with a CD and realizing its in a different key.
 

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A few things that helped me:
Practice singing along with a piano -- take a given interval (start small, working your way up past the octave range), and practice it in various keys. Play the "root" of your interval, sing along, then be quiet, holding the pitch in your head, then sing that same note again, and check by playing it on the piano to see if you are still in tune. Then rest again, and "prehear" the interval (be it a minor second, third, whatever) and sing the pitch. Again, check the pitch by playing first the root note (still singing the other note), and then the pitch that you are singing.
Practice longtones with a tuner like you're doing. Sometimes the FEEL of playing a note a given way is so ingrained that you need help to tell you you're wrong. If you have a tool, use it.
See if you can get a sax duet or, better yet, a quartet going. Nothing has helped my pitch more than small ensemble playing with like instruments. It forces all of you to pay intense attention to your own pitch in relation to the others', and when you do it right, it sounds incredible.

Hope I've helped,
Dan
 

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...also play intervals very slowly and listen to the relationship between the first and next tones. Start with open fifths, then perfect fourths, major sixths, major thirds, major sevenths and then then play these intervals raised and lowered a half step where possible.

I don't know if the above-mentioned software does this or not, but try to get sustained tones and play with them, listening to the beats you hear when you are not playing perfectly in unison; the faster the beat, the further away from pitch you are. Do whatever you need to do to reduce the rate of the beats (coming down or going up in pitch) until they eventually disappear. Do this on tons of pitches. You'll not only improve your ear's ability to play along with another instrument, but you should also become more aware of what notes on your instrument you need to humour to stay in tune.

Regarding the tuner I do not think it is a bogey man and it can be helpful, it's all in how you use it. Using it to match pitches can be useful. Play a pitch not looking at the tuner and then look at it and see where you are. Now play an interval into that same pitch and glance again at the tuner. What is important is that you are using your ear and really hearing where that pitch is before you look at the tuner. I agree that just staring into a tuner and playing indiscriminately to match pitches is the wrong way to use it, but I wouldn't throw the baby out with the wash.
 

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Gee.... Just listen to the music on the CD and match pitch.

If you want to get good and that, play duets with young teenagers. My son and daughter often have pitches all over the place, but I listen to them while playing my part and stay in tune and tempo with them. That makes the whole thing work. Playing with canned music is no different but a little easier.

This action all goes on between the ears and the mouth. No eyes or brain required. Looking at turners or anticipating pitch by looking at written music just doesn't do the job. Quit thinking about it and let the ears to the work.

PS: I know the brain and probably the rest of the body, including the bladder and rectum, have to be involved in one way or another. No physiology lesson needed here. But the point is that the ears and mouth/breathing are all that one needs to concentrate on to do this right. Using the rest just complicates the matter.
 
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