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Hey there. I was working with this really great trumpet player/singer from Japan. Toku. He is one of those perfect pitch virtuoso players (I'm a recording eng). I asked him what he felt HIS -A- was at (i.e. A-440). He said that when he sang what he heard as an A, it would be just a little sharp of 441. He added that if you subdivided the pitch between 441 and 442 into 3rds, he would be 441 and 1 3rd.

All that is well and good, but what he also said was that many, if not most of the great singers sang just a little sharp. If they sang in tune, they would blend too well and not be heard, but if they sang just above the pitch, it would stick out and sound a little bright.

This made me think.

So today I was tuning some vocals into a song. I had AutoTune up and was fixing a chorus and it was in perfect tune after I got done (sometimes I do what the client tells me to do, they see AutoTune, they feel they are getting their moneys worth... its a sad, sad world I live in). Then I thought, let me raise it a little. WHOA!!! The vocal popped out. It sounded great. I raised it just a few cents.

I know we work hard at playing in tune, but do you have any extra thoughts on playing just a little out of tune?:shock:
 

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If everybody plays a bit sharp so that they stand out, what have you accomplished?

I play in a bigband and a symphony orchestra with a trumpet player who plays at 443. The guy can play, but his tuning is ruining the sound of the orchestra. All the percussion sounds flat and pianos sound sickly. The string players go with it and so do the other brass instruments, but the WW and Perc are stuck with physical limitations to how much can be changed.

Personally I would never hire anyone who did this as a section player.
 

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If it's a soloist, then I can see the point - to a point. After all, Frank Sinatra always sang flat and it didn't do him any harm. But even if I have a solo, there's usually at least some of the piece that entails me playing with the band rather than in front of them, and sounding sharp then would just sound bad.
 

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olpinkeyes said:
If it's a soloist, then I can see the point - to a point.
Definitely. I was not trying to imply that everyone should play sharp. Also the musician I was working with sings in the tuning of the music. He was not stuck to 441. Just clarifying.

The other vocalist I was fixing was really bad and in need of tuning. Since I have the program to get his tuning spot on, I was checking Tokus theory by adjusting the vocal I fixed. The vocal definitely stuck out better, and it was not sounding too sharp. I don't think I could consistently play a little sharp on just a solo, my tuning is not that precise. I don't have perfect pitch. I may use this idea in some of my mixing if I need to. Just wanting to get some feedback from an experienced player.
 

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I've recorded a couple viola soloists. They all seem to play sharp. It sets my teeth on edge.

I also hope that someday the autotune will go out of style. I just don't understand this obsession recording artists have now with being 'perfectly' in tune, especially in light of the fact that equal temperment is already a compromise.
 

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hakukani said:
I've recorded a couple viola soloists. They all seem to play sharp. It sets my teeth on edge.
Most violists are just too small to really get around well on the viola. I'm 6'2" and have to work at getting the stretch required to play them in tune. But then again they do come in different sizes and mine are both on the big end of the scale. I think this is why most violists have intonation issues - the viola is too small to properly fit into the violin family, it needs to be much bigger to acoustically match the power of the other instruments. Soloists go for the bigger sound a larger instrument is capable of, even though they may not be able to play such an instrument.

I played a gig this past winter where it turned out I was mostly playing violin - with a synthesizer filling in the rest of the string sounds. That same trumpet player was in on the gig and it was a nightmare. The acoustic piano was out of tune with itself, the synth patch was flat and the trumpet was sharp. To make matters worse, I was recovering from a nasty bug which had contributed to damaging my hearing quite significantly so I was going by the feel from the violin to play in tune (You really can do this). I've never heard so many people having to use so much wide vibrato to play as an ensemble. I don't know if I'll take the gig next year if I get called.

Tune it or die is a bit extreme, but it works.
 
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