How to play in tune by skillfully hearing your pitch

The word truism came to mind after I wrote the title for this post. The only way to play better in tune is by hearing your pitch. Skillfully. Thank you Captain Obvious!

But we don’t always hear our own pitch or intonation. I discovered that after listening to a recording of me of a few years ago. The Hank Levy arrangement of Bread and Watrous featured me in front of a big band. I thought I played it pretty well and so did a few others.

A couple days ago, I listened to it after all this time and was shocked by how out of tune I was. It wasn’t as if this was my high school days. This recording was only a couple years old.

I also feel bad because I had been pestering the band leader for the recording of the concert so I could post it on Youtube. The recording wasn’t easy for him to find so I’m glad it at least inspired this post and an instructive video. Dave, even though I didn’t use it for the intended purpose, thanks for getting me the audio and video!

The video is a demonstration of an exercise consisting of nine two-note intervals. Your assignment is to play an A inside each of the intervals, and do so with perfect intonation.

I play the first part of the exercise and show the tuner as I play each of the three A’s within the intervals. Record yourself playing through the exercise and then listen back. Are your pitches solidly in the right place?

The audio for the exercise is posted on Soundcloud:

Play it or download it so that you can use it as an audio file in your DAW for recording and analysis.

I enjoy this exercise for the feeling of playing so solidly in the pitch. Try it for yourself. What do you hear?

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