Trigger-happy: Solve (some) Intonation Woes

Playing with a tuner will not get your horn in tune. A tuner will help to get your horn in the ballpark, but just about every note on the horn is naturally either sharp or flat.

One of the most notorious out-of-tune notes (because it’s the worst) is this low C#,low C-sharp which is almost 1/4-step sharp! You’re halfway to D if you don’t use your triggers and your ears. Watch  any trumpeter on video (the good ones, anyway), and you’ll see them using triggers all the time. That’s because it’s less tiring to use a trigger to get in tune than it is to lip a note in tune.

Neverland Meme_LOWD-C-sharp

There are lots of reasons for the intonation problems on the horn, from poor playing and air support to the physics of sound, to the construction of the trumpet itself. Aside from poor playing habits, the reason isn’t all that important. What is important is that you hear and fix these naturally occurring intonation problems.

First challenge: hearing intonation problems. Using a tunscreenshot-itablapro-ipad_8488ed9er employs your eyeballs. This doesn’t help you at all, and in fact, seduces you into believing you’re in tune.

Playing with drones makes you use your earholes. Run, don’t walk, and get iTabla Pro to have a blast playing with drones, or play drones with a piano and the sustain pedal. I’ve posted about this before. This will help you learn to hear when you’re in (or out) of tune, and you’ll learn to immediately adjust so you’re in tune.

Enough words. This isn’t something you need to understand intellectually, it’s something you should feel. Play with drones, stare with your ears, and use your triggers.

Here’s a chart from the upcoming 4th edition of Sound the Trumpet (due some time this summer). It shows how in- or out-of-tune notes on the horn tend to be. Again, better to feel/hear this for yourself, but this is a good starting reference.



Learn to practice, read music, play trumpet, and more at Sol Ut Press.
Learn to practice, read music, play trumpet, and more at Sol Ut Press.

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