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Tuning the woodwind section

Chad Criswell Teaching the woodwind section of any school orchestra to play in tune often seems like an uphill battle. Karen Garrison, professor of music at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, says that although no pedagogy exists for the training of students in this art, there are things that teachers can do to help. During a presentation at the April 2008 MENC conference in Milwaukee, Garrison discussed several possibilities with Robby Gunstream of The College Music Society, and she recently added to her remarks in a conversation with Teaching Music. [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Before even beginning the task of tuning a woodwind section, some prerequisites must already be in place. Make sure that students are warmed up sufficiently; that they are employing proper embouchure, air support, and posture; and that their instruments are in good condition. Once this has been accomplished, a student's ability to play in tune with him- or herself becomes crucial. Improving a woodwind section's intonation must begin with teaching students how to hear intervals and identify their qualities. "Start with pairs of like instruments," Garrison advises, "with the goal of having each instrument pair be able to play in tune with each other." This occurs by first learning what it sounds like to have both instruments play a sound on pitch, and then varying the intonation to demonstrate what it sounds like when one is in tune and the other is flat. This should continue through all of the different instrument variations, with each student having the opportunity to be the person that is "in tune." No physical adjustment or compensation is necessary at this point, only aural recognition of intonation problems within each group. Have the students intentionally play etudes or scales while they are out of tune with each other (use an electronic tuner to assist with this process). With proper reinforcement and patience, almost any student will eventually be able to identify by ear when he or she is out of tune with a partner. The next step in Garrison's process is to expand this exercise to the larger section and finally to the entire ensemble. Begin with similar instruments (flute and clarinet, oboe and bassoon) and slowly expand to unlike instruments (clarinet to tuba, flute to violin, etc.). The ultimate goal is for all students to be able to answer the question "Am I low to you?" or "Are you low to me?" Intonation should start with simple unisons, fourths, fifths, and octaves, and eventually branch out to include all of the intervals and different chord configurations. Using this technique and through constant attention to detail, a music director can turn any group of young musicians into a polished and resonant performing ensemble. Criswell, Chad
Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition) Criswell, Chad. "Tuning the woodwind section." Teaching Music Oct. 2008: 56+. General OneFile. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. Document URL PS&sw=w

Gale Document Number: GALE|A186318778