Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Tuning your horn

When you first buy a horn, and occasionally thereafter, you should do a full tune and get all the slides into an adjustment that works for you. (Note that I don't say the 'correct' adjustment, because there is no single setting of an individual horn that will suit all players equally).

At the start of a rehearsal when tuning up, I take the view that ONLY the main tuning slide should be adjusted. If a large adjustment is needed (e.g. because of an out-of-tune oboe or extremes of temperature), then some additional compensation might been needed on the secondary tuning slide for the Bb side of a full double. The valve slides should not need to be
adjusted at all.

The reason is this. The second valve, lowering by a semitone, adds about 6% to the total length of the tubing. Even the 3rd valve only adds 18%. Suppose you pulled the main tuning slide out by half an inch (a pretty big adjustment), to maintain the 3rd valve exactly at the same open/closed
tubing ratio, you would need to pull it out by about a tenth of an inch. This is too small an adjustment to be worthwhile. The necessary adjustments of the other valves would be even smaller.

So, if you are satisfied that the horn is in tune with itself when you play it, don't mess with the valve slides, just use the main slide to get in tune with the rest of the group.

If you're not satisfied that the horn is playing in tune with itself, do the adjustments at home, not at the start of a rehearsal.

Also, when you tune at the start of rehearsal, tune to the oboe's A by playing a fourth-space E rather than the octave below. The low E is far too easy to lip into tune, and so you are liable to leave your upper register out of tune. If you tune to the higher E, you will be able to make adjustments as necessary to your lower range far more easily.

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