Metronome. Tuner. How much do you use them in your practice?
At Arizona State we have a new trumpet professor starting this fall, Joe Burgstaller. In his instructions to students preparing for their placement auditions he suggests that they record themselves every day in their practice and listen to the recordings. But just as important is this instruction:
“Use a metronome and tuner 50% of your practice.”
This is really much more critical than you might think, as you can totally get used to how you sound, you won’t even notice the funky rhythm or intonation on a recording, as it sounds correct to you.
In my recent summer practice I’ve worked to use the tuner more than 50% of the time, and when I don’t use it I use drones. I’m liking the Tonal Energy tuner/app for this purpose a lot, as it has not only a tuner but built in metronome and ability to produce drones. I do suggest the winds/wide setting to make it a bit more forgiving, and for this challenge I think you are best to use equal temperament.
A couple key tips are worth mentioning. One is to don’t use the tuner for at least the first five minutes of your playing session, get things going and get comfortable. Your next step is to aim for on an open note like C or G, playing it in the most comfortable and centered location, with the result being exactly in tune. Adjust your main slide to hit this pitch level. Then stay with the tuner and as much as possible don’t bend the pitches, set your valve slides so that you can play in the most comfortable and centered place consistently. You may find some harmonics tend to be low (frequently the E on the bottom line for example) but, again, do your best to get it all centered with slide positions and a comfortable centering.
Give it a try! I suspect that not only will your intonation improve, your accuracy will also improve, perhaps greatly improve, by being more in tune.