Of course, you should tune
in the first year of instruction! It is not as difficult as it
may sound and well worth the time. After all, you have to listen
to them every day, don't you? Do you really want to stand in
front of a group of students who are perpetually out of tune? No,
of course not! And students who get used to hearing good intonation
satisfied with bad intonation.
Step 1. In the
first week that the students are assembling the instruments for beginner
band, the teacher should begin to make some "ballpark" adjustments. Most
flutes can start with the headjoint pulled out about a quarter of an
inch. Most clarinet barrels can be pulled enough to stick your
thumbnail between the barrel and the upper joint. Most brass
should have the tuning slide pulled about a quarter to one-half inch. Use
your ear, or if you are uncertain, use a tuning mechanism.
Step 2. Teaching
good tone must be a priority in the beginner year or none of this matters! Students
who play with good tone will be close to being in tune, not withstanding
other factors (range, dynamics, etc.). Students who play
with good tune can also learn to adjust pitch without sacrificing tone
quality. Good tone has to be important from the first time the
students begin to actually make sounds on the instruments.
Step 3. When "tuning," students
must be absolutely quiet so they can hear accurately and without distraction.
Step 4. Teaching
students what "in tune" sounds like. [For me, this
demonstration usually happened after students had been playing for
about a month. Then follow up weekly, at least.] This
is most easily done by using a pair of players. Have player "A" hold
a note steady. Have player "B" play the same note
and adjust pitch until the waves disappear. This is what "in
tune" sounds like.
You may ask, "Does
this really work? Can players in the beginner year really hear
the difference? Is it worth the time it takes to stop and do
this?" YES, YES, YES!!! You will be amazed
at how well students hear when they are instructed to listen, match