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Intonation, Tuning, and Blending
By Hilary Janysek
What’s the difference?
(noun) The correct or accurate pitching
(placement) of intervals; the capacity to play
or sing in tune.
2. Tuning:
(verb) to adjust to the correct or given
standard of pitch. Agreement of pitch
3. Blending:
(verb) (general)To mix in order to obtain a
particular kind or quality; to have no
perceptible separation. (music) The act of
altering one’s tone color, vibrato, articulation,
and style to match one or more sounds.
Other confusing terms
◦ A group of notes taken in ascending or
descending order, especially within one octave
◦ the tuning scale, fixed intervals as in equal
◦ An absolute frequency assigned to a certain note
◦ The auditory property of a note in relation to
◦ A pitch
◦ Quality or character of sound
Why is it hard for young flute
students to play in tune?
Must develop a centered, resonant tone.
 What does “centered” mean?
◦ Practice finding center
How can we develop resonance?
◦ Moyse De La Sanorite No. 1 (Figure 1)
◦ Melody in a Major Scale (Figure 2)
1. Intonation
Know the tendencies of every note.
◦ In general (Figure 3)
◦ On your flute (Figure 4)
Practice centering tough notes.
 Then once you can play the note in tune by
itself, practice in intervals with a drone.
◦ Moyse De La Sanorite, p.6 (Figure 5)
◦ Favorite melodies
◦ Add dynamics, and varied articulations
What do we listen for?
1. Intonation, cont.
Difference Tones
◦ Also known as Resonance or Ghost Tones
◦ The faint presence of a tone whose frequency
is equal to the difference between the
frequencies of the two notes actually being
played. Usually an octave or two lower.
◦ The pitches being played must be adjusted so
the fundamental sounds in tune.
 Trio for two flutes (Figure 6)
2. Tuning
True or False? If you have a good
understanding of your instrument’s
intonation, you don’t have to worry about
 FALSE! tuning is a life-long journey that
depends on which instruments you are
playing with, what climate you are playing
in, and what style the ensemble wishes to
2. Tuning, cont.
Learn about other instruments and their
intonation tendencies to be able to
predict tuning problems
◦ Ex: clarinet, violin, oboe
Just because both instruments both sound
in tune individually, does not mean they
will sound in tune together. Why is this?
2. Tuning chords and intervals
Equal Temperament vs Pure intonation
◦ Major chord
◦ Minor chord
Relative Adjustment
Major 2nd
Minor 3rd
Major 3rd
Perfect 4th
Perfect 5th
Major 6th
Major 7th
From the Trevor Wye Practice Book,
Volume 4: Intonation and Vibrato
3. Blending
Two flutes can be playing in tune individually,
but sound out of tune. Why?
Two ways to blend: 1+1=2 VS 1+1=1
What variables can be changed to blend with
other instruments? How?
◦ Tone color, vowel shape, intensity, vibrato, air
What is the key to good intonation,
tuning and blend?
 Don’t forget to use your ears!
 Remember, it is a life-long journey; a
marathon, not a sprint.
Debost, Michel. The Simple Flute: From A to Z. New York:
Oxford University Press, 2002.
Moyse, Marcel. De La Sonorite: Art et Technique. Paris:
Alphonse Leduc, 1934.
Reichart, M.A. 7 Daily Exercises for the Flute. New York:
G. Shirmer, 1872.
Wye, Trevor. Trevor Wye Practice Book for the Flute,.Vol. 4,
Intonation and Vibrato. London: Novello Limited,1983.
Krell, John C. Kincaidiana: A Flute Player’s Notebook. 2nd
ed. Santa Clarita, CA: National Flute Association,
Definitions of terms taken from