Yamaha recorders- do they sound flat?

Home Forum Recorder Makes, Models and Maintenance Yamaha recorders- do they sound flat?

This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Richard Hureau February 23, 2021 at 3:43 pm.

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  • #1371

    Merrill Flint
    Participant

    I purchased an alto and soprano recorder set from Japan (YRSA-302BIII)- I don’t want anything more expensive since I’m just starting out. I’ve noted that everything I play is on the flat side. I’ve confirmed this with a tuner- I’m often a good 20 cents short of the note I’m fingering. My question is: Did I get a bad recorder or is my technique just bad? If it’s my technique, how can I get a more or less constant “in tune” pitch?
    (note- I did make sure the three pieces were tightly fitted).

    #1377

    Katia J
    Participant

    Is this a problem you have on other recorders as well? (I wasn’t clear if you’d tried others.)

    How hard are you blowing? I’ve read that some people tend to blow too timidly.

    (FWIW– these are good instruments and you won’t need anything more expensive for a long time. It’s also unlikely that you got “bad” instruments, especially since you’ve noticed this on both of them.)

    #1379

    Merrill Flint
    Participant

    On further practice, I think it’s probably just a combo of not enough pressure and bad posture. I should know better since I trained as a classical singer for many years. If I stand up straight and breathe like a singer should, I seem to be able to hit the actual note with some degree of accuracy.

    #1398

    Ken In Dallas
    Participant

    And… Tuners don’t always have the purpose that most people think they’re for. We can make ourselves crazy with them. You might not be aware that a Yamaha Recorder is tuned to A442. Many inexpensive tuners don’t permit “tuning the tuner.” I agree with Katia 100%. Shoot for a pleasing tone; and as you expand your range on your instrument, try to keep it sounding full and pleasant from the highest to the lowest note. The first time you’ll likely want to tune, it will be to play along with a recording or another player. That’s often better done by ear rather than with a meter. — k —

    #1399

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    I think some extra explanation would be good here. First, recorders are VERY affected by the temperature of the instrument. The warmer the recorder, the higher the pitch. For this reason (as well as to avoid condensation in the windway), it is advisable to warm the recorder before you play. The usual way to do this is to put the head joint (where you blow) under your armpit for 10 or 15 minutes. This RAISES the pitch of the instrument significantly.

    Then, as you play, the pitch will gradually raise even further (you are blowing hot air into it). But this, of course, is also counteracted by the ambient temperature of the room. So sometimes it’s a wash (the pitch stays about the same), but usually it will rise some more. If it gets really high you can fix it by pulling the top joint out from the center barrel some.

    On top of all this, how hard you blow affects the pitch a lot. Blow harder – the pitch goes up, blow softer, it goes down.

    So, if this is sounding like a moving target that is constantly changing, that’s because it is. Playing in tune on the recorder is a constant struggle and something players playing with others have to pay close attention to every moment, adjusting their breath pressure to get everything sounding good. I have been playing for over 40 years and still have trouble with it because I seldom play with others.

    So, trying to match a recorder to a tuning device is pretty much impossible and not worth even attempting, IMHO. As others have said, the instruments you have are very good and VERY unlikely to be faulty. So enjoy!!

    #1400

    Katia J
    Participant

    ^All also good points above.

    As far as tuning, I’d far rather play along with a recording to check my tuning, rather than a tuner. (Which is, btw, how I figured out that I needed to check my tuning early on– thought I was doing fine because of course I was playing by myself, and was in tune with my self; I don’t have perfect pitch so I won’t know by hearing just me if I’m a few cents flat… then I tried playing along with an accompaniment track, and hello, I was flatter than a pancake, lol.) And, if need be, record myself playing, with or without a recording (I find sometimes it’s easier to hear imperfect intonation when you’re ‘detached” from the situation via a recording rather than when the instrument is right under your ear in the heat of playing).

    A tuner has its uses, but not, IMO, for trying to check one’s actual intonation in playing, on any instrument.

    #1402

    Ken In Dallas
    Participant

    Uh Oh, I guess I’m going to be the Curmudgeon here. There’s playing flat and there’s your recorder being (tuned) flat compared to a recording or another player. Don’t hurt me, but here goes…

    Playing flat can be low breath, posture, and such. A single note be flat (or sharp) despite your doing what the fingerchart says. That’s often the case with inexpensive instruments and older plastic ones from the 60s and 70s. The correction is usually an alternate fingering or ‘Shading’ a hole – hovering a finger close over the hole – to ‘bend’ the pitch slightly.

    When we play with a recording or another player, it isn’t uncommon for there to be a difference between instruments that requires pulling the headjoint, extending a Recorder’s overall length so as to lower its overall tuning and make the pitches match.

    As a higher level of Musicianship, there’s “Blending.” When two notes are very, very, very close together, their soundwaves can ‘clash’ in a way that sounds bad or we even hear ‘beating’ as the two instruments fight with each other. Advanced musicians listen as they play and adjust till things sound ‘sweet.’ Well blended live performance, both by pitch and volume, can be heart-stoppingly beautiful.

    I just did a little ‘flute-ing’ around and counter-intuitively found that my curved and tight-windwayed Recorders had a wider in-tune dynamic (volume) range than my older streight-and-large windwayed ones. I’m thinking this permits easier blending assuming you know your instrument’s pitch idiosyncrasies. By the way, I use Richard Schwartz’s “The Tuning CD” with my students. I have them put down their instruments and sing to match pitch with it so they feel the blend in their chest. I find that Recorder players in particular learn to blend better and faster experiencing this material. The CDs are on YouTube at:

    https://youtu.be/bMJHWpIma5s

    It’s an excellent experience in tuning and blending. End of Curmudgeon’s rant.

    — k —

    #1403

    Ken In Dallas
    Participant

    It was just pointed out that the YouTube videos that comprise “The Tuning CD” come with no explanation. Tom Ball’s article on using drones and tuning systems begins with an excellent explanation of what the ‘CDs’ are all about and how to use the YouTube material. Only the front end of the article is needed. Later on he goes in depth into Temperament, way beyond our discussion.

    http://www.dwerden.com/soundfiles/intonationhelper/the_tuning_cd_booklet_free_version.pdf

    I should mention that I am not an advocate of Mean or Just Temperament. Sixty-years ago, I was all but excommunicated back in music school when my idea of a minor 3rd injured the ears of fellow students. I had learned the violin-family instruments I played while tuning with harmonics. My ear was therefore adjusted to the sweeter intervals derived from natural tuning. My fellow students had more time in and around pianos and such and therefore had ears more adjusted to Equal Temperament. Today, after years of studio time, I’m fully an Equal Temperament person. I’d better stop here as this stuff glazes people over very fast and it’s at the very edge of the topic. — k —

    #1405

    Richard Hureau
    Participant

    Yup, I agree with what you say, Katia.

    Ken, I don’t think you are being a curmudgeon. It seems that you have elaborated (usefully! 🙂 ) on several things I said above.

    To quote myself,

    “If it gets really high you can fix it by pulling the top joint out from the center barrel some.

    So, if this is sounding like a moving target that is constantly changing, that’s because it is. Playing in tune on the recorder is a constant struggle and something players playing with others have to pay close attention to every moment, adjusting their breath pressure to get everything sounding good.”

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