# Test Tuning Skills

Intonation, or playing "in tune," is one of the basic musicianship skills. Electronic devices have made the teaching of intonation easier. Here are a couple tuning test tips:

1. The Strobe Test
1. Using a strobe, test each student on five different notes.*
2. Score each note as follows:
1. No movement = 0
2. A little movement = 1
3. More movement = 2
4. Faster movement = 3
5. Very fast movement = 4
6. Scores of ½, 1 ½, 2 ½, and 3 ½ can be given if needed
3. Total the five scores.
Example:
Bb = 0
B = 1
C = ½
C# = ½
D = 0
-------
Total  2
4. Multiply the total by five.
Example:
2 x 5 = 10
5. Subtract the product from 100. Example:
100 - 10 = 90
(This student’s strobe test score would be 90%)
2. The Tuner Test
1. Using a tuner that produces the pitch of each note, test each student on five different notes.*
2. Score each note as follows:
1. No beats = 0
2. A few beats = 1
3. More beats = 2
4. Faster beats = 3
5. Very fast beats = 4
6. Scores of ½, 1 ½, 2 ½, and 3 ½ can be given if needed
3. Total the five scores.
Example:
Bb = 0
B = 1 ½
C = 1
C# = 1
D = 0
-------
Total  3 ½
4. Multiply the total by five.
Example:
3 ½ x 5 = 17 ½
5. Subtract the product from 100.
Example:
100 – 17 ½= 82 ½
6. Round up scores that end in ½ to the next whole number.
Example:
82 ½ rounds up to 83.   (This student’s tuner test score would be 83%)

*I only checked five notes because I had large classes and I wanted to test all the students in one period. In a smaller class test two octaves (25 notes) and subtract the total from 100 to get the score.

At the beginning of each quarter review the tuning challenges of the set of notes to be tested. Generally, high notes tend to go sharp and low notes tend to go flat. In addition, each instrument has notes that are more difficult to play in tune. Review when the trumpet first- and third-valve tuning slides need to be used. Help the woodwinds understand which keys and tone holes are available to use as help keys.

As mentioned earlier, the students were asked to practice 15 minutes each quarter on the strobe and tuner.

Initially, two strobes and two tuners were put in the band room and a strobe and tuner in each practice room so the students could practice before or after school. When that wasn’t sufficient to meet the needs of all the students, 30 small pocket strobes were purchased (approximate \$20 each) and checked out to the students to do their strobe practice at home. The pocket strobes were also tuners but the sound they produced wasn’t loud enough to be helpful. If the students weren’t able to practice the tuner at school, practicing with any electronic keyboard instrument counted as tuner practice. (Since the piano notes decay so rapidly, even with the sustain pedal depressed, practicing with a piano wasn’t as helpful as practicing with an electronic keyboard.)

The students were also asked to practice at least 15 minutes in pairs each quarter. Their goal was to “sound like one.”

### Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.