Do you care if stuff's in tune?

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Brett Siler
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Post by Brett Siler » Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:44 pm

If the artist wants it to be in tune then it should, if they don't, or don't care, or can't stay in tune (like singing and you don't have auto tune or don't wanna use it for some reason) then it shouldn't....

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Post by Judas Jetski » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:08 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:tuning drums will turn you into a crazy person. i was tuning a problematic snare the other night...after messing with it for awhile i was finally getting it to behave. so i'm going around it really listening to the overtones and super-duper-fine tuning it. just then a client arrives. as i'm walking down the stairs to let him in, i'm listening to the sound of my footfalls in the stairwell, hearing the overtones of the little metal strips on the stairs and thinking "oh. no. those sound all wrong..."
OMG yes, drum tuning is the most crazy-making thing I know. I love the story about the stair overtones. I totally resemble that remark. That kind of intense brain-listening to the point where you hear all sorts of strange things that are or aren't there for hours after...

When it comes to being in tune I have a double standard.

My stuff: It's gotta be in tune. Perfect. Absolutely perfectly on pitch, or I'm Just Not Happy. Especially with vocals, which is tough because my voice has a strong sense of self-will... and doesn't even always sound good when it stays dead-on anyway. Sometimes it "needs" to go off a little bit to sound good, which always feels good at the time and gives me fits during mixdown. As for instruments, they've gotta be on or at least very, very close (for the most part). I'm probably fussiest about bass--it's gotta be in tune dead-on and properly intonated or I go batsh*t trying to mix it. I totally don't care about stray hums, strings rattling, weird overtones, cat running around downstairs during vocal tracking, neighbors arguing, sound of flushing toilet... just as long as it's on pitch.

Other people's stuff? Simple. If you can pull it off, go for it. On pitch, off pitch, tuned to the neighbors dog, whatever. As long as it sounds good. Perfect, horrid--as long as it works I just don't care (as long as it doesn't sound like it came out of a kitchen appliance). For example, I totally love both The Fall and Fleming and John, which in my mind (at the moment) define the two extremes of Absolute Recording Perfection vs. Complete F*ck-it-ism.

It's frustrating, because most of my favorite music is not performed to perfection during recording by any stretch of the imagination. I'd love to be able to record like that, but I just can't bring myself to sound "bad." I'd almost rather not sound at all. I'm sure what I really need is some sort of mind-blowing experience--something to force me to accept imperfections as hidden intent or whatever. But I'll never get that as long as I'm recording myself. I'm too much of a perfectionist that way. Can't root it out. Seriously. (I've found typos in posts I made here years ago, and gone back and fixed them, just because they bugged me. That kind of thing just drives me crazy, possibly to an unhealthy extent. Or maybe not.)
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Post by SpencerBenjamin » Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:42 pm

When playing lead guitar, I usually tune a fraction sharp. It makes it stand out a little. One band I was in, the rhythm player sussed on to me & started doing it too, so I went a little sharper - it started getting out of control. Meanwhile, the bass player just stood there wondering why he sounded so flat, & the drummer thought we were all idiots... perhaps we were.

But I'm figuring you mean more pitch issues etc. Personally, I'll always prefer performance over pitch, if I have to make a choice. I used to be in a band with a singer who was rarely in tune, but he nearly always gave a great performance. He ended up doing a kind of Tom Waits meets Richard Harris thing.

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Post by dsw » Mon Jan 19, 2009 5:33 pm

When I was in High School band we had a guest conductor come in to work with us after a contest. He was a pretty famous college band director at the time and we were all pretty excited to see what he would do or say.
He spent the whole time tuning us up.
When he was done the whole band sounded so much better we amazed ourselves.
His technique though was interesting. We were used to using the old Conn Strobe or having the director tell us what to do (like pull the mouthpiece out or in or whatever).
Well this guy had each of us play some notes and listen to the tone. He then asked us, does he/she sound flabby or pinched? He tuned up the whole band by getting us to adjust our tone without thinking about flat or sharp. It made us think about intonation in a whole new way.
I think different cultures hear intonation in different ways. Some accapella singers I've heard from Africa for example always sound sharp to me, but its not sharp in a bad way. Just sharp. But to them I'm sure it sounds perfect.
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Post by Trick Fall » Mon Jan 19, 2009 7:39 pm

To me things either sound good or they don't. I've also been a singer for over fifteen years and probably couldn't sing in tune to save my life. Hasn't stopped me from making some good recordings or playing great shows. I guess that is why I prefer the term frontman!

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Post by oil_can » Mon Jan 19, 2009 8:12 pm

tuning's for cowards

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Post by nordberg » Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:26 pm

so is caring what we all think. :?
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Post by capnreverb » Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:23 am

Being in tune is really a collective opinion. Anybody who has spent time listening to music of other cultures knows that westerner's have a pretty narrow spectum of notes and tonality. Indian music is a prime example.

The whole idea of keys and tuning is a self/culture imposed structure. Schoenberg helped push that down the stairs. Charles Ives and Henry Cowell also. Earlier composers like Bijber tackled it also.

A lot of it is conditioning or what you are used to hearing. I am a big fan of "avant garde" music, and I can see where many might find it off putting. Captain Beefheart and Alfred Schnittke made some lovely music that is a tonality train wreck. I doubt John Coltrane in his latter years as he was searching the universe through his horn was spending a whole lot of time worrying about beint in tune or in key. I think a lot of music would sound better and be more interesting if it were less in tune, less in key. A ragged beauty. I could sit through a lot more radio fodder if the tunes took a few more chances.

The idea of perfect C in in some isolated section of the Amazon. Thats a thought.

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Post by JGriffin » Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:52 am

I heard an Ives piece played by a community orchestra this weekend. Really fantastic, but I could tell there were a bunch of people in the audience who were just not getting it. The Copeland they could handle fine...
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Post by Knights Who Say Neve » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:41 pm

I like tuning to be a choice. If "out" is deliberate, or just sounds good, fine. If it's from ignorance or laziness, I get annoyed. I guess I like musicians who are dedicated to their craft and not just making a racket for the sake of making a racket.

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Post by ubertar » Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:51 am

capnreverb wrote:Being in tune is really a collective opinion. Anybody who has spent time listening to music of other cultures knows that westerner's have a pretty narrow spectum of notes and tonality. Indian music is a prime example.

The whole idea of keys and tuning is a self/culture imposed structure. Schoenberg helped push that down the stairs. Charles Ives and Henry Cowell also. Earlier composers like Bijber tackled it also.

A lot of it is conditioning or what you are used to hearing. I am a big fan of "avant garde" music, and I can see where many might find it off putting. Captain Beefheart and Alfred Schnittke made some lovely music that is a tonality train wreck. I doubt John Coltrane in his latter years as he was searching the universe through his horn was spending a whole lot of time worrying about beint in tune or in key. I think a lot of music would sound better and be more interesting if it were less in tune, less in key. A ragged beauty. I could sit through a lot more radio fodder if the tunes took a few more chances.

The idea of perfect C in in some isolated section of the Amazon. Thats a thought.
I like the way you think. Schoenberg et al didn't go nearly far enough. Harry Partch went further in the right direction, and I think Ivor Darreg came closest when he said, "there are no bad scales". I've been developing a concept I call eleutherotonality which can be summarized as, "any interval is a valid tool for musical expression". But there's more to it than that. I've posted some stuff here in some different equal tempered scales... the last one was in 9 tone equal temperament. But lately I've been getting into non-equal tempered, non-just tunings. I once did a piece (about 9 years ago) where I went around to a bunch of thrift stores and picked a selection of the best sounding pot lids I could find-- those were used for the main melody, and all the other instruments were tuned to the same pitches as the lids. It was a really bizarre scale, and it set an interesting mood, which would have been difficult or impossible to achieve through normal tuning. None of this makes me an advocate for being-out-of-tune though-- just differently tuned. Out-of-tune singing or playing sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.
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Post by oil_can » Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:47 pm

yeah, what he said.

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Post by Slider » Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:29 pm

I'm really sensitive to pitch.
I'm always pulling on guitar players strings while tracking to knock them flat and get the chord in tune.
Thing is an insanely out of tune Kinks, Link Wray, or Nick Cave record won't bother me at all, while other things make me crazy.

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The Boss

Post by BenjaminWells » Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:13 pm

Great thread...

and reading it I was reminded of the current Springsteen song "Working on a Dream."

I've been doing drywall (apropos to the song) and listening to a lot of radio.

If you've heard the song, what do you think about the out of tune whistling solo?

I think it's as believable as a too skinny super model pigging out at the buffet.

This is because, everything else on the radio is hyper tuned, including the rest of Bruce's song. The solo is so glaring, it's almost as if Bruce was trying to make a statement, or create some authenticity in an otherwise tone-perfect mix.

This seems to me a good, current example of un-tuned gone bad. But, not because the solo is bad, but because the backdrop is too perfect.

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Post by trodden » Thu Jan 22, 2009 11:55 pm

suppositron wrote:Unless I'm recording Flipper.

:D

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