exercises intonation microtonality practice

Sixth-Tone Exercise Audio

This is a very simple exercise for playing sixth-tones The audio file has undulations on three notes: (I picked these because they appear in a piece I am coaching.)

  • Bb3 – Bb3 sixth-tone lower
  • Db4 – Db4 sixth-tone lower
  • C3 – C3 sixth-tone higher

All you have to do is practice at first playing with the undulations, then against them so when the audio plays Bb – you try to play Bb sixth-tone lower, and check yourself as the tone moves. Here is a crude display, you can imagine the audio as the black line, your sound as the blue line.

Tuning is A=441

Here is the audio file

Advice for Composers low register microtonality

Glissandi and Quarter Tones on the Lowest Notes

I often get asked if (lipped) glissandi and quarter tones are possible on the lowest notes of the flute. Sure, I say, theoretically. Nine times out of ten, I regret this positive answer. Here are the notes in question:

The lowest notes on the flute

On these notes, glissandi and quarter tones are produced with the embouchure. There are no open holes to help. This is also true for Kingma system flutes, although they can easily start quarter tones from D. Since the tube is long (especially if the flute in question is alto or bass), don’t expect large-interval glissandi.

Lipped glissandi that follow the easy (but not hard-and-fast) rule work well:

  • Glissando upwards with crescendo
  • Glissando downwards with decrescendo

Since quarter tones must also be produced with the embouchure, there are limitations of speed and accuracy. And the bigger the flute, the the longer the tube and the less pitch flexibility you have.

Bear in mind that notes that are lipped down will have a diffuse character that will not carry well in an ensemble situation. Notes that are lipped up will carry easier, but may have a higher air component.

These are just caveats, not prohibitions. It’s always good to ask your local flutist for advice 🙂

microtonality practice

Crowd-Source Question, What Are the Difficulties Performing Mircotonal Music?

This is a bit unusual for me, but I would like to informally survey performer’s thoughts on performing mircotonal music. Not thoughts about microtonal music in general, but the issues, problems, difficulties or joys of actually playing or singing the stuff. Which notations are best? Are the difficulties worth the acoustic result? Are the acoustic results hear-able, worth the effort?

I realize there are as many uses of microtonality as there are composers who use it, but if there are especially good or bad examples, I would be interested in knowing who and why.