Tuning Meister - Main Functions for Raga Music


    Some short videos of the screen action will help you understand how the pitch information is displayed. A graph of the tune unfolds against a background of horizontal lines representing each of the 12 notes of the scale. They are labeled on the left margin, with the rather more easily grasped Hindustani notation. The seven shuddh swaras, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, & Ni are labeled, and are drawn with solid color lines. The komal re, ga, dha, ni and tivra ma lie inbetween, and are drawn with dotted lines.

Their twelve separate colors help you keep your place on the graph easily. (Imagine trying to distinguish your location amongst several dozen gray lines). Note that pairs of notes have related colors - bright green for Re, dark green for komal re; bright red for Ma, dark red for tivra ma.

Upper Graph - Note Labels

The way the Carnatic notes lie against this representation is shown below.

   Carnatic note labels

Here's a short passage on bansuri to illustrate:

This can give you an idea of the program in action, without installing it on your computer.

[to repeat the video, it seems one must first click  |<  to reset the video, or drag the pointer back to the beginning, before clicking the play button again.]
Note - the actual use of Tuning Meister is much smoother than these videos can show, as the frame rate is quite a bit slower. This shows 16 frames a second, which captures 5 pixels per frame. The original draws at 80 pixels per second. 
You will have to wait for the video to load completely before playing it - this may take some time
with a dial-up connection.

    We can easily see the melody move up and down against the lines for the swaras.

    However, what we really want to see is much greater detail for the pitch of each individual note. To this end, a separate, parallel graph is added below what you have already seen. Together the pair of graphs, above and below a moveable splitter bar [1], show the pitch in several magnifications. As we have seen, the upper part of the display gives a picture of the tune it hears as a heavy black line against a permanent horizontal array of colored lines.

    The portion of the screen below the splitter bar is a fine-tuning graph - a magnified view of each individual note.

Lower Graph Explained

The horizontal center line of the graph represents "in tune" with the nearest note being sung, according to the scale and pitch selected. The labels to the left [1] indicate that each dashed line represents a pitch differential of 10 cents. The color of the trace of the graph serves to label which note of the scale is being measured, and it changes as the tune moves from note to note, matching the color of the nearest line on the upper chart. The first box shows the tambura, aligned with the center. Then the flute plays a Pa, whose color is brown. The boxes in the upper and in the lower graphs cover the same pitch space - the lower graph magnifies the space around Pa, which in the upper graph is only a few pixels high. When the next note dha begins, the lower graph switches to its color, dark red-purple. Then comes Ni, pale blue, which is quite a bit sharper than the note given by theorists. [A thin black line through the trace gives the average value - of course in order to represent an average it cannot start until a certain number of pixels after the Ni begins]. The boxes at [2] show how the same pitch space (vertical) is portrayed in both the lower and upper graph; the space in the upper graph, where a note is closest to Pa than to ma or dha, is stretched vertically and fills the height of the lower graph. We continue with Sa (quite a bit sharp) in dark blue, bright green Re, greenish-yellow ga, Re again, Sa, and Ni.  Much greater pitch detail can be seen than in the upper graph of the overall tune. The lower graph is where you can examine the precision of the intonation of a recording, and with a microphone, your own playing or singing. We see that the first Sa is quite a bit sharp, the second one quite precisely in tune with the tambura. Ni is sharp both times - probably this is the way the player has grown up with that swara.
    The final note on this clip wanders sort of midway between Dha and dha so it changes back and forth between two colors. 

    Again, the key to understanding the lower graph is that the color of the trace signifies the note being graphed.  The lower graph moves between representing first one note, then another.  The color-labeling allows a seamless graph where time moves across at an even pace; note names or other symbols won’t work because there can’t be an interruption in the smooth horizontal flow of the graph, which corresponds to the passage of time.
    Indian music naturally involves lots of gliding between notes, fast gamakas and so forth; all these quick ornaments, and movements in between notes, can be seen in the trace in the upper graph. And they generally move so fast that the lower graph becomes just a jumble of color - so you just ignore it for those passages. But whenever the performer alights on a note, the lower graph will give quite precise detail as to the subtlety of the shruti involved. We can see that the graph is approximately correctly aligned with the tambura. The trace is rather vague but you will get a more focused line when you have a good strong signal from your own tambura or shruti box. You will find that even a fixed sound like the tambura or harmonium will wander a few cents - the harmonium because of subtle changes in the bellows pressure.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Now you should try actually observing the graph for yourself, through a microphone. You can start the tuning process from Options | Tuning Graph

    You may need to manipulate the Recording controls to feed the music to the software. Most of the utility of the program takes place simply by watching the graph; most of the things you need to learn involve how to set parameters appropriate to the moment, but once launched your sessions really involve simply viewing the pitch information, perhaps using the feedback it provides to sharpen your hearing and your sense of shruti. 

    You will have to set some parameters. To monitor a performance you clearly need to align the graph to the singer or instrument of the moment, and to achieve this you set Options | Pitch of Sa & Range.

Pitch Simplified
Depending on your program version, and the screen width, you might see a slightly different arrangement of this dialog, either this:

alternate pitch full
or this:

pitch alternate very wide

    Note this dialog box is made quite wide so it can be as shallow as possible in order that very little of the tuning screen is hidden.
    For Indian music you usually want to accommodate the graph to an existing sound; for instance, you are pretty much stuck with the pitch of a harmonium, or a flute.  This process is shown in the video below, where the shruti box is set near E. This would fit a male vocalist with a slightly higher than normal range, which is often C#, the starting point in the video. Note that the line in the Upper Graph begins as a komal ga, relative to the C#. We 
adjust the slider Nearest Piano Note to Sa [1] three times, bringing the reference Sa to Re, komal re, and finally it appears as the dark blue representing Sa. But it is not yet on the reference line; it is sharp more than 50 cents. So we raise the pitch to meet that - by moving the slider giving the pitch (Hz) for the corresponding western "A" [2] until the blue line lies on the exact center of the lower graph. In this case the pitch line was above the center, so we raised our reference pitch; had it been below the center, we would have lowered the reference to meet the line.
[It is helpful to know that moving the slider for th
e pitch of A by one "page" value changes it by 5 Hz, which is very close to 20 cents at 440 Hz. So we use that motion twice, to come close, before pressing an end arrow or the left/right arrow key for fine adjustment by 0.1 Hz].

[Alternatively, you might directly select the note you like to sing on, and set your shruti box pitch to lie on the center line.]

    The Indian vocal - female or male entry supplied is just a starting point, sort of average. Some vocalists sing several notes higher, some lower. Adjust your Sa as we have shown. Also, you may perhaps sing notes lower than M or higher than P and need to adjust the Lowest [3] and Highest note [4] entries accordingly. [The Concert Pitch labels just give the western note names for the actual bottom and top notes of the graph].
    Keeping the Relative Range Constant
[5] should always be the selection for Indian music. It will allow you to move from one Sa to another while the relative range, from M to P will always remain the same. If you have the program version limited to raga performance, that control has been removed to make life simpler for you.

    In certain modes of practice it is useful to have the graph trace stop when input ceases; similar to a voice-activated recording mode. For instance you may wish to sing or play a short phrase without looking at the graph, then check to see if your sense of intonation corresponds with what the graph drew. To switch between continuous trace or input-activated start and stop, check View | Trace Continuous [or input dependent].

    You won't want to have to adjust these parameters of Pitch of Sa & Range every time and so for that we turn to the Instrument menu, where you can save and later retrieve different settings for your work with Tuning Meister.

Next (Instruments and the Instrument Menu)

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