Tuning Meister - Main Functions for Western Music

    To show you how the pitch information is displayed, Bach's Sarabande from the c minor cello suite is a good choice (unlike many unaccompanied sarabandes, it has no double stops). Here's the score for the first four bars:

Sarabande Score (four bars)
   And here are the first two bars as rendered when played into the software:

Sarabande Tuning Screen

    This is the main screen, where you will spend most of your time. A pair of graphs, above and below a moveable splitter bar, show the pitch in several magnifications. Consider just the upper part of the display as shown in the above image: it gives a picture of the tune it hears as a heavy black line against a permanent horizontal array of colored lines. Each colored line represents the pitch of one note in the scale - the solid lines correspond to the naturals (labeled on the left) and the dashed ones the accidentals in between, the white and black keys of the piano. Their twelve separate colors help you keep your place on the graph easily. (Imagine trying to distinguish your location amongst several dozen gray lines). The full range of notes in this piece goes from CC to eb'. Equal Temperament has been chosen for this example, and you can see the lines for the notes are all equally spaced.
    In this overall graph we can see the individual notes mapped pretty well; but we are also most interested in the details surrounding each note, which at this scale can hardly be seen. We need to focus in on each individual note as well. So a second graph is drawn below in parallel. [These two portions of the screen are separated by a horizontal bar, a standard Windows display element called a "splitter bar", which you can drag up or down with the mouse.]

Sarabande Full Labeled

    The portion of the screen below the splitter bar is a fine-tuning graph - a magnified view of each individual note. The horizontal center line of the graph represents "in tune" with the nearest note being played, according to the scale and pitch selected.  The labels to the left indicate that each dashed line of the vertical scale 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. A thin black line through the colored trace gives the average value. In the above image, the area outlined in orange below corresponds to the region of the upper graph outlined in orange there. The first note
, g, is traced in brown on the lower graph, and the vertical extent of that graph corresponds to the space just around g, from halfway to f# to halfway to ab  The second note is eb, drawn in yellow-green, and for the extent of eb the lower graph shows the semitone from halfway to d to halfway to e.  And so on - the orange regions should help grasp the concept.
    Much greater pitch detail can be seen than in the upper graph of the overall tune.
So here is where you can examine the precision of the intonation of a recording, and with a microphone, your own playing or singing. For some purposes the upper graph becomes superfluous and we would choose to drag the splitter bar to the top, giving still finer detail by using the entire computer screen for the fine-tuning graph.
    Again, the key to understanding the lower graph is that the color of the trace gives the clue to the note being graphed. This 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.
    In this example we can see the performer plays the B slightly lower than equal-tempering would call for, an approach exactly antithetical to the modern ideal of raising the leading tone (to the tonic c), but in keeping with the Baroque sensibility of tuning with pure thirds. The eb is tuned high, also closer to a pure minor third. But are these intentional or just normal variation? The second phrase is almost equally tempered, and now the average pitch has risen 7 to 10 cents. The c' especially is clearly quite a bit higher than an octave to the previous c.

    You will see some artifacts on the graph that don't fit the ten notes of the tune displayed. Pitch extraction is not a simple task, and there will always be odd sounds that will be misinterpreted or create ambiguous situations. I believe the eye and mind can quickly learn to look behind the few blips and blots to see the information that is essential.

    In real time tuning, the screen will wrap around - the trace will draw over itself.

    A video of the full-length Sarabande discussed above (actually, not the same recording) is available to view below. This can immediately give you an idea of the program in action, without installing it on your computer. [note - 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.]

However, if you have the patience to give your ears a test, you can first just listen to the audio, and see what you yourself can discern about the intonation on this clip. Then you can compare it with the graph on the video, and read my comments on the intonation. If you want to follow the score, look below.

      Bach Suite 5 Sarabande

Note - the actual use of Tuning Meister is much smoother than a video 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. 

sarabande full score


    When you have time, it can be useful to read a more detailed discussion of the tuning info I gathered from this performance. Read it here.

If you are a singer, read this page about the display for Vocal Vibrato.

    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].

    Now you can try actually analyzing some sounds. You may need to manipulate the Recording controls to feed whatever music you wish to analyze to the software.
    We will look later at the function of the Instrument menu, but for the moment just select Western 440 from the sample entries provided therein. This is provided as a generic template from which you can quickly set your own customized entries. Or you may find your particular instrument displayed under the
Instrument menu, and you can select it directly. Then you can start the tuning process from Options | Tuning Graph.

    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 A & Range.

Pitch dialog 440

    Note this dialog box is made quite wide so it can be as shallow as possible in order to keep most of the tuning screen exposed. [If your screen has enough pixels, the dialog box will be even wider, with a slightly different layout but identical controls]. First adjust the limits of the graph, its upper and lower notes. If too wide a range is displayed, more than you are actually singing, the sensitivity of the upper graph is diminished.
    If you desire a particular fixed pitch, set that A either by typing in the edit box or moving the slider, and tune your instrument to the graph. It should already show 440.0 Hz. Alternatively you may wish to accommodate the graph to an existing sound; for instance, the organ might have gone sharp, and you are content to sing at its pitch, or you want to tune to the oboe's A. In that case, play a reference note into the microphone and adjust the slider until that note's pitch on the lower graph moves to the center line.
    [It is helpful to know that moving the slider for the pitch of A by one "page" value changes it by 5 Hz, which is very close to 20 cents at 440 Hz. Use that motion to come close, before pressing an end arrow or a left/right arrow key for fine adjustment by 0.1 Hz].

Clarinet Pitch Dialog

    If you have a transposing instrument such as a trumpet, you will want to set the Transposing Key. Shown are the settings (also supplied as a sample Instrument) for a Clarinet in Bb, although one might need a higher range than this. The notes as shown on the tuning graph will now appear named as they would in a score; the Bb clarinet's lowest note appears as e in written music, but its concert pitch is d. Keeping the Transposed Range Constant will allow us to move the Transposing Key to define a clarinet in A, eb, or c, while the written Lowest and Highest notes won't need to be adjusted - they will always remain the same. 

    Currently you can transpose from a ninth below to a tenth above concert pitch [as of version 1.13]. If there is need for greater transposition, please let me know - it is simple to change.

    You won't want to have to adjust these parameters of Pitch of A & 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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