Is my Coda out of tune?

Tuning Continued…

A Bit More on Covering Toneholes

As mentioned, some notes may sound off at first because you’re not yet accustomed to covering both sides of the bisected toneholes with the flat pads of your fingers.  For example, if your low C sounds very sharp unless you blow softly, then you’re probably leaking air from one or more toneholes, which raises the pitch.  The solution is not to grip Coda more tightly in order to seal the toneholes.  Rather, it’s about correct finger positioning.  But don’t worry!  This will soon start to feel more natural with a little practice.  To learn more about correct finger positioning, watch this video.

Expect to have a little trouble consistently covering the left pinky tonehole at first.  That left pinky tonehole gives you another way to play middle B — on the upper chamber.  Of course, you could avoid that fingering by always playing middle B on the lower chamber.  However, that upper chamber middle B becomes super useful when you start playing challenging tunes.  So be patient!  With practice, you’ll learn to play that note confidently and accurately.

More on Blowing Pressure

With some wind instruments, you affect pitch by how hard you blow.  If you blow more forcefully, pitch rises.  If you blow less forcefully, or softer, the pitch falls.  This is especially true of vessel flutes like gemshorns, xuns, ocarinas, and Coda EDC flutes.  

If you are used to playing another woodwind instrument, give yourself some time to adjust.  

For example, many recorders and tin whistles force you to blow very gently on lower notes (to avoid squawking or jumping the octave) and more forcefully on higher notes (to jump the octave and to avoid playing flat).  The end result is that low notes sound very weak and higher notes sound much louder, or even shrill.  When you play along with other musicians, you may find that your lower notes simply drop out: no one can hear them.  

Similarly, 12-hole ocarinas require soft blowing on low notes to avoid playing sharp and much harder blowing on higher notes to avoid playing flat.  In other words, as you go up the scale, you must blow progressively harder to prevent high notes from playing flat.  

Here’s the problem.  Our ears tend to perceive higher notes as louder anyway.  Soft-blowing low notes and hard-blowing high notes only further exaggerate the disparity in loudness between upper and lower notes.

To alleviate this issue, Coda EDC Flutes have a relatively flat blowing curve compared to many recorders, tin whistles, and ocarinas I have played.  With Coda, generally speaking, you should blow as strongly on the low notes of each chamber as you do on the upper notes of each chamber.  Otherwise, the lowest notes of each chamber will sound flat.  This is by design to make lower notes speak up more and higher notes less overpowering.  Also, it helps tremendously when you play without a microphone and with other acoustic instruments because your lower register is more audible. 

How to Learn to Play in Tune

What’s the best way to learn to play in tune?  

I’ll begin by saying that it’s not particularly helpful to play into a tuner* when you are still a newbie.  

My advice is this:  Don’t worry about tuning at first!  Instead, play Coda a whole lot, listen to yourself as you play, and become really confident at playing your new instrument.

Next, try playing along with backing tracks and/or with other musicians.  As you play along, you listen, and you let your ear guide you.  For instance, try playing along with the sound tracks in our Self-Learning Music Curriculum.  As discussed above, you’ll learn to control your blowing pressure to play in tune.

Think for a moment about the human voice.  We can move the pitch of our voices up and down at will, and yet we have no toneholes or keys to guide us or to control our pitch.  How in the world do we ever sing in tune with others?  Well, we listen and we adapt our singing pitch, often unconsciously, to match the pitch of those around us.  That’s what you’ll learn to do with Coda.  It’s part of playing any wind instrument (or violin, etc.) in tune with other instruments.

One last thought for those starting out…  When you play solo, tuning is relative.  You only need to play in tune with yourself.

Note:  You’ll notice that wind instruments play flatter in colder weather and sharper in hotter weather.