The first time you launch Intonation Station, you’ll see the Intonation Tab, with a blank chart. The chart shows the default settings for the Instrument Key (C), and the Temperament (Equal). These can be changed in the Settings tab at any time, so let’s leave them unchanged for now.
Creating your first Intonation Profile
For instant results, it’s best to start with a simple scale. Warm up your instrument if necessary, then press Start.
Note: The first time you press Start, you may be prompted for permission to use your device’s microphone. Press Yes or OK to give permission – Intonation Station can’t map your intonation if it can’t hear you!
Play a simple scale of C Major two or three times, using long, separated notes. Make sure there is no loud background music or music. A bar appears showing each note you’ve completed. If you play with vibrato, Intonation Station will measure the average tuning for that note. When you’ve finished playing, press Stop.
In this example, I played a scale of C twice on a clarinet. The Intonation Profile Chart now shows grey bars showing the average tuning of each pitch, and some yellow ‘I’ bars, which shows the range of tuning for each pitch. Below, we see the pitch name, and a number showing which octave I played.
More on all this soon, but wait: The note names are wrong! I played a scale of C, but it’s showing up as as scale of B♭!
Setting the Instrument Key
If you sang, or played your scale on a flute or violin, the note names displayed would be the ones you played. But if you played on, say, a trumpet, clarinet or saxophone, different ones will be displayed because these instruments are not in Concert Pitch. For example, a Tenor sax is in B♭, while an alto sax is in E♭.
Since I played on a clarinet in B♭, I need to tell Intonation Station my instrument’s key so that the note names match the ones I played. Just press the ‘Key:C’ in the top-right corner, then select your instrument’s key:
Press ‘Back’. The Intonation Profile now displays the notes you played:
If you haven’t been able to display an Intonation Profile, take a look at Troubleshooting. Believe it or not, the intonation is very good in this example: All the pitches are within approximately 10 cents of the correct tuning. Don’t be surprised if your Intonation Profile shows much greater variation. It’s not uncommon for some notes to be up to 40 cents sharp or flat on certain types of instrument.
Understanding the Intonation profile
Even this simple test can tell us a lot about our instrument and our playing.
Let’s take a look at the chart first. The grey bars show the average tuning of each pitch, and the yellow ‘I’ bars show the sharpest and flattest tuning for that pitch. Positive numbers are sharp, and negative numbers are flat.
We see that the intonation is very good for most pitches- just a few cents sharp and flat. However, G5 and B5 are consistently 10 cents sharp on this clarinet. This is due to physical compromises made in the instrument’s design. 10 cents is still pretty good – I don’t need to take my clarinet to the technician. Even so, when playing with piano accompaniment, I could pay extra attention to these pitches if I want to sound perfectly in tune, just relaxing my embouchure slightly on G5 and B5.
From the yellow I bars, we can see that most pitches had good consistency – they had nearly the same tuning every time I played them. However, F5 and A5 varied a lot more. For example, I played A5 twice. The first time it was 7 cents sharp, and the second time it was 7 cents flat.
I have a reasonably good embouchure, and deliberately kept it unchanged throughout. However, it’s common on wind instruments that some pitches are less stable than the others, due to the way they’re designed. In other words, the tuning of those pitches varies a lot with only very slight changes in embouchure.
Plus or minus 7 cents is nothing to worry about. If it was over +/- 20 cents, I’d also have to pay careful attention to my A5 and really use my ears when playing with others.
Let Intonation Station do the work
We have some useful information from examining the chart, but Intonation Station can do a lot of this work for you. Press ‘Details’. A new screen now appears showing different types of chart, with some analysis below:
To view the different charts, just tap either side of the Page Control (The four dots below the chart).
We see that Intonation Station has correctly identified the pitches that we most need to work on: B5 (Sharpest note), and A5 (Least consistent note).
Intonation Station takes an average of all the individual pitches to give an Average Tuning for the whole instrument. In this case, it’s very slightly sharp – just 3 cents – but close enough as makes no difference.
Intonation Station also gives scores for Intonation and Consistency – 91% and 94% for this simple example. These are already very good scores, but now we know which notes we need to concentrate on, we can aim to improve the scores further by practice, when making future Intonation Profiles.
We’ve only scratched the surface on how Intonation Station can measure and help improve your intonation here. The documentation describes all the features in more detail.
Closing and Saving the Intonation Profile
To get back to the main Intonation menu and record a new Intonation Profile, tap ‘Intonation’ at the top left of the screen. Press the Close button to close this profile. You’ll be prompted to save it onto your device, so you can retrieve later if you wish.
We’ve now completed this simple tutorial on getting started. The next steps depend on what type of instrument you have and what type of music you play, but ultimately, the goal is to make an Intonation Profile while performing naturally, and aim to improve your best Intonation and Consistency scores. To achieve this, you may need to adjust some settings – for example if you play a lot of blues, you can configure Intonation Station to ignore glissandos that you flatten deliberately. Or if you play an instrument at the extreme end of the audio spectrum like Tuba or piccolo, you’ll want to set the appropriate Pitch Detection settings to suit your instrument.
For most instruments, a sensible next step is to record an Intonation Profile for a chromatic scale several times over the entire range of the instrument. Playing long, separated notes will give you the results that tell you most about your instrument.
When you’re satisfied that you know your instrument’s individual quirks and problem pitches, you can then start to record Intonation Profiles while performing naturally. It’s well known that a player’s intonation is quite different when performing their favourite piece instead of technical scales, so this will give you results that tell you most about your own intonation, rather than the instrument’s.
Read the documentation to see how best to configure Intonation Station to suit your playing style, then play a piece you know well – possibly with a backing track in headphones.