Magic Choral Trick #21 The Korg Chromatic Tuner

Given the right circumstances, most people can learn to sing in tune most of the time. In this age of ‘Autotune’ those of us who cringe at out of tune music can at least do our grocery shopping in relative peace – though as the overhead music is playing I have been known to exclaim to my offspring things like “Holy smokes! Soon that poor girl will not have any voice at all!” But that has to do with how the voice is produced and not the tuning. (And yes, offspring do find this sort of outburst very embarrassing.)

I used to announce to whoever would listen that as soon as I figured out how to get amateur choirs to sing in tune I could quit.

But now that this goal is in sight, choral directing is more fun than ever!

Once again this great leap forward was introduced to me by an amazing Master coach – Judy Comeau. (Director of A Cappella Showcase – from Milton, Ontario)

The day that every member of my women’s Barbershop chorus bought her own Korg Chromatic Tuner was the day this happiness began. Sure there are many other things that can be done for pitch – but this was the most effective of all.

It acts as a biofeedback tool.

It can be used at rehearsal.

It can be used in the privacy of the singer’s home.

Probably the best $30 investment any singer can make.

A wonderful self esteem builder for any singer with pitch issues – because now there’s something quite simple that they can do about it.

Here’s the link:

I said that the process was simple. However, it’s not easy initially. The aim of the game is to keep the green light on – the one in the middle – as you sing a note.

To notice a substantial shift in your choir’s tuning, the singers don’t have to become experts, or perfect. They just have to use it often enough for the tuning to get a bit better, which means finding the co-relation between what they’re doing physically, and pitch.

More about other ways to use the Korg later.

About janetkidd

I've been waving my arms in front of choirs now for more than 35 years - and these are descriptions of all the very best things I've learned. I direct a Women's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Men's Competitive Barbershop Chorus, a Med School choir, and for a few weeks each year - Big Choir (about 100 voices) - which performs at an annual fundraising concert. Hope at least some of these Choral Magic Tricks will be useful to you - and thanks for reading. Janet

Posted on December 8, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Janet, I’ve been following your blog posts for a few months now. I direct an SATB a cappella group in California and have been trying to improve our group’s intonation–both to see each chord in tune, but also to keep pieces in pitch (normally going flat). Based on a couple of your blog posts, I purchased a Korg CA-40 and have been playing around with it a home. I’m not finding that I’m having much personal luck using the tuner to see whether I’m keeping good melodic pitch. If I sing a completely (or mostly) straight tone, it is apparent if I’m singing in tune; however, the minute I introduce any vibrato, it seems hard to use the tuner to indicate pitch. I’m curious about your use of the tuner and whether you use it with vibrato. Very little of the music our choir sings uses a straight tone, so I’m not sure if a device like this is applicable in our environment. I haven’t sung barbershop in a long time, so it could be that the demands of barbershop singing adapt better to a device like this? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Hugh,

      You’re absolutely right – it is more difficult to use the tuner when you allow more colour into the voice. You won’t be able to have the tuner stay on the green solidly, but I find that when I sustain a note when I’m singing with more vibrato the green flashes on and off. There’s action with the red flat and sharp lights fairly equally. As long as that green light keeps popping on, I know that I’m as close as possible without going to a straighter production.

      However, this raises a couple of points.

      The first is that when I listen to recordings of myself singing with a straight tone (with the green light lit much of the time) I notice that the sound which I perceive as being sine wave straight actually has quite a lot of colour in it.

      And secondly we might need to have a conversation (with ourselves) about how much vibrato is desirable in a choral setting.

      I sang once into a device (might have been Autotune) that showed me that the top end of my vibrato touches a point more than a quarter tone above the pitch – and the bottom of the wave sits right on the pitch. When I sing with a friend of mine whose vibrato range is from the pitch downwards (again, more than a quarter tone), blending is extremely difficult and locked in tuning virtually impossible. If we have an entire choir of people singing with vibrato – and each individual’s vibrato sitting in its own unique place, the tuning won’t be magical.

      Singing in the Barbershop style needs a very straight sound, or the characteristic Lock and Ring can’t happen – which is why the Korg tuner is especially useful for these choruses. But I’ve found that it does nothing but good for the tuning of any choir to practise zeroing in (with a straight sound) on a precise pitch, and learning to keep it steadily in tune. This will help with the tuning even if the choir’s characteristic sound uses more vibrato.

      • Hi Janet, thanks so much for your note! I’m going to experiment with the tuner more for my own personal practice and see if I can figure out how to make good use of it. The question of vibrato in the choir setting is an important one, but can also be a source of disagreement. You are right that if the vibrato of individual singers isn’t matched you can end up with pitch, blend, and ensemble issues. Most directors that I have sung with encourage a healthy vibrato because singing with a straight tone for too long (for most voices) can put a strain on the vocal mechanism. So, there is a delicate balance going on. Our group does perform vocal jazz and renaissance music, which definitely uses less vibrato than other styles, particularly on chords with dissonance. A very interesting discussion! I’ll look forward to using the tuner! Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  1. Pingback: Magic Choral Trick #372 – Repeat of #295 Five Steps to Becoming a Better Chorus Singer This Year. | betterchoirs

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