Hello - Michele Winter asked about string players tuning to
chords and intervals rather than to individual pitches.
Someone once pointed out to me (truthfully or not?) that everybody
tunes to minor triads except Julliard graduates, who tune to the
major - presumably to get that beautiful bright sound of the wide
major third? <duck>
My experience as harpsichord doctor is that the string playes
tune to as many intervals as possible to find out just what the
Hell the tunder did this time. The finest violinist with whom I've
worked even practiced scales with the harpsichord as the last thing
before the concert, to increase the chances of achieving consonance
with the keyboard.
I stopped using the expression "in tune" a long time ago, when I
found that fine modern musicians regarded unequal temperaments as
"out of tune." I decided that "in tune" can mean nothing other than
"what I expect to hear," so I use expressions like "unisons" and
Of course it's impossible and unreasonable for the string playes
to subject themselves to all the compromises struck by the keyboard
tuner, and I suppose that becomes part of the "artistry" of getting
through a performance. Checking the keyboard intervals while tuning
probably helps the odds.
As the local University 'cellist said (I've quoted this before, I
think), "Remember that it's always better to play sharp than out
As the critic said, "She practices what she preaches."
David Calhoun, Seattle