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Anonymous asked in Entertainment & MusicMusicClassical · 2 months ago

How did students pratice their pitches without instruments back in the baroque and classical periods?

I heard that pitch pipe was a thing, but it's rather inconvenient to use it for many notes. Plus, pitch pipes often cover only one octave, what would be of the student if the pipe's range didn't cover his? 

1 Answer

  • 2 months ago

    First, you needed a reference pitch - and that varied from location to location. It could have been the bell in the local church, or later, from the pipe organ (before that, a reed of fixed length - bu cut cut on in the nearest river.).  The standardization of pitch came later - and then, was still not world-wide until much later. In the early 1900, the US still operated on A-435 - it was finally agreed at a-440 would be accepted.  (and of course NOW - many orchestra play at higher pitch - 442, 444, even 445 - mainly to enhance string brilliance - and we wind players need to make all kind of sacrifices - one of my best flutes is 440, and the other is 442. - but I digress . . )  If you mean relative pitch and intonation - the oldest methods are solfege - and with that, the Guidonian Hand (my avatar here - retired theory and voice/choral teacher, multiple theory degrees). Daily drill - in groups with leadership, to insure common intonation - was practiced to instill excellent *pitch memory* and interval memory.  When all kinds of kids write in here and think they have perfect pitch - it usually is just because they have come to realize that they have decent pitch memory thru practice, and and can apply it step-wise and intervalicly.

    Back to Guidod'Arezzo - he chose a hymn that had (almost) every line start with a syllable that over time, we used as the solfege syllables.  In his day - ut, re, mi, fa sol, la  - and he added si  for Sanctis Ioannes.  You do anything often enough and long enough - you can remember.  I can feel a flute headjoint and tell you in mm how thick the metal is (12, 14, 16,18 being the most common).  My Dad -a fine carpenter among other things - could tell power-drill bits and nails by feel.  We ALL get skills like this from what we do daily.  Soft football.  Baseballs with high stitching. Milk that is past the SB date.  Music is no different - it is not some mystery from the angels. NOW - you can work with a tuner app on your phone. But you still can use that solfege training books from the last century.  BONA works - not the floor cleaner (although, that, too) but the vocal method.  Best to start with a teacher - and then it is all on you.  Not a whole lot different from learning times tables - and then - square roots!

    No mysteries here - just practice.

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