When it comes to intonation, we pianists have it easy. Playing in tune is as simple as striking the right key and having the piano tuner’s phone number handy. But, if you teach other instruments, or ever work as a coach/accompanist, you know that for the rest of the musical world, intonation isn’t such a simple thing.
Earlier this year, Professor Dan Kazez of Wittenberg University contacted me with information on the InTune app, a wonderful new resource developed by the university. The app uses a game-like setting to train the ear to recognize discrepancies in intonation. Players listen to 2 pitches, then must correctly identify if the second pitch is higher or lower than the first. It starts out quite easy, with tones that are are a half step apart, then progressively moves the tones closer and closer together, until they are just a fraction of a step apart.
An excerpt from the app’s press release:
“It’s easy to find apps to help musicians play in tune, but not to actually improve a musician’s ears. Now that changes, [with] InTune, the…app that helps musicians play in tune by improving their ability to hear. The concept for the app began as a simple game to test the ability to hear two pitches that are very close in frequency. But then in a psychology study at Wittenberg, Kazez discovered that students’ hearing improved the more often they played–at triple the rate of those who did not.”
I teach a small number of clarinet students in addition to my piano students, so jumped at the opportunity to try this out. For many beginning students, intonation is a hard concept, and requires a fair amount of practice, so I was happy to have something I could send home with them to drill the skill.
I’ll admit… this app is a little bit addicting! In fact, I’m quite sure I’ve never had this much fun before teaching and practicing intonation. The game-like setting keeps students engaged and challenged, and I definitely noticed a difference in their ability to tune their instrument after they played it. (We tested this out in the studio at the very beginning of lessons, then I had students warm-up and tune.)
If students choose to, they can share their score via Facebook, Twitter or text message. I didn’t take advantage of this feature, but I can totally imagine this being a hit between music majors or fellow band geeks (there was a time I would have been all over a little friendly ear-training competition!). If you send this home with your students, the text message feature would be a great way for them to update you on their progress.
Ready to check it out? InTune is available for iPhone, iPod and iPad, and can be purchased from the iTunes app store for $.99.