As part of our Residency Programme at the University of Oxford, we offer free workshops and masterclasses for students in a variety of disciplines. On 18 November, our Solo Horn Pip Eastop shared his expertise with two horn students, Rhiannon and Benji, and a group of keen observers, all of whom, it turned out, were horn players.
A recurring theme of the class was intonation. Pip demonstrated with each student why one should never ‘park on a note’ but should ALWAYS be adjusting the intonation in search of a better fit. This is easiest with simple intervals, for example when matching instruments are are playing in unison (an interval ratio of 1:1), in fifths (2:3), and in thirds (4:5), however it is more difficult in fourths (3:4) and with other instruments and other intervals it gets harder and then even harder than that with complex chords. Worst of all is with the piano, “which even when freshly tuned, is out of tune with itself and with everything else”.
Pip remarked that when playing an exact mathematically pure intervals, one should be able to ‘hear the other resulting notes of the harmonic series inside your head’ and that it is good practice to listen out for these elusive sounds.
Constant intonation practice is key. One suggestion for the students was to buy a cheap second-hand synthesizer and use it as a constant pitch reference tool while practising. This method was demonstrated with the students adjusting their single notes to sit well with randomly selected chords on the piano.
If you are interested in any of our Residency Programme events, take a look at what’s on offer on our website.