Monday, February 20, 2017

iPads and Tonal Energy in the Band Classroom

Samuel Fritz is currently Director of Bands and Music Department Chairperson at Center Grove Middle School Central in Greenwood, Indiana.  Since 2004 Mr. Fritz has worked for MakeMusic as an Education Support Services Clinician for SmartMusic and Finale and has given presentations throughout the country on SmartMusic and Finale. He is a 2-time Center Grove Middle School Central Teacher of Teacher of The Year, and a member of the school’s technology and design teams. Mr. Fritz is a repeated presenter at the Indiana Music Educators Association annual conference on large ensemble best practice techniques and has been invited to present around Indiana on 1-1 device application in the music classroom. Mr. Fritz was a 2015 presenter at the American Middle Level Educators National Conference on applying highly effective teaching techniques in the large performance ensemble.

As our district rolled out the 1-1 iPad initiative, I decided to take advantage and find one app that I know would be used daily in band 6-8. I settled on Tonal Energy Tuner, and boy was I impressed and amazed! In this post, I am going to outline what this amazing app can do for your band, and how I use it daily in my class. This is not just a tuner, I use this to develop tonal concepts in ways I never thought possible with an iPad app. I am only scratching the surface of what is capable here, but if you use even a few of the features I outline, it is worth every penny! Did I mention that we have this on every kid's iPad in 6-8 band? Here is what I do.

Analysis Function

Each day when we begin our fundamental time, I have students select the "analysis" function. This allows students to see their sound. We are going for a constant, steady, and smooth block of sound. I am trying to achieve an immediate start (attack has a violent connotation and produces a noisy violent sound so I don't use it) where the start and end have the same shape as the middle - rectangles not footballs. When two or more people play simultaneously, intonation "beats" can be seen in the wave as well. 2-finger tap the wave and it freezes for demonstration purposes. You can even plot the pitch on the wave so intonation tendencies in volume change exercises can be seen. This is very helpful when learning how to identify tuning issues aurally when they can be seen visually as well. We have been working dynamics during our fundamental time this week and we are having students focus on not changing their embouchure while increasing or decreasing volume. I stood next to a group of saxophones who looked at each other with dismay as their "Pitch Plot" showed them clearly releasing embouchure firmness as a crescendo happened, just as we mentioned might happen. They sounded great while doing it, but being able to see their error was very powerful.

I will ask students often questions like: "Did you like how that sounded?" "What did it look like?" "Does the visual support or dispute your analysis?"

Standard Chromatic Tuner

Don't ask me why, but my kids love to see the smiley face! When you play in tune, the app smiles at you. Even adults smile when they see that cute little smiley face. You have three settings under skill level to allow up +/-0.5 cents for an in-tune reading. Advanced, as I have it in this picture, allows +/-0.2 cents for an in tune reading. You can adjust mic sensitivity for different instruments and scenarios and WOW you can use equal or just tuning! If you look at second picture, you will see that I have chosen the key of C, played the 3rd and it shows "in tune" but I am -13.8 cents. When you are beginning to tune chords this is very helpful! I will talk about his below too, but when you use the tone generator function, it plays in equal or just temperaments as well.

Tone Generator

This is a function like many other tuners, but can be used to play not only single tones, but sustained chords as well. I like to have young brass players especially, use this function to double check their pitch accuracy during home practice. By selecting "just temperament" you can double click any pitch to select a key, then hear your pitch as it should sound in a "just" tuning scenario. I use the tone generator function during class as a drone and can even play along with individual parts when learning a piece in class.

Digital Recorder

This feature is how I have students submit audio recordings for formative and summative assessments. Using the "analysis" function, students can select the record function to capture their best performance and export it directly to Google Classroom or Canvas. My absolute favorite function on the "analysis" tab is the ability to slow down or speed up a recording. When learning a challenging technical passage, I will have the band play a section at 1/2 speed. I can increase the speed to 200% tempo and they can hear the clarity that will come with precise practice. On the other hand, I have them play the same passage at performance tempo and slow it down to prove that that technical inconsistencies are present but just go by faster.


Like many tuner apps there is a metronome function. This metronome is unlike many as it has deep capabilities just like the tuner functions. The picture below shows the versatility of the metronome function. You can even set it to keep time in 7/8 (2+2+3 or 2+3+2 or 3+2+2). Couple this with the ability to keep the metronome clicking even with the app closed, and your students can record a video of their playing with the metronome on as well.
Good luck and happy practicing to build knowledge and excellence, one glorious mistake at a time!

Learn more at

No comments:

Post a Comment