Reel Time Tuning Analysis
A Long Felt Want
For as long as I can remember as a flutemaker (probably about 32 years!) I've wanted a better system for tuning flutes. In the earliest days, I used a tone reference I built myself - the handy little tuners available now were not available then! Then I got one of those handy little tuners. When Tatsuaki Koroda came out with his PC-based AutoTuner, and was then prepared to make changes to it to suit my very specific needs, I switched to that (and still use it!). But always, always, something else was in the back of my mind.
So what's wrong with a tuner?
In a word, people! When you sit in front of a tuner, and play a note on the flute, it's very tempting to lip that note up or down to make it look more like what you're hoping to see. Even when you are trying not to, you can't be really sure you didn't. And when you have to pause after each note, and note down the reading, then find your embouchure again before passing on to the next note, it's tedious, time consuming, and another source of error. And always, at the back of the mind is the doubt - OK, now I know what I get in front of a tuner, but how do I know I blow the same way when actually playing music?
And what would be better?
What I've always wanted is a system that as much as is possible, pulled me out of the picture as observer, note taker and decision maker. Something that:
I'm pleased to say we have it, and you can have it too, at no cost. New Zealand flute player and computer scientist, Graeme Roxburgh happened to mention the development of a new piece of music software at his University. As a data collection system it looked ideal, and I wondered out loud to Graeme whether the authors would be interested in developing it further. Turns out they are not, for the moment at least, but, when I spelled out my long felt want, Graeme offered to look into how else it might be achieved. The rest, as they say, is history, the RTTA-Polygraph was born.
But wait, there's more!
Following hot on the heels of Graeme's success, US whistle & flute player and programmer Scott Turner has come up with a simpler RTTA he's called Flutini. Indeed, Flutini can operate as the front end for the Polygraph, so you use it to run both systems, giving you a wide-ranging palette of RTTA capabilities.
A word on nomenclature
You'll find that both RTTA systems have adhered to the international standardised nomenclature for notes. This is a system that has to work for all instruments, including massive organs and pianos. Consequently, you might be surprised to find that the lowest D on an Irish flute is called D4, middle D is D5 and third octave D is D6. The notes above D4 are all called 4 until we get to the next C, which is C5. It might seem a bit strange at first, but you'll quickly get used to it. Just remember D4 is flute low D.
Give it a go!
So, that's the brief background to
how this all started. Interested? Read on ...