STEVEN J. MORRISON & JANINA FYK
Rather than an isolated ability, intonation is an amalgam of several sub-skills including pitch discrimination, pitch matching, and instrument tuning. Success at these skills depends on many factors including musical experience and the nature of the task presented. However, ability in any one of these areas is not clearly related to ability in the others. The skill that musicians demonstrate at isolated intonation-related tasks does not necessarily reflect their performance within a typical, complex musical setting. Within a real musical context, mature performers deviate considerably from common standards of pitch measurement, suggesting that absolute pitch accuracy should not be the ultimate goal in this area of musical development. The ability to identify and produce the most appropriate pitch within a given musical context may emerge parallel to general musical development as students' awareness of the performers around them increases and they develop their own concepts of ideal performances.
Intonation is an imprecise term. When teachers or performers consider intonation, they may be addressing one or more of several skills that fall under this general heading.
At the most basic aural level, they may be referring to pitch discrimination, which can be defined as the ability to distinguish between two successive pitches or two dissimilar examples of a single pitch. For example, students may be presented with a C and a C# and asked to identify the higher pitch. Or they may be given an A at 440 Hz and an A that is 15 cents flat (436.2 Hz) and asked to decide if there is a difference.
Or, combining aural and performance skills, focus may be on pitch matching, where one attempts to reproduce exactly a given pitch. This may involve isolating one pitch at a time or, occasionally, a sequence of individual pitches. Though the target is usually at unison, students may be requested to produce an