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Intonation


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I did not understand Pandora's reference to Suzuki as being negative. I saw an equivalence:

Suzuki: don't teach an approximation in technique, and then change it later to the real thing.

Pandora: don't teach an approximation of intervals, and then change it later to the real thing.

Suzuki technique idea = Pandora 'sound' idea Did I get this right?

As a student I find value in both worlds. I cannot see setup as being the only thing that will guarantee me good intonation. I began with a generally decent setup, and learned to play using my ears: listening for the resonance with open strings for example. As a singer I already thought in solfege. But there was a certain point where I played out of tune because my setup had slipped, and no amount of knowing what it should sound like could help me until my left hand was straightened out again. On the other hand, I've seen people with wonderful setup who play dreadfully out of tune because they have no ear.

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An entirely different approach: Hide your mis-in-tune note with a vibrato. Once you have

just played a false note, save the trouble by playing it right with a vibration (alternating false and true notes) They may say you had bad vibrato, better being accused of bad intonation.

How does it sound to you all ? (ear function is still essential)

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Most of the responses here have focused on how to improve one's listening ability, but another element of intonation is being able to produce the correct sound (assuming you know what it is). I've found it very useful to understand finger patterns and where exactly the whole and half steps are. Many times I play a note and it's wrong, and I realize it's because I'm not 100% sure where my finger's supposed to go, because I haven't analyzed the scale degree or contour of the passage or whatever. Once I figure out, "Oh, I've got to have a HIGH second finger here", there's a marked and obvious improvement. Seems really basic, but you have to train yourself to be aware instead of just slapping the finger down and hoping it comes out right.

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@ Kslnet,

IMHO I don't think that a finger pattern is the way to go to improve the intonation. This can easily be seen assuming that the instrument went out of tune during playing. The only remedy is to use the ears and correct, not following any finger pattern! If you still are in the process of thinking where the finger should be high than I'm afraid that the intonation will be resident as a problem and stay unsolved.

I don't see what a better sound production by means of a better bow technique can do to improve intonation. The frequencies don't change at all in that case! And intonation is a matter of frequency, not a matter of sound quality!

@Yuen,

Your solution to use vibrato is not a solution. It doesn't help anything because a vibrato is an amplitude around a certain base frequency with equal amounts up and equal amounts down. If the base is wrong intonated you have the same problem of a mis-intonation.

@vlngeek,

quote:"

The proper set up of the left arm/hand achieves the intonation goal, combined with a properly set up bow arm that can execute the correct weight, speed and contact point to convey excellent intonation and expression."

I don't see how a properly set up of the right arm does affect the intonation: as said before it does not do anything with the frequency. Maybe your 'intonation' is something else than the intonation we are talking about in the context of intonation. Of course a good bow technique improves the sound quality but not the intonation.

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Trying to put together: finger patterns - intervals/solfege - the role of listening.

1. Melodies and scales have intervals. That means that one note is a semitone or a tone away from the note beside it. This is something that you hear.

2. One note is a step or a half step away from the note beside it. That is something you see or feel.

You can visually place your fingers a step or a half step away from each other and that gives the approximate correct note. If you also listen to make certain that you hear the tone or the semitone, then you will probably have a more accurate correct note.

The next part is training yourself. You place your finger. If the note is out of tune, you play the note again. If the note is out of tune, you play the note again. Eventually you will end up hitting the right note most of the time because you've trained yourself to do so. You use your ears, your eyes, touch, the knowledge of which finger is beside which. You use fingers that are already down to help you find other notes that are close to them.

One thing my teacher has mentioned several times is that the violin is the instrument of a thinking person, and that you must anticipate. Know what note it is you are going to play, know how it relates to the other notes, (is it a step/half-step apart, a tone or a semitone apart), and before you put your finger down anticipate where that finger is going to be. That is where kslnet is coming from.

Do you need to analyze the degrees, or become familiar with them? However you do it, you have to know where that note is, how it relates to the other notes, and how it is supposed to sound, before you play it.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
DutchViolins

@ Kslnet,

IMHO I don't think that a finger pattern is the way to go to improve the intonation. This can easily be seen assuming that the instrument went out of tune during playing. The only remedy is to use the ears and correct, not following any finger pattern! If you still are in the process of thinking where the finger should be high than I'm afraid that the intonation will be resident as a problem and stay unsolved.

I'm not suggesting that someone should blindly follow a finger pattern. Of course the ear has to play a role. But you should still know, for example, that if you have your first finger on an E and you want to play an F with your second finger, the second finger should be close to the first finger. If you aren't consciously aware that there's a half step there, you'll keep putting your second finger down, go, "Oh, that's too high", then move it back. Knowing where your finger is supposed to go in relation to the last note you've just played is an important first step.

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@vlngeek, quote:" The proper set up of the left arm/hand

achieves the intonation goal, combined with a properly set up bow

arm that can execute the correct weight, speed and contact point to

convey excellent intonation and expression." I don't see how a

properly set up of the right arm does affect the intonation: as

said before it does not do anything with the frequency. Maybe your

'intonation' is something else than the intonation we are talking

about in the context of intonation. Of course a good bow technique

improves the sound quality but not the intonation.


Try bowing too slowly with too much weight about a half inch over

the fingerboard.  The pitch will bend.  Try bowing too

slowly with too much weight with a crooked path - again - the pitch

will change.  That's affecting the intonation.

vlngeek

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quote:


Originally posted by:
yuen
An entirely different

approach: Hide your mis-in-tune note with a vibrato. Once you have

just played a false note, save the trouble by playing it right with

a vibration (alternating false and true notes) They may say you had

bad vibrato, better being accused of bad intonation. How does it

sound to you all ? (ear function is still essential)

I agree with you here: too many student players try to vibrato

their way to the correct pitch.  

vlngeek

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quote:


Originally posted by:
stillnew
I did not

understand Pandora's reference to Suzuki as being negative. I saw

an equivalence: Suzuki: don't teach an approximation in technique,

and then change it later to the real thing. Pandora: don't teach an

approximation of intervals, and then change it later to the real

thing. Suzuki technique idea = Pandora 'sound' idea Did I get this

right? As a student I find value in both worlds. I cannot see setup

as being the only thing that will guarantee me good intonation. I

began with a generally decent setup, and learned to play using my

ears: listening for the resonance with open strings for example. As

a singer I already thought in solfege. But there was a certain

point where I played out of tune because my setup had slipped, and

no amount of knowing what it should sound like could help me until

my left hand was straightened out again. On the other hand, I've

seen people with wonderful setup who play dreadfully out of tune

because they have no ear.

Great set up doesn't guarantee playing in tune.  A poor set up

guarantees that: 1) it will take too much effort to try to play in

tune and/or 2) one will definitely play out of tune along with

creating a godawful tone because the bowing will be poor, too.

As some master teacher said to the hapless student, "There are

only two things wrong with your playing: your left hand and your

right hand....."

vlngeek

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I think the most important is to able to know how intune notes sound like. The best way to learn the sound of those notes are by playing scale extremely slowly, record it, find out which note is out of tune, play again, record again until you find the correct pitch. Then all you have to do is to memorize the sound of that correct pitch and the finger position. The ears won't be quick enough to detect every faulty intonation when you are playing fast, therefore, everything must be praticed slowly so you hand learns the fingerboard placement.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
DutchViolins

@ Kslnet,

IMHO I don't think that a finger pattern is the way to go to improve the intonation. This can easily be seen assuming that the instrument went out of tune during playing. The only remedy is to use the ears and correct, not following any finger pattern! If you still are in the process of thinking where the finger should be high than I'm afraid that the intonation will be resident as a problem and stay unsolved.


I think finger pattern is really important especially where you are playing at a high-speed. One of the purposes of scales is to establish finger patterns. Of course the ears have to be used to correct intonation all the time but the basic pattern must be formed before you can correct anything. I don't see how you can only use your ears? Do you randomly put your finger onto a note and then glide through the entire fingerboard and use the ears to find the correct note?

The way I see it as:

Stage #1 Use ears(maybe with the aids of recording) to form the basic finger patterns

Stage #2 Use the basic finger patterns

Stage #3 Use ears to correct intonation mistakes within the finger patterns

Finger patterns and ears are complements to each other, they cannot live without each other.

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@Nickia:

I see a finger pattern in the same relation as the keys on a piano. Fortunately they all have a certain order or 'pattern if you want. That's also on a violin and that makes playing in different positions a lot more logic. The problem with the piano is that nothing can be done to correct the pitch during the play. On a violin one can. Of course it's hardly possible when very short notes have to be played and here comes your 'finger pattern' as a good aid.

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I was very curious about how much "out of tone" I could be if I tuned my violin against a piano. So I asked my teacher to play a note on violin with correct pitch and with piano pitch. I could not tell the difference at first. My teacher then told me that the difference was that the correct violin pitch sounded richer and better. She played the same note again. I still couldn't tell until about 2 or 3 minutes later (Thank goodness, my teacher was very patient with me. I would have thrown myself out of the window...Only if I could. ). This listening experience was later confirmed by my study of the Pythagorean intonation: The difference is not really that much (by that I meant way out of tune), but if one hits the correct pitch on the violin, the player would be rewarded with better musical sound, at least more pleasing to human ears.

That said, I have been using the "Don't Sweat; Fret it." (or some other sales pitch of that sort). It is a sticker with frets for note position, very much like a guitar. The position might not be 100% correct, but it gives me very good idea whether the notes should be. I replaced the fingering tapes on my violin my teacher put on when I started fingering. In the end of the semester (Spring, 2006), the five judges for my final exam all stated that I had good intonation. Now that I am comfortable with the note positions, I used both the fretted violin and non-fretted violin to check against my intonation. I don't want to walk with a clutch forever. Now I am ready and comfortable to learn to tune with fifth. I feel I can appreciate the "correct ptich" better than when I started learning the violin.

For a beginner, if you feel really clueless and not comfortable with an untrained ear, starting with the "Fret It" sticker might be a good idea. However, don't forget to train your ear to a proficient level in discerning the right pitch. That is the ultimate goal as far as intonation is concerned. Swimming with a life-saver forever will never become a respected swimmer.

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Miles,

I don't know this sticker. I never used it thus I'm trying to understand how it works. You compare the 'fret it' sticker with a swimming belt. But as far as I understood the 'fret it' tool cannot be seen during the play neither be felt, so what is the advantage? Using a swimming belt you immediately feel it helps!

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Hi Dutchviolins,

The sticker is like the colored tapes (or whiteout) teachers put on beginners' violins to help them with note positions. Instead of putting one tape a time, the sticker has all the note positions on it with different colors. Because the base is transparent, the violin with such sticker looks like a guitar except that one cannot feel it since it is just a piece of transpart polymerized paper. One of my panel judges actually asked to see my violin after my performance. And her first comment was my violin looks like a guitar. A nice little gadget as it is, like any other gadget, it is not perfect; it is only perfect for a limited purpose.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
miles

Hi Dutchviolins,

The sticker is like the colored tapes (or whiteout) teachers put on beginners' violins to help them with note positions. Instead of putting one tape a time, the sticker has all the note positions on it with different colors. Because the base is transparent, the violin with such sticker looks like a guitar except that
one cannot feel it since it is just a piece of transpart polymerized paper.
One of my panel judges actually asked to see my violin after my performance. And her first comment was my violin looks like a guitar.
A nice little gadget as it is, like any other gadget, it is not perfect;
it is only perfect for a limited purpose
.

If one cannot feel it, what is the advantage than?

And also: if one cannot see it during playing what is the advantage?

You say it has "limited purpose", but I think it's very very limited. Isn't it?

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Hi Dutchviolins,

Yes, you can see the lines (frets) when playing. Different color means different position. But no, you cannot feel it because it is not meant to convert a violin into a guitar.

To sum up. the sticker is a VISUAL aid for finger positions (only lines, no symbols or alphabets) to help students to know where the notes are. That means, instead of guessing where the fingers should go, you immediately know where to put your fingers by looking at the colored lines.

The reason why I said it has limited purpose is that, like clothes, it is one sticker of different category (say 4/4, 3/4, 1/2 etc) fits all. Knowing there are many factors, which might affect the sound for example temperature. One needs to make fine adjustment to get the best sound assuming bowing is not a problem. I have used such sticker for while, and my sense of intonation is not too off to make my playing "out of tune" even without the sticker. So I would recommend such device for a beginner like me, who has to struggle with untrained ears to learn how to fingering. But if a student has great ears and familiar with the finger positions, I see no benefits of such aid.

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If you are coming down to scale from higher positions then a good remedy might be to insert an open string if possible. This requires a good study to achieve the best finger position and also if one should stay in the same position over a couple of strings or just change. Also overtones may sound indicating you're in the right pitch. This also helps to intonate correctly. This is how I learned it from my teacher about 40 years ago. I don't think there is much canged in the violin technique over the years .

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Okay.

1. Stillnew was right, I was confirming Suzuki, not cutting it

down.

2. In fact, everybody's right. You gotta think it, then hear it,

then play it. "Visualize" the pitch, ("auralize?"), then nail it

with a perfectly set up left hand, while a lovely right hand draws

out the tone at pitch. At any part of the process things can go

wrong, cats howl, young women faint dead away... and Yuen was

right, lots of people fake it by using vibrato to blur a bad shot -

including me, just the other day!

3. But someone - I don't remember who - said that vibrato is

even-on-both-sides. My ears perceive the official pitch as the "top

of the throb".

4. Best place to learn solfege is in a class; the basic ear

training courses offered at most colleges use it. Some community

music schools have Kodaly classes.

One thing nobody's mentioned: how much it helps to play against a

drone, to play a D scale against a constant D. I do it for my

students at first, until they internalize it, and at home you can

put something small and heavy on a keyboard to hold the note.

Really want to get into this stuff? Read Matthieu's "The Harmonic

Experience" - I've recently discovered it and am having a GREAT

time finding out that I'm not crazy, he's done incredible research

(and proven all sorts of marginal ideas that I've been messing

about with for years.)

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quote:


Originally posted by:
pandora

Okay.

1. Stillnew was right, I was confirming Suzuki, not cutting it

down.

2. In fact, everybody's right. You gotta think it, then hear it,

then play it. "Visualize" the pitch, ("auralize?"), then nail it

with a perfectly set up left hand, while a lovely right hand draws

out the tone at pitch. At any part of the process things can go

wrong, cats howl, young women faint dead away... and Yuen was

right, lots of people fake it by using vibrato to blur a bad shot -

including me, just the other day!

3.
But someone - I don't remember who - said that vibrato is

even-on-both-sides
. My ears perceive the official pitch as the "top

of the throb".

4. Best place to learn solfege is in a class; the basic ear

training courses offered at most colleges use it. Some community

music schools have Kodaly classes.

One thing nobody's mentioned: how much it helps to play against a

drone, to play a D scale against a constant D. I do it for my

students at first, until they internalize it, and at home you can

put something small and heavy on a keyboard to hold the note.

Really want to get into this stuff? Read Matthieu's "The Harmonic

Experience" - I've recently discovered it and am having a GREAT

time finding out that I'm not crazy, he's done incredible research

(and proven all sorts of marginal ideas that I've been messing

about with for years.)

Yes that was me. In theory it would be nice because that makes a correction possible. But practically it's impossible to make a vibrato on a certain pitch and than go up with a broader deviation from that pitch than going down. How would you do that? How can one train that?

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