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Zlata Brouwer

[Review] D'addario NS Micro Tuner for Violin and Viola

January 29, 2015 02:37

In this episode I review a new product for violinists and violists: the D’addario NS Micro Tuner for violin and viola.

You can place this device on your instrument and according to D’Addario this device can serve you in three ways:


  • You can tune your violin or viola easily

  • It’s a metronome

  • While playing you can see if you are playing in tune, because the tuner responds very fast


In the video I demonstrate how to place the Micro Tuner on your instrument and how to use all it’s options.

You can adjust the tuner, so it fits your violin or viola perfectly. You can safely place it on your instrument: it won’t damage your instrument (if you don’t do strange things) and it won’t fall off. The tuner responds much better when you bow vs pluck.

Of course you always have to tune your instrument yourself. This is not a device that actually tunes your instrument. It just indicates what’s the pitch and it’s too low, in tune or too high.

The tuner works with whole tempered (piano) tuning, so the fifths are a bit narrower than perfect fifths. When you want perfect fifths and you can tune by ear, use a tuning fork or just tune your A string with this electronic tuner.

The metronome function is more like a little extra and is quite limited. The metronome is only visual: it doesn’t make sound. You can adjust the tempo by clicking on two buttons. A larger metronome makes sound and is easier to adjust from one tempo to the other without clicking a button loads of times. It’s handy that the metronome function is there (for on the road), but in daily use you probably want a separate metronome. This device is mainly meant to be a tuner.

There is some discussion about the third function: checking your intonation with the tuner while playing. 

First of all: when you tune your violin in perfect fifths instead of piano tuning, your G and D will be indicated to be a little low by the tuner and the E will be indicated to be a little too high. These differences are very small, but they can bother you when using this device to check your intonation.

The response of this device is very quickly as promised. You can see if you are in tune while playing, certainly when you are playing slowly and carefully. 

As a teacher I can totally image that this sounds like a must have. Lots of people are very insecure about playing in tune and long for some way to check if they are when practicing.

This sounds very good, but it comes with a warning from my side. When I’m practicing I often check my intonation with my piano, so I also use something to check myself. When you check with the piano, you need to hear the pitch and compare it to your own. Your ear is more active in this case.

Checking yourself with the tuner is very passive: it just tells you whether you are in tune and you don’t have to use your ear. You just have to move your finger until the tuner indicates a green light.

For this reason you must be careful when you use this device. Don’t use it all the time, because your ears will become lazy and you will only depend on your eyes. You will not be able to play the piece in rhythm and in tune. Don’t become dependent on it, because it will work against you. You won’t learn the motor skills and you won’t train your ears. Chances are your intonation only gets worse as your ears get lazy.

When you use this device just to check yourself once in a while (when you have doubts or when you are totally lost)... that’s ok... that’s exactly how I use the piano. It’s useful for that and it works fine.

Just to summarize what I think about this device:

It’s a great tuner: small, low cost, easy to use, clear, fast and it’s handy and safe to place it on your instrument. When you are looking for an accurate, fast and practical electronic tuner, this is a very good option.

As a metronome it’s limited, but it can come in handy when you are on the road or when you don’t use a metronome that often.

As a check to play in tune, the device absolutely does what it promises: the response is very quick, accurate and clear. However: use it carefully and certainly don’t use it all the time. It can help you when you use it right... it can work against you when you use it wrong.

You can buy this device in my violin shop located in Holland. Click here!

You can also buy it on Amazon.com. Click here!

 

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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How to Tune Your Violin or Viola with an Electronic Tuner (or app)

January 22, 2015 01:01

This video shows you exactly how to tune your violin or viola easily with an electronic tuner or a tuner app. It shows you exactly how to use the pegs and the fine tuners.

For tuning small differences you can use the fine tuners. For tuning larger differences you can use the tuning pegs.

When you are just beginning to learn to tune, I recommend using just the fine tuners. It’s handy to have four fine tuners on your violin.

The violin is tuned G D A E from low to high. The viola is tuned C G D A for high to low. I know some mnemonics for this in Dutch, but please enlighten me in the comments about the English mnemonic!

Eventually it’s best and most accurate to tune with a tuning fork. However, for beginners, this might be very difficult. As it’s important to tune your violin or viola every time you play, I recommend using a tuner. When you want to learn to tune with a tuning fork, watch this video: How (and WHY?) to Tune Your Violin with a Tuning Fork?

How does a tuner work? When you talk, the tuner reacts on the sound of your voice. When you pluck a string, the tuner shows you which tone it is and whether it’s in tune, too low or too high. Some tuners have a special violin mode that only recognizes the violin strings. When it doesn’t, use the chromatic mode.

When you use the chromatic mode, your tuner can indicate a tone that doesn’t match your string. For example: when the G string is very low, it becomes a high F sharp. This means the string is tuned too low, not too high.

When you are tuning, please always check where you are by watching the tuner constantly. Don’t just tune and check later. Otherwise you can tune too high and your string can snap.

Remember that the violin or viola doesn’t have guitar mechanic. The pegs are smooth. When you just turn, they will come out of the peg box. Make sure to push the pegs inside the peg box while you are turning them.

It takes quite some practice to become handy in tuning your violin and viola. Just take your time and tune your instrument every time you practice: preferably daily.

Just to summarize the most important things around tuning:


  • Use the chromatic mode on your tuner. When it has a violin mode, use that, but not for the viola.

  • Use the fine tuners for small differences and the pegs for larger differences.

  • Push the pegs into the peg box while you are tuning.

  • When you have to tune your violin or viola a lot (when it’s new or there are lots of changes in temperature or humidity) check if your bridge is still standing up straight. There will be a video about this soon.


Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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How to Move Your Hand and Fingers while Bowing

January 15, 2015 03:06

In this episode we answer a question from viewer Sarah:

Hi, I am realizing that to bow straight, your wrist, fingers and arm do things as you bow from tip to frog and visa versa. On most videos, you don’t get to see what the hand is doing - especially when the bow is at the tip. Do you have a video addressing what your fingers and hand are supposed to do? What are the bowing ‘postures’?

Nope, I didn’t have this video, but here it is! However, I have posted a video entitled "How To (and should you) Bow Straight on the Violin or Viola?” It might be very useful to watch that video in addition to this video.

In this video I will dive right into the movement of your hand and fingers while bowing straight.

There are two movements you make while bowing and in the video I show you why it’s necessary to make these movements.

Your wrist and lower arm make a round shape when you move from the left to the right and back. You draw a circle.

As we want the bow to go straight to produce a good sound, we need to compensate this round movement into a straight movement.

This is exactly the same we do when we throw a ball in a straight line. The movement is more natural than you might think. Just analyze the movement of your wrist and fingers when you throw away a ball in one direction to understand what is going on.

When you don’t move your wrist and fingers, the ball will not go straight, but will make a circle and end up behind you. When we would bow in this way, your bow will go all over the place and you will produce an ugly sound.

Now.... what does this mean in practice:

The first movement:

When you bow at the frog your fingers are round like a claw. When you bow to the tip, your fingers will stretch and in some cases your pinky will leave the bow. However, don’t straighten your fingers all the way, because they will lock and going up bow will be difficult. There will be a little shock in your bowing.

Up bow: bend your fingers

Down bow: stretch your fingers

The second movement:

In the video I show you the ‘window wiper’ exercise in which you train the movement from pinky to index finger.

At the frog your pinky does a lot of work.

At the tip your index finger does a lot of work.

Practice this very slowly with the whole bow. In this way you can control the movement and analyze what your are doing. 

This is just one of many exercises to improve your bowing technique.

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below! If you like it, share it with your friends!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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Violin vs Viola: What is Ideal for You?

January 8, 2015 10:26

In this week’s episode of Violin Lounge TV we see unique footage of the battle between the violin and the viola.

My boyfriend asked me what recreational drugs I took before shooting this video... Yes, it involves talking instruments growling at each other!

A viola is tuned a fifth lower than the violin. The viola has a different part to play in an orchestra: the middle voice, not the soprano voice. The viola is bigger and plays a bit heavier than the violin.

There are many ‘reasons’ why one should choose the on or the other. For example: when you are a tall person, you should pick viola... or: when you have rough motor skills you should choose viola... or: the violin is a better instrument to start with... or: the viola would be easier.

Are they valid?

What I would advice is this: just listen to a lot of violin and viola music. Compare the two and find out what speaks to you most. It’s better to do this live: to have someone play the violin and the viola for you. Ideally you should hear several violins and/or viola’s, so it doesn’t depend on one specific instrument.

Try out both the violin and the viola before you decide... even when you can hardly play on them.

When a beginning student comes to me for violin or viola lessons, I always demonstrate both the violin and the viola and always let them ‘feel’ the violin and viola.

When you are a newbe, you might not know what you prefer. Take some time to find this out.

It’s not true that it’s easier or more difficult to learn viola. You can learn to play both: it’s a learnable skill.

Don’t listen to all kinds of ‘reasons’ why you should pick the one or the other: these might not be valid and they might be personal.

The choice of the instrument of your expression is very important. I hope this video has been useful to you... or at least a good laugh.

If you like it, share it with your friends!

Is this video helpful to you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love,

Zlata

PS: Do you have questions or struggles on violin or viola playing? Post a comment below or send an e-mail to info@violinlounge.com and I might dedicate a Violin Lounge TV episode to answering your question!

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Previous entries: December 2014


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About Zlata

Zlata Brouwer is from Hilversum, Netherlands. Biography

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