Learning to play in tune on the violin and viola involves both a physical and a mental approach. Start by setting up your violin and left hand /arm position correctly. This ensures your fingers are in an optimal position for precision movement and control.
For example, if your hand is too far back towards the scroll your 4th and even your 3rd fingers will have to stretch to reach the right spot on the string. This extra movement not only slows you down but increases the chance of inaccuracies creeping in.
Make sure your fingers land consistently on the corner of the finger pad closest to the string. Just as hitting the sweet spot on a tennis racket improves power and aim, using the same part of the finger pad to make contact with the string will significantly improve your accuracy and intonation.
The right mental approach will also help you to play the violin or viola in tune. If you can hear each note before you play it your accuracy will improve miraculously. To begin with you can use a digital tuner or a piano to identify each pitch but actually singing your pieces or the difficult passages is one of the best tools available to you (and it’s free). The quality of your singing is unimportant because the real value lies in forming a mental sound picture of each note.
One of the really exciting things about playing the violin or viola in tune is that the instrument will love you for it. Your instrument will literally sing for joy. This is because when you play in tune (particularly the notes that match the open strings) those open strings will also begin to vibrate; the result is much greater resonance and richer tone quality.
Play the 3rd finger G on the D string for example. When the 3rd finger is beautifully in tune you’ll actually see the G string start to vibrate as well. This is true for all notes matching the open strings and it’s a very effective tool to help you play in tune.
Working with double stops is another great way to help you play in tune and there are many other tools and tricks too.
This post was written by Stylus writer, a former professional violinist/ violist who has taken his gift for phrasing and tone into the world of words. You can learn more about his work at https://styluswriter.co.nz
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