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Differences between Out of Tune, Wrong Note and Bad Tone

Zlata Brouwer

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Published: November 19, 2014 at 9:22 AM [UTC]

When you play a note that doesn’t sound good, there are three possible causes:

  • it can be out of tune

  • it can be a wrong note

  • the note can have a bad tone

The solutions to these three possible problems are very different. To be able to correct yourself you need to know what goes wrong. That’s why I explain the difference in this episode of Violin Lounge TV.

What is playing out of tune?

You might play the right note and you might play with a good tone. Playing out of tune is caused by not placing your finger exactly on the right spot on the fingerboard. The note is either too low or too high. In the video I demonstrate what I mean. This is a left hand technique issue. You need to train yourself to hear it and to place your fingers on the right spot.

What is playing the wrong note?

When you play an F instead of an F sharp, the tune you play can sound very weird. The F you play can be in tune and can have a good tone, but you are playing the wrong note. This is most of the times a reading mistake. When you are improvising, you might be in the wrong key, chord or scale. It’s not a technique thing (the ‘how' of your playing), but lies in ‘what’ your are playing. Most of the times this is quite easy to solve.

In improvising I’ve got a nice quote for you:

‘When you play a wrong note... play it again!'

What is playing with a bad tone?

Lots of people say or think they are playing out of tune or they are playing the wrong note, while they are actually playing with a bad tone. A bad tone is most of the times caused by your bowing technique. When this happens, you can better start correcting your right hand than your left hand.

Theses are three different problems with three different solutions. I hope this video will help you identify the difference, so you can find the solution to your problem more quickly.

Please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!



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

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