The majority of people taking lessons have the ability to learn good intonation in a short period of time. I find a lot of poor or just wrong methods are used, and instead of learning to play in tune in months, students are taking years to have good intonation or are not learning to play in tune at all.
The 4 steps to teaching good intonation:
1) Correct poor technique and fix tension issues. This one should be a given, but I had to put it in here. I see a lot of problems with incorrect index finger height, not twisting the index finger so it is facing the player when placed on E string and elbow not moving forward to get the fingers to lower strings or 4th finger placement. Persons who press too hard will also struggle with intonation.
Don't let your students practice too much in the beginning months. The more they practice away from you the harder it will be to correct poor intonation and poor habits will develop; think of the first two months as supervised practice. I have my beginner students practicing only for less than 1/2hr a week during the first month, and then maybe an hour a week for the second month.
2) Teach students the concept of intonation, which is: listen or think of the note first and then repeat second.
Play a note on an instrument(I find piano is best); then have them think of the note; then have them repeat the note. If they play the note out of tune assist them in finding it. Practice scales and pieces this way.
3) Get them to correct their own poor intonation. In the first weeks or month most students need to rely on the teacher for help in correcting poor intonation, but we don't want this to become a crutch. To fix this, have them play one bar of a scale or piece they have been working on, and then have them think or sing in their head the next bar. Have them do this for the whole piece or scale; then have them reverse the order; then have them play the piece normally. You should notice them correcting their own intonation at this stage.
4)Speed. Playing too fast when you are not ready kills good intonation, but playing at the same speed stagnates progress. Use a metronome to keep them at a pace that keeps them in tune, but increase the speed periodically. It doesn't take long to play in tune, but it may take a while to play at a descent speed.
Thing that will speed up progress:
1)Get them to learn solfeggio. This way they will be able to sight think (sight read in your mind) a piece before playing it.
2)Get better at math. Doing math in your head may increase short term pitch memory.
3)Prevent your students from looking at their left hand for finger placement. This bad habit doesn't only interfere with intonation, but also slows down their overall progress considerably.
4) Work on having a proper set-up. The right chin rest and shoulder rest makes teaching really really really really easy; I can't stress this enough. It's good to have a box of different chin rest and shoulder rest too aid students in getting a good set-up.
No Tape For Me You See
I have tape on my bow and tape on my knee
I have tape on feet as you can see
I have tape to move forward and tape to move back
Tape to go high tape to go low
But this is too slow for me you see
Tape is just not for me.
I have Tape on the fingerboard
And Tape on the scroll
I have tape everywhere to help me go
But I don’t use my eyes you see
My Proprioception guides me
I close my eyes and it will see
I just need to think first and it guides me
I think of a note and think of a tune
I may play too high or play too low
But Proprioception will guide me you know.
So teacher no tape for me: I’m not three
And I will play fine you see
For I have proprioception to guide me
Proprioception makes my sharps sharp and my flats flat
And does it just like that
He keeps my bow where it needs to go
I don’t have to look you know
Proprioception is my best friend
I close my eyes and he sees me and I see him.
So no tape for me please
For I have Proprioception you see
He’s better than tape will ever be.
So now I have a violin with no tape as you can see
No tape on the fingerboard and no tape on the bow
Now my violin is ready to go
I can close my eyes for now I can see
And let Proprioception do some work and guide me
Happy happy as I can be
My friend, is finally free.
By Charles Cook
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