are you retuning?

April 18, 2007 at 07:04 PM · I realized the other day that I am checking and retuning my strings a little after almost every tune I play at my Cajun jam. I don't see professional orchestra players doing this between pieces or movements to any great extent, and am wondering about that. The obvious reason not to have a major, organized retuning during an orchestra concer is that it interferes with the presentation of compositions such as symphonies. But now I'm curious as to whether folks are doing bits of tuning I'm not seeing? are playing on strings that have wandered a little and are adjusting their fingers? their strings aren't going out of tune that fast? Cajun fiddling can be pretty energetic stuff. By comparison to when I play classical, I feel like we use our bows a little loose and put a fair amount of weight into the string. More weight-release, too, like playing alternating accent/no-accent. So maybe I'm playing my strings out of tune faster than is typical for many classical pieces?? Any thought? Sue

Replies (100)

April 18, 2007 at 07:25 PM · Sue - I haven't seen many professional orchestras lately and have not paid attention. I would think that for players using gut (which, as an amateur in a community orchestra, I do not use), there would be a greater need to retune. However, the problems with gut may be more related to humidity and temperature which I think are well-controlled in most concert halls. The other possibility is that really good professionals can adjust easily for minor tuning issues without retuning. My Obligatos stay in tune throughout any rehearsal or concert. Anyhow, your question is a good one.

April 18, 2007 at 07:41 PM · There are a lot of factors involved here.Heat and humidity also play a large role in instrumenets intonation.I sometimes tell my youth orchestra to check tuning between pieces but very often individuals will have a quick retune even beween movements if they hear that their violin is out of tune.If a hall is overly heated,if its been raining,if there have been sudden changes in temperature string instrumnets can be very tempramental.They seem to adore cooler climes.

April 18, 2007 at 11:09 PM · Sue,

I'm sure I'll get reamed again for stating this, but part of the answer is that classical players are not as concerned with being dead-on in tune as you (and I) are. This is not a knock, even though many of them take it as such. It is simply that being out by + / - 10 to 15 cents isn't really noticeable in most classical music (with some exceptions.) I'm sure someone will post (once again) that I am wrong, and that they can tune precisely with their pegs, but they will be wrong. -And it won't matter because they have never in their lives NEEDED to be within 1 or 2 cents.

Being slightly out of tune even adds beauty to a string section, by causing a subtle chorusing effect. (this is also one of several factors that helps a soloist stand-out to the audiences' ears)

When you play Cajun, you typically have equal-tempered guitars and / or accordians in the mix, and also vocalists. Forgetting for a moment how out of tune many accordians can be (not to mention vocalists!) this demands a more precise tuning. Additionally, Cajun style uses open strings a lot, so there's no way to compensate with the fingers (assuming one really could accurately compensate with the fingers, no matter which way the string is out, which is possible I guess but highly debateable)

The same goes fo Pop & country music, which is what I do. I've seen many excellent classical violinists practically fall apart in the studio, unable to get in tune accurately enough for either me or the client. Again, this means no disrespect to the classical world. Far from it. It's just a different discipline.

This is why I'm constantly pushing the virtues of 4 fine tuners, and / or pegheads. You'll note that virtually all bluegrass players, and every top-tier US studio player, use 4 fine tuners. The Bose Harmonie tailpiece is becoming popular, having even been installed on some 18th cent Cremonese violins. I think it's expensive enough to pass the "snoot" test. Maybe things are changing.

I have recently switched to pure gut strings. I was hoping to forgo the fine-tuners, bet even with gut I can't get the precision I need, at least not with standard pegs. I will probably have pegheads installed on all my violins soon. I've been putting this off because I think there is still a stigma attached to them, and it could hurt resale value.

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Uh oh, you got me on my "intonation" soapbox once again. I'm in trouble now ....

April 18, 2007 at 11:05 PM · Greetings,

>I'm sure I'll get reamed again for stating this, but part of the answer is that classical players are not as concerned with being dead-on in tune as you (and I) are.

Of course I`m going to ream you.

Firts and foremost there is the sissue of variabilty within a key. That is, as you know, 4ths, 5ths, and octaves have to be dead on. Then the thirds and sevenths are sharper or flatter according to personal sense of intonation (compare Oistrakh, Milstein et al in same piece) and then the otehr notes have to be dead on in relation to these factors. The degree of variability is affected not only by the speed of the work but also by the style and period to some extent.

With all these issues I am fanatical, following the example of Casals and Szigeti who believed that intonation was a moral issue.All my stduents are taught to play excpetionally in tune from the beginning. I will not tolerate a lazy attitude in myself or anyone I teach.

IAs a result I have extremely sensitive hearing to intervals and pitch. I hear this same awarenss at a higher level in great players.

They play dead on in tune as is required by their art and tehcnique combined. DOn@t confuse that with being out of practice or having an off day.

If you have a diffenret view of what intonation is fine, but I think you are profoundly disrespectful when you claim to have a superior understadning and ear for intonation than `classical players.` I don@t think you have ever played in aprofesisonal orchestra or quartet. Right?

Those players are always deeply cocnerned about the effect so many rehearsal and concerts have on their intonation and spend a greta deal of time on remedial work. Its something done with the isntrument, experience and the mind , not microphones and half arsed theories mixed up with a big chip on the shoulder.

I still love you though,

Cheers,

Buri

April 19, 2007 at 05:36 AM · 'Being slightly out of tune even adds beauty to a string section, by causing a subtle chorusing effect. (this is also one of several factors that helps a soloist stand-out to the audiences' ears)'

Couldn't stop laughing over this one,even slopped my morning coffee over my desk.

April 19, 2007 at 05:59 AM · Why laugh?

Precise intonation is a source of monotony in playing.

If every A is a little different, for example, there's a greater variety of sounds and colors.

Plus it saves you the trouble of trying to play in tune.

April 19, 2007 at 07:30 AM · It's absolutely true, Janet. (Well, the chorusing part, at least) We recording engineers have studied this stuff under controlled studio conditions, and it's been discussed many times in engineering / production forums. The same goes for brass sections.

FWIW, there's a similar situation with accordions (I kid you not) Accordions are purposely tuned slightly out, but various genres / countries use different amount of "out of tune-ness," because this gives differing emotional responses.

There's a German tuning, an Italian tuning, A french tuning (everyone hates the French tuning, he he)

There's also a fun phenomenon called "tartini tones" which you surely don't want in your violin section. These "false" distortions sometimes happen when two instruments are tuned TOO CLOSE to each other. Look it up.

The study of tuning & intonation is surprisingly complicated and fascinating. There is soooo much to it that the typical musician never learns about, and why should they? -but it's important to engineers.

There are also often multiple choices in tuning, all of which can be considered "correct." For instance, how much a piano is stretch-tuned, and to some extent how the temperment is set. The same holds true for how a guitar is tuned (there are several options regarding micro-tuning, all within the standard note assignment.

There's also that weird business of cello tuning in a quartet. For some reason, some folks tune the low string sharp, even though psychoacoustically it should be tuned flat. Go figure, I don't understand that one but I'm not laughing at it. I assume there must be something to it.

-------------------------

I suggest that people don't laugh at something they don't understand.

BTW- Sorry about your spilled coffee!

April 19, 2007 at 08:55 AM · I understand the humorousness of a pop recording engineer lecturing classical musicians about precise intonation. Because if there's one thing I'm immediately aware of when listening to pop of any genre, or ethnic music for that matter, is the precision of intonation. In fact, just the other day as I sat there listening to Aguilera, I couldn't stop thinking "My goodness! the subtlety in that crashing percussion! the intonational shadings of milady's vocal powers! They put me to shame."

And as for the "subtle chorusing" effect, I didn't laugh. I snorted. You yourself have pointed out that you are strictly a pop recording engineer. So how exactly are you suddenly more knowledgeable than the classical musicians - who've spent their whole lives on the job - as to the requirements and margin of error on classical recordings?

As for your contention that 10-15 percent of pitch variation goes unnoticed in the classical world, words fail me. Tell me, what difference is one Hertz when dealing with a 442 A? By my calculation, it's .25 of a percent. Yet those differences are perfectly audible when tuning the strings. And when practicing and correcting an out of tune note, the difference can often be just that small.

And then you have statements like this: "The Bose Harmonie tailpiece is becoming popular, having even been installed on some 18th cent Cremonese violins. I think it's expensive enough to pass the "snoot" test. Maybe things are changing."

Snoot test? You think that opposition to putting electronic crap on a priceless work of visual, acoustic and historical art is from some Frasier-esque desire to seem sophisticated? Hate to break it to you, Mr. Speers, but when I look askance at such practices - and when I shudder to think of old Cremonese being used for fiddlin' - it's not because I'm being a snob. I'd react the same way to someone painting an oh-so-hip mustache on the Mona Lisa. It's tasteless, disrespectful and tantamount to vandalism.

Snootiness has nothing to do with that. A laid-back attitude doesn't excuse nor allow spitting in a church baptismal font. And the priest who objects to you doing so isn't being a snob. The opposite of "boor" is not "snob".

Here's the point: intonation is not mathematics. All mathematics can hope to do is find a language to describe that which the ears have already determined. If you're relying on math to tell you WHAT you heard, on studio equipment to tell you whether it's in tune or not, you're listening to the machinery, not to the actual playing.

April 19, 2007 at 08:31 AM · My take:

>But now I'm curious as to whether folks are doing bits of tuning I'm not seeing?

Sometimes. A tug here, a tweak of the fine tuner there...

>are playing on strings that have wandered a little and are adjusting their fingers?

Yes, constantly. Although in practice you wind up having to make bigger adjustments to match the wandering woodwinds (hee hee.)

>their strings aren't going out of tune that fast?

Probably about the same as yours.

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Emil, Allan didn't refer to "percent variation"; he referred to variation in units of cents, where 100 cents is a semitone. 1 Hz difference at 442 is about 4 cents. I agree with you that such a difference is audible and correctable, although one might not be very picky in a fast run.

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Allan,

The reason for tuning the cello C string high (by narrowing the fifths, say) is to prevent it from being wildly out of tune when playing thirds with the violin A and E. You can work it out. It's not fancy psychoacoustics, just simple arithmetic. (In practice, of course, you usually make yourself adjust to the cello, but it's nice if he or she helps you out a little.)

April 19, 2007 at 08:56 AM · Peter, thank you for clarifying that. However, we're still within Allan's assertion that "+ / - 10 to 15" cents is permissible on a classical album. If 4 cents is audible, as you've clarified, double or triple that is inexcusable. Though, again, you're right that in a sufficiently fast run, or some orchestral fortissimo, a soloist's + / - 10 cents might actually slip by.

However, if we're talking about volume obscuring such fine-gradations, surely the classical world has nothing on the pop world. In the orgy of percussion on your average pop album, I sometimes have difficulties hearing the instruments, let alone a 10 cent variation. And it's on CLASSICAL albums that lackadaisical attitudes towards intonation are being claimed to exist??

April 19, 2007 at 10:12 AM · Emil, Your derogatory comments toward pop music prove quite clearly that you know very little about it.

You wrote "... when I look askance at such practices - and when I shudder to think of old Cremonese being used for fiddlin' - it's not because I'm being a snob."

-Well, yes, you ARE being a snob. In fact, I'd say you entire post is basically the definition of snobbery. I'm sure you're a fantastic player, worthy of great respect, but you can't see that the opposite is also true of the best players in the pop world. You likely don't understand how hard it is to do what we do. They (we) can't do what you do, but I guarantee you that you can't do what we do either. Again, it's a very different discipline.

I have little time right now, but will try to address this in more detail later. -That's if you are able to think about such issues with an open & objective mind. My guess is, however, that I would be wasting my time.

FWIW, my cents figures come from experiments wherein individual violins were purposely manipulated into exact tuning, then the section was artificially spread a cent at a time until a plesing section sound was achieved, then this continued until all in the room agreed is was too wide. Others have done similar tests, and it has been discussed quite a bit. The same has been done with choirs. The results are quite interesting, actually.

FWIW #2. While I have never had the opportunity to record an entire orchestra, I have recorded many full violin sections. -And tons of quartets. And I played first cello until graduating from college. I know what classical music sounds like, even if it isn't my main focus now. Lots of other pop producers have classical backrounds as well. Perhaps you've heard of George Martin?

Here's another shocker for you: Much pop music has no electronics whatsoever. And (can you believe it?) sometimes not even drums! Who'dathunkit? !!! None of that nasty "orgy of percussion" as you so snobbishly put it. Why we even record grand pianos & stuff. No, really.

As for Cremonese violins used for "fiddlin" well, once again your ignorance shows through rather blatantly. Pop music and "fiddlin" bear only a passing aquaintance. -But since this bothers you so much, I'll call Mark O'Connor later today and tell him that you recommend he sell his Vuilaume immediately.

Last: If you would like to come to my studio sometime, I will lay $5,000 on the table, and you do the same. If you can tune all four string to within + / - 2 cents of dead-on, within 2 minutes, with only one fine tuner & no pegheads, you take the cash. If not (and you won't be able to) the pile stays & you go.

This level of intonation is de rigure for pop & country recording. That's why all top session players use four fine tuners.

I'm done now. Sheesh ...

April 19, 2007 at 10:26 AM · "This level of intonation is de rigure for pop & country recording. That's why all top session players use four fine tuners"

Allan, you still think how in tune a violin is depends on how well the strings are tuned, like you did your first day here. It doesn't matter if someone's strings are some fraction of a dollar out of tune. It's overkill. They will adjust their finger. In fact, you could hand Emil a randomly out of tune violin and after a few minutes with it he would play as in tune as any of your "top session cats."

April 19, 2007 at 10:26 AM · Jim,

I still maintain that this is a false argument. (I sure didn't want to get into this again!) I admit it MIGHT be possible for a great player to compensate, but I'd have to be convinced. I've seen too many professionals fail when the tape was rolling. My argument hasn't changed:

I have no doubt that a fine player can compensate, with subtle changes in finger position, for differences in the intervals of various keys. In fact, that's part of what makes a great player great. However, in order to do this, in order to train your muscle-memory to do it "automatically" you have to have a level playing filed. That is, you need to have the same starting point each time. If your A string is 5 cents sharp one day, and five cents flat the next, I just don't see how you can accurately compensate. Not completely. Even if by some miracle he could do it, this would require an intense mental effort, and then what is left for interpreting the music? Technique is suppose to develop to the point that it does not have to be concetrated on during performance, which surely you know.

On this point, I do remain open. I'd love someone to prove me wrong, and admit the possibility. However, it would STILL be better all around if the strings were the same all the time.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, non-classical styles often use open strings on purpose (esp Cajun & bluegrass) so your argument would only be valid for classical genres.

I do wish I didn't have to jump on Emil as I did, since he is likely some master violinist who would knock me backwards if I ever heard him play. But, you know, some things just get my back up. I've spent 12+ hrs a day, for maybe 30 years, perfecting my craft and knowledge. I take it as seriously as any classical violinist takes HIS craft. We should all be open to new information and ideas. A great artist is always looking to learn and grow.

Well, enough said, I now have to get back to that craft-perfection stuff I mentioned.

April 19, 2007 at 10:54 AM · " I admit it MIGHT be possible for a great player to compensate, "

Allan, when you eventually learn to play the violin well, you'll realize it's the order of the day, not something that just might be possible.

"I take it as seriously as any classical violinist takes HIS craft."

Of course. It's two separate crafts though. Likewise, they aren't going to tell you about splicing techniques. Go to the concert hall and appreciate some of the amazing stuff they do. They in turn though should hear what Rev. Gary Davis does, since he's the only true god. Your session cats, I don't know about them.

April 19, 2007 at 01:14 PM · Hi,All, Enjoying the interchange here, if you're getting back to reading replies. I tend to ignore anybody who seems to hold the viewpoint that great fiddling is somehow innately inferior to great classical playing. It's not; it's just different. Some of the things that some classical players hear as "bad" tone, bow use, intonation are accepted and even desirable components of fiddling. And why should we automatically eliminate such w/o first considering its effect and use? Nobody likes wholesale screeching, I'm sure, but being a bit more open to slides and "crust" as part of an expressive vocabulary isn't bad. As to intonation, I try to use the oldest Cajun field recordings I can find, or music recorded in the 60's-now by older players. There are a number of old Cajun tunes in "more or less a-minor". They have the 3rd & 7th lowered, or even the 7th lowered, the 3rd lowered going down scalewise, and raised partway going up. The same guys who recorded those play other minor tunes in conventional minor patterns, so it's not that they didn't know how to play "in tune". It's more varied,and in its way more precise playing & hearing. And hauntingly beautiful. Look up Wade Fruge, "Old Style Cajun Music" and the tune "L'ancien danse de Mardi Gras". If it doesn't knock your socks off I feel sorry for you .... Thanks to all, keep weighing in. Sue

April 19, 2007 at 05:52 PM · Allan, to my understanding, I think the point you are trying to make is that the pressure is not as heavy during an actual performance for an orchestral musician to get every single note in tune. It is absolutely expected of us, but a note here or there played out of tune during a concert will go unheard, vs. a violin or fiddle player accompanying a group alone will stand out much more if a sour note is hit at all. Quality pop music is a hard test to any musician to play perfectly in tune. Plus, the time spent tuning in an orchestra might be a total of 1 minute per concert, 80 people all trying to pick out the true note and tune correctly. Close to impossible. So unless an orchestra spends a great deal of time in the green room before a performance, you can bet that some of us won't perfectly match. Correct assumption. Now, private lessons should demand perfect intonation, as Buri explained. This is the time to work on that issue so that when you're sitting in an 80 piece orchestra and can't hear yourself play at all, you have the best chance at correct intonation.

As to the response from Allans' posts:

I think we should all post a question on a fiddle forum that could be construed as misguided and see what kind of set down we receive. I place odds that we would receive a warm welcome and a friendly correction to our incorrect assumptions. Allan, who it appears mainly works in a different genre, has given us an opinion, coming from his experience. Instead of having a healthy discussion regarding we play as in tune as his session musicians, the discussion instantly jumped to denouncing fiddling and session players and how their musicality is below our standards, even to the point that they would be committing VANDALISM by playing a top quality instrument. Good God. I don't even know how you could put a spin on that statement and have it come out sounding anything but snobbish.

I have always played only classical until recently. I have ventured out to embrace other genres after witnessing a session at a pub in which fiddlers went casually from one song to another, and if they didn't know a tune, they would completely pick it up within a couple bars and go with it. You know what, they sounded fantastic. I tried this at home with a cd of Irish music and was put to shame.

I picked up an Irish fiddling book, which never even leaves 1st position, and sounded horrible. Technically I could play this music, but I couldn't make it sound musical because I've never done anything but classical. It's a lot harder than what we all think. Just because it's different, doesn't mean we have a right to slander the music and people who play/produce this. Not all pop music is inferior, folks. Some of it is, of course, but saying that all pop/folk/world music is inferior in quality is like saying that all classical pieces are perfection, which I can wholeheartedly attest to as false. Show some respect to those who choose to enrich people via a different musical path. Concentrate more on the fact that we are all related through our drive to make music for the sake of enriching the human soul.

Sorry Allan, that your area of music has been attacked so childishly. Some of us can appreciate the subtleties of a tune, with or without a conductor.

Laura

April 19, 2007 at 07:31 PM · Good lord, are reading comprehension skills really that deteriorated? I said it's vandalism to put a piece of electronic equipment like the Bose tailpiece (which Allan feels is a GOOD idea!) onto a priceless Cremonese. And I stand by that. And if O'Connor chooses to do that, it doesn't make it either right or laudable. If a millionaire buys Manet's "Olympia" so he can hang it in his bathroom, the laws of purchasing allow him to do so. And there will be plenty of people who will be awed by his purchasing power.

But as he sits there in the "smallest room", staring at Manet's painting, he'd better be under no illusions about what that painting has bought him: not the illusion that he's a cultured individual. Just proof positive that he's a moneyed boor.

April 19, 2007 at 07:49 PM · Obviously when you play by yourself you can hear your own intonation issues... whether you are a fiddle or orchestra player. But when you get into a group of 30 or so violins the imperfection of someones strings can be hidden. Most players I know, when their strings go slightly out of tune do to weather, breaking in a new string etc... tend to play quieter and have others cover them until they have an opportunity to tune again.

Interesting to see a thread like this turn into a urination contest between fiddles and violins ::sigh::

April 19, 2007 at 07:43 PM · Emil, if you didn't mean the comment as how I read it, I do apologize. The following sentence implies fiddling, not the alteration of an instrument, as vandalism if performed on a cremonese instrument.

Emil wrote:

"Hate to break it to you, Mr. Speers, but when I look askance at such practices - and when I shudder to think of old Cremonese being used for fiddlin' - it's not because I'm being a snob. I'd react the same way to someone painting an oh-so-hip mustache on the Mona Lisa. It's tasteless, disrespectful and tantamount to vandalism."

However, after reviewing the entire post, I now see that you meant to attack the alteration of historic instruments and compare the action to vandalism.

Once again, I offer my apologies for the incorrect assumption on my part.

Concerning my reading comprehension level, alas I am human, and vulnerable to imperfections in my intelligence. Sorry to "deteriorate" the grade level at v.com. At least I can take solace in the fact that I am not above self examination and can admit to my faults and apologize in a dignified manner. That has to count for something, right?

;)

Laura

April 19, 2007 at 09:28 PM · Huh? The Bois (not Bose) d'Harmonie fine tuner tailpiece isn't electronic. Nor does Bose, to my knowledge, make a tailpiece. They make other crappy-sounding electronic stuff but thankfully, they haven't yet branched out into tailpieces.

The Harmonie tailpiece is a finely crafted very high quality tailpiece that allows you to have fine tuners while keeping the afterlength stable.

Acoustically, I don't see the downside.

On the intonation front, I do think it's possible to compensate for strings being out of tune. I've done it myself in outdoor situations and not even noticed it was even happening until afterwards when I discovered that the strings were very out of tune.

*However* -- was I within a few cents of being in tune? Personally I doubt it. Was I in tune enough for live music that people were dancing to? Yes.

And was I droning against open strings? No.

I do much more of that now. And I retune a lot more frequently and am much more careful about picking strings that stay in tune better.

- Ray

April 20, 2007 at 12:05 AM · Ray, thanks for clearing that up! If Allan had written Bois, I'd have assumed something made of wood and would have asked more questions about what was intended. As it stood, I thought of the Bose name as being associated with electronics, and was railing about something I assumed from context. Something I assumed incorrectly. I am indeed sorry.

And Laura, when you posted the quote from my post, I saw why it looked as though it was fiddling vs. violining I was decrying. It was badly written and had I read it by itself, instead of coming after the mention of the Bose/Bois tailpiece, I'd also have understood it the same way. Please forgive me for impugning your reading comprehension skills. It was unjustified, and it's my writing skills that were to blame.

April 20, 2007 at 01:08 AM · Ray, what I meant by compensating is the kind of thing you do constantly when you adjust to another player. I think playing on an out of tune violin though is more like being given a fractional size to play in tune, which you can do, strangely enough, if you try that experiment. I think not all of it is conscious, like you said. Strangely I think you can also "think" a note into being in tune too, without being conscious of what's happening physically. Interesting...I guess.

April 20, 2007 at 02:05 AM · No worries Emil! All is forgiven and forgotten. Especially since I did indeed misunderstand your post and responded to it without double reading.

OK, I'm gonna go crack open a beer and imagine Mona with a mustache... :)

Peace,

Laura

April 20, 2007 at 02:49 AM · "I admit it MIGHT be possible for a great player to compensate, but I'd have to be convinced."

Listen to any great recording. They are constantly compensating. Listen to Heifetz slide- that is a form of compensating. No players' fingers land on the fingerboard perfectly in tune no matter how well their instrument is tuned. If you put earplugs in the greatest player's ears they will play like an amatuer or worse. To play in tune is to hear the note you need to play, listen to the note you are playing, and correct the pitch before the sound leaves the instrument and fills the room you are playing in.

Pick up your violin and place a finger where you think the high D is on the E string. Anybody of a decent level of playing will adjust automatically, but if you resist that urge it will more often than not be out of tune, that is if you just pick up the instrument and try to play it. It is much easier to slide to that D from a note below it because you hear the pitch and stop sliding when you hit it, regardless of whether the E sting is perfectly in tune or not.

April 20, 2007 at 03:08 AM · http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_34/b3998414.htm?chan=magazine_spr_pb

April 20, 2007 at 05:04 AM · Mine stays in tune very well..... Is that odd--I'd be interested to know?

April 20, 2007 at 06:35 AM · Allan, I'm a little confused that you imply that the standards in pop music for technical perfection are higher than in the classical music world. Tell that to the thousands of music students (not to mention, successful violin soloists) who strive for absolutely perfect intonation. Plus, I can assure you that most any skilled studio violinist would have been trained in a classical setting, so I'm finding this distinction that you claim to be a bit of a stretch, especially given the soundtracks and pop music I've heard before.

April 20, 2007 at 09:11 AM · Allan wrote:

"Last: If you would like to come to my studio sometime, I will lay $5,000 on the table, and you do the same. If you can tune all four string to within + / - 2 cents of dead-on, within 2 minutes, with only one fine tuner & no pegheads, you take the cash. If not (and you won't be able to) the pile stays & you go."

Ah, but what is dead-on? To the tuner? Perfect fifths? In tune with the piano? Even temperament?

The problem is that a perfect fifth is more than one or two cents off from the two notes tuned to a tuner.

Top studio players here in Germany use normal instruments with normal setups and don't have that much difficulty playing in tune. This is also true when they play pop music. The next question is, to what pitch is your city tuned? Hamburg plays at 442-443, Montreal was 442, the West Coast is generally a bit lower. It can make a difference for players (especially with perfect pitch) to adjust back to 440 pop/film recording pitch.

Of course fine tuners might be easier - but I think it's too much to state that it can't be done without them. With a well-adjusted instrument and clear agreement on tuning systems, it's definitely possible.

April 20, 2007 at 10:03 AM · He doesn't want to test his ear. He wants to test his ability to tune with only pegs. So he could just be matching a visual tuner. Can it be done? I suspect it can be done, really, because a good peg is very smooth and continuously adjustable. But it isn't necessary to do. Read al's link if you haven't it's about the cello teacher at Meadowmount making students play in-tune scales on purposely de-tuned cellos.

Think about this: you will tune as well as you can hear, right? Many people are not dissatisfied with only pegs and one tuner:) Therefore Allan's real argument is that those people can't hear. Of course the group that uses that setup includes people like Anne-Sophie Mutter and Jascha Heifetz and... everybody.

April 20, 2007 at 01:08 PM · They told me that my violin was factory-tuned - so why fool around with it?

Seriously, I haven't followed every word of this discussion but enough to see that it somehow got acrimonious. How could THAT happen on v.com? ;-) I don't know if this thought has already been stated, but in orchestras, most conductors would would frown on a lot of re-tuning, as a whole bunch of people doing so can disrupt the mood. When I need to re-tune in orchestra, and have the opportunity, I do so very quickly, and barely touch the strings with short, very soft strokes.

Solo recitalists, of course, can do as they please. At my recent recital, it was a humid evening, and I re-tuned frequently. At one point I said to the audience " sometimes it seems that the strings and pegs want to go to every place except the right one. But then again, I suppose the same may be said about my fingers!"

April 20, 2007 at 02:07 PM · Trying not to get involved in all the bickering here, but just wanted to say that anybody who is not accustomed to playing in front of a microphone in a recording studio is likely to play out of tune. There is just something about HAVING to play in tune because it is being recorded, that frightens people and makes them TOO aware of their intonation, causing them to play more out of tune than they are used to.

In that regard, a pop violinist who frequently records their "gigs" is probably better equipped to record a pop work than a classical violinist who never records himself and suddenly finds himself in front of a microphone with just a few minutes to learn and record a piece of pop music. I know that because I've been there and done that. It would be the same if I had to suddenly record a classical piece I am learning, but the difference is that the classical piece is 1000 times more intricate than the pop piece, meaning that I find myself concentrating almost entirely on intonation in the pop piece, and every out of tune note requires a re-take, whereas in classical music you might be more inclined to say "well I played that really beautifully and I liked my interpretation. One or two notes (out of many thousand) were a little out of tune but never mind, the overall effect sounds good enough to me.

If you are playing 5 long notes over and over, of course one out of tune note sounds worse to you than say hitting one note in a fast run a little sharp on the 6th page of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. I feel it's a matter of proportion more than about who cares more for intonation.

I am very aware of intonation when I play and I have very very good hearing and these are just my observations from the odd pop recording I've done as opposed to the classical music that I practise every day. I could sum it up saying that in pop music the notes are longer and there are fewer of them, making intonation more critical (and more possible) than in an entire classical work.

As for tuning with pegs, accurate tuning with pegs is definitely possible, the pegs seem almost on their own to pop into the exactly correct pitch. And a lot of the time we all play on slightly out of tune instruments, and I have no problem playing in tune on an out of tune instrument. Double stops become very challenging though, as do octaves.

As for my own violin, it keeps beautifully in tune and I hardly need to tune it much at all. It is a modern instrument. Older instruments and just different instruments are often far less reliable with tuning and I have seen many violinists tuning after every movement of a concerto.

April 20, 2007 at 02:21 PM · Here goes another blanket statement: if one can't tune with pegs alone within the micromeasurements mentioned by Allan, one's pegs are swollen or one has never learned to turn them correctly. Fine tuners aren't necessary except for little kids who lack the strength to turn the pegs by themselves.

April 21, 2007 at 04:38 PM · About the original poster's question about orchestral tuning and re-tuning:

There is a lot of very quiet, unobtrusive tinkering that goes on during rests. People don't even pluck the strings, they just brush them with their fingertips so it's barely loud enough to hear right next to their ear, and not loud enough for anyone else to hear. I'm not a string player, but I see this all the time in my orchestra. Wind players do a lot of adjusting too. You can see a lot of this going on if you watch for it. The whole orchestra doesn't stop and re-tune between movements all the time because it disrupts the flow of the piece; however, sometimes after a very long movement (e.g. one of those half-hour mvts. that Mahler is so fond of), when the audience as well as the orchestra could use a rest before going on, sometimes there can be a pause for re-tuning. (If I remember right, Mahler specified a 5-minute pause after the first movement of one of his symphonies... #2? #3? I forget which)

One thing about playing in an orchestra: you are always playing with other human beings, and always having to adjust. In that context, your instrument can go a little out of tune and it doesn't make much difference because you are listening note-to-note. Where your strings are tuned (or where they've gone since you tuned them) does not govern your intonation -- where you put your fingers does. I mean, of course the tuning matters but it's not the only thing.

My orchestra is not good enough OR bad enough to be an exception to the general rules, so I am going to guess that this happens to a lot of professional orchestra players out there: you have finished a good performance of a long piece, and found that your instrument is out of tune, even if you were playing in tune on it.

When you think about it, vibrato is itself a variation of the pitch; so when you have 12 people all playing the same note with vibrato, what the listener hears is the total of all the different pitches produced by all the different players.

April 21, 2007 at 09:54 AM · You're not a string player? What are you?

April 21, 2007 at 10:39 AM · A Martian?

Ihnsouk

April 21, 2007 at 10:58 AM · No, his English is too good.

Jim

April 21, 2007 at 02:11 PM · Or could this be proof that English is truly a universal language?

Ihnsouk

April 21, 2007 at 04:34 PM · Flute player. It's not a secret, it's on my profile.

April 22, 2007 at 02:53 AM · My instrument stays in tune for sometimes several weeks, or until there is a drastic change in weather or something. Is this normal?

April 22, 2007 at 07:56 AM · Well, I love a good fight, plus some useful info is bound to come out of it, so a few more points & questions:

-------------------------

Emil wrote, "we're still within Allan's assertion that "+ / - 10 to 15" cents is permissible on a classical album. If 4 cents is audible, as you've clarified, double or triple that is inexcusable."

Emil, despite your inexcuseable attitude towards pop music, I will clarify for you, as your math is slightly off. When a section is 15 cents out, that means the worst any one player is out is 7.5 cents. +8 cents and - 7 cents = a 15 cent spread, and as I wrote that is about the outside limit of what sounds good. a 10 cent spread is more typical of a violin section, which would make the "worst notes + / - 5 cents. Do you feel better now?

--------------------

Brian R wrote, "Listen to any great recording. They are constantly compensating. Listen to Heifetz slide- that is a form of compensating. No players' fingers land on the fingerboard perfectly in tune no matter how well their instrument is tuned."

Brian, you are arguing my point for me, and very well. In my world, we generally want the note to be exactly on when it first sounds. Really good session players like Mark O'Connor really DO have that kind of precision, whereas most classical players do not. Again, because they don't HAVE to. This is exactly why they all use four fine tuners. Do you think those top session players are sissies? Or amateurs? Some of these guys are worth millions, having played on hundreds of hit records. They are every bit as good at what they do as Perlman is at what HE does, only their main focus is not bow technique & repetoir, but intonation and timing, because THAT is precisely what they are paid to deliver. -And again, that's why they use four fine tuners. Virtually all of them.

Playing and adjusting in the manner you described (after the finger is down) sounds perfectly fine if Perlman is playing a solo. It would sound awful if he were playing a line underneath my singing.

I imagine that Perlman, or Emil for that matter, could easily play under my vocal perfectly if they were told that this precision was required, but only if their open strings were really dead-on, hence my argument once again.

-----------------------------------

Megan Chapelas wrote: "Ah, but what is dead-on? To the tuner? Perfect fifths? In tune with the piano? Even temperament? The problem is that a perfect fifth is more than one or two cents off from the two notes tuned to a tuner."

A very good challenge, Megan. However, my tuner is a Peterson 490ST auto-strobe. This very expensive tuner does not just show equal-temperment, as most do. It can be set for just intonation, or for various exotic modes and tuning scales. All sorts of interval relationships. It can also be set for various amounts of stretch-tuning, which is critical for this application. So, one can indeed accurately check tuning of any note in any context. (there are other methods as well, once the violin has been digitally recorded, but that's not important here)

-But none of this really matters concerning tuning a violin's open strings. A contrary example: When tuning a guitar, which is basically equal-tempered, we will often "tune to the song" instead of tuning dead-on to a chromatic tuner. When a skilled technician or player does this, he can make the guitar sound better in that particular key, and in that particular octave range, at the great expense of other keys and ranges. This is not necessary with violin, since there are no frets. The muscle-memory of a highly skilled player will compensate, which is the point Emil & Jim make that I do agree with. Where I disagree STRONGLY is in the idea that somehow a great player can compensate no matter how out his string are, or in which direction they have drifted. I'm sorry, but that's a fairy tale, and I've seen it proved false over and over and over. What we want is for the strings to always bee at one pitch all the time, so that the great player CAN use his muscle-memory accurately, and that "same pitch must be equal-tempered. IMO, it should also be slightly stretch-tuned (I like my E-string about 3 cents sharp) but that is very debatable.

-------------------------

Emil wrote, " if one can't tune with pegs alone within the micromeasurements mentioned by Allan, one's pegs are swollen or one has never learned to turn them correctly. Fine tuners aren't necessary except for little kids who lack the strength to turn the pegs by themselves."

Emil, this is the second time you've made this claim. I admit it might be possible, but I can't do it, nor could any of the fine players I've recorded over the years. Not one.

If you are correct, then there must be some trick. Can you explain it?

(one should also note, such exactitude on the tuner is only possible with certain string brands, and with VERY careful bowing, but it is indeed possible)

The pegs in three of my violins are all fitted by a top repairman. My studio stays between 45 and 50% humidity at all times. I use peg dope. My hands are VERY strong. When I move my A peg (forget the E) the smallest amount possible, the jump is around ten cents. To get within 2-3 cents, I must detune slightly then bring it up again, and I must do this sometimes 5 - 10 times. To get REALLY in tune, I need the fine tuners, and I find myself tweaking them perhaps once every ten minutes or so. What am I missing? If there's a trick, I would seriously like to know.

------------

Albert asked, "My instrument stays in tune for sometimes several weeks, or until there is a drastic change in weather or something. Is this normal?"

I dunno, Albert. I only know that in my temperature and humidity controlled studio, all of my violins drift a few cents within a half hour, if they're being played. That only stands to reason, since the violin changes temperature when you hold it, and that causes minute changes to its size, which then changes intonation. Al, if you're talking about holding tune while in its case, then sure, I've seen this as well, with certain brands of strings, but we're discussing live performance.

--------------------------

Last: (whew...)

Bruce Bodden wrote, "vibrato is itself a variation of the pitch; so when you have 12 people all playing the same note with vibrato, what the listener hears is the total of all the different pitches produced by all the different players"

-Absolutely, yet In response to this accurate observation, Ihnsouk calls him a Martian. Why the hostility? Why so knee-jerkingly defensive? Bruce's statement is clearly correct. -Unless you claim that everyone's vibratos are moving perfectly in sync, which would be absurd. I had a producer claim this once when recording dense backround vocals. He just LOVED that vibrato, despite my urgent protestations.Two months later, the artist fired him and re-cut all the tracks, without vibrato, the way they do it on most professional pop recordings. But I digress ...

April 22, 2007 at 08:09 AM · BTW,

If anyone wishes to here some incredible, totally irreverent pop music played on a Strad, check out

Joshua Bell with Allison Krauss and James Taylor on "I give you to his heart." 1998

For even more irreverence, check out Joshua Bell with Edger Meyer & the New Grass Revival on the album "Short Trip Home." -esp the title track and "Death By triple Fiddle."

Amazing stuff, played with total respect for the genre. Bell actually manages to make his Strad squeak and squawk in an authentic "old time" manner, in-between blazingly perfect runs.

Meyer also did some stuff with Yo Yo Ma. (Appalachian Waltz) I don't believe Yo Yo rented a Chinese factory cello for the gig, though anything's possible.

Also check out basically ANYTHING by Mark O'Connor, esp his work with the Nashville Cats.

------

I'll try to dig up some examples of really incredible, absolutely top-notch playing on pop tunes when I get a chance.

Secret Garden, or some of Loreena McKennitt's albums would be a start, but not really examples of the "best of the best." I know there's some lovely work on a few old Allison Krauss tracks, by I have to dig up the exact titles.

I think many of you who typically only listen to classical would really enjoy hearing such tracks. You might even be stunned by the precision. Well, everyone except Emil, who might be offended by such pop cacophany. (You know, all that loud obnoxious percussion & stuff)

April 22, 2007 at 10:40 AM · Allan - My remarks are totally irrelevant. I was just joking to Emily's post, "If you are not a string player, what are you?".

Ihnsouk

April 22, 2007 at 12:54 PM · Allan you wrote: "In my world, we generally want the note to be exactly on when it first sounds. Really good session players like Mark O'Connor really DO have that kind of precision, whereas most classical players do not. Again, because they don't HAVE to.

Playing and adjusting in the manner you described (after the finger is down) sounds perfectly fine if Perlman is playing a solo. It would sound awful if he were playing a line underneath my singing."

I wonder Allan if you have ever listened to a Perlman recording. Try listening to his live recording of Shostakovich 1st concerto and then tell us again that he's not precise enough to record some pop music. Seriously, you're just not making sense to any professional classical musician. I don't think you quite understand the demands of classical music. No great soloist is out there slipping and sliding around to get to notes. They hit the notes just as precisely as any studio musician. I'm sorry but I can't believe we're having this argument. I respect what studio musicians do, but you are creating a distinction of standards where there is none.

April 22, 2007 at 05:45 PM · OK - weighing in a little more seriously now, though again without having read every post. So if I've missed something or am being redundant, my apologies. A good productive debate is fine. But I regret Balkaniztion between the Classical and Pop worlds - and I've seen prejudice in this regard work both ways many times. I happen to be a professional violinist specializing in Classical, but I've been very active in Pop as well - both as a performer and as a listener. Some of the greatest Classical violinists in the US have done loads of Pop session work - including David Nadien, Charles Libove, Aaron Rosand, and Glenn Dicterow. It's nothing to be sneered at. By the same token, while adjustments need to be made stylistically between Classical and Pop (though a lot of adjustments need to be made between Mozart and Brahms as well), I don't think the guys I mentioned above try to play more dead-on or less so in different styles. We all try to play (or should try!) as well in tune as we can, whenever and whatever we play. It is possible that in certain situations - whether Classical or Pop - the slightest out-of-tune playing may stick out more or less. But I'm also sure that for Pop session work, these same virtuosos don't switch to a violin equipped with 4 fine tuners. Small adjustments can be made by pulling at the string to lower the pitch, and pinching the string near the nut to raise it. That said, it's still quite hard to get open strings perfectly in tune by any system. (I'm not up on cents and machines used to measure such things, so I'll abstain from that part of the discussion.) Sometimes a violin may sound very well in tune under the ear. But if you hold it at arms-length, suddenly it's not so well in tune! But I believe that everybody needs to compensate, because a violin can go out of tune within a minute, sometimes. I have a collection of instruments. I have found sometimes that a violin or viola that I rarely use may stay in the ball park for a very long time, and sometimes one string may slip completely. But an instrument in active use has its strings subjected to a lot of stress from fingers and bow - and can slip slightly, very quickly.

Believe it or not, I've heard the following unusual things about Milstein and Heifetz. M. had a parlor trick in which he'd ask someone to take his violin and and purposely mis-tune it. M. would take his violin back, feel the various tensions of the strings - and then proceed to play perfectly in tune! I strongly doubt that the "Great H." used his signature portamento to avoid intonation problems. But I heard the following from two different sources, one of whom was my old piano tuner who knew Heifetz' tuner. Apparently, H. had a tendency to play sharp in the higher registers, and had his piano tuned a little higher in that area to compensate! He obviously heard his own tendency. But rather than adjust, he had the piano adjust to him!!

If I've been a little all over the place with this post, so is my intonation. NO - hopefully not!

April 22, 2007 at 07:57 PM · Ihnsouk,

Sorry about that! -Your statement did seem a bit derrogatory towards Bruce. I see now it was just in fun.

----------

Amy,

You are totally misinterpreting the point I have been so diligently trying to make (and you are not alone.)

First, my point about Perlman was simply in resonse to Brian R's previous statement. I have written many times that a good classical player should be able to meet my criteria for accurate session work, as long as the intonation requirements are made clear.

Since so many of you still don't seem to understand, let me (once again) clarify:

Of COURSE a good classical player can play in tune. It would be absurd to think otherwise. However, if a classical player hits a few notes slightly out, whether soloing or when playing in a section, it does not really hurt the music. It is considered acceptable. -And as pointed out is even considered (by those that understand this) a benefit in a section, adding a richness to the sound. That's a fact, I'm sorry if it bothers some of you, and am puzzled as to why it does.

The second part of the main point is that, in pop recording, assuming the producer or engineer is very good and aware of such things, that same amount of intonation slop that is acceptable in the classical solo will sound horrible if a line is weaving around a vocal, esp with a piano or guitar backround. Thus, session pros work very, very, VERY hard at developing accurate intonation. Yes, they probably work harder at it than classical players, because their jobs depend upon it. They don't need to work on fancy bow technique and complicated repetoirs. Heck, they don't even have to go past fifth position. -But their intonation and timing has to be razor-honed. Yes, moreso than a classical players. Why is that so hard to accept?

Raphael mentions several top classical players who have done a lot of session work, and who likely didn't switch to fine tuners to do so. Absolutely, but that does not negate my point. In such cases, hiring such big names for both their sound and the PR of having them onboard (a very real consideration) one can take all the time needed in the studio to tune up, and can stop & do it often.

However, in the case of a double or triple-scale studio pro, who's main income is session work, he's getting paid to get the job done quickly, and without any problems later on. Hence, four fine tuners. Again, these guys aren't babies or amateurs, they simply use the tools needed to do the job their getting paid to do. If they could tune just as quickly and accurately without the fine tuners, they wouldn't use them. That should be self-evident to anyone.

No more on this, I am getting very tired of defending a position I know to be true. I'm also very tired of some people being so defensive as to not even understand the true meaning of my statements. Go be happy, in tune or not. The OP has her answer.

-----------------------------

Raphael, thanks for the great post. Interesting tidbit about Heifetz. As I wrote earlier, everyone stretches the high notes to some extent, because that's how we naturally hear things, but the exact amount of "correct stretching is somewhat subjective. I'm with Heifetz in preferring more stretch than most. I've even had fights with other producers about it during tracking sessions. (nobody can ever agree upon when something is really in tune, it's truly an amazing thing)

April 22, 2007 at 08:55 PM · I love this thread! I want to marry it.

April 22, 2007 at 09:01 PM · I'm ready to divorce it, myself. (g)

April 22, 2007 at 08:30 PM · People!

Listen to the Indian violinists playing their music! It is incredible. Their intonation is perfect.

There is a way of intonating wich appears to be universal in music without the use of the western vibrato. Men can find it for example by folk string players, Indian string players and baroque string players. It is to intonate on the harmonic points of the lower strings, or search for the 'echo'. For example when playing a tune in G-major, you can find an 'echo' on the G, A and B on the E string. When doing so, the G-scale will not be 'classical' correct, but naturally correct. And the violin (and the music) will ring. For this, you need to tune very precise (and adjust the tuning more or less to the key of the next piece), as folkplayers, baroque players and Indian players do. Folk and Indian players use fine tuners, and baroque players tune long and often. Indian players tune in the middle of their ragas, even when performing!

Classical players survive easely on a not so well tuned violin; they avoid open strings and they don't use the 'echos'.

Allan, I like you!

Greetings, Finn

April 22, 2007 at 09:18 PM · Allan,

Enjoying reading your posts - the lack of circular argument to 'prove your point' is rather refreshing!

Although I'm starting to understand your standpoint better, I haven't quite got this:

"However, if a classical player hits a few notes slightly out, whether soloing or when playing in a section, it does not really hurt the music. It is considered acceptable. -And as pointed out is even considered (by those that understand this) a benefit in a section, adding a richness to the sound. That's a fact, I'm sorry if it bothers some of you, and am puzzled as to why it does."

"Slightly out": again, I'll play the context card. Slightly out compared to what? "Slightly out" in a string quartet is just as unacceptable, but that doesn't mean every C in a piece is the same - because some of them would then be slightly out. To add to this, classical music, as you yourself say, is much more complicated (harmonically) than pop music. Then there is the issue of 'expressive intonation', which simply bears mentioning - this can also destroy a quartet if they don't spend a L-O-N-G and hard time finding their common system. But I haven't figured out what 'out' is to you...

Next, I've never heard that being out-of-tune can be a benefit to a section. It's kind of a fact of life in orchestras, good and bad - as string and woodwind instruments react in precisely the opposite manner to temperature and humidity changes. There is one orchestra here in Germany, the Radio-Sinfonie-Orchestra in Stuttgart under Sir Roger Norrington, who do play without vibrato - Bruckner, Mahler, Brahms too. And my boyfriend's comment when he went to hear Mahler 5 - "I don't know if I've ever heard strings play so well in tune". Something to chew on. Whereever I've played, the goal has definitely been to play as well in tune as humanly possible - and the concertmaster may take the time to correct certain pitches (leading tones) in context to find more unified intonation.

But I think the key is in what you said about tuning the guitars to a certain tonality. Finding any system of intonation requires time and practice, and something like this is definitely different for most string players, who don't usually play pieces that stay in G major, for example. (And now we've arrived at the Well-Tempered Clavier) Thus, they'll need to adjust (before or during the session) to this concept of intonation. I don't doubt that top quartet players out there would have no problems.

But this is a completely different point to that of fine-tuners. But, just out of interest - if bow pressure and speed makes such a difference to the pitch, why isn't the act of plucking a guitar an intonation problem?

Or is it?

April 22, 2007 at 11:24 PM · Allan, I have read your posts, and I know what you are trying to say. I am disagreeing with it. You said: " However, if a classical player hits a few notes slightly out, whether soloing or when playing in a section, it does not really hurt the music. It is considered acceptable. "

Since when is playing slightly out of tune acceptable as a classical musician? That's news to me!

April 22, 2007 at 11:47 PM · Allan, it's time for some sound clips. Put your fingers where your mouth is.

April 22, 2007 at 11:41 PM · I have to agree with Amy. Allan, since WHEN does it "not hurt" classical music to play out of tune? I once heard a string quartet (no names will be named) in which there were persistant intonation problems throughout the whole concert, and I just suffered in silence through the whole thing, it was hardly bearable. Yes, for your information, it DID hurt the music significantly. Or was that just me being a "snob" too?

BTW, lay off Emil. If it's "snobbish" or politically incorrect or elitist or whatever to say that Beethoven is of more artistic value than Britney Spears, well, then something is seriously wrong here.

April 23, 2007 at 12:19 AM · Jim, you are absolutely correct. I wil try to put something together as soon as I can find the time.

--------------------------

Amy, it's fine that we dissagree. It's a matter of degree, and of subjectivity.

Surely, though, you would agree that Heifetz had better intonation than, say, Menuhin. No?

I can listen to a Menuhin performance (or Millstein , for that matter) and point out notes that are slightly off, to my ears, and in some performances it would be every other note. This doesn't make me dislike the performance, and I know it doesn't even register with almost anyone else, except another recording engineer or perhaps a session violinist. It's just a different type of perception.

Maura asks, "since WHEN does it "not hurt" classical music to play out of tune?" But it's NOT out of tune. -Not for classical music. And that's exactly my point. It's only "out of tune" when the intonation is no longer acceptable for the given genre.

April 23, 2007 at 12:28 AM · it's hard to blame allan for saying that, Maura..

he must be listening to too much Bartok ;)

April 23, 2007 at 12:40 AM · Allan, yes, I would say Heifetz had far better intonation than Menuhin. I never said I liked Menuhin, and in fact, no, I really don't. I don't like listening to performances that are out of tune, and I doubt I'm alone on that as a classical musician. My favorite two violinists are Frank Peter Zimmermann and Leonid Kogan, both of which have/had some of the most impeccable intonation of any violinist out there. I just adamantly disagree with your assertion that it's acceptable to play out of tune in classical music. It's just entirely incorrect.

April 23, 2007 at 01:01 AM · On this last point of whether Heifetz is more in tune than someone else, it would be quite ignorant to ignore the reality that intonation is not some set in stone standard. Interpretations vary. We can never know just exactly what was intended by the composer, unless the composer recorded it. And even then, there is always room for experimentation.

Listen to Ivry Gitlis playing, and tehn listen to Heifetz playing the same piece. You will notice different choices. The same thing happens with Milstein.

Intonation is a messy subject because it is an attempt to make discrete steps out of a continuum. Such an attempt is more a matter of imagination than of practical reality. IT is a matter of the imagination of the fiddle player and of the listener. Unlike the harpischord or the piano, you cannot set the fiddle, nor the player up to some discrete "system." Rather, the player's system is internal; his intonation is the result of a rather chaotic feedback relationship between his aural experience, his sense of overtones, his cultural context and upbringing and his musical experience. Where in the diaspora does he fit? It just isn't an easy or obvious thing.

April 23, 2007 at 12:48 AM · Amy - Allan clearly explained the meaning of "out of tune" in his reply to Maura. I understand there are many people on this board who love Menuhin's playing, most of them presumably highly esteemed classical musicians. Menuhin's intonation obviously did not affect their enjoyment. From this, might one conclude that Allan made a point? Namely, that slightly imprecise intonation does not necessarily influence the quality of classical music.

Maura - To me, it doesn't seem fair to compare best of classical music to worst of pops and say it's no comparison? Can we be more open-minded here and try to understand each other's narrow definition of musical beauty?

Ihnsouk

April 23, 2007 at 01:06 AM · And to this issue of precision for "pop"

[begin parenthetical tangent] (which BTW "Short Trip Home" nor much of Kraus is not--it is bluegrass, newgrass etc but not "pop" unless Allan means more generally "popular music" in which case everything except symphonies is pop.)[end of parenthetical tangent]

This precision of the "pop" recording is in some ways perhaps an unfortunate result of an over-instrumentation applied to the often over-produced recorded music that is the backbone of "popular" music. You can make all sorts of frankly absurd precision in a studio, but that doesn't make the absurd precision more correct, or more musical, than the analog reality of playing.

And to give the Quartet of Meyer/Marshall/Bush/Bell a precision of that sort is frankly absurd. In that piece of music, you are exploring bluegrass--a genre that is full of non-major key tonalities, bends, slides, 7 chords, all sorts of stuff that is played on "equal temperament" guitars, and banjos and yet played in anything but 12TET. It is a *vocal* music at heart and as such it is full of unequal spacing. If you listen to some of the really classic recordings of the Bluegrass genre, you can find really delightful "out of tune" stuff that is actually so IN tune. Good example: Stanley Brother's "Little Maggie" recorded way back in the day when Stan's brother was still around.

And when you throw a great bassist, and three accomplished fiddle players up on stage to make an improvisational piece of fiddle music, you can bet the farm that the precision stroboscope is not telling the story of the music.

April 23, 2007 at 01:57 AM · I think part of the issue here is the precise definition of "out of tune".

I play in a lot of open tunings. I used to use a Korg OT-12 chromatic tuner that I would put into the proper key when playing in open tuning.

That tuner isn't accurate enough to tune the precision I need. I could just barely sort of kind of make it work if I put it into its fastest responding mode but it was a pain and I eventually bought a Peterson strobe tuner.

Essentially my ear is now more accurate than the Korg OT-12 and that's supposed to be accurate to +/- 1.5 cents.

That's accuracy is obviously adequate for a lot of classical work but it's completely inadequate for an open tuning where you can tell the difference when a string is off by 1/2 a cent.

So again, I think a major source of misunderstanding here is what is meant by "out of tune".

A violin that sounds in tune to most classical violinists would sound completely out of tune to an Indian musician that's trained to hear 20+ microtones.

- Ray

April 23, 2007 at 07:21 AM · Yet most indian instruments, fretless or not, do not have fine tuners or similar mechanisms.

Their violins generally do, but they usually play very cheap violins. Also I think they don't tune in fifths, so yes, our violins would always sound out of tune.

My point about adjusting intonation with ones finger was misunderstood or not stated clearly. Certainly the fingers do not *always* land perfectly in tune, even for Heifetz or any other great violinist. But this pitch can be adjusted by a great player before the sound leaves the instrument and enters the hall, room, or studio, and can be done without any slide or noticable adjustment. I read an interview where Heifetz said something to that effect- that his fingers didn't land in tune any more than other concert violinists, but he was able to adjust the pitch before incorrect intonation was made audible better than most.

I have heard plenty of pop recordings that have sold hundreds of thousands of albums with a guitar or voice that is out of tune. I have obviously heard classical recordings with intonation errors as well. Obviously my opinion is that classical should be or is more in tune, and if something is suffering in intonation then it shouldn't be released on a recording.

I think it would be obvious that a far greater percent of people who listen to classical music have some degree of ear training and are affected more by intonation errors than the average pop listener. On the other hand, I have very little experience with recording studios and so I can't effectively argue about studio experience.

April 23, 2007 at 12:54 PM · First of all, people are talking about every genre from pop to rock to folk-pop to popular folk to actual folk music (meaning of course peasant music) and lumping them all together as classical music's antagonist on the same level. Bad reasoning strategy--can we try and define terms a little better?

Second of all, Allan, this is getting ridiculous. Any serious classical musician will adamantly (even violently) disagree with your vehement assertion that poor intonation is more acceptable in classical than "pop" music, or even that it is acceptable at all.

To quote my old friend Joska Szigeti, from the preface to his book "Szigeti on the Violin":

"Beauty of tone, perfection of technique, sense of style, the faculty of transmitting the essence, the poetry, the passion of a musical composition, all these gifts will be of no avail if the cardinal virtue of perfect intonation is missing. So let me repeat: There Is No Substitute For Perfect Intonation."

Seriously, what makes you think that intonation is such a minor bagatelle in the art of playing classical music?

April 23, 2007 at 03:05 PM · Because, Maura, Allan seems to be very opinionated about classical music while knowing very little and hearing less. And because relativism, the disease of saying that no one has the right to make a judgment and that everything is the equal of everything else, is the worst end result of decades of political correctness. I am even seen as a bad person, donchersee, because I have no respect for pop.

Well of course I don't, at the same level or for the same things as classical! Going with my favorite analogy of music as food, I'd be boring if I said that there is only room on the planet for restaurants that offer the finest of high cuisine, and that all McDonalds should be burned. And I'd be ludicrously insulated if I never tried a McDonalds burger. In fact, there are PLENTY of days when high cuisine is just not in the cards due to finances, or mood, or time commitments involved. And on such days I LOVE a bowl of chili or a plate of fries or a humble burger. But neither am I so devoid of tastebuds or brains to claim that the burger flipper at the closest fast-food place is somehow in the same field, let alone the equal, of Michel Richard of Citronelle or Johnny Monis of Komi.

And is there bad classical? Of course. Is there good or even great pop? Of course. But the worst that one can say of bad classical compositions is that they're formulaic. The worst one can say of a bad performer is that they were banal. They can't be accused of having autodidact-level technique, in the case of the performer, or a palette of two chords and three notes in the case of the composer.

By contrast, I've yet to hear a piece of pop music that would be technically taxing to a ten year old in a pre-college conservatory program. I've yet to hear a pop song that involves even the most basic elements of classical compositions like development of material, modulation, chromatic chords or any of literally hundreds of other devices. The reason is the same as the one prohibiting interesting spices being added to a McDonalds burger: the customer for that burger, for that pop song, is not looking for complexity. We go to MickeyD's and listen to pop for simplicity and approachability. It would be ridiculous to stretch a pop song for fifteen minutes and it would be equally ridiculous to make it compositionally complex. People want to listen to such music to dance, not to sit in silent thought. And there is a time and a place for that.

But to say that such music is not just different, but EQUAL to even the most formulaic classical work is to say that complexity, erudition, intellect, wide expressive spectra are all irrelevant afterthoughts.

April 23, 2007 at 03:38 PM · Nicely clarified, thanks. I agree. (especially about political correctness and worse, relativism--aaagh, it makes me want to pound my head on the keyboard and run away to Prague.)

(I like the concept of music as food, btw--Let's see, Bartok is a big hearty bowl of peasant-style goulash, and Wagner is something very German smothered in a rich, heavy sauce....)

April 23, 2007 at 05:37 PM · Dear people!

Let's not speak about high or low music.

Let's see different kinds of music only as different ways to make real music, to tell a story we can not tell with words. You can find happiness, sadness, blues, dance and so on in all kinds of good music. ( we all know this ofcourse. Why am I even speaking about this!)

Listen to this guy; he cannot use his 3th and 4th finger because of an illness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z30DzXdlB6g

Don't speak about 'gypsy fiddling'. This great man uses this kind of music only because it is his background.

Same for the next one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkYITH73Rss

(Actually I like hamburgers very much!)

April 23, 2007 at 05:42 PM · Emil - Just wonder how much of those so called goumet meals are pretensions and hype playing into people's vanity. Only people who made it can eat there, and eating there makes you one of them. Which is worse, blockheaded political correctness or carefully disguised pretension? Would it survive a blind test, the kind done for old Italians and Moderns? My one experience with the highly esteemed local French restaurant, at least by its price, doesn't make it. Any simple French restaurants tucked in a mountain village can easily outdo. Far more charming as well.

Ihnsouk

April 23, 2007 at 06:11 PM · Actually everybody (including myself) is trying to make the other say: 'OK, you are totally right, I will change my mind!'

It probably won't work!

April 23, 2007 at 07:32 PM · "By contrast, I've yet to hear a piece of pop music that would be technically taxing to a ten year old in a pre-college conservatory program."

The part in question can't sound classical, for starters.

What you're saying is the equivalent of saying English is better than Russian, because Russian doesn't use certain parts of speech. Definitely anti-relativism, but non-sensical anyway. Parts of speech, and exposition, development, and recapitulation all have their place in this world, but their presense doesn't indicate quality. It's not that simple.

Rev. Gary Davis

P.S. Can anyone actually live on haute cuisine? :)

April 23, 2007 at 07:40 PM · Jim - If you could live on haute cusine, it will no longer be haute cusine, too utilitarian. By the same token, one couldn't ask a shakespeare specialist to teach simple letter writing in english 101, or a pure mathematican can't be bothered with a number crunching technique of an accountant, theoretical physicists spend their time staying away from applications of their theory to better human lives. Hope everyone is cozy in their compartments.

Ihnsouk

April 23, 2007 at 07:52 PM · Ah, but Jim, Russian has six cases...

April 23, 2007 at 09:03 PM · ;)

April 23, 2007 at 08:35 PM · I'm going to leave alone the issue of what music might be better or more challenging and get back to tuning.

But it looks to me like Allan is right about intonation -- *IF* -- you believe that studio work requires more precise intonation than live work.

That seems like a reasonable assumption to me.

His other comment about using fine tuners seems to boil down to -- "if you want an extremely high degree of accuracy in tuning, it's faster and easier if you use finer tuners instead of just pegs".

That also seems pretty reasonable to me.

- Ray

April 23, 2007 at 08:36 PM · Hey Emil,

Do you put traditional forms of violin playing (e.g. fiddle music) in the same category of musical complexity and challenge as pop music?

Just wondering...

- Ray

April 23, 2007 at 08:36 PM · But the precision of intonation is just as much an issue with classical studio work as it is with "pop." The "problem" with a recording is the ability yo go back and listen to it again. That doesn't happen live.

Has Allen ever worked on a classical recording? He really aught to expose himself to that--through his professional contacts--before asserting these things about classical here.

Also, from my experience of listening, and also my experience of playing in the muddy base world of high school orchestra years ago, intonation matters to classical just as much! And there are plenty of classical parts that use open strings extensively and you can bet your britches that they've got to be in tune just as much as in the case of the "pop" recording. Just this morning I was listening to a Brahms concerto that was like this.

Yes it is true that in quite a bit of classical orchestral playing, you play in a key that doesn't use open stings (or not much) such as F major, e flat b flat etc and in these keys you are therefore somewhat "free" of the need for in tune strings. In fact I used my 4th finger a lot as a kid--to deal with the need to compensate and stay in tune! But this fact does not somehow make intonation less inmportant in classical music. It still sounds better when the orchestra ca nget it together--whether tehy get together Just, or Pythagorean or wahthaveyou, as long as they are together or in some harmony that works.

And for vibrato, yes, it makes the notes muddy. This is one of the principal differences in sound between a quartet and an orchestra. The vibrato causes the orchestra to take on a different sound.

When playing with very few, as in a quartet, if everyone comes toghether cleanly without vibrato, it is a wonderful blending--you cannot separate the instruments in your ear. But the moment one player applies vibrato, he stands out. I have seen this done clearly on purpose--to bring the lead in and out of the chorus. Acutally I say clearly from my own analysis--I must ask the ensemble if that is what they were trying to achieve.

April 24, 2007 at 04:02 PM · A couple of further thoughts, and then I think I'll leave this thread.

I'm sympathetic to Emil's feelings re political correctness and relativism. But, leaving aside however we may like or not like this or that genre of music, there are any number of challenges sometimes posed by Pop music, rhythmically or technically. I've done some Pop music full of whole notes - and then all of the sudden there is a tricky, fast, awkward, and very exposed run. I've done some shows that for the most part weren't difficult, but here and there have passages that could stand shoulder to shoulder with any orchestra audition list. A 10 year old that could handle this would be an impressive child, indeed!

Allan - you seem to equate 4 fine tuners with better intonation, or more of a concern for accurate intonation. That is simply not the case at all. A fine tuner is merely a convenience. As I mentioned, pulling and pinching the strings is another approach to fine tuning. All mainstream Classical violinists have a fine tuner on the E. It should follow from your idea as I understand it that we should play better in tune on the E. I haven't noticed that in my playing. Have any of you fellow pros noticed this? Fine tuners tend to be most effective and necessary with metal strings. Most Classical players find metal strings to sound - well, metallic. Also, loading the tailpiece with extra weight inhibits free vibrations. And for many, there are aesthetic considerations. And let's say we get our violin in tune by hook or by crook. Then what? Is that an assurance of good intonation? Hardly. This is where intonation really just begins. And if even one string is false - something that can happen quickly and without warning - all the fine tuning in the world isn't going to make it true. This will affect the string in question as well as its neighbor(s). You talk of top tier session violinists. I'm wondering if you are really familiar with the four names I mentioned? I'll just say a few words about David Nadien - the one violinist from that list with whom I never studied, and about whom I can be a bit more objective. There's no one more top tier than he, as a concert artist OR as a studio musician. Except for the 4 years he spent as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, most of his performing income HAS come from session work. He has been widely recognized by those in the know as one of the best violinists on the planet. He could tell ALL of us what's really what. Does it make sense that someone like that changes his standards of intonation when he goes from a Pepsi commercial to the Tchaikovsky concerto? Or that he's missing out on better intonation with only one fine tuner? Is it possible you just haven't worked with the best violinists in your studio? Maybe you have - but it sounds like something is missing. This is coming from someone who straddles both worlds to a certain extent.

April 24, 2007 at 05:33 AM · In classical it seems like there's a wide range of intonation "choices" to be heard. Is pop arranging so formulaic that they don't allow those choices maybe? Is that perhaps what we're talking about, or is this thread just bs?

April 24, 2007 at 12:35 PM · Carefully disguised pretension?

No, not disguised. Rather loud. Lacking in something beginning in 'C' that rhymes with 'Arse'.

April 25, 2007 at 03:11 AM · Great to see such passion.

As a guitartist / parent of a violinist, can I just say that you're all incredible. How anyone can manage to wrangle even a single pleasant note out of a violin is amazing to me.

I read a wonderful quote the other day: "Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." I expected it to be attributed to Socrates, but, surprise, it was Jimi Hendrix. Keep an open mind and learn from each other. "True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us." - okay, THAT was Socrates.

Cheers.

April 25, 2007 at 03:38 AM · If Jimi said that, it was one of the few coherent sentences he ever put together! And I say that as a big fan. But the brilliance was there. People only rarely appreciate the complexity of things they aren't familiar with, like in a typical thread where somebody says hi, I'm 40, and can I learn violin and support my family with it. Similar thing.

April 25, 2007 at 03:29 AM · Allan--nope--I play it every day... I dunno why it stays in tune well, but am not complaining. I don't really play it agressively because it's mostly practice, scales, etc., with not a bunch of martele type stuff etc--maybe all that's part of it.

April 25, 2007 at 09:51 AM · Brian R said:

"Yet most indian instruments, fretless or not, do not have fine tuners or similar mechanisms."

Actually Indian instruments *do* have fine tuners, but they are more subtle and elegant than our silly little crew thread devices. They are beads that slide along the strings between "nut" and "bridge saddle" and bear against the body of the instrument. The function just as if you press down (or pull up) on hte string between the nut and the tuning peg of a fiddle.

April 25, 2007 at 10:00 AM · Good to see you Bilbo. Where've you been?

April 26, 2007 at 06:22 AM · Regarding complexity of pop music, I found out about this the other day. It's a guy in Steve Vai's band who gives weekly guitar lessons on youtube. A few minutes into this installment I start laughing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGJl3_tc9no

Socially, his status would make it like a Q.E. winner giving free weekly violin talks on Youtube. I can only speculate about why that would never happen. I can understand why somebody like Steve Vai himself, or somebody like Hilliary Hahn wouldn't. In their case their position adds so much weight that whatever they do is a mission. If their mission was free weekly lessons that would be fine though :)

This isn't to champion anything or to argue, but just for information. Also, I don't know if you would call this typical pop music; or what typical classical is, for that matter.

April 26, 2007 at 01:12 PM · Why is it that in movies, whenever an expressive, solo instrumental voice is heard, it is usually a flute or a clarinet, or other wind instrument? Why are there so few lovely violin solos heard, in general, in movies -- I'm talking here about the slow, dreamy, ethereal romantic melody that is found at some point in many feature films (or am I wrong, which, again, is always possible)? Some of these melodies are extremely simple, yet composers and orchestrators seem reluctant to give them to a solo violin, which is a pity.

Maybe its more of a tone thing than a question of different qualities of intonation between classical and popular.

April 26, 2007 at 01:13 PM · Jon--in movies from the '30s and '40s, the romantic solos were always a violin. Probably just a change in fashion in our Modern Era. :)

Jim, cool video. I didn't watch the whole thing but I got the idea--that's so cool, this virtuoso rock guitarist giving lessons to anybody who wants them. Genie oblige!

As for the question of whether that's "typical pop", I would say it's not. When I think of "typical pop", I think of the bland, insipid, ultra-commercial garbage churned out by the payload, the kind where they make up for the lack of a good tune or neat lyrics by having the singer (or usually the lip-syncher) look like, well, shall we say like Salome on her last veil. The stuff that is purely for making money, not actual music.

In contrast, I think there always has been and hopefully always will be real, good, skillful rock music, like the Beatles, Dire Straits, the Who, and this guy on YouTube (just to name some of my favorites.) I assume when we're complaining about pop music we're talking about the commercial junk I just described, not the actually good rock music that's out there?

April 26, 2007 at 01:14 PM · True, Maura. What we need is some great new film noir type movies, with foggy black and white shots by night of rainy, grimy city streets, and guys smoking cigarettes and women wearing dresses and hats tipped down over one eye.

I think I was born too late. I love the way women looked back then. Sigh.

April 26, 2007 at 01:23 PM · Yeah, I saw part of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" the other night and I ended jealous and grumpy: "Why can't I look like Audrey Hepburn?!!" :)

April 26, 2007 at 05:54 PM · Maura, why didn't you listen to the whole thing? Too complicated? Kidding!

Really, I don't know if your definition of typical really exists in a way that's meaningful. Sure you can think of the worst examples. Salome on her last veil, serious classical is no less about sexual attraction too, as you're aware if you're honest. How much clothing is really secondary. Or tertiary, or fourthiary. The best you can do is argue that it's cheating. As for doing it for money, like I said before, who is it that's giving it away?

:)

April 26, 2007 at 05:44 PM · Am I the only one scared by Audrey Hepburn?

She just...I don't know, I'm afraid she's going to kill me in my sleep.

But there is some beautiful violin pieces in modern movies. Right now Pan's Labyrinth comes to mind...haunting and etheral violins right there.

April 26, 2007 at 07:14 PM · Jim, I didn't listen to the whole thing because it was ten minutes long and I needed that time to practice before my rehearsal. Oh, and sorry if my definition of "typical" was completely wrong again as usual--you know me, I'm out of touch with the Average American.

Edit: as for the "nobody's giving it away"--true. But don't you agree that pop is at least a little more commercial than classical? I mean, when was the last time you heard a starstruck little preteen girl declare "I'm going to be a classical violinist, so I can be rich and famous and popular!" ;-)

Another edit: Well, I do not consider myself dishonest, and I am being honest when I say I WAS unaware that serious classical music is as much about sexual attraction as pop music often is. Would you please elaborate on what you mean by that?

April 26, 2007 at 08:07 PM · Maura, I don't know what you can expect to gather about commerical or not from the motivations of itty bitty kids. All I can say is the pop musicians I know personally all play for free, pretty much the only way they play, and the classical ones I know are greedy bastards! I don't live in a classical music center, but I don't think I've ever heard classical music for free in my life. Ok, when I was a student, but somebody paid. Or if you want to count student recitals. In that case they're paying to play. :) And consider the venues, gilded walls vs dingy bars. Tuxedos and gowns vs ripped jeans. Ha! Don't tell me about the values behind these things. You..you...you little miss holier than thou.

:)

April 26, 2007 at 08:09 PM · Don't bother with the smiley face after writing "you little miss holier-than-thou." Is this more of me being too "Euro" for you, or something?

I have no delusions of superiority. I was just disagreeing with part of your statement and asking for clarification about the rest. You chose to respond by belittling me. Very classy.

April 26, 2007 at 08:20 PM · Maura, I was joking. Now, address the points I jokingly made. I don't know why you think I don't like Europe...but I'm talking about the U.S. anyway.

Speaking of Euros, some advice I got as a kid from a great German girlfriend I had was if something offends you there's some truth there. I'm normal weight leaning toward skinny. She said if someone called me fat, I'd just give them a funny look, not be insulted.

April 26, 2007 at 08:23 PM · Your German girlfriend has a good point but it doesn't always apply. I'd be pretty insulted if somebody called me a fascist too, for example, and it's not as if I have some hidden Nazi streak. (Oops, did I just prove Godwin's Law again?)

As for all those points you made--forget it, I'm too tired to come up with any airtight rebuttals right now, and you'd just shoot them down anyway. So fine, mass-produced plastic bubblegum pop is the Music of the People, classical music is for effete rich Parisian snobs, and I'm a stuck-up holier-than-thou elitist. I'm off to practice my Eurosnob music (Brahms sonata) now.

April 26, 2007 at 11:52 PM · Here's some numbers if anyone is interested. Estimated annual income for 1995-6 season top 10 or so;

Pavarotti $16-18 million

Domingo $10 million

Carreras $10 million

Mehta $6 million

Perlman $5.5 million

Maazel $4.5 million

Barenboim $3 million

Ashkenazy $2.7 million

Mutter $2.5 million

Claudio Abbado $2.5 million

Jessye Norman $2 million

Cecilia Bartoli $2 million

Seiji Ozawa $2 million

These numbers are from 10 years ago and probably modest compared to present day figures. Even so hungry classical musicians seemed to have disappeared with silent movies. As we can see from three tenors, we have our own garage band on the classical side.

Ihnsouk

April 26, 2007 at 08:39 PM · There's a Tulsa in Europe?

April 26, 2007 at 09:35 PM · Ihnsouk, that's only the top of the top. There are plenty of classical musicians who can barely scrape by.

Marty, everyone who knows me knows I'm more European than American. :)

Jim, the problem with your reasoning is you (apparently) assume that ripped jeans and dingy bars are somehow morally superior to concert black and gilded walls. It's the same sort of odd "populist" fallacy that says a presidential candidate who makes a big show out of wearing a work shirt and driving a pickup truck cares more about "the little guy" and is therefore more trustworthy than someone who can speak in complete, even eloquent, sentences.

April 26, 2007 at 09:54 PM · These figures and stereotypes don't have much meaning to me. I played a concert for Pavorrati about ten years ago with a freelance orchestra and was only payed about $250 - $300. There were probably 2 - 3 rehearsals plus the concert. Does it make me arrogant to ask to be payed that much money for years of work and training? Maybe the next time a plumber does a repair at my home, I'll tell him he should just do it for the love of working and stiff him. This is one classical musician who isn't living in the fast lane. Get real Jim.

April 27, 2007 at 10:27 AM · "Ihnsouk, that's only the top of the top. There are plenty of classical musicians who can barely scrape by."

True and our impression of nonclassical music may also be what we hear about their top of tops. I am sure that most musicians in the nonclassical field also struggle to get by doing what they love to do.

The difference is a lot of taxpayers' money goes into classical music and some of that to pay a soloist $60,000 per concert, whose annual income is probably over $10 million. We end up subsidizing millionaires while cutting down food stamps.

Robert - I have a feeling that ordinary musicians on both sides - classical/nonclassical - are shortchanged. I am sorry if I implied that all the musicians are greedy.

Ihnsouk

April 26, 2007 at 10:12 PM · Ihnsouk,

Of course, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

April 26, 2007 at 11:59 PM · Maura, that's not what I'm saying at all. There's not a thing wrong with making lots of money as far as I'm concerned too. You might be used to hearing a certain thing, but I'm not saying that. You said pop paid better or was more commercial, and I said that wasn't my experience. Realize this though - you were putting the moral attachment on money by originally implying pop was less valuable because it was money driven; you, not me. I don't think that way.

Robert, the guys I know personally who play pop play whenever and wherever they can, 80% of the time for free or a small collection. I'm not saying you or they shouldn't be paid. I was just saying in my experience, classical players don't play for free very often, and don't like to do it, as you demonstrate. If I have a moral position on on any of it, it's only something like everybody ought to be paid for good work. Remember, I wasn't trying to establish the morality of anything. I was just countering Maura's claim that classical was less money oriented.

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