Intonation continued: Examples with screenshots

July 4, 2008 at 06:15 PM · A previous thread on this forum, titled "Intonation continued,,,show us some examples", asked for users to post audio examples of what they considered good and bad intonation. The thread generated 85 responses. 7 of the posts contained links to YouTube videos of living and dead violinists.

I was curious how a software product could be used to evaluate these performances. So I created .WAV files of each of these performances and fed them to Intonia. I selected one or two passages from each and created screenshots.

I think the results are intriguing. I've posted them at

Replies (9)

July 4, 2008 at 06:43 PM · This would be much more interesting to musicians if it was displayed as notes on a staff, with the notes having additional dimmer "ghost" heads whose position is the amount of and direction of deviation from the "ideal" note. For people who wanted more accuracy, under the note you could display + or - x percent as well. 100% would be the next higher or lower note in the key.

July 4, 2008 at 06:50 PM · The graphix are interesting, but the comments azume that intonation is an exact science and that a F# is always the same frequenzy, when it is not. And shouldn't be. And it is definitly not the same as a Gb.

Thank you for posting!

July 4, 2008 at 10:31 PM · I don't understand how to interpret the results. It looks like some blobs on a screen to me.

How does one "read" it?

July 5, 2008 at 01:39 AM · To Mattias: Perhaps frequency measurement could be an exact science, but intonation is not. During the 18th century quite a number of keyboard temperaments were proposed, and they were mathematically quite precise. All of the keyboard temperaments were compromises to one degree or another. The advantage of the violin is that it can change its temperament under different melodic and harmonic circumstances. That's never been codified in any way, and it varies from violinist to violinist.

To William: The display is basically a plot of frequency versus time. Time increases towards the right, and you can see the minutes and seconds labeled at the top of the screen. Frequency increases upward, and you can see the note names, and the keys of a piano, on the left edge of the screen. Superimposed on that basic scheme are two more pieces of information: amplitude and relative intonation. The amplitude (loudness) is reflected in the thickness of the trace. Relative intonation is sharpness or flatness relative to the notes of the scale, and it is shown as the color of the trace, red for sharp, blue for flat, and white for right on. There are several options for choosing which scale to use for relative intonation, including A frequency and temperament (equal, just, or Pythagorean).

To Don: Accuracy in judging pitch depends on a lot of factors, including the quality of the note and the length of time the note is held. This applies both to people and to machines. For long sustained notes (as in tuning) the machine probably can be more accurate than the human; for fast passage work under less than ideal conditions, the human ear is probably better.

You are correct that the fundamental is displayed. The frequency spectrum of a violin note contains many harmonics, and the fundamental is not always the strongest component. Intonia looks for a regular spacing between peaks in the spectrum, rather than the highest single peak.

The YouTube data comes at a frequency of 22,050 samples per second, exactly half the frequency of normal CD quality. That allows detection of frequencies up to 11 KHz, sufficient for many harmonics of any note in the violin range.

To everyone: This program can be viewed in either of two ways: as an aribter of correctness, or as a tool for comparison. For many beginning and intermediate violin students (including myself) when I don't extend my fourth finger enough, the program can tell me I'm flat. Of course the goal is to learn to play without that assistance, but it's useful in attaining that goal. When you use it to visualize the playing of Heifetz, you can say, "Hey look, his F# and his G are much closer together than the difference between those notes on a piano; there must be some reason he's doing it that way."

July 5, 2008 at 11:05 AM · This is really interesting. It reminds me a little bit of "Smart Music," a program that came with my daughter's EE2000 method book, but much more sophisticated.

In Smart Music you play a passage from the method book, shown on the screen as notes on a staff, and after you are done it displays the notes as green if they were in tune and in time and red if they were out of tune or out of rhythm. It doesn't differentiate between sharp and flat, which I think would be very helpful. If you're early or late, it displays the note where you played it in relation to where you should have played it.

But in both programs there is the quick feedback in context, and my daughter (8) found it motivating to record herself and try to get 100% green notes.

But, I always get green notes on Smart Music, so it must be pretty forgiving ;-) I think your program could be great for intermediate-to-advanced students like me for whom something like Smart Music is too simple.

July 6, 2008 at 05:46 AM · I downloaded the free trial and I love the program. I've been using it only for scales, as it's easier to isolate each pitch. It's great for seeing which notes I tend to play out of tune.

July 6, 2008 at 08:14 PM · I have downloaded the program too, and I find it useful.

Strangely enough, the setting I use most is equal temperament. When a note is high or low compared to that standard, I often can tell if it is done on purpose or by mistake. With equal temperament as a reference one does one's own listening and thinking.

The just and Pythagorean settings are OK as long as the notes belong to the scale, but I get the impression that the tuning of the other notes involves choices, and that those choices don't always agree with mine. For instance, the difference between say d sharp and e flat is not made in the program, and in just and Pythagorean tunings those two are not the same.

With a sound card I bought I got a demo version of a program called Melodyne, which also displays notes; but with that program you can even change the pitch of individual notes to have them all sound in tune! Very strange.

July 7, 2008 at 01:36 PM · Very strange but unfortunately very powerful and very frequent in pop music recordings. Modern sound manipulation software can do amazing things, such as tweak up-down entire notes/groups of notes (with all harmonics), add vibrato when/where needed, etc. Some of the demos are actually very depressing - starting from a very average vocal performance, they step you through to a great, in-tune, dynamic track. Makes you doubt everything you hear on radio from then on.

July 7, 2008 at 09:33 PM · The Simpsons episode with the boy band / subliminal messages for navy recruitment - everything was passed through the Voice-o-Matic 2000. SO true. So sadly true.

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