Unknown factor X

July 11, 2010 at 11:13 PM ·

When I first started out learning the violin, I have always had a set objective on what to practice and on what to improve or what to avoid doing. Be it straight bowing, keeping the shoulder relaxed, having proper bow hold, drawing out the sound properly and even doing everything at the same without a failure which was probably the hardest part.

Now I seem to have nailed those things but something is still bothering me. What has everybody noticed with the amount of success in each practice session? For me, it is completely random. Sometimes it is so random that I even think if it is some cruel joke.

I'll try to explain this as best as I possibly can. First ill define some things as how I see it myself. For me, I feel like a beginner when my intonation is awful, I can't seem to draw out proper sound and all the pieces I play are just plain awful. Intermediate would be having decent intonation but for some reason still not getting the beautiful sound the violin has to offer ,so it's fine but it could be better. Advanced is when the intonation is PERFECT, the sound is just awesome and the tone seems very rich while the sound seems to echo in any place I play.

Now. Why is it that when I wake up, I can sometimes be in a beginner state and no matte how much I struggle, I just cannot achieve good intonation. Fingers just don't seem to hit the right spot! On another hand, sometimes I just pick the violin up and I sound perfect. Don't want to exaggerate it but it sounds so good that it brings tears to my eyes. Most of the time I can achieve the intermediate state when practicing all day with some breaks, breaking through the beginner barrier and finally be happy the way I sound but..

what ticks me off the most is that when I'm happy with the sound and go to sleep with a happy face, the next morning or even evening or night without long continuous practice, I sound bad again!! Like I said it is complete bogus, I do not understand. It's like it doesn't matter how much I practice or play, I will still sound randomly awesome or bad.

What is the reason for this?
I'm really interested in your creative responses..
Violin is a very strange instrument for me compared to the guitar. For me, the progress I made with the guitar stays put. I can go to sleep and the next day I sound just as good and it doesn't matter when I pick it up! So what is this unknown factor X that keeps messing up my playing?
One day I get full of pride for my beautiful playing, the next day I get slapped by bad playing.

Regardless of all of this, I have to stay that the violin is still my only instrument that I love. I do not forgive myself if I miss even a day of practice even if it means sounding awful the next morning.. It is quite annoying when your technique level is jumping around like that anyway.

Please help me out!
If there is some magical fix to it, I'd love to hear it.
If not, I at least want to know if everybody else have the same problems as I do.


Replies (39)

July 12, 2010 at 12:14 AM ·

Hi, violins and violinists are weird... ; )

The two have to be in good condition and each one has a big influence on the other.  Curiously, have you noticed that when you are happy, in vacation and in a good period of your life, you play better?  This is very simple... vacation = more time= hapiness= more practices= less stress= less muscular tension= the violin will open more it's sound because you're relaxed = you and the violin will work together 

Bad life period (i.e. school or job) = physical and emotional tension= that the sound of your violin will "close" itself= less practices= poor progress= angry = you'll play even worst because you're angry

The violin also has something to do. In my previous examples, I supposed that the violin was always well adjusted, the bow well rosined etc

Violin is an instrument that (in my humble amateur opinion) requires stability of daily routine and peace of mind and body.  It's an art just like meditation, any sports.  Really, I could very well imagine people like Monks having the ideal life for music! 

In our modern life, it's quite difficult to have regular routines and peace of mind and body. So I imagine this affects us (violinists of all levels and perhaps even more amateurs that have to do violin in their spare time) a lot.

Good luck with this!  I also struggle with the same thing so you're not alone, courage!


July 12, 2010 at 01:40 AM ·

Among other things, get The Tuning CD and play along with that on your scales and Etudes. That will fix your intonation as it did mine and I guarantee mine was worse than anyone's here.

Sloooowwwww practice. Nope, still too fast, slow it down some more. You're teaching your brain and muscles to behave in a set manner. Slow will speed things up. Go for it. Ooops, still too fast. A little slower.

July 12, 2010 at 01:59 AM ·

Ray, I'll try to beleive you but with the teachers you've had, non of them could possibly have accepted a real intonation crappy person, no?  ...   ; )  

Perhaps the "intonation problem" was before them? ; - )

Have a nice day,


July 12, 2010 at 04:26 AM ·


I think you may be mixing more than one issue.  In your initial post you say that some pracitc eis worthwhile and some doesn`t seem to go anywhwre.  That in itslef is worth some thought.   Practice is best set up in terms of clearly defined goals.  One does not simply pick up the violin and play.  Everyseciton of practic ewe do must have a clearly defined goal and if that goal is not reached then an investigation inot the goal and whethe rit was appropriate is cvalled for. By this means one becomes more and more skilled at goal setting.

But, aside from setting goals every ten minutes (a useful exercise) on e needs to ahve medium and laong range goals.  The short rangle daily/hourly/minut goals are context dependent on the longer term goals. They do not exist as independent entities. Until you work this issue out you will be making less than optiomal progress I suspect.

The other thing is you may not be focusing on a clear issue at any given moment.  In trying to do everythign at once you may be overloading the system and not really gettign anythign done at all.  there is a well worked out approach to the instrument which helps people with this issue. Its calle soemthign like `The Musicians  approach to artistic development` and its by Burton Kaplan.  The title is not quite right but it should be very easy to fidn on sale at Shar which you can access from this site.

In the book Mr Ka\plan explains how we can learn to focus effectively on one of four aspects of playing in a systnmeatic way. These aspects are:  intonation,  rythm,  expression and tone.  A simple method is presented in which one learns to isolatye the weakest aspect of onez@s playing and then break that probelm down before selecting an appropriate solution.

One of the things I think that is goping wrong in your cas eis that you are not actually identifying where the problerm is. It is not good enough to say `this is out of tune@ or I am playinf this music out of tune.  In fact oneof two things may be happening.  Eitehr you are only actually playing a few wrong notes and you simply haven`y isolated them or you are playign larger chunks out of tune as a direct result of a technical problem that only exist between two notes.  Most problems in violin playing are actually only a small happening between the occurence of two notes.  For example doing some aspect of a shift wrong may make the subsequent passage a terrible mess but it is not the terrible mess that is the problem and it is @pointless to practice this thing. By isolatibng the real cause  the problem as being the result of doing `x` during the preceding shift and workign -only- on that the whole work may then magically resolve into something good.

Hope this gives you a little to ponder,

all the best,


July 12, 2010 at 11:21 AM ·

 Inconsistency only proves that you are human after all and not a professional. Otherwise your violin has not opened up completely and is still suffering from those flatted fifths, augmented sixths and crappy sevenths. It can close up like a blocked nose and start pushing back, leaving you bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

July 12, 2010 at 12:21 PM ·

You have already received some good advice.

However, I would say that we all suffer to a degree what you describe.

But, poor intonation can be happening because you need more ear training. OR, it could be a faulty left hand technique which should be sorted out by a good teacher.

July 12, 2010 at 03:08 PM ·


Happy playing!


July 12, 2010 at 04:31 PM ·

Ann-Marie, I like the way you think. I totally agree.

I play other instruments, other than the violin. When I play the guitar, I always sound the same. When I play the piano I pretty much sound the same. When I play the violin, I hardly sound the same! It's an instrument that seems to pick up on everything and magnify it. If you are in a wimpy mood, that will show. If you are playing because you feel you have to practice, that will show. If you can't wait to pick the darm thing up and you just love it to pieces that will show! It's an instrument that reflects "you". I've picked it up to practice, then turned it around to make sure it's the same violin I had the day before because I sounded so much better!

July 12, 2010 at 04:33 PM ·

One other thing to keep in mind:  even the greatest violinists have their good days and their bad days.  No need to mention names, but in live performances you can sometimes hear intonation faltering a little, especially at the beginning of a concert.  Usually it picks up after the first piece (which is often chosen to ease the performer into the concert), but, for one reason or another, even performers at the highest level sometimes don't deliver all that they're capable of.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't struggle to play as nearly in tune as you possibly can, but it helps to know that even the best have their occasional lapses. 

Just keep plugging at it and you will improve.

July 12, 2010 at 04:34 PM ·

Theo, what you are talking about is one of the big differences between the top tier and the rest of us- consistency separates the pros from the amateurs.  Even the big boys have bad days, too.

The other issue with practicing is that you can't always see the gains you are making, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.  Learning vibrato is famous for this; you work on your exercises day after day, and can't do it, can't do it, can't do it.  All of a sudden one morning, you can!  As long as you are practicing mindfully, and not practicing bad habits, it will pay off, even if you don't see immediate, measureable results.  Keep the faith.

July 12, 2010 at 05:02 PM ·

I think the answer to your question is simply that you're human... not a violin-playing-machine. We all have good days and bad days. Sometimes I can have an excellent practice session on Monday, then go back on Tuesday and play the *same exact thing* again and have it sound comparatively horrible! Other factors besides the amount of practice effect your playing too. The time of day could do it, whether you are stressed or anxious could lead to a worse (or sometimes better!) practice, maybe your mind is wandering to something else. You get the idea. Just keep working, as always the great point is to enjoy the music :)

July 12, 2010 at 05:49 PM ·

Thank you everyone!

It's so hard to reply to all of the posts at the same time because each has unique and very helpful advice. I'll do my best anyway.

So I'm not alone...  :)
I don't know if my intonation needs fixing or not but it's really hard to set a certain goal like Buri suggested. The problem is that I don't know what could the goal possibly be? If it's intonation, I can keep it my only goal for a while but then I suddenly play everything perfectly and there is no longer need for that goal but the next day, the intonation can get worse than ever or even stay the same.. RANDOM!! So what I should do is set a goal and stay to it even if I should one day play it perfectly?

By the words of my violin teacher, I play at a 3 year level but the problem is that I'm always in a good mood when I go to my violin lesson, always happy to see my teacher. < Naturally he is amazed when someone who has studied for 6 month's plays at that level which bumps up my ego quite a bit BUT only I know how it really is. I may play at a 3 year level when I'm happy most of the time on my violin lesson but my consistency is a lot worse than the one who has really played for 3 years so when I get home, tired from the long trip to and back from the lesson, it feels like I just suddenly degraded.

Indeed, that is a very nice comparison! Violin is like an amplifying mirror.. For me to play very well, I must really get into the mood and get the feeling that when I'll start playing the violin, it'll be awesome. Sometimes I start thinking about the violin, and I get the feeling that I'm going to suck badly < I try to avoid picking my violin up that these times.

The "Tuning CD" is a nice recommendation! I'll see if I can find it on the net and ill start using it. Geez, I can't even say that my intonation is decent if it randomly gets very bad. At the start of the lesson = intonation pretty awesome, not tired at all. Near the end of the lesson = intonation getting worse than before. < And once the next student comes in, it gets EEVEEN worse ;)

So let's see! I should always practice even if it seems like it isn't going anywhere. I should practice SLOOWW and try to get every note right. I should rerosin and clean my violin if it does seem to sound bad. (sometimes it helps me to do pizzicato beforehand for some reason, then the sound comes very sweet and perfectly in tune most of the time). I should always be in a mood to play the violin, in the most happy and rested mood as possible. < Due to the heat here, it'll be hard but I still do my best!

There's a method that works for me fail proof! I listen to a recording and if I get a feeling "If he can play it, why can't I!?", I will definitely sound very decent :)

I see, violin is very strange. Should I be less confident, in a worse mood, I will sound correspondingly.. So what we violinist/violists/bassists and other string instrument players do is practice our consistency? Actually there's no way to do that. I guess consistency only comes with time and careful practice.

When I woke up today and tried to play in a boiling temperature with completely no warm up, the violin sounded like it had FLU, no kidding. The hardest part in ALL of this, is to determine what the heck is making it sound so bad! It's still like a mystery but I guess it can only be my mood, my body, or the violin itself < but that's.. quite a long list.

So the only way to develop consistency is to.. keep practicing? :D


July 12, 2010 at 06:07 PM ·

Hello, Theodor:

You are wise to heed the great suggestions and thoughtful responses from everyone. As a lifelong amateur, I'm not sure I can add much that's technical.

But in terms of attitude, remember that you are trying to master perhaps the most fickle, unwieldy, capricious, unpredictable, unforgiving, complex, exposed, demanding, enigmatic, awkward, and illogical of musical instruments. You work and work and work and work, and it gets worse. You leave it for day, or wake up one morning and try it, and it's better. Then the next day it's worse again. Go figure.

But in this seemingly impossible goal you have of mastering a musical instrument that always seems to get the better of you, treat each new day, every time you pick it up, as a brand new opportunity to learn something, to achieve something. And be very, very, very kind and forgiving of yourself if it doesn't work out that way on any given day.

But, indeed, do keep at it. Working at it obsessively is not a guarantee that you will master it; but choosing not to work at it is a guarantee that you won't.


July 12, 2010 at 06:20 PM ·

The benefits of practising are a bit like the flight path of a cloud of midges.

You can't predict in which way any given midge will fly,  but the cloud tends to move in a certain direction.

Same with practice, you might not see how you have improved after a given session, but do it every day for a month or so - you will be getting better


July 12, 2010 at 06:21 PM ·

"I suddenly play everything perfectly and there is no longer need for that goal but the next day, the intonation can get worse than ever or even stay the same.."

One other thing that might be going on:  maybe your intonation isn't deteriorating--maybe your hearing is becoming more acute.  This is what happens as you progress on the violin.  As your ability to hear fine distinctions in pitch levels improves, you think your intonation is getting worse, but in fact it is actually on the road to improvement.

Learning to listening yourself is a very important part of learning to play the violin, and it's something that doesn't necessarily come naturally.

July 12, 2010 at 06:34 PM ·

Sander and the two Lisa, I like your advices!  In fact, everyone has given good advice!  Good luck Theo!


July 12, 2010 at 07:48 PM ·

@Sander Thanks! Another thing to remember :)

I always try to list everything I have learned and need to remember from the posts/replies I have read, otherwise I feel like I get no benefit from it.

But in terms of attitude, remember that you are trying to master perhaps the most fickle, unwieldy, capricious, unpredictable, unforgiving, complex, exposed, demanding, enigmatic, awkward, and illogical of musical instruments. You work and work and work and work, and it gets worse. You leave it for day, or wake up one morning and try it, and it's better. Then the next day it's worse again. Go figure.

That is very very nicely put!! That's the exact message I wanted to share, I'm glad everybody understood what I wanted to say.

I just realized why the violin is truly hard to learn. It's not just because the techniques involved are difficult, it's because the violin is the way it is. But putting everything aside, the violin is truly beautiful instrument. There is nothing like the feeling of playing a beautiful piece yourself rather than listening it from a different stand point. < Something I feel at those.. random practice successes :)

Thanks again, I'll remember to be very forgiving of myself when it doesn't work out. < Even on the guitar, I tend to squish my face and shake my head when I hit the wrong note :P Time to fix this bad habit!! < as well as the attitude I guess.
@Clark - Just like when you don't see a person in a year and when you finally meet, you can see how much he/she has grown up and changed. That is something you don't really see if you spend that time with that person. I guess we improve just as fast as we grow.

Thanks for your input!
That might be the case! I can finally tune the violin by myself. < it would still require quite some adjustments by my teacher but it would at least sound in tune for me ;) And I thought I had a good ear when I could recognize pitches on the guitar after fingering it for 2 years, haha. Never thought that those tiny changes can make the pitch sound so different.

How d-- .. I hope it's fine to unintentionally budge in another question.
How do you imp--.. maybe I should make a new post for this after all.
Arghh.. I'm just wondering how do you improve your hearing.. By always listening and hitting the right notes or by hitting the wrong notes and eventually distinguishing them from the correct notes?

Actually.. I can almost always hear if a note sounds off, the problem is finding the correct note.

Thanks  Anne-Marie, I appreciate it :)

Thanks John. I'll clean the strings up everyday. I recently started using a cork from the wine bottle, I remember somebody recommended it in a thread about cleaning strings. Works really well! Although, I do need to use something else to clean it from underneath.



July 13, 2010 at 06:41 AM ·

Thanks Ann-Marie!

Get this (this even freaks out my husband)..

Let's say we go away on vacation for 2 weeks. I don't bring my violin so I don't play for two weeks (unless I go back to the USA where I have a violin stashed). After two weeks without playing I pick up my violin and...play like virtuouso! By the next day, it's all over! I'm back to being me. I figured that one out a long time ago so I just enjoy it while it lasts. Seriously now, I would chalk it up to conditioning our brain and your hands/body. Practicing, to me, is a means of teaching my brain to be familiar with motions and concepts. With me, that takes a while. I enjoy the small advances I make, because I have few expectations of practicing (or should I say I have realistic expectations), other than one day it will pay off! But the pay off is gradual so you may not notice it right away. Or better yet, look at those days when you play like you are not you anymore, as evidencet that somewhere inside you, you are a great violinist and you have to keep practicing to let it escape!

July 13, 2010 at 07:25 AM ·

Bill Walderman has probably hit the nail on the head.

You should not worry too much as it is probably your ear getting better and becoming more discerning about intonation, even as the session progresses.

Soon you will have a very good ear, and it will tell your fingers where to go.


July 13, 2010 at 11:10 AM ·

Lisa, exactly! To be honest I had those virtuoso moments more when I played worse. I'm kind of missing those days, haha.

Thank you Peter. I really hope that's the case.


July 13, 2010 at 12:54 PM ·

One thing you should be doing is practicing scales and arpeggios relentlessly.  They're essential to training both your ears and your fingers.

One other point:  no violinist always hits every note exactly on target.  The trick is to make a tiny finger adjustment immediately after the onset of the note, once you've heard it, so quickly that the adjustment is imperceptible to listeners.  It takes time to master this.  This is not cheating:  it's an essential part of the technique of playing the violin.  Even Heifetz, whose intonation was considered flawless, admitted that he did this.  Actually, he didn't just admit it--he insisted that he did this when someone complimented him on his ability to hit every note precisely on target.

Also, unlike the piano, intonation on the violin is not locked into a particular temperament and is to some extent fluid.  Some notes in the scale can and should be played slightly higher or lower depending on the context.  A note that is a leading tone, such as C sharp in the key of D, might be played slightly higher when it actually leads to D than in other contexts.  Again, this takes time to master, both to hear and to execute.

Face it:  you're not going to learn to play the violin overnight.  Sometimes you'll feel like you're not making any progress or even like you're regressing.  That's probably when you are making the most progress--you're starting to hear your deficiencies, and that means you can figure out how to correct them.  It takes time and effort to learn to play the violin--for most of us, a long time and a lot of effort.  But it's worth it.

July 13, 2010 at 07:54 PM ·

Thank you Bill for this wonderful advice!
I'll start practicing scales from now on but... I didn't really know what are arpeggios so I looked it up and... an arpeggio is a chord. So how do I actually practice them? Put my 3 fingers down at once on a different string and play the notes separately but at the same time, if those 3 notes would be played together, it'd be a chord. Is that the way it goes? Could you please elaborate? :)

So to get better at the violin, I'll just keep practicing every day like I am right now with a certain goal * there's no way I would stop practicing even if you said so!! :D * and I should.. try to correct myself even at the practice sessions when I'll feel like I'm regressing? I would usually think it would do more damage than good, but if you say so, I'll follow the advice. 

Thank you for sharing those interesting facts about the violin, I'll remember them and use them in my further practices. It may be too early but it's worth a try!


July 13, 2010 at 08:30 PM ·

Youre teacher says the level you can play at, but you are also learning that consistency is a difficult thing. As you get more practice, your muscles and reflexes develop the habits, your mind and body start to work together better.

Another factor could be your ear; as you are developing, your ear is also developing. What may have sounded good a few weeks ago may not sound quite as good today.

July 13, 2010 at 09:29 PM ·

Arpeggios are broken chords--you play the notes separately.  You don't necessarily have to have all your fingers in place when you start the arpeggio.  You might ask your teacher to recommend a scale book (most of them include arpeggios as well as scales).

Scales are not just for left-hand technique--you can use them to practice drawing straight bow-strokes, finding the right combination of bow pressure, speed and sounding point, string crossings, smooth changes of bow, rhythms, etc.

July 13, 2010 at 09:57 PM ·

Roland and Bill, thank you for your input!

A question about the developing ear. If a normal and undeveloped ear like I had or even have thinks that everything sounds good, won't other people find it good as well? If that's the case, then we are improving our hearing just to satisfy experienced musician ears? :)
Just an interesting thought.

EDIT: Actually... It may be the case that those good times may have been just flukes or lucky practice sessions. A better ear means more chance to find the right note and make it sound like it's supposed to..
So we are developing our ears so we can make it so that when we play beautifully, it's not just a fluke.. I'm glad I figured it out!

I'll ask about the book on my next lesson on monday! I already have a.. sheet that has a list of possible scales but I'm very interested on the arpeggio part, can't wait to find a book with those!
When you play arpeggios, do they have to be legato? Or it doesn't really matter?


July 13, 2010 at 10:54 PM ·


I had that problem too, although I`ve been playing for ages... I found out that the most important thing is to know the instrument very well, the weight of the bow, and think exactily how you think the instrument works not haw someone has told you, so dont believe anyone saying to put your index finger more like this or your feet more in this position... Most important is that you feel that you are standing in the middle of your body weight, not next to it. Every movement you do you should feel inside your body and think, is this really the most economic way for ME to get the best result? So if you want a great tone, think of the factors that make the great tone: the bow on the string, pulling the string over and letting it go 100ds of times per second, the A string has 440 Hz so 440 pulling and letting go by the bow ;) Is the string allowed to swing well enough? Do you have the bow well in contact with your hand? Dont think of any position of your Bowhand anyone has told you about.... Feel how to get the most contact to get the best result out of the string... And if it doesnt work be open to the violin and react to anything the violin wants to tell you about its physics... I think this method saves a lot of time! It worked for me anyways... Now I dont get nervous anymore and my violinplaying is constant... ;)

Hope this helps you a little!

Best wishes,


July 14, 2010 at 03:59 AM ·


Bill ,  I`m going to respectfully but utterly and totally disagree with you on this.   I think it is a major error in approahcing practice.   See apologetic but emphatic rebuttal after.

>One other point:  no violinist always hits every note exactly on target.  The trick is to make a tiny finger adjustment immediately after the onset of the note, once you've heard it, so quickly that the adjustment is imperceptible to listeners.  It takes time to master this.  This is not cheating:  it's an essential part of the technique of playing the violin.  Even Heifetz, whose intonation was considered flawless, admitted that he did this.  Actually, he didn't just admit it--he insisted that he did this when someone complimented him on his ability to hit every note precisely on target.

You are right. But what you are describing is what happens in the concert hall.  It should not be done in the practice room.  One of the main purposes of practice is to learn to continuously and relentlessly hit notes right on target and much practic etime shoudl be devoted to this.  In practice one learns what one does.  It is that simple.

If one starts wighgling around the finger to even an infinitesimal degrree during intonation work or slow practice that is what one is learning. SHODDY TECHNIQUE

If a note is out of tune one evaluates the diretcion and degre eand then lifts te finger -off-The note is repeated until it hits the intonation dea don and then repeated  alarge number of times to eliminate the bad habit.  That is wht Drew Leche ris such a strong advocate oif what he calls `repetition hits.`

I anm aware of the @point of course that Flesch make s in his masterwork that it is theoretically impossible to play in tune. Nonetheless as Milstein has said `A note is eithe rin tune or out of tune.` there isn`t a compromise on this.

It is only because player s such a sHeifetz practiced in this way that they had the abiltiy and freedom in the cocnert hall to do precisely what you say say, adjust the note in a split second to as near perfetc as possible at incredible speed.



July 14, 2010 at 05:53 AM ·

Intonation and left hand technique = The Dounis Collection

It takes years to be consistent.

July 14, 2010 at 07:50 AM ·

 Theodor, I'm not a great violinist, at all, but I do have excellent intonation (and I am incredibly picky about it.  So I will make one observation & 2 suggestions.


You originally wrote, "For me, I feel like a beginner when my intonation is awful, I can't seem to draw out proper sound and all the pieces I play are just plain awful."


This may tell us something about your approach to practicing.  It seems you are confusing "playing" with "practicing."  (See Buri's excellent post, earlier on.)   The art of practicing is a study in itself.  To wit:  If you are worried about your intonation, stop thinking about your playing.  Think only about your intonation practice.  So, here comes suggestion #1:

Practice intonation without playing any actual pieces, and even without thinking about your bow. Personally, I spent countless hours playing scales & doing shifts with my right hand by my side, "hammering" the notes.   This also helps build-up the muscles that you use to play with your fingertips. 

You can also just pluck.  The idea (obviously) is to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Suggestion #2:   Bowing this time, but just simple long strokes in one lane, play on one string, using one finger only.  Slide between the notes, not ever let your finger up.  Do this with all fingers, on all strings.  Llike any excercise, do it slowly, then faster.  It really helps burns the positions into your brain.   - Also, if you ever want to try playing blues or jazz, this technique will really come in handy.

July 14, 2010 at 03:47 PM ·

"what you are describing is what happens in the concert hall.  It should not be done in the practice room.  One of the main purposes of practice is to learn to continuously and relentlessly hit notes right on target and much practic etime shoudl be devoted to this."

You are right about this of course, and I shouldn't have suggested that it's ok to neglect intonation in practicing or to be satisfied with less than perfect intonation.  But I was trying to console Theodor--none of us, even the big H,  is perfect, we all make mistakes, and when we do we have to make the best of it.  And while we should always aim to hit every note perfectly in tune, when something goes amiss we should make an effort to correct it.

July 14, 2010 at 04:20 PM ·

Buri, Allan. Louise and Bill - This thread is worth more than treasure thanks to all the interesting advice and suggestions! Indeed, Allan. I still do have a problem trying to stop playing as much as I enjoy it and start practicing. For most of the time I played the violin, I was at the same time confusing playing pieces and practicing but thanks to the advice given here, I finally have some decent consistency. It has only been for 2 days, as much as the thread is lasting but I hope to keep it that way. Just 5 minutes ago I realized the importance of the right bow pressure when dealing with legato notes, especially in Bach's first cello suite's prelude. 

It's been a short time but I'm always cleaning my violin strings, checking if rosin is needed and being extremely cautious of what goal I'm trying to accomplish. When dealing with bad intonation at one specific piece, I find the corresponding scale and correct everything :)
Like I said, it's been a short time but it's working like a miracle!

Buri, thanks. I've read about the intonation practice concepts at least 4 month's ago and been using that in my practice sessions ever since. You are completely right about taking the finger off the fingerboard and hitting it dead on to get rid of the old habits :)

Bill, I understood what you wanted to say. Even if nobody is perfect, we all should still work towards perfection!

Thank you once again.


July 14, 2010 at 07:53 PM ·

Yes, totally, when we practice we should be striving for perfection but not killing ourselves with reproaches! And, I try to play as well as I can and with the best intonation I can for every concert, it's a matter of personal pride. I'm just a lowly 2nd violinist, but we are all parts of a whole. I believe that we should have the same standards no matter where we are, practicing or not. But, at the same time, realize we are imperfect beings!

July 14, 2010 at 08:45 PM ·

Theodor, I would add to all of these great ideas and suggestions the fact that any comparison of violin to guitar, unless you are pursuing a serious classical guitar career, is not a very good way to judge your abilities. 

When you say that your guitar playing is consistent, are talking about simply strumming chords or playing rock riffs?  If so, this is the equivalent of playing open strings on the violin-- something I'm sure you can do fairly consistently. 

I'm sure that serious students of classical guitar will tell you that their instrument is just as moody and subject to daily and hourly fluctuation of quality of tone production, depending on a players mood and the weather and how sharp one's ear is at the moment. 

I guess my point is: don't be so easy on yourself with the guitar, I'm sure you have plenty of improvement to make on that instrument as well-- It's just not so shockingly obvious.  In fact, I've found that lots of guitar playing can greatly improve your intonation and teach you how to listen for proper tone production on the violin.


July 15, 2010 at 01:12 AM ·

<<<<<<The idea (obviously) is to concentrate on one thing at a time.>>>>>>>


Eventually they will all fit together, but be aware of aspects that don't fit the puzzle and continue to revise them.

We are all 'end gainers', that's what got us started in the first place... well, especially we late starters!

I'm not there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday!




July 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM ·

I barely use chords and I most certainly don't play rock :)
I'm not planning on becoming a serious guitar player, the violin is my main focus. Sometimes I just like to pick it up and play (guitar). That might be true that some fairly advanced guitar players have the same problems, I just never heard of guitarists complaining about it yet :D

I think so as well, the guitar has helped me with the violin quite a lot as well. I already had some "ear training" and my left hand was already used to hitting notes and because my strings are of the hardest material you can find for the guitar, I find the violin quite soft and comfortable :)

Guitar is just a hobby for me, if I can get a piano during the summer, I will certainly like to get proficient at that too but the violin.. although I only have half a year of experience with this instrument, I'm very serious about it. I don't plan on strolling or doing any professional activities but should I get decent and.. conquer stage fright, I'd love to participate in competitions, perform on weddings and such. Guitar disappointed me in terms of musical knowledge. I have always wished to know how to read notes, understand the Italian musical terms. Violin gave me a chance to do all that. Violin type stringed instruments really are the best to let the audience feel the emotion in certain pieces.. We'll, that's about it! It's a challenge but it's worth it!!



July 15, 2010 at 08:37 PM ·

Now that you mention it, yeah I got the idea :O
I have a feeling that this will work miraculously!
It's past eleven here so I cannot try it out right now but.. I'll do it the first thing tomorrow. Perhaps it'll help me get some more consistency. May be a false belief but since I have quite some background in psychology, I know how much mind affects the body.

I have so many emotional pieces to practice so I'm guessing it'll work out well. :)

Thanks for your advice.


July 17, 2010 at 05:58 AM ·

@John: "Think of your girlfriend who is over the mountains". That's what my teacher told me as an image for the second movement. It was a long time ago. Now my teacher of those days is over the mountains himself. I really should write to him.

@ Theodor: It sounds as if your disposition on any day comes to you as a surprise. Actually it is built up of the many things you have learnt to do. Have you tried building op your technique from first principles every day? Play some open strings, some Twinkle, and so on, and pay attention to the technical things you learned when you studied those pieces. In other words, solve for X.

Good luck,


ps: with me, it sometimes is factor R: too much (frequently) or too little rosin.

July 18, 2010 at 10:53 AM ·

Thanks Bart.

You're right, I should be building it up a bit slower. I'm a bit of a fast paced person. If I do build it up, it will most probably be one or two per each: Twinkle, mary, some kind of short and.. easy version of Haydn << Don't ask, happy birthday, perhaps some.. other beginner songs that don't last 15 seconds, bach cello suite first prelude, ave maria, canon << All of them are not complete, sometimes a bit of Mozart or titanic by ear, a small part of river flows in you, a small part of irish jig meddle, Kayser op 37 etude in first position which I'm going to struggle today to complete (75% is memorized), recently I have taken up some advice to practice scales, I don't play arpeggio's because I don't know any and basically lack a lot of information < Ill ask my teacher on Monday, recently tried some waltz for the moon but I found out that It's very hard for me to play songs with complex rhythms. I think that's basically what I'm practicing.

Might seem like some.. very crazy repertoire I have there. Sometimes I pick the violin up and play perfectly, the other times I need to struggle for a day so that I could play decently again. I guess playing the way I do at my.. bad moments are totally natural for half a year but that's not stopping me. I already lost a lot of valuable time by not learning the violin earlier so I'm planning on catching up with the others at least ;)

Rosin doesn't seem to bother me, I just don't put any rosin until I feel like the bow is sliding a bit too much or not producing a sufficient tone. Time to start tuning my violin I guess, perhaps I play awful when it goes a little bit out of tune. I just don't get that echo feeling of every note being 100% correct when the violin isn't tuned to perfect.


July 21, 2010 at 09:16 PM ·

Sorry to bump this thread up again!
I just thought I'll put something up as a reference, I think it'd be fun to compare!!! :D
I finally got one of those 'Virtuoso moments' on tape, bwuahaha!!
I can still do better.. after I filmed it, I could swear I was out of tune a lot, but now that I listen to it again, It's perfectly fine.. It's strange but it's only natural to suppose that professionals on this forum will find this .. slightly out of tune (but in tune mostly!!!) and we'll, you'll spot a missed note and.. a clumsy note hit but I'm mostly happy with it! The second time I filmed was worse, I got more aware of the camera so there's just my first attempt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1rLv1Llfog - Please please please, no harsh comments, I find I got into the mood of the piece pretty well except for some prolonged or not held long enough notes.

And I'm still killing myself for the recording but.. I'll refrain from deleting it because I want to see progress..Err, yeah. I'll definitely get killed after some see this, playing such a piece badly.

You can probably understand the difference :D
Okay, before I get bombarded, for self defence I'll say that I already play bach cello suite pretty well despite that recording and that.. I will get better. I seek to improve every day so no possible negative comment will be of any benefit!

Hopefully you can see the difference. Although it is a bad example but it mostly shows what I go through sometimes, pardon me, what others like me go through too :)

I bet I'll wake up tomorrow and play Canon just like I played Cello suite in that video. I just don't know, I picked the violin up and I.. fell in love again because of how suddenly good it sounded..
You can even see me smile after I finished playing, I just loved it so much..  I'm starting to think that my ear needs some "warm up". Sometimes I can tune the violin, sometimes not. Sometimes I can play in tune, sometimes not..Sometimes I play like a virtuoso (not really but if eels like that for me) but sometimes not.


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