Famous violinists playing out of tune

March 10, 2011 at 07:03 PM ·

There are countless recordings that feature out of tune notes and minor mistakes from the greatest violinists of all time. Even studiorecordings by Perlman feature out of tune notes.

The only violinists currently active that I haven´t heard play out of tune are James Ehne and Hilary Hahn.

I always thought that violinists like for instance perlman had perfect pitch.

Are budget- and time restrictions the reason that the recordings aren´t more accurate?

 

 

Replies (97)

March 10, 2011 at 07:10 PM ·

If you have the money and time anyone can make a perfect recording but I like to hear the human element. 

March 10, 2011 at 07:20 PM ·

 i am not sure that money and time can make a perfect recording :)

and i am not sure where this thread will lead to...

and perfect pitch in one's ears or brain has nothing to do with having a perfect recording.  there are technical issues that are beyond ears and brain.  

in fact, that intonation game illustrates this point very well.  many can get to the right answer if given more time and many can score higher if the finger can click the mouse faster.

March 10, 2011 at 07:25 PM ·

Perlman to me sounds occasionally flat, especially his Beethoven. I don't know why that is. Buttery smooth, but sometimes flat. Maybe it's me.

I don't recall hearing intonation problems from Heifetz, but I have heard a squeak or two from him. Same thing with Milstein and Szigeti. Very rare, however.

March 10, 2011 at 07:45 PM ·

There is a story I once read about Heifetz and William Primrose, the great violist who was in his day considered the Heifetz of the viola and who made many recordings with Heifetz. Apparently, as Primrose got older, he developed hearing deficits. Anyway, as the story goes, he and Heifetz and a couple of others were recording some chamber music, and it was only when Heifetz listened to the tapes afterwords that he realized that Primrose had been playing out of tune, and Heifetz was (probably) horrified, and supposedly did not record with Primrose again. Well, if Heifetz can miss it, then what about the rest of us?

March 10, 2011 at 07:56 PM ·

"The only violinists currently active that I haven´t heard play out of tune are James Ehne and Hilary Hahn."

Well, i've heard HH play out of tune, but not JE.

Most play occasional notes out of tune. So what? ALL (pianists) pianos are out of tune.

Nearly all singers are out of tune. Conductors never are, but then they don't count. (Even in 4/4).

March 10, 2011 at 08:21 PM ·

It's always amusing to me to watch people who are not soloists criticize world-class musicians who put themselves out there, live, all the time, who play circles around most humans. If you actually play the violin, then you just might have some kind of clue as to why any human being would occasionally hit an out-of-tune note.

If you prefer completely perfect intonation, perhaps listen to your cell phone ring tone? That's the depth of this discussion to me.

I'm mean, there's playing out of tune, like a high school orchestra, and there's playing out of tune, meaning a fraction off on a few notes. The latter, to me, is simply human error and forgivable.

March 10, 2011 at 08:22 PM · I've heard intonation problems atleast once with all the mentioned above. I have a Leonidas Kavakos recording of all Ysaye sonatas...and I have to say, out of ANYONE I've heard, he probably makes the least mistakes (intonation wise)

March 10, 2011 at 08:28 PM ·

Intonation is subjective.

Intervals are relative.

Equal temprament is misguided

Serial tonality is egalitarianism.

Notes only matter in a crowd

If I play sharp, it is because I heard it that way.

If I play flat, I am sorry.

gc

March 10, 2011 at 08:43 PM ·

Of course, in a studio anyone could make a "perfect" recording - but most people wouldn't want to listen to it. I want to hear a performance - in its entirety, or nearly so. That's why live performances are more satisfying than studio recordings. When you're playing with a mic just above your stand (as our broadcasting orchestra had to do - small string sections heavily miked up), its rather inhibiting, and you play it safe. Another orchestra I was in, playing mainly live concerts, you could take chances. Our principal horn, in particular, was a wonderful player. Mostly, it worked, but occasionally he'd knock it sideways in a spectacular fashion. Well worth the risk for me though, to hear such wonderful playing the other 999 times out of the 1000. Maybe that's why some performers prefer doing live recordings - think LSO Live!

March 10, 2011 at 08:58 PM ·

 Well everyone misses, or plays out of tune.  We're all humans.  The greatest players are the ones that can make the quickest adjustments to pitch and minimize the amount of mistakes they make.

I do think there's such a thing as playing out of tune.   The whole concept of intonation being subjective doesn't hold much ground.  Musical interpretations are debatable, but if you get a group of highly trained musicians to listen to a performance that is not relatively or harmonically in tune, the group will most likely concur.

March 10, 2011 at 09:00 PM ·

 How bizarre!  If I wanted perfection I can use electronics to achieve it....and a soulless sound is the outcome. 

We are human though and we all make mistakes.  The top pro's don't make many though and what they deliver moves us.  A few flat or sharp notes from a pro is what gives me hope!

 

March 10, 2011 at 09:52 PM ·

There is of course the famous Heifetz story of a recording session when he missed a high note and said " Leave it in-it will make a lot of people very happy"

Vibrato naturally alters a note from true pitch which can cause intonation problems, especially if the vibrato takes the note higher as the ear will register the highest part of the variation in pitch.

Galamian make that point and says that vibrato must always go from the true note to lower pitch and back or the ear will hear it sharp.

 

March 10, 2011 at 10:39 PM ·

Another Heifetz story (I don't know how apocryphal these yarns are):  the great man explained to someone that in a run of octaves he'd play one very slightly out of tune so that listeners could tell he was playing in octaves.

Surely an ultimate test of intonation for a string player must be in a a quartet playing quarter-tone (or even smaller intervals) music. A number of Alois Haba's quartets have been recorded by the Novak and Sukovo Quartets, and they're are not as difficult to listen to as one might think; the ear soon becomes accustomed to the micro intervals. If my memory serves me correct, one of the quartets is in 1/5 tones, and another in 1/6s. And there is Antonin Novak's spectacular recording of Haba's solo Fantasie Op 9, which uses microtone intervals.

March 10, 2011 at 11:10 PM ·

 Don't believe anything you hear on recordings. The Holy Grail has now been achieved, the ability to

tune polyphonic audio files without any perceptible change of timbre . Perhaps this will force a return to honesty?

http://www.celemony.com/cms/index.php?id=products_editor

March 10, 2011 at 11:38 PM ·

Maybe I'm in the minority but I actually like it if I can tell that it really is a human playing the violin.  I'm not going to accuse any specific person of doctoring recordings but I'm quite certain than tweaking a few notes here and there in the editing process is normal.  One of my favorite recordings is one of Aaron Rosand playing Chant D'Hiver by Ysaye.  His playing of this piece is really wonderful, but there is one little spot where he hits a couple notes out of tune and frankly I don't mind it a bit.  It's not enough to really detract from the musical statement and he plays it much much better than I could so who am I to judge?  I still love the recording.  I prefer live performances because even if there aren't technically any real mistakes you can hear that it's not as perfect as a computer would make it and I like the realism of hearing that.

I think it's a sorry state of things when people have to make completely perfect recordings that have no tiny flaws at all or else they are ignored or called bad.  Usually the people doing the criticizing are those who don't play the violin themselves and have no idea how steep and unreasonable their expectations are.

March 11, 2011 at 12:29 AM ·

Greetings,

as everone notes, at this level the debate is almsot meaningless.  some points to consider:

1)  Playing wrong notes does-not- equal playing out of tune.

2) Everyone hits a wrong note everynow and again.  If your string slackens suddenly the first note you play on it wi9ll be out of tune for a fraction of a second.

3)  The violin is tecnically speaking -designed - to have out of tune notes relative to the piano.  This is called key consciousness. The great plAyers understand this perfectly.  Kreisler,  to my mind,  had the best sense of this,  superior to Heifetz in this regard.

4)  Great players may have wonderful intonation between notes themselves but an oversense of pitch higher of lower than other players.  Thus I can listen to Szeryng but Menuhin gives me some trouble because his overall sense of pictch is slightly higher.

5)   Playing out of tune at the highest levels may be understood as the inability to -listen to other people- and adjust accordingly which is very necessary on many an ocassion.

6)   Heifetz altered the picth of his octaves slightly because a prefectly in tune octave is a @dead` sound.  Don`t know the techncial reason for it.

7)   The great players played a lot more out of tune at times than peiopel realized but because thery had an innate sense of `tonus` or beautifully ringing sound the error was unnoticeable.   Listeners can tolerate quite a wide margin of error if the perfect ringing sound of the isntrument is present.  It is a concomitant of so calle d`perfetc intonation` which is a myth in itself.

Cheers,

Buri

March 11, 2011 at 02:03 AM ·

" 6)   Heifetz altered the picth of his octaves slightly because a prefectly in tune octave is a @dead` sound.  Don`t know the techncial reason for it."

I've never heard of Heifetz doing this.

March 11, 2011 at 03:22 AM ·

Greetings,

he stated that he did this in an interview.  I can`t remeber where. Will try and find.

Cheers,

Buri

March 11, 2011 at 04:03 AM ·

Hi, of course, we can't complain too much about one or two false notes on thousands hit right... 

But there are sometimes weird phenomenon of out of tune playing (but everyone is human and everyone has bad days...even the best!) 

To witness one of these phenomenons, just write  "Vivaldi concerto for 4 violins" on youtube and listen to pros and advanced students versions.   

The other day, I wanted to listen to as many versions possible of this.  In the process, I noticed that many professionnal players and very advanced students played out of tune.  In the out of tune players were many elderly "stars" of the violin.  I was astonished!  (In a video of advanced students, two of the soloist girls even laugh at the out of tune girl while they were onstage.  Well, that's very unprofessionnal and bad musicianship for sure...) 

Thanks to Vengerov, the Oistrakhs and Kogans to play in tune in that Vivaldi!   But even them could do such things in something else.

 

March 11, 2011 at 04:04 AM ·

As students, we like to think that the great players are perfect or almost "gods", but as we mature and gain experience, we realize that they are human and they also do the common/typical violin mistakes.  Just that students are an "enlarged" version of the master's mistakes.  (to say like Simon Fisher told so well)    And, on the contrary, masters are an "enlarged" version of student's good skills. 
 

March 11, 2011 at 04:39 AM ·

"Greetings,

he stated that he did this in an interview.  I can`t remeber where. Will try and find.

Cheers,

Buri"

I never heard my teacher, Erick Friedman, mention this to me.  Heifetz's octaves to me, sound dead on.  I'm not sure if I agree with the logic that playing octaves in tune will cause the sound to be less resonant.  I know Heifetz told my teacher, regarding octaves, to play both notes in an octave double stop.  Lots of violinists fake and just play the bottom note.

March 11, 2011 at 05:44 AM ·

uglyness is in the ear of the beholder.

Many (most?) people have a limited sense of intonation.  As we know, there are those that are born with and this particular audience (v.com), almost all of whom have had to learn intonation as a part of playing this confounded instrument, contains almost an exclusive participant list of people with very a very highly trained ear.  Thus, if someone plays out of tune we (er, maybe I should say you, I'm not quite there yet) are going to be the ones that detect it.

Which raises the questionif it is, perhaps, possible to get a too great sense of intonation for one's own good - where the expectation for perfection undermines the ability to just enjoy the music for its own sake.  A particular violinist might even play off the pitch intentionally as a tool -for example, we've read here before about soloists tuning up in order to help their instrument carry over the orchestra - that means every note is 'out of tune' ina pure sense even if it is in tune to their own pitch level.

 

March 11, 2011 at 07:50 AM ·

"Intonation is subjective.

Intervals are relative. "

´True, we are so used to the western scale. Few people like microtones and a symetrical quartertone scale for instance sounds out of tune for most of us.

 

 

March 11, 2011 at 08:23 AM ·

You have to laugh. Here there are things of great beauty: sublime, transcendent pieces of inspirational music and all some people can do is notice the few minor "imperfections" due to it having been played by human beings.

I think it is a rather bizarre form of oneupmanship, this desire to pour cold water on other people's enjoyment or admiration of performers and pieces.

Would that these malcontents could manifest anything more than nit-picking, petty criticism and demonstrate their own ability to hold thousands of people spellbound, entranced  and enrapured, before disgorging their irrelevant little opinions and observations to float, sewage-like before us.

March 11, 2011 at 11:01 AM ·

Well said Julian.........................

March 11, 2011 at 04:22 PM ·

Interestingly, one of my teachers once told me that when they slowed way down films of Heifetz playing, his instantaneous adjustment of the notes he was playing was visible.

March 11, 2011 at 06:49 PM ·

Steven,

 

would you mind clarifying your comment that the violin is designed to be out of tune with the piano?

A specific comment I do have with regard to a "Dead" sound when the notes are all perfectly in tune......when 2 notes (frequencies) are combined (be it electrically, or mechanically), as an output you will get the original notes (or course), and the sum of the notes (frequencies), and the Difference between the notes.

For example if  two instruments play "A below middle C" = 440 Hz. If one instrument is actually playing 440 hz, and the other is playing at 441 hertz, you will here the 1HZ signal, which sounds like a "wave" type of effect.

As violinist we hear that when we tune the violin. for example when tuning the A to E string, we play a "double stop" open A and open E...the "waving" that you hear is the difference between the 3rd harmonic of the A (1320 hz), and the 2rd harmonic of the E (1318 hz).....some people also call this the "beat frequency". I suspect it is this "physics" phenomenon that results in a more complex and interesting sound between 2 instruments. The electrical term for this is called "mixing". It is how radio signals are processed in a radio/TV transmitter or receiver.

Have to interject some science into this forum.

March 11, 2011 at 06:49 PM ·

Steven,

 

would you mind clarifying your comment that the violin is designed to be out of tune with the piano?

A specific comment I do have with regard to a "Dead" sound when the notes are all perfectly in tune......when 2 notes (frequencies) are combined (be it electrically, or mechanically), as an output you will get the original notes (or course), and the sum of the notes (frequencies), and the Difference between the notes.

For example if  two instruments play "A below middle C" = 440 Hz. If one instrument is actually playing 440 hz, and the other is playing at 441 hertz, you will here the 1HZ signal, which sounds like a "wave" type of effect.

As violinist we hear that when we tune the violin. for example when tuning the A to E string, we play a "double stop" open A and open E...the "waving" that you hear is the difference between the 3rd harmonic of the A (1320 hz), and the 2rd harmonic of the E (1318 hz).....some people also call this the "beat frequency". I suspect it is this "physics" phenomenon that results in a more complex and interesting sound between 2 instruments. The electrical term for this is called "mixing". It is how radio signals are processed in a radio/TV transmitter or receiver.

Have to interject some science into this forum.

March 11, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

"You have to laugh. Here there are things of great beauty: sublime, transcendent pieces of inspirational music and all some people can do is notice the few minor "imperfections" due to it having been played by human beings.

I think it is a rather bizarre form of oneupmanship, this desire to pour cold water on other people's enjoyment or admiration of performers and pieces.

Would that these malcontents could manifest anything more than nit-picking, petty criticism and demonstrate their own ability to hold thousands of people spellbound, entranced  and enrapured, before disgorging their irrelevant little opinions and observations to float, sewage-like before us."

Spot on Julian!!

 

March 11, 2011 at 07:18 PM ·

Has anyone heard Enesco's 3rd sonata?  In Isaac Stern's fantastic recording of this work, he plays some octaves that are just enough out of tune to be both thrilling and excruciating.  They're so in character with the music (and so clearly deliberate) that I think Enesco must have written them into the score, and if he didn't, he should have.  As far as I can tell, though, the music, which is still in copyright, can't be had anywhere.  Not that I could play it if I got my hands on a copy.

March 11, 2011 at 07:28 PM ·

 Greetings,

Arnie,  the unique voice and magic o the violin is connected in large part to the fact that every key has a unique flavor and meaning.  This is expressed by manipulation of the notes of a specific key that need to be made sharper or flatter.  This process creates the tension and release of the music and the character.  An interesting example I come across quite often is when other wise competent amateur orchestras play a difficult passage in for example,  a large number of flats,   by thinking enharmonically with sharps which are somehow easier. The result may be bright cheerful and the complete opposite of what the copmose was trying to convey.  This is true @playing out of tune.`  Violnists who belive f# and gflat are the same note cannot play in tune.  Unfortunately some people teach this.

As far a splaying in tune with the piano is concerned there are differnet schools of thought on the subject. Casals was the extreme end of the spectrum in insisting that one should play @out of tune@ with the piano whatever the consequences.   To momodern listeners this can be too much.  For example,  I would not like to hear the e minor violin sonata of Mozart played this way.  One of the characteristics of the great player sis their abilty to adapt between `playing in tune with the piano` and `playing the key.` It@s actua;y quite an art.  Milstein wa sa maste rof this aurul flexibility.  Confirms the point that intonation is relative.

Except there is no excuse whatsoever for letting beginners play out of tune....;)

Cheers,

Buri

March 11, 2011 at 07:35 PM ·

It seems that recording technology and the realization that what you set down will be for posterity has affected many a performer in the  choice to be careful and for lack of a better way of putting it, play it safe and avoid risks that might have made the performance more emotionally charged and exciting or more deeply expressed. Listeners, used to the "perfection" of more recent recordings, may subconsciously or openly expect the live performance to be like the CD. It is a shame that we do this to ourselves. We are only human and it is impossible to please all people at all times. Many an orchestral audition though depends on a standard of rhythmic accuracy, intonation solidity, clean bowing and a tone that shows enough dynamic range and beauty as to be considered  at a certain "professional standard".  It is not uncommon for the better, more sensitive player, to be less technically perfect but have more interesting things to say musically, yet individuality, at least in orchestra auditions, is  something to be careful about. Many conservatories and schools of music and music camps and festivals encourage individuality and, perhaps benignly, offer the hope or promise that the student will be able to have the career of their choice in music, yet, the reality is that most will not succeed at their first audition and most will not be on a solo career track. Yet this concern over playing perfectly in tune and a host of other "impossible to achieve at all times" standards is held out before every would be successful orchestra auditioner, soloist, quartet player, etc.

 The bottom line for me is this- if you love music that you can't imagine not being a musician you do your best through  education and sound guidance and your own intuition, to be involved in music in whatever capacity you can. So if you aren't CD-perfect but you love playing and sharing your music, it won't matter if you occasionally play out of tune, or misjudge the pacing of rhythms in a given phrase or make a rough bow change, or what have you. In my view, life is simply too short and too important to place so much emphasis and time on trying to be perfect or hold yourself to some ideal standard. Many would rather be happy than neurotic- and, after all,  there are instances of many a talented, gifted player feeling overwhelmed by what was expected of them and what they in turn expected of themselves. and they lost their life over this. Though I always strive to play my best at any given moment, if truth be told, were I asked the question, "is it more important to spend hours working out a few spots in your music on intonation, or using that time to help at a soup kitchen or packing clothes to be sent to earthquake victims, etc." I'd have to say the latter is more important.

March 11, 2011 at 07:49 PM ·

I wonder how many of what we malcontents consider intonation errors are intentional? Perhaps in our zeal to point out flaws in top tier soloists (perhaps fueled by our own envy and feelings of inadequacy), in out quest for perfection, we fail to hear the beauty in the artists' interpretations? In the "Art of Violin" video, I think it was Korcia talking about Stern having " way of playing out of tune that sounds right." This was illustrated by a clip of Stern playing a marvelous rendition of Brahms, with the flair and drama he was famous for. Gitlis discussed this as a way the masters used to create color. So perhaps the mark of a truly great violinist is not so much playing with perfect intonation at all times, but having the skill to adjust intonation to create or enhance mood. To pull it off convincingly must require an incredible mastery of the instrument.

March 11, 2011 at 11:41 PM ·

 I must agree, this is a pretty ridiculous discussion thread.  

Playing with orchestra after walking off a transcontinental flight, needing to relearn a concerto in a matter of days (sometimes hours), yet still moving and inspiring an audience - so what if a couple notes aren't there?  Take the Tchaikovsky concerto - let's assume there are 10,000 notes for the violinist, and you notice Jane Doe missing 3 notes.  Pretty damn good batting average, I'd say!  :)

Just my two cents.  

By the way, I'm sure that in my performance of the Lalo tonight, there may be a couple of notes not quite centered.  Apologizing in advance.  :)

March 12, 2011 at 12:05 AM ·

Actually, I don't find this discussion ridiculous at all.  Live performances are one thing, but studio recordings are another thing entirely.  Many (most?) studio recordings are spliced up versions of the artist playing a piece several times, just taking the best sections from each run.  If so, then I believe the OP has a valid point.  Unless the artist purposely wants to make the rest of us feel better, why would (s)he choose a version that has a wrong note in it? 

We all know how tough it is to play violin and everyone misses a note here and there, but if you have the ability to pick and choose your best effort, then why not choose one that is clean and in tune?  Perhaps as the OP suggested, it is just a matter of time and money.  Or perhaps, there is no right or wrong when it comes to intonation; it's all subjective; what sounds in tune to one person may sound off to another.

 

March 12, 2011 at 12:30 AM ·

"Many (most?) studio recordings are spliced up versions of the artist playing a piece several times, just taking the best sections from each run."

Not necessarily. If you go to hear and see the folk band Spiro (a quartet of professional musicians – violin, accordion, mandolin and guitar – who have been working together for nearly 20 years) you may become aware that their live performances are of the same quality as on their CDs.  The reason is that when they record in the studio they play just as they would when performing live on stage – same physical layout and spacing, and eye contacts (and no sitting in separate little boxes with cans on their heads!). I am reliably informed that when they recorded their last CD they never required more than one or two takes per track, and there was NO studio dubbing or editing, apart from adjusting the balance.

March 12, 2011 at 01:07 AM ·

 i seriously think that some of us tend to drive the rest of us crazy.  i think obsession with intonation should be classified as a borderline neurosis:)

name another profession or even art form where it has to be perfect.  i can't think of one.  

March 12, 2011 at 02:43 AM ·

Perhaps so Trevor, but if by chance one of the musicians missed a note during the recording session, I hope they aren't going to burn the CD with that mistake.  They'll just do another take.  I have James Ehnes recording of the 24 caprices and while I have the greatest respect for him as a player, there is no way he played all 24 caprices in one go and burned it on a CD.  No one in the history of violin is that good, not even Paganini himself.  I also know of pro musicians who have made CD's and they told me that it is not uncommon to spend 3-4 hours to record 10 minutes of music.  That's how long it takes to get everything right.

I think the point of the OP is a valid one.  And it is unfortunate that some pro players are taking offense to it, rather than offering a good explanation.  I think perhaps the point about time and money is a valid one.  As a point of comparison, Hollywood movies are filled with tiny bloopers, in spite of the millions of dollars that are invested in them and the painstaking effort to edit them to perfection.  But in the end, they are still imperfect.  I guess the imperfections bother some, but not others.

We all know that the girls in Playboy magazine don't look like that in real life.  They take hundreds of photos, choose the best ones, then air brush them.  After all, they wouldn't sell many magazines if the models had huge zits in the middle of their noses :-)  I don't know, but perhaps the OP has a super keen sense of pitch and the wrong notes are as noticeable to him as zits on noses.

 

March 12, 2011 at 02:59 AM ·

I wonder why people get so upset when someone tells them they play out of tune. If you have a beautiful tone and phrasing, perfect intonation isn't necessary. Perlman is a good example. Every once in a while he'll play a note a little flat, but it's not noticeable because his tone is so perfect. I play out of tune all the time, but it doesn't bother me when people say I play out of tune (of course, I try to correct it, because my tone is nothing like Mr. Perlman's).

March 12, 2011 at 03:58 AM ·

 on some level, this discussion reminds me of shoulder rest discussions:) where everyone has an opinion and together, without illustration or demonstration, it is as helpful as it is confusing.

op said there are off notes. well, show us.  bring them out. educate everyone.  take a vote on how off is off.  is it as close as 1-2 cents or as far as another note?   up to now we are in the dark and have to take others' words for it.  or may be not.

purely for educational purpose, give us some examples, some evidence...

March 12, 2011 at 04:13 AM ·

And for that phenomenon that is/was recognisable with a few artists (but not all) to start to play more often out of tune as they get older  (even some great masters),  I wonder if it can be

- the ear sensitivity loss

- lesser practicing  (many great artists tell openly that they no longer do scales and studies (or not as much as before) and that they were better technical/wise at 20-40 yo than they are now.  Also they perhaps want to "have a life" as they get older.  Family, doing welfare things, take up conducting etc.  As some might do find with all these at the same time, I imagine that others can't as much.  Thus it's possible that a little lack of accuracy, including intonation happens.   

But, again, I can notice a few false notes but how much more do I do myself when I practice!!!  So I would never complain. 

I still agree with Smiley that, as we gain experience or happen to have seen/heard great players, we notice that they are human.  They do the same mistakes, just far less often...

March 12, 2011 at 04:17 AM ·

Al, I agree but...  Perhaps I would have a few ideas but I'll never show them  

These topics are touchy.  Yes, give examples but how to do it without telling names? 

Player A

and

Player B

Does that tell you something Al?  ; > )

March 12, 2011 at 04:22 AM ·

 haha, i understand.  can we pick on the dead ones :) ?

lets say you are a great player and i am a producer and we decide to make a cd.  i know you have very high standard and you know i have very high standard, so it is a good fit. 

after several days of taping, it seems that you are never satisfied yet.  neither am i.

so we go for another week.  same thing happens.

and you see where i am going with this,,particularly if i throw in the curve ball called orchestra accompaniment.

where to go from here?

are we going to give up the project or come to terms with the reality?

and i checked,,,you don't have hearing loss, you practiced as hard as you possibly could.  but, there are couple spots, not tech issues, but notes that simply did not shine through.  

are you really going to walk away???

 

March 12, 2011 at 05:02 AM ·

Hint: hire your daughter instead...   You'll save money and time!

I could play second violin behind maybe?  Btw I guarenty immense success to play the piano part in the unaccompanied Bach... 

Of course, the reality is that there will always be false notes for everyone regardless of the level but a few (not all) elder players did/do have a deterioration in their intonation (occasional or playing on the sharp or flat side etc).  So I was asking myself questions about that.  But I know that I should not even ask... considering that I am not able to play like them!

ps: If you pick on the dead, their gosts will come and untune your life hahaha

 

 

March 12, 2011 at 12:05 PM ·

 i think i will pick you because i sense you are dedicated enough to work toward perfection, unlike my kid:)

so here is another question for you:

assuming there is technology out there that can fix those couple false notes after we tried our best, would you be up to it?  :)

March 12, 2011 at 12:59 PM ·

The one, and probably only, place where you can be guaranteed a perfect performance (including faultless intonation) is in the composer's head.

March 12, 2011 at 05:57 PM ·

Composing one day on my computer, I put a bassoon in unison with the 'cellos. In the playback they were out-of-tune, - just like real life. Even computer technology can't get it right, or can it ??

Seriously, I have known players with perfect pitch who played VERY out-of-tune, not only to my ears but to those of other musicians.

The following snippet of hearsay wouldn't do for Judge Judy - but I heard evidence from an orchestral player on tour with a famous soloist, who consistently played certain notes in his program out-of-tune until one concert, when he had the flu. On that occasion, all those errant notes were spot-on. That's evidence of either a psychological or an emotional element in the determination of pitch, I presume. 

March 12, 2011 at 07:24 PM ·

There's a story that Pablo Casals was down to play the Dvorak concerto when he had a streaming cold which made him almost completely deaf.  His proprioception in the performance was so good that his intonation and the rest of his playing was at his usual top level as far as the audience, conductor and orchestra were concerned.

[Oops, sorry! did I slip a cellist sideways into this thread? But Casals learned the violin when he was a lad, so that's all right.]

March 12, 2011 at 07:41 PM ·

 "It seems that recording technology and the realization that what you set down will be for posterity has affected many a performer in the  choice to be careful and for lack of a better way of putting it, play it safe and avoid risks that might have made the performance more emotionally charged and exciting or more deeply expressed."

I would have thought that recording technology promotes the opposite ie. for a live performance one wants failsafe technical solutions, but for a recording, with infinite splicing possibilities, wouldn't that promote greater experimentation - if it doesn't work just hit the delete button...

 

March 12, 2011 at 11:37 PM ·

No, playing for a microphone is definitely "play it safe". In a live performance, go for it - if you miss it, half the audience won't notice, and if it's done as part of a great performance, the rest of us won't care. It's the emotion, the sound, the whole ambience that's important. If I just wanted the notes, I could get the computer to play them!

March 13, 2011 at 01:31 AM ·

"assuming there is technology out there that can fix those couple false notes after we tried our best, would you be up to it?  :)"

Scary thought.  The technology already exists doesn't it?  Maybe in a few years time, we won't even be listening to the real thing. 

March 13, 2011 at 03:38 AM ·

Al, yes, I would be up to it.   What rep do you want to record?  A new beginner's method book 1 tunes perhaps?  (I want to take it ultra safe because you, as the CD producer, and I as the violinist have very high standards no? lol

Or, if you want a true master's CD perfect at every level that will send millions of copies, I still maintain my unmatch piano skills for the piano part of the Bach unaccompanied works...

Seriously, if one wants perfection, one must not play. 

March 13, 2011 at 04:37 AM ·

 perfection equals solipsism?

Sacre merde!

March 13, 2011 at 08:55 AM ·

 "Play it consistently" is probably a much better motto for recording rather than "play it safe", if the engineer is going to have a chance of making convincing splices. In any case players that are doing live performances and recordings usually have it all worked out, so "safe" is probably not the appropriate word. 

March 13, 2011 at 01:15 PM ·

 As I've worked to improve my own intonation after starting to play violin again, I've noticed that I am now becoming much more picky about others' intonation.  This is a  very mixed blessing.  

I used to enjoy amateur and kids' performances more than I do now, because I was more able to ignore the inevitable intonation glitches in such performances.  And I never noticed anything wrong with professional intonation, and so was free to think about other aspects of the music and just enjoy it.  Noticing intonation problems is useful in my own playing, but it is frankly just annoying when I'm in the audience.  I am hoping it's a phase that I can outgrow.

 

March 13, 2011 at 06:57 PM ·

Darn it, darn it, darn it!  I thought my intonation was getting better.  All the while, it's my hearing that's been getting worse

March 13, 2011 at 07:06 PM ·

 Just be glad you don't have to play Indian music!

 

You think a 12-note scale is tough?

March 13, 2011 at 08:58 PM ·

Arnie  - if you tune A to 440hz and E to a perfect fifth, (3:2 ratio) then the E will be at 660hz. The 3rd harmonic of the A is then 1320hz, and the 2nd harmonic of the E is also 1320hz. Right?

I agree that this discussion is silly.

March 14, 2011 at 12:33 PM ·

 Further to my previous post :-

During my time as a symphony-orchestra player I gleaned from my conservatory-trained colleagues (I am a university type) the following:- there's' "in tune" which is OK, then "bang in tune"  which is even better. Clearly there are graduations. Then, these players had apparently been taught "better sharp than out-of-tune"..

To be serious, any aspiring composer apart from those writing "squeaky gate" stuff has to learn not to let a soloist hit the same pitch as e.g. the piano at the same time. So much string intonation is approximate:- the art is not to let it show. A solo line way, way above the accompaniment can be quite well away from the true pitch before it grates.

March 14, 2011 at 06:40 PM ·

 I read the original post and couldn't stop my mouth from hanging open in disbelief.  Do you really think that the point of having a recording is to be note perfect?  Either you have your priorities in the wrong order, you're ignorant, or both.  Trust me, I've heard Hilary Hahn and James Ehnes both hit wrong notes (or "out of tune").  Just imagine what their recording process is like, though; record a few measures, touch up the sound, change a pitch here or there, change the balance, then repeat again with the next few measures and then splice them together.

Technology is our downfall and our curse.  Back in the days of Heifetz, the most an artist could hope for is for there to be a split second of pause in the music from which they could splice a whole new section.  For the most part, however, performances were in one take.  And how on earth could you expect it to be perfect? But that is what technology has provided our modern generation with; expectations for an ultimate goal that CANNOT, repeat, CANNOT, be achieved.

As Ms. Niles says, I too find it grating and irritating when someone, who is probably not even close to the level of those greats, criticizes them (and for their intonation, no less!)  Perhaps you should look at it from a different perspective and imagine what you like and could gain from their playing rather than chastising them for not being disciplined enough to get it right.

March 14, 2011 at 10:50 PM ·

Quite a few good points have already been made - but I'll just add a little more from my perspective. I would certainly not count myself among the "greats", but I've been known to fiddle a tune pretty well, and I'm probably one of the few regular posters here who has released commercially viable CD's. By "viable", I mean that they are finished, packaged, have bar codes, etc. One branch of Barnes&Nobles and several violin establishments currently carry my CD's. I've gotten some very nice feedback - but if anyone is looking for "perfection", they won't find it on my CD's. What they may hopefully find is some decent violin playing and musicianship.

Now, let me tell you that making a CD is harder not easier than giving a live performance! A live performance comes and goes. The notes evaporate into the ether, but hopefully some special moments are shared between the performer and audience. A recording is forever - or close to it. This puts more pressure on the performer - and it is very difficult striving for a balance between a high degree of accuracy, and vivid, communucative music making. (That I can sometimes approach both in one live performance "take", I've hopefully shown on YouTube - 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ul2QUc5Gqc

"But" I can hear someone saying, "just make more takes. You have the luxury of doing it over and over". Well, yes and no. Of course you can - and will - do it over. Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. It's a different process, just as it's quite different making a film to doing a play. But you can't do an infinite number of takes, and the best engineer in the world won't be able to turn a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Time is literally money in the recording studio. And there comes a point of diminishing returns. Muscle fatigue, increased concentration lapses, etc. will put limits on "endless" takes. There can be any number of reasons to do another take besides intonation. There can be rushing here, imbalance there, not sustaining somewhere else, maybe the bow skated here and there. Then, a sensitive mike will pick up things like the bow touching an open string, or an unplanned left-hand pizzicatto as you lift your fingers, or maybe you're breathing too hard , or you've grunted here and there- things that in a concert would scarcely make it to the first row, or if they did, wouldn't matter too much. But with repeated listenings, such things can get annoying. So you try another take and another. But each time you have to play it in a way that will fit in with everything you just did. So the tempo, intensity, phrasing, mood, etc. all have to be consistant. It's kind of like jumping from a bit of a distance into the cockpit of a plane - and landing just right each time. So you try your best, and so does the engineer. And sometimes you have to choose the best among several imperfect choices. How dare Perlman be human? Right!

BTW, the subject of perfect pitch - what it is, is it ever acquired later in life, etc. came up about a year and a half ago. Basically, if you play a note, and I tell you accurately that you played an F#, that's perfect pitch. It has little to do with the fingers accurately hitting the exact millimeter on the fingerboard that they need to in the heat of battle.

March 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM ·

Since I'm guilty of contributing to the delinquency of this thread, let me apologize, as I didn't mean to offend anyone. I own a great many cd's from various artists because I enjoy their musicianship, first and foremost. It's silly to hold these great artists to a standard that is not humanly attainable. I'm too chicken to post to YouTube, so I shouldn't talk. Besides, even my dog has a better sense of intonation than I do (so that's why she leaves the room whenever I pick up the fiddle!).

:o)

 

 

March 15, 2011 at 02:15 AM ·

Here are some observations by Ruggiero Ricci on the subject of tuning. I've extracted them from his interview in Vol. 5 of "The Way They Play", (one of the only two volumes that I have of the out-of-print series).

Q. "...tuning the violin?"

RR.  "First of all, the A-string should be a tiny bit sharper than the A on the piano. The D-string should be a little sharp to the A-string, and the G-string, sharp to the E-string." 

Q. "Please explain your last remark"

RR. "The E-strings we play in this era are steel, and more likely to resist pitch alteration than the A-strings which are generally aluminum wound on comparatively soft gut. As for the other strings – if, for example, you have the G-string perfectly tuned to the A-string, and you start off on the open G-string, like in the Bruch Concerto No 1, your open G-string is apt to be flat. In the heat of playing, all of the strings except possibly the steel E-string are in great danger of going flat unless they are tuned 'on the sharp side' to begin with."

Q. "How do you tune when you play as a soloist with orchestra?"

RR. "When I am backstage and the orchestra is already performing out front, I take the orchestra's general pitch which is bound to be a bit sharper than the pitch I would receive from the oboe if I were to start tuning on stage."

Q. "How do you make allowances for temperature changes in tuning your violin?"

RR. "The most difficult situation is when I have to play in an open-air place like the Hollywood Bowl. Then I definitely tune backstage – not in my dressing room but somewhere behind the scenery where the temperature is closest to that out front. I listen carefully to the pitch of the orchestra and re-tune three or four times. This process can take five to ten minutes."

Q. "Aren't you going to tune in the presence of the audience at all?"

RR. "No, unless for some reason I haven't had an opportunity to hear the orchestra, or the temperature onstage is a great deal different."

Q. "But you always tune your A-string a little sharp?"

RR. "There can be an exception to the rule, for instance, if I am playing in an area where the weather is very dry. In that case, the violin tends to go up in pitch. But generally speaking, the violinist's pitch goes down while the orchestra, as a whole, goes up, and he winds up with his violin out of tune for the whole movement.  ...  Another thing I notice when most violinists tune. They will tune the D-string to the A-string by screwing the peg down to around the C-sharp and then up to the exact D. Then, if they pull it with the finger, which is somewhat equivalent to the pressure the string receives in playing, the D is flat. I. too, pull the string with my finger, but only after I have tuned it a mite sharp with the peg. In that way I have made allowance in advance for the string stretching. ...  I never tune by screwing the peg up to the note. I tune above the note and then screw the peg down in pitch. Take a first-class piano tuner. He tunes sharp and hits the string several times – hard. Then the string pitch is set firmly at the correct pitch."

Q. "You certainly give great emphasis to proper tuning of the violin."

RR. "Always. When I am a judge in a competition, I start judging the fiddle player by the way he tunes up. I feel that if he's not going to be fussy about tuning, he's not going to be fussy about intonation, either."

Q. "Can we talk a little about tuning from the standpoint of the bow?"

RR. "Yes. And we can start right off with the Bach 'Chaconne'. In the past I had pitch problems with this work dozens of times ... At that time I had the habit of tuning pianissimo like so many violinists do. Then, when I would start to hit the chords, my A-string would go flat, and I had to play through the whole piece 'walking on eggs,' pitch-wise. Now I know better. I tune loud and hit my strings hard in advance so that when I start to play, the strings are already well stretched. It's alway safer to tune 'forte', though I suppose some of my concertizing colleagues might disagree with me. Sometimes after I tune, I will play the downward chromatic runs in sixths from the Tchaikovsky Concerto cadenza, to help stretch the strings."

  

March 15, 2011 at 02:53 AM ·

Raphael said:

"Now, let me tell you that making a CD is harder not easier than giving a live performance! A live performance comes and goes. The notes evaporate into the ether, but hopefully some special moments are shared between the performer and audience. A recording is forever - or close to it."

Yes, yes yes! This is so true! We were chatting about this just the other day at home with friends. I think we even used the word "ether."

March 15, 2011 at 03:08 PM ·

Every great violinist do sometimes play wrong notes, and that includes Heifetz and Szeryng... It is not an important issue... Sometimes, the playing is so beautiful ( Thibeault and Kreisler) that we totally forget about their mistakes... Even Marthat Argerich and Horowitz play wrong notes... and who cares, really...

March 15, 2011 at 04:16 PM ·

Well, I may be an amateur, but I've always had a pretty good ear. And I think I've heard a couple of live performances that were note-perfect (as well as played with great musicianship). One was the one time I saw Heifetz (in recital), but I don't remember what he played (I usually remember the missed notes pretty clearly). Another was Henryk Szerying; he played the Tchaikovsky Concerto absolutely, completely, utterly flawlessly - note for note. Another was Nathan Milstein (age 80, playing the Bach 2nd Partita). Another was Zino Francescatti (the Mendelssohn Concerto). Another was Leonid Kogan (Caprice Basque and the Bach C Major Sonata). Yes, nobody's perfect, including the great ones, but the great ones have been perfect on occasion, and so (I'm sure) are many others who may not be considered "the great ones."

March 15, 2011 at 05:09 PM ·

  "Even Marthat Argerich and Horowitz play wrong notes."

i tend to think that a pianist pressing down a wrong note is a more serious mistake than a violinist "missing" a note.  a pianist has a more direct connection or commitment to a note by pressing down on a finger (assuming the piano is fine), but the loop or loops for sound production for a violinist is much more complicated and convoluted. 

if the note is B but the violinist plays a C,,,that is a big mistake of course.  i highly doubt great violinists do that in recording.

but often, the violinist has every intention to play the B for the B, the finger is on the right spot, but the bow misfires/mismatches.  or the finger is about to get into B, but the bow jumps ahead.  or the finger leaving B a little late but the bow catches that sound...

or, intention is to play B, but the finger lands slightly higher or lower by couple cents, and then attempt made to rectify it quickly and seamlessly.  to me that is good violin playing if it happens rarely. (if it happens all the time, then the violinist is not great:)   to me it is a great sportsman, stuck in a tight corner, comes through brilliantly.   but if the note is left there because the ears do not hear it,  then that  is a big mistake.  that is a beginner mistake.

March 15, 2011 at 05:32 PM ·

PERFECTION (In the mind of the educated listener) = SPARKLING TECHNIQUE + ABSENCE OF MISTAKES + UNFORGETTABLE VIBRATO + CLEAN BOWING + EMOTION + SUPERIOR SCHOLARSHIP AND FIDELITY TO THE SCORE + APPROPRIATE PERFORMANCE STYLE + SUPERIOR INSTRUMENT + PROFESSIONAL STAGE PRESENCE + COMMUNICATION OF THE COMPOSER'S INTENTION.

PERFECTION (In the mind of the performer) = HOW I PLAYED TODAY.

March 15, 2011 at 07:24 PM ·

"

  "Even Marthat Argerich and Horowitz play wrong notes."

i tend to think that a pianist pressing down a wrong note is a more serious mistake than a violinist "missing" a note.  a pianist has a more direct connection or commitment to a note by pressing down on a finger (assuming the piano is fine), but the loop or loops for sound production for a violinist is much more complicated and convoluted. "

True but mistakes on the violin sounds worse in general, and it´s much easier to notice them

Out of tune notes on the violin sounds really bad if you have got perfect pitch in general.

Sometimes you want to do  a thousand retakes in the studio just to play everything in tune.

 

 

March 15, 2011 at 07:24 PM ·

"

  "Even Marthat Argerich and Horowitz play wrong notes."

i tend to think that a pianist pressing down a wrong note is a more serious mistake than a violinist "missing" a note.  a pianist has a more direct connection or commitment to a note by pressing down on a finger (assuming the piano is fine), but the loop or loops for sound production for a violinist is much more complicated and convoluted. "

True but mistakes on the violin sounds worse in general, and it´s much easier to notice them

Out of tune notes on the violin sounds really bad if you have got perfect pitch in general.

Sometimes you want to do  a thousand retakes in the studio just to play everything in tune.

 

 

March 15, 2011 at 07:33 PM ·

 but andreas, if you are saying that you cannot stand all the recordings out there due to varying amt of mistakes because you are a pitch perfect listener,  i understand.

what others are trying to explain is that what you have observed is a way of life.  because of that, deal with it:)

i don't have perfect pitch and assume you do.  let's compete.

i will play the lowest note on the piano, followed by the highest note on the piano.  i don't know piano, but can manage that.

you then try on the violin.  just one take.

i will tell you without even bothering listening to you  that  your highest note is lacking in  the intonation department. :) 

and if i grab the violin from you and try the highest note, we will sound equally hideous.  so much for your perfect pitch:)

March 15, 2011 at 10:56 PM ·

 I always wonder which of the old masters, many discussed in this thread, would be most excited about today's recording technology.  We often assume (even if subconsciously) that they would be appalled at what goes on in studios today, but I bet that's not true in every case.  Surely some of them would have been tremendously excited at the chance to release a "perfect" recording?

March 16, 2011 at 11:06 PM ·

But pity the poor pianist, down to play Beethoven 4 (the one with the simplest but most horrendously difficult opening bars), arriving at the venue after 24 hours of travel delays, just enough time to change into DJs and get onto the platform, but no time to warm up, the piano is a completely unknown quantity, as is the orchestra, he's met the conductor only once, and the high humidity in this concert hall in SE Asia has doubtless already had its effect on the piano's action. 

March 17, 2011 at 01:07 AM ·

We're all always striving for perfection. As a mere orchestral player, in the early part of my career, I was still hoping to get through a concert with no mistakes. I mentioned this to a much more experienced colleague, who just laughed and said "You never will". Well, so far she's been right!

March 17, 2011 at 09:00 PM ·

Like most people I've always tuned up to pitch, because I was told to, but since my previous post on this thread about the Ricci interview I've been thinking about his advice to tune down to a fraction above the pitch and then plucking the string to bring it down the last fraction, where it should then be stable. I tried it last night in our dress rehearsal for tomorrow's concert. It worked perfectly with my gut strings – Eudoxa G,D and Chorda plain gut A. None of them needed any further adjustment during the rehearsal. I'm a convert.

Although Ricci was talking about gut strings I see no reason why the theory shouldn't be applicable to synthetic core.

March 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM ·

 I have found this to be true with all strings to a greater or lesser degree.  I haven't found that it makes a difference whether I tune "up" or "down", but I always finish a bit high and pull the string slightly to release any slack, which brings me right down to pitch.

March 19, 2011 at 02:51 AM ·

This has got to be the dumbest question I have ever seen on v.com. Congrats.

March 19, 2011 at 06:54 AM ·

Ayaka,

That was kind of a nasty comment you made don't you think?  If you don't like the question / discussion than don't participate in it.  It's as simple as that. 

March 19, 2011 at 08:10 AM ·

"But pity the poor pianist, down to play Beethoven 4 (the one with the simplest but most horrendously difficult opening bars), arriving at the venue after 24 hours of travel delays, just enough time to change into DJs and get onto the platform, but no time to warm up, the piano is a completely unknown quantity, as is the orchestra, he's met the conductor only once, and the high humidity in this concert hall in SE Asia has doubtless already had its effect on the piano's action."

Trevor

Even worse, I was told by a well known soloist that he once arrived very late in Germany and just in time to get onto the platform for his concerto. He had never met the conductor or orchestra before. He sat down and was just about to start the 4th Beethoven piano concerto (soloist starts on own - as most people know) - when he heard the orchestra launch into Beethoven's 5th piano concerto!

He said to me, "it was OK because I knew them both!"

March 19, 2011 at 03:38 PM ·

@Brian Hong, (and Laurie and all the rest who have this take on it):

"As Ms. Niles says, I too find it grating and irritating when someone, who is probably not even close to the level of those greats, criticizes them (and for their intonation, no less!)  Perhaps you should look at it from a different perspective and imagine what you like and could gain from their playing rather than chastising them for not being disciplined enough to get it right."

I have had the same questions at times when listening to wonderful players like, for instance, Perleman. But it is NOT criticism at all! It's simply pointing out facts. To some of us, these things are, as someone said so well, like zits on a nose. We can't help but notice them. Of course such players are imperfect Godz, but that doesn't stop me from being curious about this issue. Why can't it be discussed without it being taken as "criticism," or worse, some flavor of sour grapes?

March 20, 2011 at 07:36 PM ·

This is why v.com is such a neat site: this discussion may not be the most interesting but then suddenly there is a post like Trevor`s on March 15 quoting Ricci`s ideas on tuning the violin and I learn something new and very useful.

Also liked those pianist anecdotes , Trevor and Peter.

March 20, 2011 at 07:50 PM ·

 I agree with Ayaka and I don't think it's nasty to say this.  Obviously everyone tries their best to have good intonation but even for the best players it's just not possible to be completely perfect all of the time.  I feel that it's OK. As a player if I cannot forgive a top soloist for occasionally slipping on a note here or there then how could I possibly live with my own playing?  I am not a hypocrite so if it doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the music then I don't worry about it and I say molodetz!

March 20, 2011 at 08:20 PM ·

Wow!  Tough crowd.  Ayaka's comment was nasty by any definition.  Anyone that doesn't have the common sense and decency to recognize that isn't playing with a full deck.  But one thing is for sure, this thread has struck a nerve.

March 20, 2011 at 09:56 PM ·

You don't have to be able to do something very well yourself, to see what is wrong with what anyone else does, "great" or not. The ability to appraise, judge, evaluate,  criticise, or discriminate is utterly separate from the ability to do something.

Sometimes those who "do" are not that great at appraising.

To suggest that the greats are somehow above criticism, for intonation difficulties, matters of interpretation, or anything else, by those who are not equally able or skilled is simply ridiculous.

Sometimes the clearest and most useful criticisms come from those who can't play at all.

When you put your stuff out there, you are a fair target for anyone's opinion.

That is why I just got someone to take down a Youtube vid where I play one particularly nasty sharply out of tune note...   ; )

gc

March 20, 2011 at 10:28 PM ·

I believe it's common sense to know that having perfect pitch doesn't guarantee one to play in tune all the time. So yes, I still think this question was idiotic.

 

March 21, 2011 at 02:46 AM ·

How do I get perfect pitch? I wanna play in tune

March 21, 2011 at 12:11 PM ·

I agree with Ayaka Sano in that perfect pitch doesn't seem to guarantee good intonation. I have known players and fingers with this gift who play/sing way off pitch. They called one such fiddler "lightning fingers" because as you know lightning never strikes twice in the same place ! I presume that listening critically to others is quite distinct from hearing one's own errors.

March 21, 2011 at 12:24 PM ·

I also agree.  Perfect pitch does not equal perfect intonation.  Playing in tune involves pressing the fingers in precise locations on the finger board.  As the op has correctly pointed out, even the best in the world with a lifetime of training occasionally miss.  

March 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM ·

 @Scott, you wrote:

But it is NOT criticism at all! It's simply pointing out facts. To some of us, these things are, as someone said so well, like zits on a nose. We can't help but notice them. 

What I'm wondering is, if anyone has learned to "help it."  That is, I think you've made a pretty convincing case that this "ability" to not be able to help noticing this kind of thing is a liability.  It prevents you from enjoying performances that others are able to enjoy more effortlessly and freely, and sends you down blind (or deaf) avenues that have little or nothing to do with musicality. 

Is there any upside to not being able to help it?  I don't see one.  Why not work on turning off the "internal critic" and learning to use a different part of your brain during these times?  Meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, self-talk seem like they would be promising avenues. And if you figure it out, let us know . . . Seriously.  I have the same issue sometimes, especially now that I've been trying to listen more critically to my own intonation, and I don't appreciate what it has done to my listening to others.

March 21, 2011 at 12:46 PM ·

Smiley and others ...

Can I just remind everyone of the Heifetz quote -----

"I don't play in tune better than anyone else, I just fix it quicker." (Or words to that effect).

There is not a precise place on the fingerboard for an in tune note. Only the ear can tell you that you are in tune either with youself or other people.

Try this: Tune down your E string about a quarter of a tone  - a half semitone - (or any string, but simpler with the E) and then play in third - fourth - fifth positions any passage you know well on the E string. Are you playing at the proper pitch or flat?

You can also tune up a quarter tone, and try the same thing.

This is what can happen in a hot hall, or with sudden blasts of cold air, your strings start going out. But you should still play in tune.

Of course it won't work for cellists because they can never get in tune in flat keys anyway!! (WINK!!!)

March 21, 2011 at 01:35 PM ·

Peter,
 
Notice I used the term "precise" locations, not "fixed" locations -- there's a big difference.

March 21, 2011 at 01:53 PM ·

@Karen:

"Is there any upside to not being able to help it?  I don't see one.  Why not work on turning off the "internal critic" and learning to use a different part of your brain during these times?  Meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, self-talk seem like they would be promising avenues. And if you figure it out, let us know . . . "

Well heck, you make it sound like a mental illness! Do I need therapy??? No, it's not a problem for me so much, because I do find plenty of performances that please me very much. And...I can be thrilled just as much as the next person by aspects of a performance, even if it has some sour notes in it. A consistently out-of-tune rendition can help me to keep searching for my 'favorite' performance of a piece, however. Also, some of the reasons/issues presented in this thread may well help me become more accepting of 'off' intonation.

But, if the clinkers continue throughout a performance, I get too distracted by it. Art is partly an attempt to struggle towards the unattainable ideal. Some get closer to that than others. Ehnes is The Man!

March 21, 2011 at 03:17 PM ·

Smiley

You are very precise!! You may well be right, and I probably misinterpreted you. But I think I got the hint that it was not just the ear involved!!

But maybe I'm clutching at straws now ... (wink).

Tell me to shut up!!

 

March 21, 2011 at 04:00 PM ·

 @Scott, no, sorry, I didn't mean to say that it was a mental illness.  Meditation or changes in self-talk are things that you (and/or the original poster) can do on your own without actually having to get therapy, which I agree would be a little over the top and obnoxious for me to suggest to strangers on a website.

What I was suggesting is that there could be a different, and potentially more helpful, response to this reflexively analytical habit of mind than locating and pointing out fault in the performers or performances. You (and the original poster, and I) might indeed be able to help it.

March 21, 2011 at 04:23 PM ·

Hey Peter, Shut up!

 

Sorry, the devil made me do it :-)

March 22, 2011 at 05:07 AM ·

Can someone tell me to shut up also?

March 22, 2011 at 05:30 AM ·

100th reply!  EVERYBODY shut up!

 

:-D

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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