Banish your intonation woes!

January 7, 2012 at 11:10 PM · For years my playing had been dogged by insecure intonation but a toy amp/microphone came out last year which I discovered when I bought one for a relative at Xmas. What is so magic is that it has built in auto-tune! Use it with headphones and it's as if your teacher is playing beside you. Never play with poor intonatiion again! It's from a company called Paper Jamz (I've nothing to do with them). My school violin teacher is highly impressed. My ears are glued to mine!

Replies (22)

January 8, 2012 at 12:15 AM · Words fail me (for once). I think I need to lie down.

January 8, 2012 at 01:53 AM · Isn't that not supposed to help you? If it auto-tunes, you'll never know whether your playing in-tune or not.

January 8, 2012 at 02:31 AM ·

January 8, 2012 at 07:28 AM · I think my enthusiasm for this device has rubbed some up the wrong way? What would be wrong with having a teacher play beside you all the time? Especially in the beginning? Parth, of course you have to listen to your intonation! How else will you play in tune?

January 8, 2012 at 07:36 AM · It was a little confusing, I have to say. It sounded to me like you were saying to listen through headphones and think, "don't I sound marvelous." But that's not what you meant at all, I realize. Does auto-tune create the same elecrto-pop sound on the violin that it does for singers? Just curious.

January 8, 2012 at 07:52 AM · I suppose it does but it's not very good quality (only £20). It also has chorus and harmony effects which kids would find fun.

Yes I didn't put it very well - the headphones (ear buds are probably best) are so you hear a balance of the acoustic (out of tune) and the electronic sound (tuned). Plugging it into an amp is less cumbersome but it's easier to concentrate with headphones. All I can say is I played the same Wohlfart No. 1 for two years and no way could I get it in tune. A week after getting this toy I'm working on some Mozart - and it sounds nice.

January 8, 2012 at 07:52 AM · But if you record yourself playing normally you can hear all your intonation mistakes anyway. I don't understand how this would help.

January 8, 2012 at 08:03 AM · I can tell when mine's out- I have to stop between bars and un-grit my teeth with a scissor jack.

Oh to be learning as a child (ignorance is bliss when it comes to fine detail).

January 8, 2012 at 08:15 AM · One of the first things I did when I started playing over two years ago was to get an Olympus voice recorder - it's been the bane of my existence ever since! Let me be clear here - I'm a performance diploma pianist. I'm used to running my fingers up and down an instrument to quite some effect! The first thing I studied when I started was the first cello suite (I started on viola). I played it quite musically in only a matter of weeks that is, until I recorded it! I've been paralyzed ever since. (Oh, I'm also a classical guitarist)

January 8, 2012 at 08:43 AM · The curse of having your intonation fixed for you (piano, guitar, percussion) is that you are less likely to notice something slightly out of tune. When playing marimba at college, there was one bar that was clearly sharp the first time I heard it, but the school wasn't going to send it to get retuned, so my ears adjusted to it. I remember playing that Wolfahrt #1 you mentioned along with a violinist from opera and thinking, "Oh, THAT'S in tune." My way honestly sounded fine to me until I heard a direct comparison. But my ears are used to equal temperament. So much still to learn.

January 8, 2012 at 09:40 AM · Don't worry Lila, get one of these and you can dispense with the scissor jack! Tim, believe me it's like playing with a pro. It's a shame there's not a simple standalone computer program, or am I mistaken?

January 8, 2012 at 10:09 AM · "or am I mistaken?"

In fact, you are.

January 8, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Do tell.

January 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM · It's a kind offer, but I'd rather rely on myself and my own ears. I've only had nine lessons so I know I've got miles and miles of improvement ahead of me. If I start using crutches now, how will I walk properly when they're taken away?

January 8, 2012 at 12:23 PM · Look at it as training wheels. I'd rather get going than fall off each time I get on.

January 8, 2012 at 08:16 PM · And I think it's fab that everyone's different. Personally I find 'falling off' teaches me pretty darned hard how to 'stay on' (and I was the same on bicycle too, all those years ago!).

Just out of interest, what tuning system is it programmed to?

January 8, 2012 at 09:04 PM · "Just out of interest, what tuning system is it programmed to?" A better one than mine!

January 8, 2012 at 10:16 PM · Tim, that's what I thought too.

January 9, 2012 at 07:15 AM · Kind of related query (on the 'now I sound marvellous' line): I keep meaning to practice in the shower. After all, my singing sounds THE BUSINESS in there, when really I know I've got a voice like a moose with it's antlers caught in the u-bend of a toilet. So do you think I should put gaffer tape over the f-holes to stop the water getting in, or will they be ok?...

January 9, 2012 at 07:24 AM · "The Tuning CD" fixed my intonation for good.

January 9, 2012 at 08:13 AM · What's the Tuning CD? I found out that if you learn all your scales in at least two octaves, then your intonation improves tremendously.

My intonation used to suck and I didn't know my scales. When my teacher left for 3 weeks to go to NY she told me when she comes back, I have to know all my scales in at least two octaves and should be able to play them by heart. Lately she had been angry with me so I thought that I should really work and now my intonation is much better, I have a lot more confidence when playing for her, and now she's not angry (the best of them all, she can get dangerous when angry haha).

January 9, 2012 at 09:16 AM · For me the issue comes down to how much intonation is due to finger placement and how much to ears. Leaving aside the finer adjustments (B# as opposed to C) I'd say it's 70/30 - 70 being finger placement. Also, I don't think conscious attention need be applied to this element - you learn it as you learn to balance on a bike, or hit a baseball or kick a football. I've found this box has freed my awareness and my bow hand has started surfacing into consciousness. Whereas previously most of my attention was on intonation I'm now far more aware of what's going on down there - my tone is improving.

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