Intonations

February 13, 2017 at 03:10 PM · I am a really really new violist so before this, I used the frets when I first started learning. So after a while, my teacher thought that I was ready for the frets to be removed.

And that is when I frequently get out of tune >_<

Maybe my muscle memory has not fully developed yet but I wasn't able to recognize the really slight difference in tune.

For example, when I am playing E on the D string, it sounds ok to me but for a skilled violist like my teacher, he would say its slightly out of tune.

I really wanted it to be perfect so I can move on to other practices but I cant seemed to know if I am out of tune???? I mean if its really bad I would know but its the slight difference that I wasn't able to recognize it >_<

My teacher told me to practise together with a piano so that I really know what note I am playing but I still can't get it to perfect???

What should I do wahhh?

Replies (28)

February 13, 2017 at 03:27 PM · Try this: sing a bar of your scale or exercise, then play it. Repeat a few times. Repeat on the next bar, etc. Intonation is as much mental as it is physical placement. Your mind has to 'expect' the interval you play.

The additional advice is - keep at it. Everyone has this challenge when they start. It just takes lots of repetition.

February 13, 2017 at 04:03 PM · Also, listen to middle Easterm music.

The microtonal pitches teach your ear very precise intonation (I grew up with it, thus being able to hear a difference of 0.1 cent-this decreases to 0.3 (not 0.4!) cents without extra concentration). :)

February 13, 2017 at 04:10 PM · You have to train your ear to notice the pitch differences. The average human only has pitch sensitivity to about a 3 Hz difference. You need resolution of around 0.3 Hz to really play the violin in tune.

This takes time. In my long breaks away from the violin, I lost a significant amount of my pitch resolution, and I found that it took about a year of playing to properly get back the same degree of pitch resolution. This most recent time, I'm finding that my hearing has deteriorated enough with age that my pitch resolution in upper frequencies is significantly impacted.

So be patient and keep working at it. Listen to strongly tonal music -- Mozart, for instance -- to help train your ear to hear pure intervals.

February 13, 2017 at 04:21 PM · Piano? Whatever I or others may say about Equal Temperament, one can do a lot worse!

Playing along with a someone at the piano will develop your ear less than imitating notes, intervals and short phrases after having just heard them.

And I agree 200% with Lydia about "nourishing" the ear with clear tonal music.

February 13, 2017 at 04:44 PM · first make sure you can slowly sing a scale really in tune, or at least "hear" it in your mind (even if your actual singing may be a bit off, at least you will recognize that it is off). then carefully play slow scales on your violin trying to recreate the same feeling. alternate between the two. also do this on short fragments from pieces.

February 13, 2017 at 05:04 PM · Practicing scales using melodic intonation (Simon Fischer explains this in his _Scales_ book) will help you get better at hearing and playing in tune. Eventually, you should be able to hear well enough that even when you shift slightly out of tune you're able to fix it before anyone can consciously notice--if I remember correctly Flesch said that no one can really play "in tune", all they can do is correct fast enough that they provide the illusion of intonation to the audience.

February 13, 2017 at 05:52 PM · Here's a pitch discrimination online test: LINK

You may find this useful for tracking your progress.

February 13, 2017 at 06:00 PM · I ear-trained myself for 3rds and 5ths. Incidentally, I am spot-on for 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th in shifts, but I always miss the first note from shifting from odd to even number position.

February 13, 2017 at 06:13 PM · Listen for open strings vibrating in synch with the note you're playing.

So every time you play a C, G, D, or A (on an other string aside from the open string), listen out for an echo, an extra resonance (I think it's called synthetic vibrations?).

I struggle with the other notes that aren't an open string (B, C, F for violin).

Here is a video for tonalizations by Laura Staples, although mainly for violin.

February 13, 2017 at 09:12 PM · You should also practice adjusting at some point. Once you are fairly comfortable with the above, try scordatura, microtonal music, or playing along with a recording of a baroque ensemble, to increase the versatility of your intonation, and avoid getting overly ingrained in one tuning system. I must say, it is truly dangerous when your ear is tuned to one frequency, and only one frequency.

February 13, 2017 at 10:40 PM · @Lydia: I would respectfully disagree with the average ear sensitivity, unless we are talking about a sine wave.

The extra grit of a real instrument seems to place most people's "in tune" perception at about 6-7 cents (which, incidentally, are the comma divisions in the Turkish music I grew up with). :)

For wind players, I would say the pitch difference is maybe 4-5 cents.

For strings, the average does seem to be about 3 cents. :D

February 13, 2017 at 10:51 PM · There are various scientific studies on this. including studies of string players vs winds vs non-musicians.

February 14, 2017 at 02:32 AM · Thanks for the link Lydia. I just took the test and my pitch sensitivity is 2.18 Hz. which is good news considering my hearing is not that good.

February 14, 2017 at 03:01 AM · Thanks to Lydia for the pitch discrimination test. That was fun. My result:

"Thank you for taking our Pitch Discrimination Test at http://musicianbrain.com/pitchtest.

At 500 Hz you can reliably hear pitch differences of 1.125 Hz, which means you did better than approximately 95.5% of people who took our test!"

February 14, 2017 at 03:10 AM · I second Lydia's suggestion to listen to Mozart and other music with strong tonality. Handel Sonatas are very good too. If a professional violinist is playing something like that, and you are listening and wondering if something they played sounds out of tune, that's an "a-ha" moment, an opportunity to perceive intonation differently (meaning better).

It's great that you want to play in tune, but every aspect of violin technique takes time and you have to give yourself the chance to improve at a reasonable pace. Also, if all you work on is intonation then you'll miss a lot of other stuff that's just as important.

February 14, 2017 at 03:29 AM · When I am working with a student on pitch discrimination, I do something very similar to the test Lydia posted. I play two notes and ask the student whether the second note was higher or lower than the first, starting out with huge differences (like a third) and then gradually shrinking the distance between the two notes as long as the student is getting the right answer.

The reason I start out with such large intervals is so that the student starts off with success, realizing that he/she really can hear pitch differences.

February 14, 2017 at 03:43 AM ·

4-5 cents noticeable pitch difference is the general rule.

- "I wasn't able to recognize the really slight difference in tune."

I call this 'pitch blindness.' It is a very common problem, but prone to beginners or violinist who are learning new scales or positions; forth finger will often receive this problem.

To play in tune there is a sequence that must be followed: the note to be played needs to be thought of first, and then the muscles for finger placement are moved.

When you don't practice this sequence correctly or you use your eyes as aids for finger placement, 'YOU' have trained the mind to bypass its music memory(audio cortex). Because the memory doesn't involve the audio cortex or the sequence is off, you need to retrain the mind to listen first, and then move muscles second.

Ways to improve the recognizing of poor intonation and retraining the mind:

-Have a teacher that corrects every note that you haven't notice is out.

-Play scales with one string slightly out of tune(+/- 15-25 cents),but still keep the notes on the out of tune string in pitch. Play the scale this way a few times; then tune the violin correctly and repeat scale.

-Using the aid of a Tuner, find the note. Then play the note 15-20 cents +. Then play the note 15-20 cent -. Listen closely to these 3 different pitches while doing this, and repeat them in your mind. The important part is to now repeat these 3 different pitches without the use of the tuner. Once you get better at this, add 1 or 2 extra notes before playing the different pitch.

These techniques and exercises will get you recognizing poor intonation quickly: they help you to play the pitch, not the position. It's important to remember, if you can't tell if the note is out of tune, it IS out of tune. "?" notes need extra practice.

February 14, 2017 at 03:12 PM · Uhmmm so if my pitch sensitivity is really bad, is it possible to do some training to make my ear more sensitive to pitch difference? If there is, what training are they?

Do I need to make my ear really sensitive to pitch before I can get perfect intonations? >_<

February 14, 2017 at 03:42 PM · Reanne, the posts above contain 21 suggestions for training your ear to be more sensitive to pitch difference. My suggestion is to re-read the posts, write down each suggestion, and try one or two a day. I am impressed with all the help offered.

February 14, 2017 at 05:50 PM · I tried that pitch test a few times, ended up with a 1.625 Hz sensitivity, which is 5.6 cents (since the test was using 500 Hz as the baseline). Mary Ellen, that would put you at 3.9 cents, which is approaching the human limit.

I suspect if I did the test a third time I would score even better as well. It would be better constructed if the baseline pitch varied throughout the test.

It would be interesting to know what normal differentiation is like (for normal people that is) for unison and harmony--I would suspect in those cases it's better than for pitches in sequence, as that test was doing.

February 14, 2017 at 11:05 PM · Argh, my pitch test the first time was a pitch difference of 27, but my second try was 10.75. It's incredible how amazing some of you scored. I need to start working on this.

February 14, 2017 at 11:05 PM ·

February 15, 2017 at 02:50 AM · Corey, Hertz or cents?

February 15, 2017 at 03:13 AM · Reanne, you don't need computers or "pitch tests" or online apps to improve your intonation. All that stuff is fun but it's not what you need, in my humble opinion (which is quite humble because I'm neither a violin pro nor a violin teacher). You don't need "cents" (although dollars are quite useful), nor do you need Hertz or Webers or Ergs or any other units of measure devised by physicists.

You need your violin and your bow, instruction on how to tune your violin, a qualified teacher to show you how to play in tune, time to practice, exercises and pieces assigned by your teacher at your level, a willingness and time to listen to good violin playing, an interest in developing a critical ear, and heaping measures of patience, self-forgiveness, and perseverance.

February 15, 2017 at 04:32 AM · I agree with Paul. I also would assume that the tests aren't completely reliable. On this one, as well as some others I found by googling, I got around 1Hz, and on others 0.375Hz. That makes me doubt them even more, due to the inconsistency. Then there are others which test completely absurd things, such as the rate at which pitch is associated to color or smell. Perhaps you would need to be in a lab to get the real deal.

February 16, 2017 at 01:20 PM · It's impossible to play in tune when you don't know what the target pitch is. A note by itself is never absolutely out of tune -- it's just a note. To be out of tune you need a reference pitch to compare it against.

There are two types of references -- absolute and relative. Absolute is only important when you're playing with other instruments matched to that reference, and even then you can get by with a relative reference -- now relative to each other. The more important reference is relative to other notes on the same instrument in the piece, and this is where scales come in -- for you to learn the target pitches, to learn the relative differences between the notes, and to hit them approximately correctly. Nobody is able to hit notes absolutely perfectly all the time on the violin, and you shouldn't expect yourself to do that especially when beginning.

The most important starting point is for you to try to learn what the target pitches are, and then try to hit them. If you play a note and then try to guess if it's in tune or not, you're already at a disadvantage as by playing the note you've just created a new reference, and who's to say whether or not it's right? It's just another note -- you need to compare it with the note before, assuming that note was in tune, to say whether or not it was right, and that is an interval on a scale.

Suzuki promotes listening to recordings or performances of the piece you're trying to play. This is a good way of learning the target pitches as well as other aspects. Playing together with Suzuki recordings can help you hear when you're out of tune relative to the recording.

You can also use an electronic tuner to learn where the target note is, but you should use that to get the pitch in your head, not to see notes out of tune after the fact.

February 16, 2017 at 01:39 PM · Reanne something nobody said yet (but is well known): a good way to hear that your note is in tune is to hear your violin sound get just that extra ring to it. but you need to be able to produce a good-quality sound (e.g. on open strings) to be able to benefit from that information your violin is giving you. with poor bowing the violin will not give you that extra ring. so, interestingly, working on your bowing, even on open strings, ultimately also is beneficial for intonation! ask your teacher to teach you about producing a good sound and bowing with full bows and good speed and pressure. it's not easy. moreover, this extra ring only works when your violin strings are well in tune with respect to each other. first tune the A to a tuner or a piano or a pitch fork. then tune the D in a perfect fifth with the A (you should hear no beats when playing the two together), then the G to the D, then the E to the A. you know about this, right? otherwise again ask your teacher. happy practicing!

February 16, 2017 at 02:39 PM · I "dared" to mention earlier The Horrible Equal Tempered Piano (with which we often like to play, do we not!)

Yes, the "ring" of notes that have a clear relationship to the open strings and their overtones is by far the best starting point. But once we have a clear idea of intervals, scales, & arpeggios, we must try to use them in keys based on sharps & flats, which may only ring on the 3rd & 7th degrees, precisely those degrees whose intonation can normally depend on context. So I think the keyboard and the tuner are an invaluable supplement.

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