HELP! I have rubbish intonation!

April 12, 2017 at 06:03 PM ·

Replies (39)

April 12, 2017 at 06:15 PM · This points to disorganization.

1) Make sure you intonation is flawless at 2/3 speed first, so when speeded up your fingers land on target.

Prepare the anchor string cross finger slowly, then slowly spring the arm over and touch the next string at minimum distance needed to sound it. Speed it up by shrinking the motions of especially the bow to get it fast yet clean (not to mention efficient!)

For the string cross, I also do doublestop practice to control the arm.

Cross over but leave the former note down while playing both notes as a doublestop. Switch quickly between the first note/both notes to get a feel for it. :)

April 12, 2017 at 06:34 PM · I feel for you, Par. As someone who struggles with intonation, the most I can say is that checking all G, D, A, E notes against the open strings and making sure they are in tune, will give you a good framework. Since this piece is in D minor, there are plenty of those notes that will have to be in tune. The more in tune you play, the more your violin will produce a nice resonant tone.

I think some basic Schradieck may help you work on placing and lifting your fingers without having to worry about doing Bach justice. Sometimes we get in over our heads with our repertoire. Just do the best you can for your exam. I don't really believe in quick fixes, so you may not be happy with your performance, but even if not, it won't be the end of the world. It sounds like you have a long-term project, and maybe you should let the Bach sit a while until you are more comfortable with some of these technical issues.

You may also be freaking yourself out. Do your normal practicing, and maybe a little bit of Schradieck. You will play better being relaxed than staying up for a few days and cramming and getting so far into your head.

April 12, 2017 at 06:38 PM · Can you play a clean D-minor scale -- specifically the regular scale, the arpeggio sequences, and scales in 3rds, 6ths, and octaves?

Do you have these same issues in other pieces, or specifically in this one?

April 12, 2017 at 06:40 PM · This can be a multitude of issues.

1. You may have a funny hand position. We can't correct it without seeing you play.

2. Your fingers are too flat, causing you to stop multiple strings at once.

There's more possibilities, I'm sure.

April 12, 2017 at 08:41 PM · Maybe you're expecting too much out of yourself? Hillary Hahn's level of perfection isn't typical.

Have you tried using an incremental metronome method, starting off at a stupidly slow tempo and working your way up?

April 13, 2017 at 01:06 AM · I am confused. You only just noticed your intonation issues when you were playing a certain piece? If you had intonation issues, they would be present in everything you play. Why did you only notice your intonation issues on the Bach?

Also, intonation issues (like many other technical issues on the violin) take months of gut-wrenching work to fix. Your intonation will not be perfect by your exam. Use this as an opportunity to learn a lesson about planning ahead and being patient.

Also, very good advice above, as there always is from fellow violinist.com members. :)

April 13, 2017 at 02:46 AM · Good advice above. Making sure that all of your G, D, A, and E's ring perfectly is a great starting point.

Record yourself a few times. Are the same notes out of tune each time? If so, perhaps the problem is an awkward fingering or a difficult shift. That's something you can focus on.

Settle for nothing less than perfect intonation, but at the same time, understand that it's a never-ending battle. I've heard professional recordings of the solo Bach with intonation that, at times, makes me cringe. (This, despite the fact that a professional recording may be the product of multiple takes!) If we wanted it easy, we'd be playing the piano. ;)

April 13, 2017 at 02:59 AM · Everybody makes bloppers, even professionals. When I feel like I am going to play exactly in tune, it doesn't always come across that way. That is just a matter of mentality, not that I am unaware of my intonation errors.

April 13, 2017 at 03:47 AM ·

April 13, 2017 at 05:03 AM · Par, there are a few things you could do to improve your intonation dramatically within short period of time and here is my suggestion. You probably know this already, there are two key issues about intonation: you must hear the pitch and your fingers can hit the right spot. Assuming you do hear the right pitch most of the time, you can improve your hearing by doing

1) Drone: When you play the Bach D min, put a low D on your metronome to create a continuous tone underneath Bach's melodic lines to sharpen your ears.

2) Simon Fischer has a few simple intonation exercises in his "Basics", "The Violin Lesson", "Warming up". If you don't have any of his book, get one of them and start to work on these short exercises the way he described. You'd be surprised how fast your intonation improves.

3) Record yourself and spot exactly where you tend to play out of tune, then fix these areas by working slowly and accurately before speeding up.

4) Check you bow pressure, too much pressure can make the sound flat.

5) Do work on scales and arpeggios daily.

Have fun!

April 13, 2017 at 05:09 AM ·

April 13, 2017 at 12:15 PM · I suspect strongly that one reason some teachers assign the D Minor Allemande to intermediate students is because it will cause a rather sudden recognition of certain weaknesses in Pythagorean intonation and provide a platform for improvement. My point is that you are not alone in noticing that solo Bach is illuminating your weaknesses. In fact you mentioned Hilary Hahn and she has said that one reason she practices Bach every day is because it keeps her intonation pure. So that means you are in fine company indeed.

I am not sure about drones. Maybe that has worked for Yixi, and I always respect her suggestions, but I never practiced that way. One problem with drones is that any note that forms a good-sounding third or a sixth with a drone (just intonation) will be out of tune in a scale-type passage where Pythagorean intonation is needed for the whole- and half-step intervals to sound right.

A word about scales: You don't need to be practicing crazy stuff all the way up on the fingerboard all the time. Three-octave scales are the "standard" for the intermediate student but you want to concentrate first on the lower two octaves so that you really understand how the intervals should sound and then translate that into the upper reaches. That's what I was taught anyway. That's why most students start with Hrimaly, not Flesch. Fischer's books (Basics or Scales) are good because they provide a theoretical basis for scale intonation and specific exercises not only for intonation but also for changing strings smoothly, which is, in my experience, just as difficult as getting the pitches right.

April 13, 2017 at 12:54 PM ·

April 13, 2017 at 01:36 PM · Par: In short, Pythagorean intonation is "what sounds in tune when you are playing scales". It's subtly different to (for instance) equal temperament, which is "what sounds in tune when you're playing with a piano".

Take a look at this excellent (and thorough) explanation from Kurt Saussmanhaus.

http://www.violinmasterclass.com/en/masterclasses/intonation

April 13, 2017 at 03:15 PM · I am not sure that knowledge about temperaments will help Par overcome "rubbish" intonation, especially close to her exam. Do we really believe that the examiners will care about temperament used? Although noble and worth considering on a higher level of education, 99% of Western ears and minds will not notice the difference. It appears to me that there are basic concerns to be addressed at this point of time.

Par, talk you your teacher. Practice scales, slowly. Drone (open D) will also help. Slow down.

April 13, 2017 at 03:22 PM · Hi Par,

Here is Schradieck.

http://imslp.org/wiki/School_of_Violin_Technics_(Schradieck,_Henry)

The first page of book 1 is the best page of the book. It looks simple, and it is, but start slow, and always stay relaxed. You will want to find a hand frame that allows you to place and lift your fingers with the most relaxed and efficient motion. Spend 10 minutes per day maximum on this stuff. Less if you're desperate. Because it's not musical, it really is in how you practice it, and because it can be so boring, you really should be concentrated when you practice. You may want to consider changing the key to d minor when playing these patterns, as I find the low second finger to be a little more uncomfortable than the pattern for a major scale.

Remember, this is not some short-term project, and these exercises aren't going to fix everything. Playing scales regularly, and doing slow practice with your piece are important, and then you have to find ways to bring it up to speed with the same relaxed feeling that you had when it was slow.

Good luck!

April 14, 2017 at 01:15 AM · If the problem is your Bach intonation, the best wa to become key-aware is:

Play a D flat major scale exactly in tune, no how matter how slow or how much adjusting is needed. Hear how much note in the scale has it's own key-specific intonation (ex: In A Major, C sharps are lower, while in D they are a trifle sharper and very close to the D, and rather odd and neutral sounding in C Major).

Next, play the NOT ACTUALLY ENHARMONIC EQUIVALENT that is C sharp Major, listening for how the whole scale slightly sharper and less dull in tone, as well as how the intonation is a little more extreme on the whole in terms of how sharpened notes are.

The other way to do this is sing exactly in tune. Notice how the voice adjusts depending on the note you start on, and how singing evenly like the piano's in5onation would make you sound oddly colourless and unnatural. :)

April 14, 2017 at 02:03 AM · In A major, C sharp is HIGHER than the C sharp in D major?

April 14, 2017 at 02:12 AM · I have no idea why A.O. thinks a Db/C# scale is relevant here.

OP, there's an interesting question here: Are you actually often out of tune when you play other stuff, but playing Bach has forced you to notice your intonation issues?

April 14, 2017 at 02:30 AM · There are two related issues; are you failing to hear the correct pitch before you play (or not recognizing it while the note sounds) OR are you not holding your hand in a way that lets the fingers fall correctly?

April 14, 2017 at 05:35 AM ·

April 14, 2017 at 05:36 AM ·

April 14, 2017 at 05:41 AM ·

April 14, 2017 at 06:15 PM · @Lydia: It is just an example of how to nail Pythagorean intonation, since I often notice that the spots where recordings have intonation issues is in the key-tuning of chords.

April 14, 2017 at 06:47 PM · you don't want to play the violin in Pythagorean intonation, because it makes the thirds unbearably wide (plus is entirely ahistoric, which apparently matters to some posters here)

April 15, 2017 at 02:12 AM · The OP has deleted all of his/her posts.

April 15, 2017 at 03:08 AM · That was a fast cure...?

April 15, 2017 at 07:12 AM ·

Irene: I get the names confused. :) Whichever tuning it is we use for chords, that one is usually where my ears cringe at the beats produced (since it is very audible and obvious in baroque music, Bach especially).

He was like Beethoven before Beethoven (in a nice way).

April 15, 2017 at 03:42 PM · You have to think in intervals. this will help You. PLay open string G, the play A. This is a major second. Do You hear a major second? Is it flat, is it sharp? This will take a little bit, but if you work on it everyday for a few weeks, thinking in intervals, you will drastically change your intonation. Another example is, when your playing for example, a g on your D string, and you play a B on the a string, you should know already what interval you are trying to play. PLay open string then 1st finger, listen, then open string and second finger, listen. Listen for the intervals.

April 15, 2017 at 05:24 PM · A.O., This is what you wrote: "(ex: In A Major, C sharps are very high, while in D they are a shade flatter "

F sharp was not the issue. C sharp is the issue...

April 15, 2017 at 08:34 PM · The info here was a mix-up. Fixed in above post.

April 15, 2017 at 11:55 PM · In general, in A Major C#s will be a bit low, while in D major C# are on the higher side.. I'm curious as to how you're coming up with the opposite.

April 16, 2017 at 07:31 AM · I'm forgetting the sounds of the scales, haven't been able to play for a few months now. :(

Thanks for reminding what a few of them sound like. :)

April 16, 2017 at 08:50 AM · That hole you are digging is becomming very deep, A. O.

April 16, 2017 at 08:56 PM · @Marc: Bah! :D

April 16, 2017 at 11:46 PM · The 3 intonation systems are real, and which one you use depends on the musical context. If you are practicing violin or singing unacompanied you will naturally use Pythagorian or melodic intonation, with wide 9/8 whole steps and narrow half-steps. Rehearsing with the piano you will try to match equal-tempered tuning, which is good enough most of the time. When we play double-stops, the Bach sonatas, oor play second violin in Mozart or Beethoven quartet, we need to tune tthe chords, with short major thirds and wide minor thirds. These things have been known for thousands of years.

April 17, 2017 at 05:42 PM · yes ^ all of this!

April 17, 2017 at 06:04 PM · I dont think anybody said something else or disagrees.

April 18, 2017 at 12:33 AM · It's hard to be knowledgeable when you're not.

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