What are the violin note pitches in perfect fifth temperament?
Violin is tuned in perfect pitches, which I think I understand, but how are the other notes then played? I know that sometimes some notes are played a bit flat and some a bit sharp, but what is the medium Hz for every pitch against what a pitch is considered to be a bit sharp or a bit flat?
To clarify, if this sounds stupid, I mean that if for example A is 442 and E is 444, D is 440 and G is 438, what is then For example A on E string or G on D string? I mean if it is not equal temperament then how do the notes that are fingered have their pitches?
And please dont shoot me for asking stupid questions, Im a pianist lol, whos child plays violin, but I have just been thinking about it long and cannot figure it out.
It's not a stupid question, but an important question with a long answer, and is still controversial after centuries of practice. I'll skip to the summary: Perfect fifths have a frequency ratio of 3/2. The equal-tempered fifths on your piano are very slightly short: 2/100 of a half-step! As I violinist I think of each note being a cluster of three very close spots; low, middle(equal-tempered), and high. Melodic, Pythagorian,"expressive" tuning uses large whole-steps, small half-steps, large major thirds,small minor thirds. Chordal,-Just, Tartini-style tuning uses a mix of small and large half-steps and whole-steps, short major thirds, and wide minor thirds. Piano-style, equal-tempered, tuning is a compromise that is good enough most of the time, especially needed for modern, non-tonal genres. Knowing when and why to bend notes is a major problem for a string player, a difference between a first class soloist and us ordinary mortals. Fortunately, we have a technical tool that often solves the problem- Vibrato! ~jq
It's a really complicated technical answer. The short answer is that as a violinist advances in their studies, they are taught to hear pitches in a musical context. The "in a musical context" part is really important. The difficult part about pitch with violin isn't any old C played at an exact frequency, it's actually fitting that C into the musical phrase.
A short book you might want to read, Maria, is "How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care)," by Ross W. Duffin goes into this in great detail. It actually is a problem for string players - playing thirds really IN TUNE is a problem ask any professional string quartet. The issue might also be asked of ensembles as "Why is it so hard to play Mozart in tune."
Play all Gs Ds As and Es at the same pitch as the open strings. The rest will follow. Everything else is too complicated.
Right, thanks, ill try to find that book next. Im the kind of person that really likes to know things fully, its hard just too let things be about right, not knowing what is exactly right ;)
Do you have a choir in town your daughter could join? One of the best methods to develop a sense of pitch is singing in a group.
It's a little way off the question but I'm interested to know, does everyone here tune their strings in perfect fifths? This is fine if you're playing alone, but in the context of a string quartet it just doesn't work. If you calculate the frequencies of a circle of perfect fifths starting with the cellist's C string, by the time you get to top C on the violin you'll be sharp relative to the cello's bottom C by a whole semitone!
Warning! The study of temperament and tuning is a minefield. If you want to pursue a Master's Dissertation or Doctoral Thesis, then there's your subject.
I happen to have read both books mentioned above by Andrew Victor, and as a violinist and early music enthusiast I greatly prefer Duffin's book. He gives excellent descriptions and diagrams of how, using for example an E, from a single starting note such as a low C, following the circle of fifths as a series of pythagorean ("perfect") fifths (3:2) brings one to an E that is higher from where it would be if built as a perfect third up from the C 2 octaves higher than the starting C. So if you want better thirds, you have to narrow the fifths...but perfect thirds would ruin your fifths, so was born many different systems of temperament to try to split up the discrepancies (known as commas) by spreading them out among the various intervals in the octave. Ross Duffin explains all this in a historical context that discusses how different composers and performers in different periods and styles had different preferences, and how the special character of different keys was a result of keyboard and fretted instruments yielding slightly different series of intervals depending on which note was "do." Much subtlety of color and emotion was lost when we abandoned that palette of different tunings and the different character of the various keys.
Maria, when I was just starting to teach myself to play, I couldn't tell if I was even in tune, and for a while longer, I couldn't tell if I'd moved a whole or half step (especially in cases where both notes were "in tune," such as B and C in the key of C). So as a beginner I played with my tuner on all the time, and played slowly enough that it could register and display the note I was playing. After maybe 2 months I didn't need to play with the tuner on anymore, as my fingers and ears learned how to find the right notes and tell if I was in tune or not. You'll get there too, just keep practicing!
Regarding Steve Jones' question about whether we are tuning in perfect fifths or not, when I was using the Snark clip-on tuner I would not even have been able to answer the question, I just let the tuner tell me when the open string was a G, D, A or E. Probably that was NOT perfect fifths because I expect such instrument tuners use equal temperament so everyone else can approach being in tune with the piano.
What happens when violin is accompanied by pianowhich is equal temperament. Do they just play in different tune or is the violin tuned in equal temperament?
Maria, regarding playing with a piano, I highly recommend this great article recently published online by Strings Magazine: "Perfect Fifths: A Few Thoughts on Tuning Your Viola (Violinists & Cellists Invited)" by Atar Arad.
In my experience, playing violin, viola, and cello with pianos fairly regularly over the past 50 years. Tuning the violin's A string to the piano and then tuning the E, D and G strings harmonically in perfect 5ths works well enough, although one might want to tune the G string to the piano's (especially since there is no other way to play that note on the violin than with the open G string and that is the only note on violin that can not be adjusted by the player's fingers).
Maria, the bottom line is, that the music sounds good! Pianos aren't always properly tuned or tuned to the violinist's preferred pitch, but the violin can be adjusted easier to the piano. The player can also adjust each and every note with her/his fingers to match the piano. The world where science and artistry meet is a very gray area.
Thanks Will (ed. and Scott) - plenty to research and digest there! However 21st century tuning technology hasn't yet reached the orchestra, at least in my neck of the woods. Having obtained an accurate A of 440Hz or whatever from the oboe the violinists tune their other strings purely by ear, in what are hoped to be perfect fifths. Solo violinists when tuning in front of an orchestra also adopt this method; I'm often impressed by the purity of their fifths and wish I could get the same result as easily. Cellists start by ensuring their A string is exactly an octave below the oboe and go down three perfect fifths from there. I calculate this will leave their C string about a quarter tone flat as compared with the soloist's E. No wonder you often find them giving it a tweak in mid-rehearsal.
I second Andrew regarding tuning the A-string with the piano and the rest in perfect fifths. The differences in pitch are negligible. Also I wholeheartedly agree that turning violin practice into rocket science is not necessary. Aiming to have the notes sound in tune when playing with the piano is sufficient at the stage your daughter is at. Learning music, especially at an early age, is a very intuitive process. Compare it to the way children learn languages. They rarely, if ever, use computer apps to check whether they pronounce all vowels correctly.
Since I added "DaTuner Pro" to my android phone I can tune my strings in any of 40 temperament systems to the closest "cent" (1 cent = 1% of a half tone). However, just varying bow pressure can easily change the pitch of the open string by 5 or more cents. Once you place a finger on the string normal finger or hand unsteadiness can vary the pitch even more.
@Maria the very short answer is that the violinist plays the instrument in equal temperament to fit in with the piano.
We are getting expert info. on this topic, which comes around often.
Actually, this can be a fascinating subject.
"I read somewhere that the violist W. Primrose, when playing with a piano, would tune the D string to the piano D, then perfect fifths for the other strings..."
I came to an epiphany one day. Just like wine, it doesn’t hurt to read a lot about intonation but you have to hear it (or taste it) to really get it.
Andrew - I'm sure David Finckel and the Emerson Quartet know what they're about, but do you remember what they tuned their strings TO as well as WITH?! If they used a similar method as some other quartets it was a holy mixture of perfect fifths for the violins E, A and D and the viola A and D, "close" fifths between the viola G, D and C, and perfect octaves between the viola and cello.
I got the impression that the Emerson Quartet just used the tuner to avoid any arguments about "perfect fifths" when tuning their strings. Finckel was not clear about that (it is easy enough to "Youtube" his lessonetts and find the 25th one). As Kiki said, for the rest of it "all it takes is open ears and a relaxed hand."
Just remember yet one more reason a violinist can't get too caught up in playing in equal temperament with a piano:
I talked to a piano tuner recently. He told me that he indeed uses more stretch on Steinway than on Börsendorfer grand pianos in order to emphasize their respective characteristics.
If you want to hear what perfect intonation really sounds like you can do no better than listen to a good a capella choir singing Palestrina, Tallis, Byrd, Victoria, Lassus (and others), and not forgetting the extraordinary harmonic structures of Gesualdo.
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