Help! Conflict between tuners vs teacher's intonation

June 20, 2017, 10:14 AM · Hello everyone!

I'm a beginner at violin and I started 2 months ago. I bought a tuner (KLIQ UberTuner) and a fretless finger guide that sticks on the fingerboard and right under the strings. I've carefully followed the installation instructions. After tuning the GDAE open strings, both the KLIQ tuner and my phone app tuner confirms that the notes from the guide do align.

Here's the conflict. I tune my strings prior to my lessons, and then my teacher only makes super small to zero adjustments. That means both the tuner and his intonation do align on the open strings BUT... During both my 2nd and 3rd lessons, since I often hit the wrong note, my teacher says my finger positioning as well as the guide needs to go down lower by about half a note.

Immediately after getting back home and keeping my teacher's minor fine tuner adjustments, I checked my KLIQ tuner and my findings are the same. GDAE are tuned correctly and the guide is still in the correct position. I'm very conflicted and texted my findings to my teacher. He said to not use the tuner and the guide for now.

I respect my teacher a lot since he has been teaching for 35+ years and studied under Rolland for his String Pedagogy degree and also studied under Suzuki later on. I do not want to question his abilities, but I also do not want to think that both my tuners + the guide are wrong.

I need people's thoughts. Help!

Thanks!

Replies (58)

Edited: June 20, 2017, 10:54 AM · Your tuner and the guide are wrong. Listen to your teacher.

AO(??)

June 20, 2017, 10:40 AM · Tuner is wrong because it is tuned to the piano's perfect fifths.

Real fifths on a string instrument are very slightly out of tune so the instrument is exactly in tune across all the strings. :)

June 20, 2017, 11:15 AM · Can you evaluate it with your own ears? That might not be plausible, but I'm just wondering.
June 20, 2017, 11:18 AM · Use the tuner only to help tune your instrument, then turn it off so that you can start relying more on your ears.
June 20, 2017, 11:39 AM · If the teacher says it needs to be lowered by half a note, then it's not because of piano tuning, A.O.

If it's off by half a note, maybe you're playing E flat, which is in tune according to the tuner, but you should be playing an e? Trust your teacher and take that thing off :)

Edited: June 20, 2017, 12:13 PM · I use a tuner or a tuning fork only for A = 440H. I am sure your teacher does the same, tuning other strings in perfect fifths (Pythagorean tuning). This takes a good ear and a lot of practice. I do not know what is wrong with your tuning aids (in my experience, electronic tuners do not all agree as to 440 Hertz!). Your teacher should teach you how to tune. Meanwhile, you can learn more about temperament here:

http://qpdf.abhappybooks.com/book/978-0393334203

June 20, 2017, 12:24 PM · Wow, did not expect so many replies already :D I appreciate all the responses

@ Ella and Laurie
I'm a total beginner and have not played any instruments before :( I would like to eventually be able to rely on my own ears, but I'm still too new and at a point that I need a reference so I can know how each note should sound like. I have a somewhat general sense of the open string sounds. Outside of that I'm almost clueless. I'm still developing finger placement, but then I can't really develop if I don't know where the correct places are :(

If I'm not mistaken, the D on G string should sound like open D; A on D = open A; E on A = open E?

@Julie.
Hopefully I'm not getting my terminologies wrong. For example, when I play E on D string my teacher would say to lower it a bit.. which would be in between E and F. Is that considered off by a half note? Example 2 the correct F would between F and F#.

I tried E and E flat + other flats. My tuner indicates the flat with a flat icon.

P.S. What does A.O. mean?

June 20, 2017, 12:33 PM · This is a common, early musical training mistake. Use your tuner only for your A, whether 440-443 (etc.), then tune all other strings relative to this tuned A. All other strings will be out of tune if you do otherwise, as aforementioned, since as a norm stringed instruments are not "equally tempered." Similarly, tuning your violin strings to a "perfectly in tune" piano for the strings other than your A will ultimately render your violin out of tune.
Edited: June 20, 2017, 6:48 PM · Here is how I sometimes play a G scale(in + or - cents). I use this tuning for my digital keyboard for teaching.

G Scale
C 6
D -2
E 2
F# 9
G -4
A 0
B 3

I consider this close to how we play a g scale in tune: I have absolutely no idea what 'in tune' means or is.


This is an A scale
A Scale

C# 6
D -2
E 2
F# 3
G# 13
A 0
B 3

So, if you are putting the tape at 0 cents, than you are most likely playing slightly out of tune.

To play in tune we need to have exercises that make us think of the note first, and then have muscle movement second; anything else trains wrong sequence of memories that in future require retraining. Retraining is easy, not.

open strings tuning:

G -4
D -2
A 0
E +2

June 20, 2017, 1:27 PM · Obi Wan was actually a violin teacher in his spare time, here he is telling Luke to put away his tuner.

June 20, 2017, 2:32 PM · John, A.O. means take all advice on the internet with a grain of salt ;) A.O. got it exactly wrong - Piano fifths are not perfect, and fifths on a string instrument are perfect, meaning that you will hear "beating" on a piano (unless you are using some weirdo temperament), and you shouldn't hear beating on a violin fifth.

I'm not sure how your tuner works, but basically, you need to learn to recognize perfect intervals. Your strings, GDAE, are tuned in fifths, and fifths should be perfect. To determine this in a way that you should be able to handle as a beginner, you will need to listen for beating as you play two strings at once. Basically, a wah-wah-wah that goes faster the farther you get from the a perfect interval, and slows down the closer you get, and once you get it spot on, there will be no more wah-wah, but you will be able to faintly hear a third tone.

This is a little complicated, but basically, I recommend listening to your teacher, because a tuner will not tell you whether you are playing in tune or not, and it will sure not teach you to play in tune. If you need the tuner to tune your violin at the moment, that may be a concession you need to make, but I guarantee that your teacher has a better ear than your tuner.

Of course, this involves being able to play two open strings at once, and hear the beating. As far as what you said about the pitch of e on the a string matching open e, that is correct. To determine that, you can play both and listen for the beating as well. These are good discussions to have with a teacher, because as the replies make clear, playing in tune is not easy, but a tuner is just not as flexible as a trained human being, and just because your tuner tells you something is in tune, doesn't mean you should listen to it.

Don't worry, this takes time.

June 20, 2017, 3:39 PM · @Christian: I have no idea how you tune, and mean no disrespect, but violin fifths ARE NOT BY ANY MEANS supposed to be exactly in tune, or the notes on the higher strings end up flat relative to the G string:

E- +2 cents

A- 440

D- -2 cents

G- -4 cents

should be the temperament.

Don't believe me? Play the first G on the E string, then open G. Notice how the higher G is now intolerably sharp and non-ringing in sound, as are quite a few other notes.

Or, listen to older players like Heifetz tune- there is a very slight discrepancy to the fifths that actually renders the violin intune with itself once any fingers are used to make notes.

June 20, 2017, 3:53 PM · As usual, A.O. you seem to find the opposite of my own experience.
Tuning beatless fifths makes them wider than tempered fifths, and to get more "ring" we can narrow them to get a more harmonious C-E.
But then what would I know?
June 20, 2017, 5:14 PM · @Adrian: I don't know what you would know, you have to tell me. ;D

But, the old masters all tuned like this, and I find the violin is very out of tune internally if using perfect fifths (very nit-pivky intonation for my super-sharp relative pitch), so most might not hear it. :)

So, I try to teach people about it. :)

June 20, 2017, 6:34 PM · To the OP,

I agree with everyone from above saying not to use the tuner after tuning your strings. If you only rely on the tuner then you won't develop your ears to the violin's different tones and colors. A tuner is only mechanical-a violin requires far more careful listening. Definitely listen to your teacher on this one-he will know far better regarding the subtle differences.

Hope this helps! And good luck.

June 20, 2017, 7:01 PM · I will definitely abandon the tuner with the exception of tuning the GDAE open strings since that seem to align with my teacher's intonation. Eventually when I get good enough, then I'll just use it for the A string though that will take a while.

I will also take off the fretless guide and ask my teacher to mark the key finger locations when I next see him.

Thanks everyone! It's my first post and I'm very happy that my new hobby has a very nice and helpful online community.

June 20, 2017, 7:10 PM · This isn't going to be much help to the OP, but here goes: Simon Fischer in "The Violin Lesson" (P.92) discusses tuning in narrow fifths. He says it's helpful for playing Bach unaccompanied, so I tend to listen to him. I haven't mastered it, so I tune the A to a tuner and the other strings "by ear." Much of this has been discussed on another current thread about tuning, the "limit on intonation" thread.
Edited: June 20, 2017, 7:25 PM · John, I'd say forget marking the fingers position altogether. You cannot possibly visually align your fingers to play in tune. You must develop the appropriate proprioception (muscle memory + consistent hand frame) based on earing the instrument ringing when in tune without looking at your fingers. The difference between being in tune and out of tune is a fraction of a mm shift in position. The less you look, the faster you'll play in tune.
June 20, 2017, 8:14 PM · @Roger

Eventually that's end goal to be able to play without looking. But as an absolute beginner, won't I need some sort of reference first? I think I can ask my teacher to play each note while I record it. Perhaps it's time to invest on quality recording device.

Yay, research time!

June 20, 2017, 10:10 PM · As a beginner, I think it's okay to tune the open strings with a tuner or with a piano or other keyboard instrument. A tuning fork or pitched percussion instrument (except bells) would work. It's okay for beginners to use markers at first, but eventually, they'll have to get rid of them.
Edited: June 20, 2017, 11:33 PM · A.O, I should certainly like to learn which "old masters" tuned with widened fifths! Tuning using 1st & 2nd overtones (= 2nd & 3rd harmonics) might lead to lower fundamentals since the harmonics can be too high due to string stiffness, but in actual practice I find myself raising the lower strings a fraction in a half-century of quartet and orchestral playing. Tuning the open strings with full tone depends on the harmonics anyway.
Not to mention my exasperating nit-picking a capella choral conducting.
June 21, 2017, 12:02 AM · When I started learning I had no tuner and I really think this is something positiv.
If you play a note and dont know if you are right you can do the following. Sing it before you play it and check if the played note is the same.
For perfect intonation you need to imagine the exact sound of it befor playing, no matter at which level you play. If you wait for the note to come after mechanical fingering you have a hard time correcting it and loose a lot of time on the wrong intonation whereas a note you feel before playing will be spot on after a very short time.
June 21, 2017, 3:54 AM · Special prize to anyone who talked about + or - cents and "wide" or "narrow" fifth in a thread started by a total beginner. I salute your ability to miss the point. ;)
June 21, 2017, 5:23 AM ·
John C,

One of the beautiful things (and frustrating things!) about the violin is its ability to play different "tunings".

I suspect that your teacher is using a system called "Pythagorean A" to tune and sound the notes, sometimes called ear tuning or violin tuning.

But the default tuning for most electronic tuners and finger guides is "Equal Temperament", sometimes called piano tuning. Thus the conflict between what your teacher says is correct and what your tuners and finger guide is telling you.

Check your tuners to see if they have a Pythagorean A setting. Then use that to tune the open strings.

A.O. mentioned tuning the D string -2c flat, the G string -4c flat, and the E string +2c sharp using the tuners on the Equal Temperament or piano tuning setting. Most tuners do have a c (cents) display to show how sharp or flat a note is. These slight changes to the piano tuning puts the strings into Pythagorean tuning.

Hopefully, you have enough information to understand why there seems to be a difference between your tuners and what the teacher might be doing, and can now use your tuners to emulate the teacher's tuning.

There are at least four different systems of intonation used by violinists depending on the type of music they are playing: Pythagorean, Just, Equal Temperament and Expressive.

Even more confusing, the finger positions for the same note is frequently different across all the intonation systems and can even vary by the key of the music. This is why people suggest you forget the tuners other than to tune the open strings and learn how to "play-by-ear".

If your main objective is to have some fun playing music and perhaps join with other musicians, like guitarists or keyboardists, to play casually, then using Equal Temperament (piano) tuning and the intonation of the finger guides will make the playing of tunes and melodies sound just fine.

Edited: June 21, 2017, 5:56 AM · Sorry, but this is completly of the point! He wrote about close to "half a note". It does not matter what tuning system you use, this is way way beyond the differences.
Its fun how everybody presents his tuning knowledge here. Lets start telling how the op must change the fingerpositions with different keys.
A total beginner will most likely not even get the note stable enough to change two cents at all but will already make this change with bow pressure alone.
June 21, 2017, 5:53 AM · Come on. Chill out.
June 21, 2017, 6:03 AM · Nah, its awefull how everybody tries to look as smart as he/she can. All you do is frustrating beginners and frustration is the reason so many beginners quit the violin.
June 21, 2017, 6:17 AM · John, as you have checked yourself, the tuner is not wrong, and the finger guides, if they were set up correctly using the tuner, is not wrong either. However, your teacher, as with most people here, don't like dependence on those devices, and want you to start using your ears instead. Asking the teacher to mark the finger positions is no different from using a tuning guide, and goes counter to what the teacher is telling you. You need to understand that perspective and work on it.

You need to learn to use your ears. However, until you have an idea of what the target pitch is, you may be lost, and then you need some point of reference. As you have already mentioned, you can use other known notes for points of reference -- the adjacent open strings for example, and even farther (2 on the E string vs open G) for note references, and similarly there are points of reference with other notes which you can learn in time. You can also use audio records or pitch generation from another instrument, e.g. a keyboard, to help you momentarily learn the desired pitch by ear.

Further, you don't really memorize what each pitch is, you memorize the ratios, or differences between one and the other, and the reference points help keep you from drifting off. So you memorize a scale by not memorizing each pitch, but the pitch of the next note relative to the last note. Similarly for music -- you don't memorize the exact pitch for every note in a piece, you memorize the differences, or intervals. So you can start Twinkle on any note and still play the piece, although the pitch will be different. This is what you need to learn -- the distance to the next note from the last, by ear. Suzuki emphasized repeated listening to recordings for this purpose.

Finally, you can use the tuner to help you identify the desired pitch, but you should use that information to focus on the sound afterwards, not the reading on the device, which, like the finger guides, won't always be there to help you.

June 21, 2017, 8:54 AM · "Piano fifths are not perfect, and fifths on a string instrument are perfect, meaning that you will hear "beating" on a piano (unless you are using some weirdo temperament), and you shouldn't hear beating on a violin fifth."

Beating on piano 5ths is so slow that only a tuner will detect it.

And besides, string players often prefer tighter 5ths. It's hard to really compare the sounds.

June 21, 2017, 10:24 AM · Chris, I had the same thought: a beginner is incapable of hearing distinctions of five cents or less, and probably more like not able to hear less than 10 cents.

J Ray, good explanation.

June 21, 2017, 10:31 AM · People that are good at singing and starting the violin can go way below the 5c in hearing. Not every violin beginner is a music beginner. But I agree on the rest.
Edited: June 21, 2017, 10:38 AM · A.O, you confused me by calling the true fifths "out of tune"! To my tiny mind, true beatless fifths are "in tune", it's the tempered fifths of the piano and the tuners that are "out of tune" (but so useful!) and the term "wide" fifths would only concern the "stretching" of intervals towards either end of the keyboard.
June 21, 2017, 10:49 AM · To return to John's problem (!), the same can occur with carefully placed tapes: the student puts his fingertip straddling the line instead of just behind it (which would look like half a note lower.)

And let us not assume that John is tone-deaf, or unable to follow our nit-picking, just because he is a beginner on the violin...

June 21, 2017, 10:55 AM · Frankly, a beginner shouldn't worry about whether they're playing in equal or just temperament. If a beginner is playing in-tune against equal temperament, they will not really register as out-of-tune to the average listener, just like the average listener doesn't perceive a pianist as being out-of-tune. All of this blather about tuning fifths wide or narrow is just so much self-adulating navel-gazing in the context of the OP's question.

My guess is that the real problem is that OP is sometimes playing the wrong pitches. The finger-guide might just have 1-2-3-4, for instance, which calls into question what the key is. Based on what he's saying, I'm betting the marks are at (from the A string perspective), B - C# - D - E. And the OP might very well have music that uses a C-natural, so he's playing a half-step too high, which is what his teacher means by the guide needing to "go down by about half a note".


Edited: June 21, 2017, 1:59 PM · "All of this blather about tuning fifths wide or narrow is just so much self-adulating navel-gazing in the context of the OP's question."

That all depends on what we, and John, can or can't hear, or care about. As a choral scholar, I was very aware of fifths, thirds etc. before I started the violin: so why not John? There is nothing self adulating about healthy exploration of musical sounds.

I do see the point of the Wrong Note theory, and I think my suggestion on the use of visual guides could be yetanother valid answer.

June 21, 2017, 1:57 PM · John C, et al.,

Electronic tuners are great for open strings and getting that note in your head. Likewise the Fretless Finger Guide (FFG) (which I use with my beginners) is a good, but not perfect tool. Not just for teaching finger positions but also teaching basic music theory (FWIW: The FFG shows notes and half-steps but not finger numbers) It can slide or slip and cannot replace learning to hear the correct note.

Not knowing your age (perhaps you are a late-starter like I was) you have to realize that the FFG is for temporary use just to teach your hand the basic finger positions relative to the rest of your hand. Once you have the first and third fingers solid in your muscle and audio memory there isn't any need for the FFG.

The high level theory about perfect fifths and all that are secondary to getting that first and third finger bang-on, once you have them the half-steps are second nature.

June 21, 2017, 2:35 PM · I'm sure John is capable of choosing those replies that are helpful to him, as well as discover the stimulating diversity of experiences and opinions on V.com!
June 21, 2017, 3:17 PM · I agree with Adrian (mostly because I don't feel like walking back my hubristic posts).

I'm curious about the point of tuning your violin narrow, and how you can play in tune that way. Does that not mess up all your chords - Anything with a fifth in it? I understand that quartets tune narrow to match the violin and the cello, but aside from that, who actually tunes that way, and how do you play in tune?

June 21, 2017, 3:29 PM · Adrian, that's true. Online forum discussions are almost always controversial because people from all backgrounds participate and write from different perspectives.
I love the idea of singing the note in your head before playing and then comparing, but I think the OP is likely unable to sing the note perfectly in tune, either.
I agree with one above suggestion that if the teacher says he's a whole half step off but the tuner says he's perfect, I'd go with the teacher because the teacher knows he's playing the wrong note, but the tuner doesn't. For instance, if he plays an E-flat which should be an E-natural, a tuner will assume he's playing the right note (E-flat). Only a human can identify wrong notes.
June 21, 2017, 4:37 PM · I get the feeling from the original post that the OP may be having trouble identifying and reproducing intervals. A single pitch is just noise at a given frequency where 2 creates music. I might suggest seeking out an app or computer program useful in learning to recognize the various combinations of notes. I personally use EARMASTER. It's great. Once you can hear and reproduce a valid interval (eg. major 3rd), it matters little in a solo setting whether you are tuned =/- cents of A440 provided the major 3rd is appropriate for the context ie. melodic or harmonic.
June 21, 2017, 5:47 PM · Holly Molly, 40 replies about how to tune a violin. Record! Hahahaha
Edited: June 21, 2017, 7:15 PM · This is my take: vcom is a fabulous resource with many members with a wealth of knowledge and experience.

However, since they are so experienced, the issues faced by an adult starter were faced by them back in the mists of time when they were 5-7 years old and probably could care less themselves back then where their fingers were or if it were in tune or not, as long as it sounded petty close to "Twinkle", it was good enough. By the time they were old enough to care about what they were actually doing they had already been playing for years and it had become second nature.

It seems to me that the nuances of the different tuning styles are like wine connoisseurs discussing the "subtle oak hints and fruity undertones of this lovely '69 vintage..." when what the beginner level OP is wondering is simply "do I serve a red or white with this salmon?"

June 21, 2017, 8:23 PM · Hi John C., Obviously tuning and temperaments can become a complex and nuanced subject, as there have historically been many differences in what is considered "in tune." Its a fascinating subject (to me, at least) but not necessary to a beginning violinist. I think people here drifted into that discussion because the disagreement between a tuner and an experienced violinist would most likely be attributable to the violinist adopting a different temperament than the tuner is set to. But if the disagreement is so large as to be “about half a note,” then it seems to be more about hitting the right note generally rather than any question of fine tuning to a given temperament.

If your ear can tell the difference between good and bad singing, you've already got a foundation. As in good v. bad singing, my experience in the first few months was that I could tell (close even if not "perfectly") when I was "in tune,” but not whether I was on the right note. For example, when playing a song in the key of C (no sharps or flats), I could tell if a note was in or out of key but, for example, didn't know if I was playing a B or a C (or an E or an F) because they are only a half-step apart and, to my untrained fingers, I often didn't know which I'd landed on --and both are "in tune" with the scale. It seems you are going through that same muscle learning of elementary navigation with a fret overlay on your fingerboard.

My solution was contrary to all the excellent advice you’ve already been given: I kept the tuner on throughout my practice (and played slowly enough for it to respond), so I'd know if I was hitting the right notes. Because I didn't (and still don't) take lessons, I had the freedom (for better or worse) to do what felt best to me and nobody to advise against it. Anyway, it worked for me.

At first, I worried I'd never get good enough to turn that tuner off. But I was surprised at how quickly I put that tuner away (except for open string tuning before playing). Once your fingers have their basic navigation through the chromatic scale, your ear will tell you pretty quickly whether you're "just a little" sharp or flat, and you'll learn to quickly roll your finger tip ever so slightly into "perfect" tune for that note. And here I use the word "perfect" in a non-technical sense, meaning only that it sounds "in tune" to your ear and, eventually, to the rest of whatever ensemble you end up playing with.

Edited: June 21, 2017, 10:59 PM · To be brief, I see 3 possible difficulties for John:
- choosing the right fingerboard-guide mark;
- putting the "fingerprint" on the right part of the mark;
- the guide is only valid if the vibrating string length is exactly what was used to create the guide.

No-one took up the second point, and no-one seems to have thought of the third. (Self-congratulation..)

No blather, just practicalities!

Edited: June 22, 2017, 1:28 AM · I have no idea about the +/- cents and anything about the fifth until now. I started reading a little bit about it, but it seems too technical and advanced for where I am at now. I can read in depth about it, but I just want to focus on basic things for now because playing and memorizing even the basic things like reading music and finger positioning is already hard enough as it is for me.

--
For those asking about my tuner, it has -/+ 50 number on it. The numbers don't move, but the bars indicate if it's flat or sharp. It doesn't have Pythagorean A mode.

--
My teacher learned and studied in the old ways without those tuners and printed finger guides around. Ultimately it's better to play by ear and not rely at all with visuals, so I understand that perspective and that does make sense to me. My teacher probably wants it off because it makes me focus visually instead of tonally and muscle memory.

--
I practiced today without the guide. It's the first time that I got really frustrated playing the violin. I went from being able to play a few basic songs I learned myself and sounding consistent to frequently going off-note, which made me stop playing to reposition my fingers to get a more correct sound (at least that's a good sign that I can differentiate pitch).

As primarily a visual learner, I think it's still too early for me to completely get rid of visual guides. When I was learning tennis I would always visually adjust my grips. I eventually developed the feel of those grips and now I dont need to look to make adjustments. For me at least, I think it will be similar with the violin. While practicing without the guide, I still ended up looking for other visual guides like approximate distance of my fingers from the end of the fingerboard. I guess it's my natural way of learning. I realize that if I were to get banned from using any visual reference for finger positioning from this point forward, I may as well quit playing.


--
Action steps for me:
1) Have my teacher locate the right notes.

2a) Come up with some sort of visual guide. I don't need a mark on each note. A single visible thin line between the 2nd and 3rd finger positions would suffice.
OR
2b) Oddly, I'm quite sensitive to textures. Maybe I can stick something very thin and small on the strings.

3) Now I can play the correct notes a thousand times each and memorize them.

4) Eventually develop and memorize the feel of moving my fingers from note to note and string to string.

5) Remove the guides. Use #3 skill to get a general sense of location and correct tone.

June 22, 2017, 9:00 AM · There is nothing wrong with visual clues, provided we let the ear take over.
June 22, 2017, 9:02 AM · John, you sound like an engineer. I think your plan is a solid one. I think that a lot of learning violin is constantly challenging yourself without taking on challenges that are overwhelming, so you will probably get to a point where you can take the guides off. Remember to always listen when you practice and not rely solely on the visuals, so that it isn't such a shock when you go tapeless.
June 22, 2017, 12:06 PM · An option with the guides in removing them is to replace the guide with thin strips rice paper tape (can't remember the name for it now, but it is acid free and won't mess up your violin) on all of the natural positions, then remove each finger's tape from one week to the next (or whatever timeframe you are comfortable with). You can color code them to your choosing, which is even better for a visual person.

I agree, don't solely rely on those visuals. At some point you need to be able to read the music while you play and not watch your fingers on the fingerboard for correct location. It gets easier in time...

June 22, 2017, 5:22 PM · Hey John! I started violin around 5 years ago so im not really that good at it, but im teaching my sister right now (absolute beginner) and from my own experience as a former beginner and teaching my sister, i can maybe provide some tips.

1. Dont worry too much about tuning with double strings at the beginning. If you have no former musical experience it will be quite hard differentiating the different notes. Later when you get more proficient with the violin it'll be good for you to learn it, but not now.

2. Intonation. Looking at your step 3, it looks like you're going the right way on intonation. I would stress however that simply playing a note over and over is going to get boring really fast. So what i would suggest is before each practice session warm up with the basic scales from the A string to the E string, then start on the basic pieces your teacher has given you. Dont make learning the violin overly complicated. Its a long journey and your brain will memorize the finger placements with your hands soon enough! When my sister was just learning where to place fingers, i took clear tape, snipped those into long strips and placed them where the notes were. (I marked the fingerboard with a pencil). It doesnt damage the fingerboard much from what i saw so you might be able to try that.

Every beginner starts with looking at the score and their hands. It's generally encouraged until you can memorize the finger placements, then you should get rid of the visual aids (tape, markings, etc etc).

Good luck and have fun with the violin! Remember to relax and if anything starts to hurt, pause and take a short break.

Edited: June 23, 2017, 3:48 AM · Hi yunfan, i was thinking that this discussion was about the "equal temperament" of the tuning of john's tuning app and the "pythagorean" one that his teacher uses.
But your advice is useful too.
I wish you all good luck with the journey
June 23, 2017, 7:08 PM · Yea i know but since there are other more knowledgeable people speaking on it and i dont know much about the topic anyways, so i just answered to his latest comment.
Edited: June 28, 2017, 2:16 PM · John - I too consider myself a beginner although I am a bit more advanced than you. At your stage in this wonderful endeavor of learning to play the violin someone told me to practice playing thirds in the key that I was playing a tune in for a few minutes before playing the tune. Helps to lock the ears and the fingers in to the proper placement.

Your mileage may vary but this one trick has helped me tremendously.

June 28, 2017, 7:48 PM · But nice thirds are narrower than two notes a third apart.
June 30, 2017, 9:39 PM · Make sure your tuner is set to A=440. I suspect if it is out by half a tone as your setting is at A=415.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: July 7, 2017, 9:39 AM · To summarise?
- The teacher's "super small to zero" adjustments are probably due to true vs tempered fifths.
- Wrong notes played in tune will still register as "in tune" on the tuner.
- If the teacher finds a discrepancy of half a tone when using the (printed?) guide, either (a) the guide does not correspond to the real vibrating string length, or (b) the guide doesn't show all the semitones, or (c) the fingers straddle the marks instead of sitting just behind them.
July 11, 2017, 8:51 PM · To OP: Listen for your violin to ring. Also listen to as much violin music as possible.

Others: Thought the note also slightly shifts depending on the key you are playing in too. True versus tempered beyond fifths though.

July 18, 2017, 1:39 PM · Hearing the beats between two notes in an (almost-) perfect fifth is difficult for an inexperienced player - the sound is very subtle. I'd start off ear training for this by playing two notes of nearly the same pitch - the beating is more obvious there. Try playing an A on your D string, while letting the open A string sound at the same time. Make little variations in the position of your finger on the D string, and you'll hear a "wah-wah" sound whose rate changes depending on how close the two notes are to each other. Once you get very close, the warbling sound slows down, and when the notes are exactly in tune it will stop completely - the two waveforms are synchronized with each other.

If two notes are a perfect fifth apart, the frequency of the upper one is exactly 1 1/2 times the frequency of the lower one. To put it another way, three cycles of the upper note's waveform will take the same amount of time as two cycles of the lower note's waveform. The two waveforms will match only at these points, meaning that while the beating is audible, it's much more subtle than it is for two notes of the same pitch.

Hope this helps. Give it a try. Once you master it, all you need is a tuning fork for your A string; you can tune the other strings from there.

July 19, 2017, 7:46 AM · I was trying to figure out exactly what the OP's issue is here, but what I think is happening is this:
When we put markers on a student's violin (sometimes I do it--I don't think it's a sin), it's only a very vague guide as to where to put the finger. It's triage, not precision. It can't be precise because our finger tip is not a clean termination point. It's a broad, squishy blob. All it needs to be is a fraction of a millimeter one way or another to be out of tune.

Another issue may be the finger guide sticker: there is the possibility that the sticker is based on a specific string length that is not the same as the OP's. String length can be changed by bridge placement or design. In any event, my preference is that the student learns to evaluate by ear.

Early intonation should not involve gobdleygook such as "temperament, Pythagorean, frequency" or charts of numbers such as those given above (what a beginner would do with those I have no clue...).
They need simple, basic goals such as 1. always using open strings to compare intonation or 2. mastering the perfect intervals made by the 3rd and 4th fingers. At this level, it's enough for the 2nd finger to be simply as high as possible against the 3 (most beginners have too much, not too little spacing in their half steps). The 1 should be a good perfect 4th against the string above: "Here comes the bride."

To sum up my rules for beginners:
-good-sounding perfect intervals.
-tight half steps.

If they can do that they are off to a good start. And remember, posture and bow hold are just as important at this point.

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