Help! Conflict between tuners vs teacher's intonation
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!
Your tuner and the guide are wrong. Listen to your teacher.
Tuner is wrong because it is tuned to the piano's perfect fifths.
Can you evaluate it with your own ears? That might not be plausible, but I'm just wondering.
Use the tuner only to help tune your instrument, then turn it off so that you can start relying more on your ears.
If the teacher says it needs to be lowered by half a note, then it's not because of piano tuning, A.O.
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:
Wow, did not expect so many replies already :D I appreciate all the responses
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.
Here is how I sometimes play a G scale(in + or - cents). I use this tuning for my digital keyboard for teaching.
Obi Wan was actually a violin teacher in his spare time, here he is telling Luke to put away his tuner.
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.
@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:
As usual, A.O. you seem to find the opposite of my own experience.
@Adrian: I don't know what you would know, you have to tell me. ;D
To the OP,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I started learning I had no tuner and I really think this is something positiv.
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. ;)
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.
Come on. Chill out.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
"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."
John C, et al.,
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!
I agree with Adrian (mostly because I don't feel like walking back my hubristic posts).
Adrian, that's true. Online forum discussions are almost always controversial because people from all backgrounds participate and write from different perspectives.
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.
Holly Molly, 40 replies about how to tune a violin. Record! Hahahaha
This is my take: vcom is a fabulous resource with many members with a wealth of knowledge and experience.
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.
To be brief, I see 3 possible difficulties for John:
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.
There is nothing wrong with visual clues, provided we let the ear take over.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But nice thirds are narrower than two notes a third apart.
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.
To OP: Listen for your violin to ring. Also listen to as much violin music as possible.
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.
I was trying to figure out exactly what the OP's issue is here, but what I think is happening is this:
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