Relative Pitch

March 28, 2019, 11:27 AM · Does relative pitch come naturally with time if one plays the violin long enough?
Or does one need to actually undergo training to attain it?→ and if so is there a recomended method?

Replies (11)

March 28, 2019, 11:37 AM · You need to think and tell us exactly what you mean. If you can sing a song accurately in more than one key you have a form of relative pitch
March 28, 2019, 11:48 AM · You need to think and tell us exactly what you mean.
Errr maybe "identifying intervals" would be a more precise term...?
March 28, 2019, 12:06 PM · It comes naturally the more you play scales and arpeggios and work your way through repertoire. Especially when you start working on double stops.
March 28, 2019, 1:14 PM · Like practising a piece. You can learn it by running through it a million times, or you can learn it by breaking it into a million tiny bits. And then doing technical exercises to master those bits.
March 28, 2019, 1:38 PM · I'm still not entirely sure what you mean. Being able to name played or sung intervals is useful enough but being able to make a mind's-ear connection between the separation of two notes on the stave and the interval you expect to hear when you play them is of greater value. From my own case I don't think it comes automatically!
March 28, 2019, 1:40 PM · In addition to the above advice; playing second violin or viola in a good quartet that rehearses intonation is part of the process.
March 28, 2019, 4:59 PM · "Does relative pitch come naturally with time if one plays the violin long enough?
Or does one need to actually undergo training to attain it?"

Either. Or both. Or neither.
It depends on the player, and whether or not the teacher spends time on intervals. Some teachers don't touch any theory with a 10-foot pole, and some integrate it into lessons.

Edited: March 28, 2019, 11:42 PM · If you can you sing a song in tune you have relative pitch. Chances are if your mother (or father) sang to you in tune you acquired a sense of relative pitch when you were young. (I read long ago that people who were raised by "mothers" who sang out of tune have more trouble with this than others.) If you can copy Julie Andrews' "Do-Re-Me" regardless of the speed of the playback (changing the playback speed would change the relative pitch) - you've got it!

Having a keyboard instrument around the house as you grew up might have helped - provided it was kept in tune.

Transferring that to playing a "fuzzy pitch" instrument (like violin or singing) might be a next step.

Transferring that into your "mind's ear" when looking at written musical scores might next.

Where you are on this progression determines the next step you might take.

There are natural intervals of musical steps that are related to the relative frequencies of different notes and the rules by which music is played. That is part of what is called "Music Theory" but the 12-tone classical "Western scale" has notes added to the "natural notes" (or tones).

My wife has really excellent pitch sensitivity (which makes it tough on my violin playing - or almost any singer she hears). Decades ago, when she sang in a church choir the director privately told her to "stop singing in tune and sing flat like the rest of the sopranos."

March 29, 2019, 3:33 AM · @Andrew - I love the post but have a small correction to offer - surely you meant to say changing the playback speed would NOT change the relative pitch! Sol will always have a 50% higher frequency than Doh.

I expect having a keyboard around the house does help develop relative pitch sense as you say, but of course you could become a great pianist with no sense of relative pitch at all!

Edited: March 29, 2019, 9:09 AM · Steve, my point on changing the playback speed was that you will have the same relative pitches of the notes (each longer or shorter, of course) - just different absolute pitches (i.e., transposed).

On having an in tune piano in the house - you get used to hearing melodies and scales "in tune" (except maybe some chords).

But I'm sure you know that.

Re. Pianos and their tuning: There is a wonderful incident in cellist Janos Starker's memoir "The World of Music According to Starker," starting on the bottom of page 164.

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