Intonation in 3rd position
I just started playing in 3rd position on several of my non-Suzuki pieces (Bach's Marche and 1st movement of Telemann's Sonata #1), just started Suzuki 2. I'm shifting and hitting the proper pitches - but I know my intonation is far from crisp and clean. My teacher has been kind about this - he only started me on this 3 weeks ago. I'm not unhappy on my progress, but while I'm hitting my notes, the quality just isn't yet there in 3rd and I know that.
My teacher is going on vacation so no class next week. I want to take this opportunity to clean this up as far I reasonably can at this stage - it would be a nice and, probably, welcome, surprise to him (and his ears). I suspect the problem to be the closer finger spacing - and I will say that 3rd position in the key of C (Sonata #1) is much better than key of D (Marche). Love what this does for my 4th finger though...
Any tips/drills that might help this? Pitch isn't the problem, but the notes aren't crisp and clean like I'm used to hearing. Sorry I can't be more specific.
When I'm doing things up in higher positions, especially with new passages, I always have my tuner out to keep me honest in my intonation. I'd say just keep drilling it really slowly until you're comfortable with the changed spacing. It'll be very slightly different on each string too, by my understanding. A fourth finger G is going to have a slightly different placing than fourth finger C, and so on. (If this isn't right, please correct me!!! I read it somewhere)
Soundwise, we have to play a little nearer the bridge, a little more firmly, and with slightly longer bow strokes. Trial & error!
It's slow work, but the best thing you can do is continually check against open strings, so that you can practice hitting at least those notes with assuredness. The key of C has no sharps, so you can always check any D you have with open D, either by bowing the unison on the G string, bowing the octave on the A string, or on the E string you can bow against the open A string, which gives you an octave plus a perfect fourth. This is an example of how you can check that specific note and listen for the cleanness of the perfect interval.
I'm sure you realize that as you play higher up the strings your fingers must be closer and closer together. The distance between the fingers, in fact, is directly proportional to the change in the angle between your upper arm and forearm at the elbow. This proportionality continues all the way up the strings to the point that far enough up there your fingers may have to get out of each other's way depending ou how thick they are (a la Perlman).
If your problem is tone rather than pitch (it's not clear from your post; you first say "my intonation is far from crisp and clean" and then you say "Pitch isn't the problem, but the notes aren't crisp and clean"), then I'd suggest just playing very long notes on each pitch of whatever scales you're practicing in 3rd position. Play each note slowly and carefully and concentrate on making a pure tone. You will find that you need a different sounding point and that the feel of the strings under both hands will be different as you go up the neck. You can also practice playing two notes per bow, slowly, coming down on the string with a little extra force for the second note. This exercise is in Whistler's position book and is pretty good for cleaning up the sound of playing higher up.
This is very much about tone - my pitch is much better though of course "better" is relative at my stage. When I think I've got it spot on is when I get in trouble - it keeps me humble and reminds me that I only returned to the violin 8 months ago. Third position is also new so I certainly won't say that my pitch is always perfect. My teacher teaches new techniques in the context of pieces, so sometimes my "side" pieces take much longer to learn than one might expect. I really appreciate the suggestions and will read carefully so I can incorporate them.
Anchor fingers! If you're in third position and don't plan on moving, plonk your first finger down. It will keep the rest of your hand in tune. Also, if you have to shift up during a phrase, it's really helpful to shift with the finger you need AND first finger as backup (placing first finger in third position before finding the pitch you want---you should hear the intermediate note when you play slowly).
On the subject of tone, it's about getting to know each string individually, isn't it.
Good thought Gordon, and that makes sense. Right now my teacher has me focusing on a 2 octave G major scale with arpeggios that use both 2nd and 3rd positions. Perhaps it makes sense that I've less problem with tone when shifting to 3rd in C Major than for D...
Cotton - thanks for the reminder about intonation and fingertips. I'm there, usually (as evidenced by my calluses) but am finding for some reason I want to move to my finger pad further up the string. No matter, the point is to be aware of it.
Also remember that tone and intonation are not orthogonal objectives. When you play in tune, your violin will catch more resonances and the overtones will sing more. A great way to discover this is to play scales very slowly. Just sink your bow into your strings and draw back and forth generating a rich "forte" tone, drawing a little closer to the bridge than the middle "lane". And play two octave scales, G, A, B, C, and D for starters. These will bring you into third position (go up into third position already on the D string!) and you'll hear it when your D's and your F#'s and your B's are really in tune. It's not drudgery -- you can make it a very zen-like experience.
Paul - thank you! I've been doing this the last few days. I like this approach- it is quite zen-like and effective. Am working with G, A, C, and D two-octave scales, one-octave F minor, and the Asian Pentatonic scale (the last two are for specific pieces I chose)
Thanks again for all of your good advice - my teacher noticed the difference at last night's lesson. I can now play the troublesome passages I mentioned at the start of this thread at my practice tempo - and while my tone still needs a bit of work in third - the quality of those notes is much improved. The rest will come with practice - and relaxing when I shift into third.
And as mentioned early on in the thread, sldon’t forget to be sure that your bow is not too far from the bridge. Less forgiveness in high positions.
Recently I've been playing Ole Bull's Shepherd Girl's Sunday. It's a good introduction to this kind of thing.
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