Why do soloists often play sharper high up on the E string

Edited: November 8, 2019, 3:26 AM · Hi all,

I noticed an interesting phenomenon -- that many renowned violinists tend to play sharp (sometimes a considerable deal) when they are high up on the E string. Why is this so? I must admit it makes me quite uncomfortable when this happens

Thanks and I'm looking forward to some enlightening responses! :)

Replies (56)

November 3, 2019, 10:55 AM · That’s just perception there isn’t a true sharp or flat just perception of the pitch. Higher side of the pitch is typically more brilliant, bright and will carry better
November 3, 2019, 11:14 AM · Sassmanshaus advises his students to "tune to the highest A that you hear in the orchestra" for exactly the reason Mark has outlined.
November 3, 2019, 11:14 AM · Sassmanshaus advises his students to "tune to the highest A that you hear in the orchestra" for exactly the reason Mark has outlined.
November 3, 2019, 11:19 AM · Sharp intonation does not carry better I am quite sure. The very true intonation that defines every partiular tone and relates it to its actual position in the key and harmony does carry unmatched. No any other intonation approach can beat it.

I learned the only reason why some soloist play sharp (not on E string only). They are simply afraid to be flat. Being flat is considered to be worse than being sharp in general. To be very honest, I find the dilemma almost similar to getting angina or flu. However, I can admit that playing flat may be a bit painful for listeners.

So those, who dont pay much attention to cultivating their intonation sense do protect by playing rather sharp as a precaution. It is another example that reputable does not mean good necessarily.

November 3, 2019, 11:21 AM · I did find once, while playing in a Rossini pit, that this is much less of a problem when using all-gut strings. In this case, unwrapped E, A and D. There are lots of overtones in those strings, but no sizzle. That means when you play even a little sharp, you sound dead. The instrument itself responds less well, and you immediately are out of tune with the rest of the orchestra.

So some of what is going on comes, I suspect, from synthetics wrapped in metal making everything sound pretty good.

Another part comes from the sizzl-y bits screening out the fundamental pitches that are more helpful to hearing if you are correct or not.

And then there is the possibility that you hear pitch differently when it is very loud and close to your ear.

November 3, 2019, 11:39 AM · @ Stephen, you are right, controling perfect intonation is harder in loud dynamics. This is why it is recommended practising the intonation sense in PP dynamic (every day at least a bit). Good violinists do play in perfect tune regardles playing on pure gut or synthetics. It is just matter of paying attention, nothing else. I mean paying attention during practising, since it is too late to start dealing with is at the performance :-)
November 3, 2019, 11:44 AM · I agree with Bohdan about the "fear of being flat." I think that is the main driver behind drifting sharp for most players.
Edited: November 3, 2019, 11:55 AM · It is the same problem in almost every profession. For example, many cooks do not try to learn and familiarize with all kinds of spices and flavourings. They simply put a lot of salt instead. Then, the meal is "carrying" in the sense "you cannot overlook it". You simply don't forget such dinner or lunch. But it is not the way I would like to enjoy a meal. The same are performances.
Edited: November 3, 2019, 2:27 PM · I find two reasons:
1) to hear ourselves over a background much louder than ourselves;
2) the well-documented tendency to hear high notes flat (and low notes sharp) to an extent which depends on the individual (and which leads to lively discussion!). This is one reason why harmonics can sound flat.

In chamber music, I absolutely agree with Bohdan's posts..

Edited: November 3, 2019, 1:31 PM · I would ask Joel if other people hear the same solo performance as sharply as he does.

Vibrato carries with it a range of pitch above as well as below the "target" pitch. Some people may be more sensitive to the higher pitches than others.

Some players are able to use wide and rapid vibrato to increase the apparent loudness of their sound by 20 DB (my estimate based on some I have heard and my own acoustic experience and measurements). The higher pitches from such vibratos enhance the projection of the sound.

These are just my own thoughts on this phenomenon and I would be interested to hear from others on the subject.

It is a documented phenomenon that loud sounds (such as violin into the player's left ear) are heard as sharp and can result in playing flat. I remember hearing a string quartet recording with Jacques Thibaud as a first violinist who definitely had this problem.

Edited: November 3, 2019, 2:29 PM · - I hear loud medium and high sounds flat, which is common but not universal.
- Vibrato also helps to detach a solo sound from an orchestral backing because the pitch moves constantly.

Edited: November 3, 2019, 4:36 PM · To be fair, the nature of natural harmonics is that often they will be theoretically out of tune, so they are used for a particular musical color despite their imperfection within the work. I think most ears will hear it sound "out of tune", regardless treble sensitivity.

For a very easily noticeable and well known example: Havanaise-final natural G# harmonic note of the piece is always "out of tune". It still is the right choice, and what was intended. (Same with Kreisler/Dvorak Slavonic Dance #2, and many others.)

As far as "normal notes" are concerned, they should all be played in tune relative to the scale in any given passage, with more leeway given to certain double stops, which must sound in tune with themselves, even if slightly off the scale.

One must, however, be wary of being too open about playing "relatively in tune", and better, strive to play the notes as "pure" as possible (with vibrato or otherwise.) So in that regards, I prefer perfectly in tune playing rather than "too sharp" notes, even if these are less noticeably "off" to the ear.

Just my opinion, of course.

(I do play some artificial harmonics a bit "sharp" so they actually sound in tune).

November 3, 2019, 4:45 PM · Two comments:

Bohdan is right: Sharper pitch does not "carry" better. But playing exactly in tune makes your sound mix with the total sound. This is what a soloist tries to avoid by playing slightly sharp.

A propos gut strings: If gut strings force you to intone perfectly they will force you to play flat or sharp depending on how they themselves lose their exact pitch--something gut strings are certain to do over a fairly short time.

November 3, 2019, 4:49 PM · I've never heard this specifically on the E string. I've often noticed soloists tuning sharper *in general* for reasons outlined above.
Edited: November 4, 2019, 4:17 AM · The responsibility for solo carrying over the orchestra starts at a composer. Most of them did their instrumentation job well. Nevertheless, there are also passages when the soloist does accompany the orchestra, in every violin concerto of course. There is no sense trying to be louder than the orchestra there of course.

Then, there is a myth that all soloists do play perfectly sounding Strads. Many of them don't. I have seen even quite good soloists playing with just very few dirty bow hairs e.g.. Most of "renowned" soloists do have an agreement or contract with any of "renowned" string makers. It hinders them from searching and finding the ideal string set or combo for their particular violin. As a result, they may have a problem with projection. However, trying to solve the problem by playing sharp is the worst option.

In the end I would like to say that I do not find "that many" soloists playing sharp actually. If we disregard the accidental intonation faults at live performances (or recordings taken there), I find most of them playing in tune.

However, teaching to play rather sharp instead of building a proper non-tempered intonation sense is a crime (it happens from time to time among the teachers). I was lucky studying with a teacher who was known for his intonation sense and demands. On the other hand, it did hinder him from enjoying many performances, (even many of the soloists who he did accompany as a philharmonic orchestra member). When we asked how was the performance, we often heard: "You know, such an approximate playing"...

Edited: November 4, 2019, 7:38 AM · Bohdan,
Yes, I was speaking about attention. Once you hear the correct overtones it is easier to make it right. But I remember a summer when a teacher was exasperated in getting me not to go sharp in the Beethoven F Major Romance. I just wasn’t finding the center of the flat and natural pitches.

It occurred to me some decades later that he probably learned on gut back in wartime Paris— and here I was trying to learn the same thing using some concoction of wound strings on an ill-adjusted instrument. I have a much better sense of intonation now, but it took a few Aha! moments along the way.

Edited: November 4, 2019, 7:51 AM · Stephen, F major does have just one flat, however flat keys, in general, are much more challenging for string players than sharp ones. This is why most of the violin concertos have been composed in D Major :-)

You are right timbre of gut strings matters, no doubt. This is why we admit we have been always aiming to reach the gut-like timbre with our string development. And this is also why we make synthetic core strings for cello only (which are much closer to the gut than commonly used metal strings actually).

I think other string makers have also made certain progress this way. Thus, considering the current level of synthetic strings quality (our Timbres e.g.) and the advantages of synthetics which gut can hardly compete with, the true reason for choosing gut today is more or less "religious" I guess.

At the beginning of our production, we have developed synthetic strings for baroque players. Few of my students tested them and they confirmed their sound hardly differed from plain gut and they were also designed for the baroque pitch. So I went to the most reputable player in our country (those times, not offending others coming later), Mr. Zajícek, the leader of Musica Aeterna. I was just going to ask him for trying and giving me honest feedback. He told me: "Mr. Warchal, I am the baroque player as you certainly know, so please excuse me if I reject even touching such a product". So I don't blame him of course, I just learned the reality.

Nevertheless, even this story has never discouraged me from trying to bring the full range of gut-like overtones to those, who are not prejudiced. And trying to come back to your initial observation - yes, a timbre produced by strings does play a crucial role in the intonation sense building, however, we cannot rely just on it. An honest intention and daily training (or at least the check) are also needed. Nowadays nobody can excuse. Recording apps (available in every phone) are a great tool for checking our progress.

Edited: November 4, 2019, 8:14 AM · I just wrote a response in another discussion about "perfect pitch", and I alluded to having written a rough draft of essay that I will soon put up on my website. I talk about this in there as well. That being said, I so very much talk about this very subject that I had a conversation today with the Concertmaster of my Orch about this very subject!

I find this to be a very fascinating subject. I have also evolved and continue to learn about how pitch is perceived by the listener and performer. My conclusion is that it is very subjective and sometimes a matter of taste. What I will say is that no violin soloist of note has ever played consistently under the pitch the way one would play on top of the pitch. My opinion is that violinists support the pitch with a sound and color that is to their liking. Some folks will react and say it's sharp, and maybe it is technically. But what do you think of this? I know for a fact Helene Grimaud purposely told our piano tuner to stretch the higher registers of the piano. It was definitely noticeable to some, but not to all. That was her taste for the piano concerto she was playing that given week. Every key has a distinct color, I just believe the intonation has a certain relationship with each key. Just my opinion :)

Edited: November 4, 2019, 1:27 PM · Mr. Warchal,

I am not offended by your comment-just wanted to add that with my instrument and for my playing, I am currently using gut, as its purported disadvantages are quite minor while bringing many excellent pluses. So I respect your company's ideals for your products, but have found over the years that most non-gut strings bring problems to my instrument, even when tbey do sound great. Gut is thus irreplaceable for me in ultimate tone, durability vs synthetics, and bow/under the fingers feel.

I admit there must be many players who use gut strings because of their teachers or the influence of great performers, past and present. I did , however, come to my conclusions on my own, after many years of experimenting-and being taught with teachers using synthetic strings.

"Scientifically"/"objectively" speaking, many (though likely not all) synthetics have problems in the highest positions I rarely have to think about with most gut strings. I am sure some may have experienced the opposite, but gut speaks more clearly *for me*, as they tend to emphasize some frequencies on the highest registers that some otherwise excellent synthetics lack. As a consequence, to my ears, I find the widely recorded, great sounding, and well acclaimed "synthetic tone" still lacking a bit-sounding a bit hollow across a theoretical frequency response. At least for my instrument and preference. At the concert stage this may not matter too much, but some can tell the difference (especially the violinist himself/herself, and the audience at more intimate settings-in the case of pure gut, the difference is very marked and more easily discernible.)

If I was to try another of your gut resembling products, it would be Amber, because of the lower tension vs Timbre-although the latter is not too tense per se. (I did like using Brilliant Vintage in the past.)

I have nothing against synthetics-just that I do not see any real need for them anymore. No pretentiousness intended-I know they can be useful and quite practical when they are really good quality and well thought-out. However in my case it had nothing to do with a religious devotion to gut, and more of a musical and personal preference choice.

Best Wishes,


November 4, 2019, 1:05 PM · There was no intention to offend anybody of course and it is nothing wrong with using gut, even if it really would be just for religion (as I experienced with Mr. Zajicek).

Thanks for your honest remarks. You have described the sound advantages of gut perfectly. In other words, you have described the way we progress with synthetic string development step by step. Amber is very gut-like product, but you (as a gut supporter) may say "why to swith to Amber if I get the same quality from real gut?). Until 2018 we were able to achieve either colorful and melow, or projective (but a bit monochromatic, typical synthetic core) sound. So we have solved the dillema of that balance with every single new product (as all synthetic core string makers face in fact). With developing Timbre we have made some inventions, that allow us providing both at the same time. Timbres are louder than Amber no doubt, and their tesion is a bit higher I admit. But you do not feel it under the bow and our customers say that the timbre and also the feeling (the instant attack from the very first string oscilation, typical for gut) is even better (more gut-like) than at Ambers.

Anyway, I had never any intention to belittle gut strings sound quality, on the contrary, I always praised them as a sound quality example. So returning to the very original topic I have to say - let's stay in tune whatever strings we do play! :-)

November 4, 2019, 1:43 PM · Thanks Andrew V. A Violin Soloist will often play very slightly sharp, either intentionally or instinctively. It is part of projecting over the orchestra. I think there are 3 things going on:
1) A Soloist is more likely to use Pythagorian (= melodic,leading-tone, expressive) intonation, with wide whole steps and major thirds, narrow half-steps and minor thirds. 2) The vibrato can push the pitch sharp. 3) If a high note is in tune, it gets buried, mixed with the overtones of the chordal accompaniament, and the volume of the high note appears to drop. For a section 1st violin, the rules are different, we want to blend. If I can't hear myself when back in the section I am probably in tune. If I can hear myself I might be sharp.
November 5, 2019, 3:42 PM · Coda: I have a set of Timbres coming soon. I am truly loving the Lenzner SuperSolo (gut A), so we'll see how those compare!
November 5, 2019, 4:10 PM · Joel Hoe, how have you come to the conclusion that these soloists are playing sharp? There are many accepted intonation schemes (including "just" and "tempered"). Which one are you basing your evaluation on?
November 5, 2019, 4:38 PM · For me, the outstanding example of irritatingly sharp high notes is that high trill in the last movement of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole. My theory is that the notes in the trill are so close together on the fingerboard that many violinists can't (or won't) put their fingers down close enough to get the proper interval. (Some do, fortunately.)

I suspect that my ears' tuning isn't as stretched as a lot of people's are. I find a lot of high notes (especially on piccolo or glockenspiel) to be so sharp that I wouldn't consider adding such recordings to my collection.

Edited: November 6, 2019, 4:52 AM · David, there are some performances where we would be happy to apply any scheme to comply with :-). Nevertheless, as I have already said, I don't think "so many reputable" soloists do play out of tune as it was indicated here. If you would like to compare reputable soloists with a "zero tolerance" approach, I recommend you listening to any flat key piece. The bright example may be the second movement of the Bruch G minor concerto. Even good soloists get lost on some spots a bit from time to time.

Most of the hopelessly sharply intonated pieces I have encountered at violin competitions as a jury member of course. And this is also the reason why I decided to join this discussion. Although it is hard to believe, there are still teachers who teach the sharp "soloistic" intonation on purpose.

November 6, 2019, 2:57 AM · Bohdan wrote:

"Although it is hard to believe, there are still teachers who teach sharp "soloistic" intonation on purpose."

I can relate it so strongly, reputable teachers do this far too often in where I live and they actually influenced the next generation so much and it's almost like a religion.

All I need to do is to show them Saint Saen violin sonata 4th movement ending part and the discussions often go silent. ;-)

There was also a YouTube of Ray Chen preparing to go onstage to play Lalo. He went to the piano and played the opening, and followed by his playing on the violin. I'll leave it up to you guys to judge.

November 7, 2019, 8:49 PM · @David from listening to some recordings I could tell that some violinists tended to play noticeably sharper on the E string as compared to notes on the other 3 strings.

Take for instance this recording of Prokofiev 2 by Janine Jansen (14:01 - 14:33): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuzsFa5l0d4

Another example would be this recording of Havanaise by Kam Ning (2:52 - 2:55 and again at 4:45 - 4:52): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N28HWsVShsw

Similarly Kyung Wha Chung's recording of Havanaise features certain high passages played sharper (2:29 - 2:31 and 4:07 - 4:13): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJMM3tOoeM4

November 7, 2019, 11:54 PM · I mean no offense, Mr. Hoe, but the above is fine, not too sharp. Violin tuning is not set like a modern piano would. Some notes on the recordings above sounded a tiny bit low or high, but it's within the constraints of "playing in tune". And live recordings or performances often have very minor intonation "issues" at times.

Even great "in tune" performers like Ms
Hahn cannot play "robotically in tune" live. Violin playing is risky. The romantic repertoire is more forgiving in any case.

(No, I do not advicate playing out of tune, or making excuses for it.)

November 8, 2019, 2:46 AM · Without having read the whole thread, is it because a loud note sounds flatter than a soft note, and the high notes sound very loud next to your ear?
November 8, 2019, 3:25 AM · @Adalberto are you saying, then, that the "sharper" parts are mistakes on the part of the soloists and not a conscious decision to alter the pitch?
November 8, 2019, 9:30 AM · A little bit of the opposite-that you may be too strict with their intonation as a whole. I used to be more strict with intonation when I was younger (do not know your age, so am not being critical), but then realized perfect intonation is relative to the works. I still detect "impurities", but these rarely bother me anymore, unless they are real intonation lapses. Mozart #4 is much less lenient tham Wieniawski #1, even though the latter is "harder". Both must be played in tune, but it is not worth dying over a note slightly off in the Wieniawski. It's about the musical message, more than robotical perfection.

Hope I made myself clearer now, and no offense was ever intended.

November 8, 2019, 11:52 AM · Gordon, I think that is one reason.
November 9, 2019, 8:13 AM · "@Adalberto are you saying, then, that the "sharper" parts are mistakes on the part of the soloists and not a conscious decision to alter the pitch?"

I would say that, but also agree with Adalberto that the examples you've listed are borderline - to many/most they'd be just fine, and among the nit-pickers (including myself and perhaps Adalberto to some extent) they fall around the range of common variation rather than egregious.

Additional allowance should be made for live performance rather than studio-recorded, and we as violinists should appreciate that it's extremely difficult to always play in tune.

November 11, 2019, 11:06 PM · I think there is also a psychoacoustic reason. We are very good at perceiving pitch in the middle-range, but not as good as we move into the extremes. Maybe there is a correlation between that and the fact that often we are sharp in the higher registers, as cellists are flat in the lower.
Edited: November 12, 2019, 11:10 AM · Isn't there a very high ascending scale passage in Mozart's "Musical Joke" that the violinist is supposed to play wildly out of tune? No problem.
Edited: November 14, 2019, 2:33 AM · I sense that the whole discussion heavily relies on an assumption which is a bit subjective and not necessarily able to reflect what the reality might be.

A god like soloist who is able to manipulate the overall harmony of any piece, passage, measure with some extreme sensitivity as he/she pleases where the benefit is a mere fraction of the risk taken...


I have been into electronic music as a hobby for the past 15 years. I can confidently say that in time i became quite equipped, knowledgable and experienced on it.

There; absolute perfection and precision is quite achievable to a certain degree. But on the other hand, it is absolutely boring and artificial to hear. That's why, there are all kinds of tools available to us, in order to inject some inconsistencies to mimic or reflect the human element in terms of timing, velocity, pitch etc. This is actually a great deal in composing electronic music.

I find it fascinating to observe the neverending chase of precision and perfection which has a nasty side effect, eliminating the very first thing which makes the music beautiful and meaningful in the first place.

The Human Element...

No matter what we say about it. Intonation at the end is a product of your motor skills. And that can be effected by an endless amount of possibilities even by your state of mind. Humans are not equipped to act with such precision reaching great lengths as implied by the very assumption this discussion is based. Even machines performing such precise acts need frequent maintanance and recalibration.

Ray Chen; an actual soloist for example discusses a smilar concept in one of his youtube videos where he analyses and explores a technique Paganini was said to use for the same purpose. Being briliant and projecting over the orchestra. Watch the struggle and the comments if you like.

In the end; i would categorize the phenomena as variances within acceptable margin of error instead of deliberate acts. Maybe taking measures to avoid being flat to a certain degree as some posts imply. But that is about it. I'd rather not overthink about that.

Edited: November 14, 2019, 7:21 AM · Joel, while I hear intonation imperfections in your examples, I do not hear them as being consistently either sharp or flat. More like a little of each. That's why I'm wondering what YOU are using as a reference for intonation.

I'm also curious whether it might be that the sharp notes happen to bother you more than the flat ones, so you notice them more.

Edited: November 15, 2019, 5:16 AM · @Ali could you send the link to the Ray Chen video you mentioned? Thanks a lot!
November 15, 2019, 6:27 AM · @David I used my own ear as reference (I have perfect pitch), and then further confirmed with both my mother (a pianist with good relative pitch) and sister (also a violinist with perfect pitch)
November 15, 2019, 6:28 AM · Also, regarding the effect of sharp vs flat notes on myself, I think flat notes irk me more (as with most people)
November 15, 2019, 11:44 AM · @Joel Hoe


November 15, 2019, 2:55 PM · Mr. Burgess has perfect pitch, and I may have it too. The performances were fine, and would have also been fine on any concert hall.

I may have never attended a recital with 100% robotic intonation, whether it's Hilary Hahn, Zukerman, or Vengerov. The art of violin playing is more than this-which is not to say that playing out of tune is OK.

November 15, 2019, 4:46 PM · @Ali thanks so much!
Edited: November 16, 2019, 3:08 AM · Joel, "perfect pitch" is not really perfect. It will be referenced to some tuning scheme or another, most likely what you were exposed to when learning pitches. For example, mine is referenced to a 440 A and piano tuning, since I was exposed to a great deal of that from the time I was in the womb. My "perfect pitch" will be very questionable with a 430 or 445 A tuning, for instance, and then I need to rely on relative pitch, or transposing if the pitch is a half step or more from a 440 reference.

As I said earlier, there is not only one "correct" form of intonation. Yours is probably based on a common piano tuning. But even with that, there are variables, since the harmonic series of a hammered string is not the same as that of a bowed string. Intonation impressions can differ depending on whether one is taking their intonation cues from only the fundamental, or from the entire harmonic series.

Sorry for adding so much complication to what is so intuitive and easy for you, but those are some of the realities of pitch perception.

One nice thing about the violin is that when playing alone, you can use whatever intonation scheme you like, and even go between one and another as frequently as you wish. :-)

November 16, 2019, 3:31 AM · @David I'm sorry but I disagree about this.

Firstly, even though my standard perfect pitch is based on 442 A, I actually have relative pitch, which means that even while hearing a recording at 440 A or 445 A, I am still more than able to discern notes that are flat or sharp relative to the preceding ones.

Secondly, I found out that my perfect pitch is based off a Pythagorian intonation scheme (i.e. it is key-dependent) and NOT equal temperament tuning as yours is. I ascertained this by slowly playing passages of Mozart 5, stopping randomly and checking those notes with a tuner in equal temperament. I found that my C#s and G#s to be consistently sharper in relation to the tuner. And note that I did not consciously remind myself to be sharper because they are the mahor third and leaing tone of the A major scale -- I merely relied on pure intuition, on what sounded "right"

November 16, 2019, 7:15 AM · Now throw vibrato into the mix. Is the player vibrating up from the "correct" pitch, down from the correct pitch, or vibrating to each side of the base pitch?
November 16, 2019, 8:14 AM · Each side.
Edited: November 16, 2019, 3:00 PM · Equally to each side? Does every player do it the same?
Edited: November 16, 2019, 1:49 PM · I think the statement "I have perfect pitch and relative pitch" still doesn't matter. The issue is that the performances were fine, whether one hears every note being played perfectly in tune or not. If one doesn't tolerate very minute deviations, even practicing will be a chore-especially with the more risky repetoire.

I do dislike out of tune playing, but wasted too much time in figuring out "who really played in tune" when I was young. The musical message is all that matters.

November 17, 2019, 11:21 PM · @Adalberto but what about the judges in international competitions? Do they really turn a blind eye on these intonation errors? I really doubt it
November 18, 2019, 8:14 PM · Mr. Hoe,

Practice perfect intonation. Just do not lose the joy of making masic in the process. I love "perfect" performances, but know is more of an ideal. The important thing is that the audience is not distracted by any "impurities", and that a successful musical message is conveyed.

Many competition winners have played "out of tune", as far as robotic intonation is concerned. Listen to lots of competition performances. They tend to be more "perfect" for Bach and Mozart, but there are sometimes minor "lapses" for the more risky repertoire.

(Mozart is very hard to play well-too little room for error.)

I commend you for striving for perfection. Though be careful about becoming hyper critical of others who play well, just because they "missed" some notes. It is not worth it. Worry that your own intonation is great, first and foremost.

Not condoning sloppy playing by any means. If it is out of tune, it is out of tune. But one can listen to perfect performances without much heart. I prefer minor lapses if the musical mesaage is more convincing.

(Worth mentioning that perfect playing = boring is not what I am saying above. If you can be musical and "perfect", even better. Just that this "perfection" is not the ultimate goal in our art-just a helpful mechanism to better convey musical ideas. No offense intended.)

November 19, 2019, 5:22 AM · Joel Hoe:
Listen to Gitlis performing chaconne on YT.
It's one of my favourite renditions, even though it's treasure trove of artefacts, errors, mistakes and god knows what.

That's what music is about.

I'll say this - It's not a hindrance if a performance technically perfect. But a soulless performance is. So weather you are perfect or not - pour your soul into it and audience will love it.

Edited: November 20, 2019, 9:12 AM · You are right guys, of course. Musicality is what really matters. But this topic is not about what is more important. It is not about the dilemma the musicality should compete with playing in tune or vice versa.

This topic has been about intonation only. It is the same as visiting restaurants e.g.. What really matters is the quality of food. This is why we prefer one restaurant to the other one. Nevertheless, this topic only asks a question whether in such a restaurant we should accept dirty tablecloths and flatware or not.

In my opinion, we can accept and tolerate tiny imperfections, especially at live performances of course. On the other hand, every violinist who aspires to a professional career should create "a feeling of a physical pain hearing out of tune playing" in order to play as precise as possible as the great Polish pedagogue Tadeusz Wronski advises.

November 19, 2019, 8:27 PM · @Adalberto, I'm just curious, what is considered risky repertoire? Where do you draw the line? Should an easier showpiece like Havanaise be grouped under riskier repertoire?
November 19, 2019, 8:30 PM · Mr Warchal is also right in pointing out that this thread is principally about intonation, and not musicality.

We should keep in mind that the 2 are not mutually exclusive -- what deters you from the pursuit of near-perfect intonation AND great musicality?

Edited: November 20, 2019, 1:35 PM · Have I said anything to the contrary?

In any case, the ideal is that whether it is Wieniawski #1 or Havanaise, the works should be played in tune, always. Same as Mozart and Bach should. But "room for error" is often larger for the romantic repertoire.

What I am trying to point out is that these types of discussions often devlve into "ahah!, I caught a great player playing out of tune with my rare, gifted ears!" when all that matters is the music, and that *one's own intonation* is "perfect". There are many good ears that can detect these impurities. As long as these do not get in the way of the performance, it is fine. So if the violinist plays a high notes passage on the E string during the Havanaise with "bad notes", it still would not be the same as playing the first measures of Mozart #4 with even one note off.

Playing in tune is an art. Keep pursuing it. Just be careful with your judgement of others' playing.

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Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases


Violin Pedagogy Symposium
Violin Pedagogy Symposium

Masterclass Al-Andalus
Masterclass Al-Andalus

Aria International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Bobelock Cases



Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins


Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine