Playing in Tune 100%
I know this is a strange question.
I play mostly in tune, with a few cents off every few notes.
Should I aim for playing 100% dead on in tune using a tuner when practising? Do professionals play 100% in tune all the time?
What I mean is, if I open a tuner while a solo violinist is playing, would it show green all the time?
I don't think it would. My teacher says that people forgive slightly poor intonation if everything else is solid (rhythm etc.). I would focus on making a nice sound and making sure everything is rhythmically accurate
If you can hear that it's out of tune, you must have a good ear, you don't need a machine to tell you. Just take some time to practice intonation the best you can. If you don't think it's out of tune, it probably is just fine, maybe you're being too picky and there are more important things, good sound, dynamics, musicality.
If someone were to play mathematically absolutely in tune - assuming that this is indeed possible in reality - the listener could be forgiven for thinking they were hearing a computer-generated performance.
In addition, notes are shaded according to whether they are leading notes, tonics, ascending, descending, etc.
Better to play in the key that piece was written in (assuming it's tonal). So if you're playing in the key of c minor, it sounds like c minor and not c minorish because your e flat is too sharp.
If you play 100% in synch with an electronic tuner calibrated to equal temperment, you will be good enough most of the time, but sometimes be 10 cents away from ideal. Amazing intonation involves knowing which way to bend 1/2 steps, major and minor thirds and sixths. It all depends on the musical context. Trust your ear instead of the machine. Major league soloists can sound perfect on recordings, but are occasionally less wonderful in live performance. Our margin of error is reported to be 5 cents on melodic lines, smaller on double stops. Vibrato is our ally for this, it is wider than those small errors. Avoid what is sometimes called leading-tone intonation; always tight 1/2 steps, small minor third, long major thirds, etc. It can deceive you. Leading-tone is a harmony/theory concept, not an intonation principle.
If your intonation is bad, you're not fooling anyone. Sure, we can talk for days about how most people don't have the ear for it, or that it's too vague for anyone to be able to tell, but... Bad intonation wears on people even if they don't know why. Practise!
It really depends because tuning and equal temperment are relative. To be sure, as a goal hitting all the notes "Bang-On" is the goal, but the reality is that playing should be as close as you can manage but absolute perfection is both un-achievable and boring.
Being dead-on with the tuner 100% of the time is a bad thing. Unless you're playing highly chromatic or atonal music, you should generally not play in equal temperament.
How about letting your teacher determine if you are out of tune? As above, DON'T let a tuner do it. For example, if you play in a quartet you have to shade your tuning to harmonize with the other instruments. The issue is not whether it is in tune physically (that is by scientific standards) but aurally, that is simply whether it sounds good or not.
There are a few very good videos on the difference between Pythagorean and Just intonation at violinmasterclass.com (Kurt Sassmannshaus's web site).
I don't know that for most players, intonation systems are a good way to understand intonation. The best way is, as Elise said, listen to your teacher's advice.
I aim to play in tune 110% of the time. That way if I miss a few notes, it's still ok.
Near-perfect tuning and accurate rhythm are important of course, but music is about so much more than that and should never sound "careful". Quite a few accurate players of my acquaintance seem to have lost all their pizazz, if indeed they ever had any. In general, audiences are far more tolerant of imperfect intonation than players or teachers
In disagreement with Steve.
I'd say "expression, animation, intonation" in that order. If I go into a performance thinking "intonation", that doesn't leave enough brain bandwidth for the music. But of course while practising priorities are different, and by the time you get to the performance you hope to be able to leave intonation to the robot within.
Am I alone in such threads in insisting on hearing
I say intonation is one of the most important things in violin playing, but at the same time, one of the most useless and less important thing in violin playing. It's like a necessary tool that you need or you can't work on anything, but at the same time it's a tool that by itself doesn't do absolutely anything. It's like a chef's hat, it's absolutely necessary to do the job correctly, but at the same time the hat is less than useless.
No tuner reacts fast enough to correctly capture a player on a constant basis. And no tuner can be constantly reset for the correct temperament, which requires us to adjust where the pitch is based on the harmonic content of the chord. And then we compromise in a ton of different ways, including adjusting to what we hear from the piano / other instruments (which can be contradictory).
Use the drone function on the tuner. Do NOT practice robotic intonation, the tuner is really bad at reading quick notes, and what about vibrato? The violin is not a piano, the goal is to play in tune enough where your instrument resonates and doesn’t fight against others.
"...the goal is to play in tune enough where your instrument resonates..."
Scott - I'm one who doesn't get it. The only extra resonance my violin produces when I'm playing in tune is from other open strings. Playing on the D string I get plenty of resonance from a correctly tuned G or A, maybe a little from E but no help at all for the other notes. I fail to see how your violin itself can in some way be "tuned" to resonate at every note you play provided your fingers are in the right place.
Intonation systems are hell on Earth. Don't go there.
I guess Scott was not talking about the actual physical term of resonance. Violins have a note that make them actually resonate, but this note doesn't have to be in tune, indeed, it's better if it's not, because that would be a problem, you would play louder the Gs or the As, that's not good. These are the wolves, and they interfere.
We have to construct our "system" in pure fifths & fourths, bur "indulge" in pure sixths and thirds when we can (sometimes at the expense of a fifth or two!)
"I guess Scott was not talking about the actual physical term of resonance"
Steve, on most strings, in most keys that don't have a ton of flats and sharps, you can find an notes that correspond to the open strings (GDAE) - These are anchors and are non-negotiable - As you check them with their corresponding open strings as double stops, or sometimes as the 4th or 5th of an open string, you build a framework for the other notes to fit in. Not only that, but when you actually play those notes, they resonate more with the open strings. Even notes like b natural on the a-string should be checked with open e.
Ah, the intonation discussion returns. I sometimes do this as a class demonstration: Tune first finger E as a double stop with open G. Leave that finger down. Next tune second finger F with the open A. Leave that finger down. Now take a look at the half-step E-F. It is extra wide (1 1/2 commas ?). If you played that half-step as part of melody it would sound out of tune. Some non-western traditional music will use that interval. A Turkish string instrument (Tar?) has two close frets for each half-step; low and high. I saw a drawing in an old French Violin technical book that showed two spots for each half-step, low and high. Our equal-tempered half-steps will be a compromise, half way between those spots. Playing in tune is a real challenge, otherwise anybody could play violin. We really encounter the problem when we tackle the double stops in the Bach S.&P. set.
Scott - I'm still sceptical that the "dulled resonance" of an in-tune Eb is reliably distinguishable from the (even more dulled?) resonance of a flat Eb. And you're saying that the resonance is brighter for a sharp Eb? So the in-tune Eb has a resonance that isn't too dull or too bright but just the right degree of dull? And then a low leading note sounds "sour". I guess this makes sense to those with a highly trained ear, but I seriously doubt that it's communicable to a relative novice, or a superannuated amateur.
Thank you all good people for your input. My teacher says I play 90% in tune and 10% borderline. I am trying to fix that 10% borderline.
I agree with both Steve and Scott.
If so, it happens without my conscious awareness and the possibility of tuning by timbre has never even occurred to me. But in future I think I'll stick to evaluating my pitch in relation to whatever else is going on in the music, rather than my timbre which is also independently affected by certain factors to do with the bow!
Can you also tell what note it is that they're playing out of tune? To be able to tell when a single note is out of tune, free of any context, must surely be a definition of "absolute pitch" which most of us just don't have. Your "especially high notes" I find particularly incomprehensible - no way do I find they "snap into focus". Explaining this to me seems like explaining green to a deuteranope.
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