How in tune is in tune and what qualifies as in tune.
In a fit of unproductive practicing I tried my best to play a certain passage as in tune with the tuner as humanly possible (never doing that again). I tried this for about two hours playing the passage as slowly as possible. No matter how close I got I still sounded massively out of tune. So I stopped looking at the tuner and just listened to what I was playing as carefully as possible. I played the recording to the tuner and although it said my intonation was much less accurate then how I had played before; it sounded much more in tune.
I do understand that I should have been using my ears to judge whether I was in tune or not the whole time and I no longer have trouble with intonation on pieces that are of my technical level but just wanted to see what the passage sounded like with as much “technically correct” intonation as possible .
I’m aware that the tuner is in equal temperament while violin players usually play in just intonation as it sounds more resonant. Though I can’t imagine it sounded as bad as it does as on piano it sounds passable. Could it be as a result of the resonance of the other strings?
Tl;dr Why do I sound more in tune when my intonation isn’t technically as in tune as it could be.
Playing in tune with a tuner isn't technically correct. We don't use equal temperament in playing the violin. There are passing tones, such as the slightly up-shifted second finger, etc.
Playing with a tuner is counterproductive, because you need to be training your ear, not your eyesight. Playing in tune is contextual, and depends on what key you are in.
There is no single definition of being "in tune". There are a range of different tuning systems each with their own trade-offs.
Good topic. Intonation can be a bit tricky as there are several methods of tuning. Depending on the composition and the ensemble you may use different temperament. To some extent tuning can even be subjective depending on the key. I am not an expert whatsoever. But I have found a tuner to be rather useless for developing intonation. Especially when playing with others. I am curious what the experts have to say on the matter.
Dither - now that you have encountered this "problem" you might want to investigate it further. There are several very readable books about the ubject, "Temperament." I think reading one or more might be worth your time, however previous responders have covered some of the ways it affects string players solo intonation (i.e., melody line), maintaining ensemble chordal intonation (i.e., orchestra and chamber music) and when accompanied by an equal temperament instrument (typically some sort of keyboard instrument).
There is a bridge to cross, for many people: learning to hear the instrument.
Buri, What you say is so true. I now for the first time have a non-beginner level instrument and it really rings out when I'm on the correct pitch. No more growling and whining. Though there is that bothersome D on the G string which I will have to tame with my bowing.
Graeme your words ring true. As string players we must work long and diligently to develop good aural perception and accurate intonation. There is no substitute for a great many hours in the practice room. But, having good instruction is also critical.
May I add (for the umpteenth time!) the importance of daily listening to fine playing (until such a time as our own playing is "fine" too!).
Stephen Brivati suggested another brilliant exercise, which is to play a note and sustain it while singing the next note in the scale. I don't see how that can work if one cannot sing "in tune" to begin with and most people will learn to sing to a piano's pitch anyhow. Also, statement such as sounds in tune is no help either, what does in tune sound like? If I listen to a piano, which technically isn't "in tune", it does not sound bad to me or billions of others, so why is playing in the same pitch as a piano a bad thing? I'll ask the OP's question again, what is playing in tune means? There is no single answer it seems. It might mean playing to maximize resonnance of one's own instrument, or conversely, that with others. To make that more complicated no one agrees on the base pitch A=440, or 441, or 443, or 447. So what is playing in tune with a different base pitch sounds like? The physical answer I understand would be to say play in phase with a given base frequency. So if a string instrument is "tuned" to A443, and all its strings tuned to resonnate in phase with that frequency, it is technically "in tune" (although not necessarily with the instrument's own natural resonnance and rarely see anyone adjusting other than A string during orchestral tuning). As a violin learner, lets assume I learn to hear in my head what A440 sounds like, and I play other notes to their relative pitch "in tune" with that, but my instrument is tuned to A443, am I not playing out of tune any open strings? By learning to play "in tune" the violin, aren't we learning to be out of tune with most others? I didn't even go into minor vs major, where A# and Bb aren't the same pitch to be "in tune".
I'm seconding what Adrian said. When I returned to the violin in my middle age, I also started to listen to a lot more recordings of violin playing than I did when I was a kid. There were many moments when I said, "Hmm that's different intonation from what I would play, but it sounds good. that's weird." No, it wasn't weird. I simply had, for the previous 40 years or so, an imprint of equal temperament in my head (I'm also a pianist). I realized that I needed to think differently about intonation and with my teacher's help I studied it intently. The teachings of Simon Fischer and Kurt Sassmannshaus were equally valuable to me as resources for what is, at least to first order, "correct". Not correct intonation but rather a correct
A lot of so-called fine playing, especially from long ago when references weren't as easy to come by was out of tune too, so one has to be careful not to overvalue reputation or such and attempt to come up for justification for what might well be erroneous. "Expressive intonation" is sometimes brought up as one such excuse, or technique. As a deliberate artistic technique, it is no doubt valid, and part of what it expresses may well be discomfort in being out of tune. However one should not confuse that with a reference for intonation.
J Ray wrote, "A lot of so-called fine playing, especially from long ago when references weren't as easy to come by was out of tune too."
Casals is an interesting example. Revered in his day, but I can't listen to his recording for more than a few minutes, and it would take extraordinary effort on my part to learn what he meant by his intonation, assuming I had heard that it might be "right" in some sense and believed that it was deliberate. With the reference to "younger players", I suspect that I'd far from alone in this. So then, if you for example listened to Casals' recordings repeatedly and entrenched his interpretation of intonation into your playing, you would also come across to many in these times as out of tune. Which is not to say that you shouldn't listen to him, but I'd suggest listening to others, e.g. Tanya Tomkins, as well.
I wonder how many of us have tried the OP's experiment at some point. I know I have. It was such a pain in the backside that I concluded after half an hour that there must be less painful ways to study intonation.
Here's how it is, in every key (in "just intonation") all the notes in each scale (major or minor) are in a precise ratio to one another all the way up and down. That is a ratio of the frequency difference between (let's say for examples) the 2nd and 3rd and between the 4th and 5th of every scale. Also the octaves of every note is matched all the way up and down in a precise ratio (double frequency with every octave rise). That is the way we play our fretless string instruments, however the instruments, such as piano, tuned with equal temperament (also with frequency-matched octaves) deviate from the frequency ratios of the intermediate pitches (some deviations greater than others).
Mr. Victor I’ve known about just intonation and the other temperaments for a while know and I was wondering how do you check intervenla that make major seconds. Such as E on the G string. If you check it wi the d string there(at least to me) seems to be a wide range in which it sounds like a major second. Unlike with consonant intervals most notably perfect intervals
Dither, I don't know a "technical way to do that, but 81 years ago, for my first violin lessons my teacher started me on the familiar tune "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," which has become the "signature first" Suzuki tune. When I was little, back then, it was also familiar to just about everyone, and if you you were lucky enough to have a mother who had sung it to you in tune all your life you would have learned the appropriate "first intervals" you would use on that little violin.
Don't check E with D - The beating isn't going to tell you anything relevant or that you will be able to meaningfully internalize. You need to check with perfect intervals, so you'd need to check with A, which means you finger A on the d string and check that with open A, and then you check your E with that A you established, giving you the perfect 4th.
Violin intonation is always relative to something: our aural memories, the resonances of our violins, the expressions on folks' faces..
Play an E on the D string with the open A string and adjust until you have a perfect fourth that sounds in tune. Now play that E (don't move your finger) with the open G string. It will sound sharp to the G. Now adjust the fingered E to sound in tune with the G string. When you have a pitch you're happy with, play it with the open A. Again, out of tune (flat, this time).
Intonation is a book- length topic.
With my slim-ish fingers, my vibrato does not cover a 4mm comma (in 1st position)..
As Andrew, Adrian and Mary Ellen say, it's all about relativity and context. Play very slow scales to be in tune with themselves, using your ears on every note. There's an anecdote about Oistrakh using the time between a rehearsal and a concert to do nothing but that.
Reply to previous post.
Yes, play it as A, but don't use any open strings. It makes you use your ears more.
Right, and then make sure A is in tune with your open A string. Gotcha!
There's a wonderfully detailed book on the subject: Violin Mind, on Ovation Press. It covers the three types of tuning: tempered, just, and Pythagorean, and gives examples and exercises for ear training. Highly recommended.
CelloMind Intonation and Technique Hans Jorgen Jensen and Minna Rose Chung Ovation Press 2017 (with a huge number of examples on YouTube)
Many have been slamming the use of a tuner to practice with.
I'm not trying to be contrary, but maybe because from almost the beginning of my playing 6 years ago, I decided to focus on baroque. So my tuning app is usually at 415 and set to some kind of meantone temperament (such as 1/6 comma). I collect early music CDs and they dominate my soundscape, and as the years go by I find the percussive sound of pianos too jarring and the equal temperament too bland. But that doesn't mean I therefore had good intonation on my violin. And yet when just today, in my first lesson since Dec 2019, my teacher (also focused on baroque music) said I have noticeably better intonation than when she last heard me, she was asking me how I did it. I told her that some months ago I started experimenting with sometimes playing with the tuner (phone app) on the music stand and was surprised that what I thought sounded good was almost always flat according to the tuner. She said yes she thought I played flat a lot but not today. So for me it has helped that I studied intonation with a tuner. I'm far from hearing the difference of the 4 commas in a chromatic semitone vs. the 5 commas in a diatonic semitone (the difference between, say, a B# and a C), but at least my D# is now in the range rather than just a sharp D.
Indeed, if we mostly play alone, we tend to learn our own intonation...
It was interesting to hear Simon Fischer today on Nathan Cole's ZOOM talk about notes being "piano in-tune," "high in-tune," and "low in-tune." And demonstrate all that.
There's in tune with yourself and there's in tune with others. A tuner isn't the optimum other.
Andrew, how can I access Simon Fischer and Nathan Cole's ZOOM talk about intonation? THANK YOU!
Andrew, Thank You! Does one have to be enrolled in Violympics to access the Simon Fischer/Nate Cole video?
I don't know, did you try the link I provided?
The "my.demio.com" link works, thanks Andrew!
Yes, Andrew--my.demio.com worked after a couple of tries. Simon Fischer was really interesting!