How in tune is in tune and what qualifies as in tune.

Edited: May 23, 2021, 10:06 PM · 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.

Replies (45)

May 23, 2021, 5:11 PM · 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.
Edited: May 23, 2021, 11:44 PM · 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.

Basically, you have to play in tune with your violin, so if you are in a key that contains g, d, a or e naturals, you need to make sure to tune those notes so they are in tune with open strings. It's a very long process, but it helps to always be checking your intonation with "anchor notes", which you can often do by checking the double stop of either an octave, fifth or fourth, which are perfect intervals. Some keys with many flats or sharps have few or no anchor notes, but you still need to develop and rely on your ears for those.

It takes time, but slowly, if you stay checking, you will make progress.

Edited: May 23, 2021, 6:09 PM · There is no single definition of being "in tune". There are a range of different tuning systems each with their own trade-offs.

Your tuner most likely uses "equal temperament", which means every note is in equal frequency intervals between an octave. This makes everything sound slightly off e.g. thirds and fifths are a little off from sounding perfect. This is the tuning system most pianos are tuned to.

If you are playing to what sounds "in tune" by ear, it's quite likely you are tuning to "just" intonation. This means you are playing thirds and fifths perfectly i.e. simple ratios of frequencies between notes.

There are numerous other tuning systems other than equal temperament. However, no tuning system used for the twelve-tone scale can give perfect intervals between every note. Some will prioritize fifths, others thirds. Equal temperament compromises all intervals.

On the violin, most players will adjust depending on the piece. Playing solo or playing with other strings usually uses just intonation, and generally do not stick to a fixed tuning system. Whereas when playing with a piano, then equal temperament may be more appropriate.

TLDR: Play in tune by ear if you are playing solo. The tuner is giving you a reading of an imperfect tuning system.

May 23, 2021, 6:04 PM · 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.
May 23, 2021, 6:22 PM · Greetings,
there is another aspect of intonation which doesnt’t seems get mentioned so much, but every instrument also ha sits own unique intonation. That is, one can play a note that seems very much in tune according to whatever standard you are measuring it by but the note sounds slightly dull compared to pretty much the same note after the finger has been adjust imperceptibaly so that it produces a more ringing tone than the deader sounding one. Practicing looking for these ‘ringing vs dead’ sounds is extremely good ear training.
To the extent it is possible , open strings are ones guide. Then careful attention to consistency as cross passage work. that is the same note repeated in a different position or octave must be consistent with all notes of the same name.
Playing scale sin sevenths is useful work. another brilliant exercise is to play a note and sustain it will singing the next note in the scale, playing that note and singing the next. It’s painful at first but the mind quickly becomes more aware of what does and does not sound in tune , which is, at the end of the day, so relative one wishes that it, like ones relatives, only has to be dealt with during the Christmas Vacation.
Cheers,
Buri
PS Forhet the tuner unless you are using as a drone.
Edited: May 23, 2021, 10:59 PM · 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).
May 23, 2021, 7:22 PM · Three thoughts:

Some tuners are truly horrid, and some tuners can be fine, but have multiple configurations / options whereby it might be doing something less than ideal for your intention.

I've never had your experience with the tuner that I use, but it's no longer available.

If we could trust our ears entirely, we'd have no need for any tuning devices at all, which is clearly not the case. Moreover, the typical case of someone wailing out of tune (not saying that you are, but I think it can happen to anyone) is with them having learned to play it out of tune because they don't actually know what the target pitches are and have memorized something else. It generally helps to have a reference for intonation - whether it's a root note, open string, or an external reference, or simply listening to recordings you like (and hopefully are in tune) so that you don't entrench out of tune playing.

Edited: May 23, 2021, 7:31 PM · There is a bridge to cross, for many people: learning to hear the instrument.
From beginning stages we are pleased to hear melodies, exercises, etc. Other technicalities occupy our attention.
To help beginners (first three or so years) teachers often play along on piano, and the student adjusts a note here or there to the piano pitch.
But, at some point, many people cross a threshold where they can better assess both the tone quality, and the pitch, of each note, and then to hear when they drift from the tonality of a piece as a whole.
This is when checking your intonation across the instrument, and from the tone, ring and resonance of the instrument, octaves, fourths, fifths, semitone, etc all "make sense", and "work".
This is a period of musical growth, and we must all work for it.
I can see nothing wrong with using a tuner, some of the time, to prompt yourself to hear intervals, and specific notes in challenging passages, etc. (Just as I can see nothing wrong with the teacher playing piano as a support. Some of the time.)
It seems to me, this musical growth stage is a leaping off point for interpretation and expression, free from the dictates of score and teacher.
May 23, 2021, 8:57 PM · 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.

My teacher had me use the tuner to check my intonation on some notes which I was having trouble with when adjusting to the new shorter scale of my 7/8 instrument. I especially had trouble with setting the new first finger position. Now I really do hear myself better though my telling differences isn't as acute as my teacher's. I will play a passage and he will say "tune your D string." It's off? Yes, it would be off and I didn't hear it.

May 23, 2021, 10:07 PM · 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 24, 2021, 5:19 AM · 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!).
We must have an aural memory well nourished..

Also, I am enthusiastic about pure intervals, historic temperaments, Indian sruti and the like. But an equal temperament scale is a whole lot better than a Bad Tempered one....

Edited: May 24, 2021, 10:29 AM · 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".
Edited: May 24, 2021, 11:30 AM · 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 approach to intonation. There is a 10-page section of Simon's book "The Violin Lesson" that is fairly thorough and gives several examples of common pitfalls and how to avoid them when trying to play in tune.

Still my intonation is not great, but now I feel that much of the problem is just "target practice" whereas I think I have made significant progress in my ability to hear the right thing in my head. Like everyone else, I believe these two skills develop basically in parallel.

Very often the suggestion to play with a drone comes up. I understand having a reference point, but won't a drone give you the wrong pitches for certain notes, as one will tend toward the "just" intonation system? Certainly one needs to learn to play that system, too, but if one is trying to learn basically a Pythagorean scale intonation for 1-D passage work, I wonder if drones are counter productive.

May 24, 2021, 12:06 PM · 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.
May 24, 2021, 1:33 PM · 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."

I don't understand this statement. What "references" do you mean?

The kind of violin-playing that I'm talking about is stuff like Leonid Kogan playing the "Melodie" by Gluck-Kreisler. I'm pretty sure he nails that.

May 24, 2021, 3:22 PM · "I don't understand this statement. What "references" do you mean?"

I meant that intonation standards have improved overall over the last century or so judging from recordings, and that one of the factors is likely technology, which makes it much easier to evaluate and critique intonation.

There's probably an app for that; one which can go through recording en masse and calculate metrics, but I don't have space on my phone for it / it's too old / etc.

May 24, 2021, 3:33 PM · Greetings,
two players who are interesting to compare in their attitude to intonation. Casals was so uncompromising in his attitude towards tempered intonation younger players were said to have expressed dismay at his ‘poor intonation.’ Milstein, on the other hand was one of th most adaptable violinist ever.
When one plays something like the Mozart e minor violin sonata with all those unisons with the piano one begins to see why such flexibility is a necessity.
Cheers,
Buri
BTW working on chamber music with colleagues and tuning every single chord one by one is painstaking and tilting but one of the best ways of sensitizing the ear. After doing this kind of work for about half an hour, assuming you haven’t killed each other, the resultant play through will sound ‘Fantastic!’
May 24, 2021, 4:49 PM · 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.
May 24, 2021, 4:56 PM · 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.

Of course when I was young there were no tuners; only tuning forks (or, worse, tuning whistles or whatever they were called). So my experiment occurred at a time when I already had been instructed in some of the techniques mentioned above.

If I may add one trick not yet mentioned: A tip from one of my teachers (who was a self-described stickler for intonation): If you prepare for performance play the piece as a succession of notes, no rhythm, no vibrato. Just listen to every note as it comes due, to every interval the melody takes, compare with open strings and make sure to tune each note to the best of your ability. I have found this useful though it is certainly rather boring work.

Edited: May 24, 2021, 7:25 PM · 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).

The intonation problems cited by Buri in ensemble playing can be one rsult of these tuning discrepancies. If you want to hear some extreme examples of this sort of thing, listen to an amateur string quartet trying to play "thirds" and sound any good at all.

I know that when I have played viola or cello sonatas with piano accompaniment, I have always tuned my lowest (C) string to match the piano (because there is no way to adjust the open string when actually playing the music - fingerings can easily be adjusted). The other open strings, tuned in "perfect" fifths to the piano's A will match the corresponding piano pitches well enough.

If one has a good sense of "relative pitch" it should not matter whether A=440, 430, 450, or 415. Personally I have nos sense of absolute pitch, but I can imagine for those who do and who carry "A=440" in their minds, it might be disturbing.

I have known several musicians who claim to have perfect pitch, but the only person whom I know for sure absolutely did - it was amazing. He was recording engineer and "tone master" Stan Ricker, who played base, dis his military service in Navy Band, and directed our orchestra for one "set." It was during some of the rehearsals of that set where it became clear just what he "HAD." If a note was played out of tune, he could tell what the frequency was and what the matching A=xxx frequency of the scale was. There was one occurance when Stan was conducting that set the woodwinds were out of tune. Most conductors I have known (even the pros) I have known in such amateur settings would have had each player play the passage and he would fix them note by note, but Stan was able to tell each player what to do to correct it while all were playing the passage together. Stan could tell how fast a vehicle was moving on the road by the pitch of the tires -- and the frequency of the fundamental pitch the tires sounded. Because of his skills, Stan was not troubled by different bases for "A."

Stan Ricker was of such stature in the recording industry that when the St. Louis Symphony toured to Russia, the director, Leonard Slatkin called him out of retirement (from the recording business) to be their sound engineer for the tour. I would not have known of this, but I happened to catch a bit about it on the ABC Evening News, when they showed a short bit about it with some of the orchestra members playing jazz - with Stan playing bass!

There is so much more to "music theory" than we seem to be taught when we study how to play!

May 24, 2021, 10:08 PM · 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
May 24, 2021, 10:34 PM · 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.

You would build your "ear" from that and the music you learned thereafter. You could also match the E on the G string to the octave E and the A string that you matched to your open E string.

Or if you had access to a piano (as I did) you tested your intervals on that when you doubted them. These ways you built your "ear" so that you were able to play a proper major 2nd interval an most any other interval. Piano intonation is close enough for that.

You practice major and minor scales and for those starting on an open string, when you get to the top, you check the octave against the open string's starting pitch. If you are still in tune, chances are you did OK - especially if it was a 3-ocatave scale. Nowadays you can also check against a electronic tuner. The troubles with checking intonation against a "visual tuner" are
(1) that it will detect and show the slightest changes of pitch so it tricks into thinking you are not enough in tune - it doesn't show you what you need to know when you need to know it
and
(2) it is too slow to respond to a new pitch if you are testing it against a melody or a scale.

May 25, 2021, 2:15 AM · 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.
Edited: May 25, 2021, 8:10 AM · Violin intonation is always relative to something: our aural memories, the resonances of our violins, the expressions on folks' faces..
not to mention pianos (equal temperament), harpsichords (one of the many unequal temperaments), or the wind sections of our community orchestras (chaos).

However, in string quartets, we will want to adjust notes "on the fly".
Take the A-string: 3rd & 4th fingers will be tuned to the open D and E, but then the fun starts!

Like Sassmanhaus, I find 2 distinct B's: a low B, which resonates warmly in the G & D strings, and a high B which rings in the E- string. They are at least 4mm apart, which is wider than my (fairly warm) vibrato.
We usually play the High B, but there are those delicious moments when the Low B makes better harmony with notes G and D.

What about C#? Usually a Leading Note close to our D, but another delicious moment occurs when we prefer a Low C# to harmonise with surrounding E's and A's. Another 4mm adjustment.

And C natural? If derived from Cello or viola C, it will be close to our High B. But to harmonise (deliciously) to surrounding A's an E's it must be advanced by our 4mm.

These 4mm discrepancies correspond to the Syntonic Comma, resulting from the conflict of Structural Fifths and Indulgent Thirds.

Edited: May 25, 2021, 11:38 AM · 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).

So which E is correct? They both are, in different contexts. This is *exactly* why I DO NOT recommend practicing intonation with a tuner. The tuner doesn't know the context for the pitch. Please use the tuner to tune your A string and then turn it off. Use your ears to tune the other strings in fifths, and use your ear to practice intonation. Checking with open strings is good.

May 27, 2021, 12:09 AM · Intonation is a book- length topic.
Miscl. comments:
Piano/equal tempered tuning is good enough most of the time. If it was not we would not tolerate the piano. Every half-step is the same; 12th root of 2 X frequency of the lower note. We want to use tempered tuning when doing chamber music with a piano, or modern, non-tonal music.
We don't only try to tune the notes. Even more important is to tune the intervals between the notes. There are two systems to be aware of; Melodic/Pythagorean/horizontal/leading-tone/ or Casal's "expressive intonation". And- Chordal/Just/vertical intonation. They are not the same, and we notice the difference with the thirds and sixths. It is real physics and math, with cultural bias added on. The limit of our pitch perception for single notes played in succession is pretty good, about 6 cents, 6/100 of a half-step! For consonant double stops it is even better. We hear the interference, the beats, that allow us to tune perfect 5th open strings.
When practicing a single note line, alone, we will naturally prefer the melodic tuning. When playing 2nd Violin or Viola in an orchestra or quartet we synchronize our notes to the chord.
We encounter the problem head-on with the Bach S. & P. set. Only one example: The C maj. Andante in Sonata 2, 3rd movement. If you practice only the melody line (highly recommended) until you are satisfied with the intonation, adding the lower drone notes will be alarmingly out of tune, you have to start over. In measure one, the E-F half-step will need to be slightly wider than "normal" An even more dramatic experiment than that suggested by Mary Ellen; tune the first finger E to open G, leave it down, then tune 2nd finger F to open A. That will give you an extra wide half-step (150 cents?) that is unacceptable as a melodic interval, but is used in some Eastern traditional music. It splits the minor third into two equal parts.
How does anyone play in tune? We don't think about the math., but let our ears, our mind, be our guide. I like to think of each note on the fingerboard as being a small cluster of three spots; low-neutral-high. Bending, adjusting notes in the right direction gives you amazing, "perfect" intonation. Just don't bend notes in the wrong direction, beware of the trap of using the leading tones concept. We have another big help- Vibrato! The vibrato covers all of those small differences (the commas), and the audience hears what it wants to hear. Sometimes on a solo, if I am lucky enough to get a double-stop in tune I am tempted to turn off the vibrato.
May 27, 2021, 3:11 AM · With my slim-ish fingers, my vibrato does not cover a 4mm comma (in 1st position)..
Bur vibrato blurs our perception a little, and also enlivens the hand to allow instant adjustments.
Edited: May 27, 2021, 4:51 AM · 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.

Someone a while back said a teacher of theirs liked to ask them to play the scale of G## or similar in order to try to catch them out. One of the ideas behind that is, don't play the open D (for C##), A (for G##) or E (for D##) strings in that context.

Edited: May 27, 2021, 4:26 PM · Reply to previous post.
I know I am only an intermediate level musician, but if asked to play a scale in "G##" I would give a funny look and play in A. I have never seen a scale or key in a double ## or bb. Single notes, yes, as part of altered chords or chromatic passing tones. That G## note could be part of a diminished chord moving to a secondary dominant with the note A#, resolving to B minor.
Which reminds me; another time to prefer tempered/piano tuning is whenever playing the two symmetrical chords, augmented or diminished 7th. Don't bend the notes, those chords are supposed to be ambiguous.
May 28, 2021, 1:18 AM · Yes, play it as A, but don't use any open strings. It makes you use your ears more.
May 28, 2021, 1:35 AM · Right, and then make sure A is in tune with your open A string. Gotcha!
May 28, 2021, 4:59 PM · 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.
May 29, 2021, 8:37 PM · CelloMind Intonation and Technique Hans Jorgen Jensen and Minna Rose Chung Ovation Press 2017 (with a huge number of examples on YouTube)
May 30, 2021, 1:24 PM · Many have been slamming the use of a tuner to practice with.

I disagree. It depends on the tuner and the level of the student. Tuning with a light or needle is a waste of time, but tuning against a tuner that offers a couple of octaves of pitches may not be for students that are way of the ballpark.

True, it may not get you the last mile to perfect intonation. But that is besides the point. For one thing, it gets the student to listen, compare, and adjust. We use that skill all the time as musicians when we are playing in groups and with piano. It doesn't mean we are playing some kind of "perfect" intonation, especially if the piano is out of tune, or the brass are low or the woodwinds are high.

Some students have such a poor sense of pitch that they do need something to get them in the ballpark.

June 1, 2021, 2:43 AM · 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.

But all this is from someone who always plays alone, so its just me and my ears (and sometimes a tuner). If I were a real musician like a lot of the people in these discussions, I'd be good enough to play with others and then "in tune" would have a lot to do with THEIR intonation or, in the case of a piano, their instrument itself. There's no point in getting some exact frequency if your partners have a little bit different frequency...being "in tune" would seem to be about matching them (assuming they are also in the range). Play with your ears open to the totality of the music.

Edited: June 1, 2021, 8:24 AM · Indeed, if we mostly play alone, we tend to learn our own intonation...
I've heard folk fiddlers playing consistently a "C-yuck", sort of halfway between C and C#..
So we must listen to, and remember, the sounds of fine playing, both Ancient and Modern.

Then there is melody (G# higher than Ab) versus harmony (G# 3 commas lower than Ab in 1/4 meantone). In fact some harpsichords have a split G#/Ab key.

Equal temperament is very close to Pythagorean, and is a useful (and sociable!) starting point. Then we "sweeten" thirds and sixths when appropriate. As I said earlier, "structural" fifths and "indulgent" thirds.

Edited: June 1, 2021, 4:46 PM · 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.

As they used to say, "Put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

Edited: June 2, 2021, 1:43 AM · There's in tune with yourself and there's in tune with others. A tuner isn't the optimum other.
June 2, 2021, 6:26 AM · Andrew, how can I access Simon Fischer and Nathan Cole's ZOOM talk about intonation? THANK YOU!
Edited: June 2, 2021, 7:03 AM · Erin,
I don't know if this will do it:
https://www.natesviolin.com/tag/simon-fischer/

The replay of yesterday is here:
https://my.demio.com/recording/NKbWyfZl

Once Fischer starts (after a few minutes) he continues for about one hour.

Edited: June 2, 2021, 9:40 AM · Andrew, Thank You! Does one have to be enrolled in Violympics to access the Simon Fischer/Nate Cole video?
June 2, 2021, 1:06 PM · I don't know, did you try the link I provided?
If it doesn't work for you - then I think you have to be registered and I don't know if you can do that now, after the event.
June 2, 2021, 3:37 PM · The "my.demio.com" link works, thanks Andrew!
June 4, 2021, 10:03 PM · @Andrew
Thanks for the link! It's really fascinating hearing Simon Fischer talking about intonation and hands with Nathan Cole.
June 5, 2021, 5:48 AM · Yes, Andrew--my.demio.com worked after a couple of tries. Simon Fischer was really interesting!
Thanks again :)


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