I just watched a video of a very talented violinist in a RBP masterclass who tuned up by with loud , longish bow strokes with little difference between the ‘a’ he started with and the one he finished with relative to all that effort.
To add insult to injury the pianist sat through all this and then, for no reason I could think, of distainfully played a single ‘e’ as though this was going to be useful or resolve what she may have perceived as an incorrectly tuned string????!!
(Actually, the pianist appeared to be looking with disbelief at the score throughout the performance as though this pretty good performance offended her to the very core, represented the apotheosis of all she hated in life. I found this a tad unprofessional….)
So, tuning. So we teach it well? How do we teach it? What should we avoid? etc.
Tuning a violin against a piano can be surprisingly difficult. Not sure if it's the unison pitches (which are never truly perfect) or the envelope of the sound that makes it so. Violin teachers don't really teach it. My teacher prefers to play a d-minor triad. Maybe there is some overtone cancellation that helps him hear the A better? I've been an accompanist for many student violinists at recitals and such, and it's also frustrating to the accompanist when you know the violinist cannot really hear the A correctly. But as soon as the soloist starts, then you've got to keep a straight face at least! No grimacing! The job of the accompanist is to help the soloist sound as good as possible. As for tuning to an orchestra, Sassmannshaus advises the soloist to "tune to the highest A that you hear in the orchestra."
I have to admit that I don't hear the piano A well myself. I haven't performed anything recently but when I did I tried to "steal" the A well before the beginning when listeners still got seated and were in conversation. After that a quick check and last correction is relatively easy. (BTW I too hear it better with the d-minor chord vs. the naked A; I have always believed that the whole chord provides for more resonances).
Maybe the placebo effect was worth it, and it was more about the ritual of the whole endeavor settling him down to play. You gotta know when to fold 'em.
I saw some classmates play last year who just couldn't seem to get the darn thing in tune to their liking. The violin would be perfectly tuned and they'd go and redo it all again, whilst the audience begins to cement in their seats.
Some years ago I got used to tuning my instrument to a tuner (these days an app on the phone) or a fork before the rehearsal. Then, when everyone else is tuning, check my strings. I also find it useful (as a violist) to check Cs with the cello in a quartet - too easy for both instruments tuned in fifths to be a tad off by the time we get to the C string. I think it was in a book about Primrose where I saw he recommends that violists tune to a D instead of an A, and I've found this to be helpful also - get the D exact, then the G, C in fifths, then the A, which, to sound really correct, is slightly sharp. In a couple of videos where Zuckerman was giving a lesson, I noticed he advocates tuning quietly, and only with the bow going in one direction (up-bow if I remember correctly). And yes, playing in tune with a piano is difficult for string players who nearly always only play with other string players. The book "Violin Mind" talks extensively about strategies for playing in tune with a piano accompaniment.
Tuning:-- "There's too much tuning and not enough playing in tune" - (me). Before synthetic strings, playing in tune on out- of- tune gut strings was considered a necessary skill for professional musicians.
I like this discussion..... :)
I teach my students to tune to the A and then tune their other strings by fifths.
Now, if they all had Wittner geared pegs fitted..... !
I switched to the D'Addario NS Micro Tuner when they first appeared. It avoids the problem of trying to tune to source not by overbowing the A string to hear yourself clearly. It is also close enough for E and D strings but tuning the G by ear is better. One other advantage of this tuner, which can be kept on the instrument (violin or viola) when playing is that it is perfect for retuning for temporary scordatura passages.
I'm a quiet tuner (having been instructed to tune quietly by a former student of Heifetz). However, I've always wondered whether it would be better to tune loudly before playing a solo. Even in pp sections in a solo, you're never going to be playing quietly. And so your pitch is already slightly off before you start. In an ensemble, however, you will be playing pp and ppp sections as quietly as you tuned.
I forgot to write that i have Wittner Finetunes pegs in all of my violins !
While studying with Ken Goldsmith, he taught tuning to the D because the fifths on the piano are compressed.
I generally tune my G borderline sharp and my E borderline flat.
At a masterclass in Miami in 1975, Samuel Applebaum taught me to tune my violin quietly, in fifths, and using only up bows at the tip of the bow. I still tune this way!
continued-- The piano perfect fifths are 2 cents, 2/100 of a half step, short. When tuning to the piano A, the Cello and Viola C will sound 6 cents, 6/100 flat, compared to the piano C. Our best margin of error that we hear for melodic intervals is about 5-6 cents. Tuning to the piano D fixes that problem. Playing the open strings as a double-stop perfect fifth is different. Our margin of error is much smaller, because we hear the "beats", the interference tones of the harmonics.
Thank you Joel! That's the stuff.