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Violin Lessons: Intonation

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Us violinists,
we're always thinking about intonation.
We can never escape it and it's gonna be
that way the rest of your life,
so better get used to it now.
When you're dealing with a passage that
does, doesn't want to get in tune,
there are a few ways to look at it.
I want you to look first to see if you're
working within a frame.
If you have a set position and
if you're moving your fingers around that
frame rather than the hand.
Now I know that in some passages it's
preferable to do a little bit of crawling,
but you should look at your fingerings and
see if a whole lot of them
involve you sort of migrating around the
fingerboard and crawling around.
That can promote some, some bad intonation
because your hand never has a good anchor.
So you want many of your fingerings to
involve set positions with reaches,
reaches that lead to a new set position
and then shifts that use guide fingers.
Those are the most predictable motions,
and ones that are very repeatable.
When you do reach, you want to reach first
and then move the hand.
One of the common faults is reaching and
That gets the intonation a little wormy.
Once you've made sure that you're setting
yourself up with some good conditions for
good intonation, then play the passage
with a relaxed hand, and
I can't stress that enough.
If you're looking for the notes, if, your
hand will tense up.
Just play it as the hand lies and
listen carefully for where your intonation
actually is.
Most of the notes may be perfectly in
There may be a couple, though, that are
consistently out.
So start identifying if they're flat, if
they're sharp and just how flat or
sharp they are.
I like to assign a number.
I might call it plus five to minus five
with zero being something that I consider
perfectly in tune.
So if I play a passage and I hear a note
that's out,
I don't just say oh, that's out.
I'll say hm, that was a negative two.
It was, it was that much flat.
So the next time I play it I'm gonna see
was that same note a negative two or
did it change?
Is it now a negative one or a zero or a
plus one?
I think you'll often find that you make
the same you place
the fingers in the same places when you
use a relaxed hand time and time again,
and many times when you put a number to a
note it starts adjusting back to zero.
So, when you're repeating again, you're
not trying to make
big adjustments because usually your hand
will do that for you.
You are repeating with a relaxed hand and
getting used to that nice feeling for
the passage.
Finally there will be some notes that
don't adjust on their own and
then you can decide if you want to change
fingerings or
simply play making sure to put it on the
other side.
In other words, if a note stays a negative
two or a negative three then you're
set with that fingering, then the next
time you play it make it a positive three.
Make a big change.
See how that feels, see how different that
feels, and
then repeat a few times and see if it
doesn't adjust back to zero.
So, in your video to me, I'd like you to
pick a section of music,
even if it's just a few bars, that has
some intonation difficulties for you.
Now, if there are reaches involved, I'd
like you to show me how you're reaching
and then moving, or perhaps reaching but
staying in the same hand position.
That's also a very strong intonation move.
I'd like you to match notes that recur in
perfect intervals.
I'd like you to hear those and make sure
that they are the same, so that's unions,
octaves, perfect fourths and fifths,
making sure that those are all ringing
with each other, and I'd like you to all
of that with a relaxed hand.
And you can show me, if you'd like, how
you actually practice it.
You don't have to show me the, the
finished, perfect product.
You can show me what the difficulty is and
then show me how you're using some of
those techniques, repeating it, assigning
a number to a note and then repeating,
letting the hand adjust, and conform to
what your ear wants to hear.