Playing in tune

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About intervals| Interval Overview | Tuner

To intone

On a violin it is necessary to intone. If you do not put your finger on the right spot, you will play out of tune. Use your ear. Playing in tune can be learnt, for some people it is easier, but everybody can learn it.


Using a tuner

I recommend using a tuner. You will be able to do better than a tuner down the road, but the scale of a tuner is not that bad (you may think that you can learn to play in a better pitch than a tuner (playing in natural scale)- some people can, most poeple cannot, they will be much worse than if they had learnt to play the tempered scale). If you are going to play with other instruments, like harmonicas and pianos you should play the tempered scale anyway.

Most tuners are too slow reacting that you can use them while you are playing a normal melody, therefore when using a tuner, you must stop the melody on the note that you are unsure about. Play that note only for a while, if necessary: adjust your fingering to get it right. Listen to how the note sounds when it is in tune. Try to play a litle bit before the note. Land on it and see if you can hit it in the first spot. Listen to the sound of the note beeing in tune, try also to memorize your left hand fingering position. Do it again and again, until it feels natural for your finger to land on the right spot.

It is important that you continue until the point where you imediatly hit the note at the right spot. Learning to play in tune is very essential for a good violinist, however it is better to play out of tune, and stay out of tune, than trying to constantly adjust for hitting the right note (and maybe not hit it). It depends a litle bit however. Sometimes you may hit a note wrong, and you may be able to adjust your fingering as part of your performance. If you do it fast enough you can do it.

While you are learning, it is of course also allowed to adjust your finger until you hit the right spot. Your goal should be to be able to hit the right fingering location at once, without thinking. But it takes some traing for most people to get to that point.


Tune your violin!!

By avoiding playing on loose strings some very skilled musiction can play in tune on an out-of-tune instrument, but it is difficult very difficult. Do yourself a favour, every time you pick up your instrument, check that it is in tune. With a digital tuner it is no problem.

Make the tuner a natural part of your practing.

Put the tuner somwhere were it is always available when you are practicing. If you are practicing with your computer, put some wellcro tape on top of your computer screen and on the tuner making it easy to stick the tuner onto the screen top. Make it possible to attach it to your mirror too, so when you stand in front of the mirror and practice, you can easily turn the tuner on, and now and then check that you are in tune. Make it possible to attach the tuner to your note stand, so it is easy for you while practicing new melodies from sheet music, to check your tuning. In periods, you should have the tuner turned on always while practicing, stopping up and check that you are in tune. (Then in other periods you may leave it off, allowing you to concentrate on other aspects of your playing)

Use a microfphone or pickup with your tuner

Putting a pickup on your violin or a small microphone will make it easier for the tuner to get the violin note out of the background noise, this will allow the tuner to faster measure the pitch.


About using Vibrato

Using vibrato can help you getting in pitch, but it is of course much better, if you can learn to hit the note in pitch at the first touchdown of your finger.

Vibrato is used a lot in classic music, but like sliding below you must be able to make a good tone without vibrato. Especially if you are interested in palying non-classical music. Using vibrato in folk music, jazz or blues music, will produce a classic sound which will appear out of the style in most cases.

About sliding into pitch

some people use a technique where they "slide into pitch". This can be usefull in the start, it can also be a "good effect to know in some cases". But don't abuse it. Your goal should be to hit the right pitch immediatly. Don't use sliding techniques on every note you play, you may think it sounds well, and fancy, but most people don't. In jazz and blues and country you may use it as an effect, but you should be able also not using sliding.



Learning the right pitch

You may be one of the lucky people that just can hear the right pitch. Then you have no problem just adjust your finger and play right!

For most people playing in pitch has to be learnt!!

And there is a general problem because some people tend to learn the wrong pitch, and thus tend to be out of tune all the time. Just face the fact. It is of utmost importance when playing violin to learn to play in tune, you have to work on it. It is not easy, but with a litle effort every day, you can learn it. The effort of playing in tune has to be checked from time avoiding getting into the mishabit of rememering notes that are out of tune.

Note that the scale that a tuner and most pianos are producing is close to a "natural" scale, but it is not a natural scale. It is something that has to be learnt.

It is when you are practicing you have time to think about beeing in pitch.

Try to isolate a section of every session where you play for just checking your pitch. When you are checking your pitch, you are consentrating on that. If you for example are learning a new melody and the melody has one note that you do not play so often. Stop up on that note, check it with the tuner. If you do not have tuner (then buy one, tuners are not expensive, you can get one for 20-30$!!), you can use a piano, or you can simply check with the notes on another string. But in all cases, stop up check your tuning, when you get the right pitch, try to memorise how that sound, play some note before the note that you are practicing, stop up on the notes, try to remember how the fingering should be. This in-tune practicing may take one or two minutes every day.

Now when you get it right, you can start practicing getting the note sound nice too! Make sure that your bowing is OK, and it has a nice sound. Stay on the note and make it rythimc right. Listen to the note, feel how it sounds, see if you can get it right on the first shot, without having to adjust. Next time you practice, repeat what you did the day before (or last time you practiced) After a while you have simply learnt the right pitch of that note. When you play the same melody a month later, go back to the pitch practicing. Are you still in pitch? Check with the tuner. If you have piano, play the note on the piano, see if you can get close to it.


Once you are in tune, make sure that the note is sounding nice, dwell on the note in try it with different rythms. Make that note that you just got in tune "a part of you self". Enjoy the sound of being in tune!!! Check other notes nearby. Are they in pitch too. If not learn them. Enjoy the feeling of playing in the right pitch when playing violin!





Non-tempered scales

There is a number of different intervals coming from the Pythagoras scale the natural scale or the tempered scale.

However the pitch difference from the natural scale, to the tempered scale is often smaller than the pitch difference to a note that you have learnt wrong. Of course at some stage you might want to be able to play both tempered and natural scaled, but most of the time you will find that playing tempered is OK, this is what you will use when you are playing with other instruments.