tuning forks

Want to play better in tune on the violin (or viola, cello, etc)? In addition to having a good sense of relative pitch and left hand fundamentals, string players also need to have a basic understanding of both vertical and horizontal intonation. The bad news is there is no such thing as perfect intonation. The good news is that with experience, string players have the ability to quickly adjust their intonation in real time to stay the best in tune with an ensemble (or themselves).

There are have been many tuning systems throughout music history, many of which are still being used today. If it interests you to explore this topic in greater detail, I strongly recommend Ross Duffin’s book How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and why you should care).

In addition to the “universally-accepted” equal temperament, here is a summary of two tuning systems that non-tempered instrumentalists (this includes vocalists) should be aware of. Continue reading “Pythagorean Tuning vs Just Intonation | A Paradox of Playing in Tune”

As players of a fret-less stringed instrument that’s not set to equal (or meantone) temperament like a keyboard or marimba, we have the liberty to utilize more than one tuning system. With multiple tuning systems, there’s no such thing as absolutely perfect intonation. Playing the most in tune we can on the violin (or viola, cello, etc) requires a combination of stellar sense of relative pitch combined with active listening, a stable instrument setup, and a reliable left hand technique. The combination of ear training and physical technique creates the mind-body connection (or ear-finger connection, if that makes more sense to you), which allows us to play in tune consistently.

Continue reading “How to Play More in Tune: Ear-Training, Tuning Systems, & Mind-Body Connection”

I have a confession to make – I never really practiced anything by Ševčik growing up. Almost my entire playing career I stayed away from his etude books. The handful of instances I gave Ševčik a chance turned into really grueling, boring, and mind-numbing practice sessions. I felt (and sounded) like a zombie going through sequence after sequence of shifting. Before long, the Ševčik books were out of sight and out of mind for good.

It’s no wonder I had such a miserable time – most students practice Ševčik incorrectly and go on autopilot, which can stunt musical and technical growth. Only recently, after more than 2 decades of playing the violin I really began learning how to approach Ševčik in a strategic way.

Continue reading “How To Practice Ševčik Op. 8 Without Feeling Like a Zombie”