Delayed shifts are performed either through finger extensions or contractions, after which the hand frame re-establishes in the new position. The forearm is still the main leader during changes of position and it defines when a shift has been officially completed. Pay attention to its role when playing a delayed shift. When does your forearm move in relation to the fingers and thumb?

Continue reading “The Magic of Delayed Shifts (Sneak Into a New Position)”


For the longest time, I’ve struggled to play double stops consistently in tune, and even more so with a decent sound. I always found playing octaves to be especially challenging – it’s a perfect interval and any deviation from matching pitches sticks out like a sore thumb…on in this case, a sore ear? After practicing octaves for years and years, they were just never consistent enough. I still struggle a little from time to time and need to practice octaves on a daily basis as part of my warmup routine to maintain a healthy hand frame and intonation.


Although my progress has been very slow, and often frustrating, all the repetitions really started to make their impact over a long-term time frame. Among all the great lessons I learned along the way about playing octaves better in tune and with a better tone, there are three that currently stand out for me, which I use as a guide for my most recent practice sessions. Continue reading “Octave Hacks”

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”

What will be your first scale of the new year? Do you ever feel that practicing scales becomes a bit stale after falling into a comfortable routine? I have to confess – some days I substitute my routine in favor of other kinds of exercises in order to feel fresh and engaged during the warm-up.

Some time ago, I was studying a chamber music piece from the Classical era in which the violin part had a section filled with embellishments – chromatic turns outlining descending arpeggios, to be specific. These ornaments caused me to stumble, and more than a few times. I was frustrated that a fairly “straight-forward” movement suddenly became very challenging. Any amount of routine scale practice (Galamian, Flesch, or Heifetz) wouldn’t have prepared me for this kind of passage. Instead of looking for an appropriate etude, I decided to come up with some new scale exercises.

Continue reading “Scales With Embellishments (part 1)”