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Help with intonation!
Starting on the violin
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Njusticeforall
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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May 28, 2014 - 7:29 pm
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Greetings from Brazil, everyone! My name is Victor, I'm 19 years old and I'm new here, and also new to the violin. I started taking classes 1 month ago, but I only got my violin 2 weeks ago. Well, I've been playing guitar (classical and electric) for fun for 7 years, maybe.. but only now I've started playing for real (practicing, studying, etc)... so I guess that this experience has helped me so far (as my teacher says).

But the thing that bothers me the most is my intonation. It's so inconsistent, sometimes I'm completely in tune and then I mess up and can't really figure it out instantly. I've noticed that the problem comes mainly from the misunderstanding between my sight and hearing. I see the spaces between my fingers and where the fingers are, and to me they seem to be in the correct position, but it sounds off, then my brain just goes crazy haha. My teacher told me that it really is hard to see the fingerboard correctly from that point of view (when you're playing), and I agree, but it really bothers me that I still can't get it right. Half of my playing time is spent checking the intonation with the open strings haha.

So I wanted to know from you guys: did you have any similar problems? Did it take a while for you to fix it? And sorry for the long text.

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DanielB
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May 28, 2014 - 7:58 pm
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Yes, I did run into something similar.  With practice and effort it will get better.

The "ear" you have developed from playing another instrument for years will help.  You already know what the notes should sound like, better than some other beginners.  Use that. 

You also know what a difference practice will make over time.  I am sure you are a better guitarist now than you were when you had only been playing a couple of weeks.  Give yourself a chance with violin, put in some time and practice to allow your skills to develop.  It will take a while and some work before your playing on violin can catch up to your playing on guitar.  Enjoy the journey. 

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Njusticeforall
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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May 28, 2014 - 9:05 pm
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Thanks for the feedback Daniel! Yes, I know what lots of good practice can do, and that motivates me a lot to follow this long journey on the violin. I'm a little old, so I don't know where I can get on the instrument, but I fell in love with it the first time I played 🙂 

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Oliver
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May 28, 2014 - 9:16 pm
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You have not been playing long enough to feel bad about the violin. 

Practice alone only achieves so much but time is also a big factor. 

Let your ambition work for you now and keep playing.

Scales are good at this point.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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Uzi
Georgia
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May 28, 2014 - 9:20 pm
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Your teacher is correct, it's hard to see the right place to put your fingers and the target on a violin fingerboard is very small.  I find that it is better to train the fingers to feel the correct location and to hear it rather than to try to see it.  

Good luck, it's lots of fun.  Practice every day and you'll progress quickly.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~Herm Albright

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RosinedUp
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May 28, 2014 - 9:41 pm
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Maybe you could play guitar well by putting your finger within a 1 cm spot.  Forget about doing that with violin.  You'll have to place your finger within say 1 mm.

First thing is to not think of it as a bother.  Take your time and enjoy it when you get it right.  You have to make a brain connection between fine finger movements and fine differences in pitch.  Concentrating on those may lead to skill in playing by ear and in vibrato.  So, "learn to enjoy the simple things" of playing.

Make sure you have pretty good strings, so you can hear resonance with the open strings.  For example, when you play G on the D string, you should hear the open G string ring.  When you play D on the G string, you will hear the open D string ring.  That kind of thing can be a very big deal in intonation.

Check yourself against an electronic tuner until you build up your confidence.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
May 29, 2014 - 8:28 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Welcome Njusticeforall,

Learning to place your fingers in the right spot is not related to sight but rather to feel. It's like typing fast, your fingers go down in the right spot automatically after you've done it for a while. Practice scales just for that purpose, as boring as that seems. :)
Play the scales that are in the key of the piece that you will be learning or working on. Memorize the feeling, distances, patterns that your hand and fingers make. Yes, it does take time but when it rains, it pours. ;)

Look forward to your updates.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Njusticeforall
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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May 30, 2014 - 4:24 pm
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I'm really thankful for all the comments guys! I'm really starting to feel more comfortable trying to feel the notes and spaces, and my playing seems more accurate as well. Maybe this week I'll post a video on the Critique Corner. amuse

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fiddle chick
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May 30, 2014 - 6:28 pm
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Wait. I'm still stuck on the part where you said "I'm a little old..."  Dude. You're 19! You don't know what old is yet! LOL! I'll bet that with practice and determination, you'll be playing like pro in no time. Good luck and enjoy!

Let the bow flow.

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Mad_Wed
Russia, Tatarstan rep. Kazan city
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June 3, 2014 - 2:56 am
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Give yourself some time! 2 weeks? Inconsistent intonation? You're lucky XD I learn to play more than 3 years and my intonation is still inconsistent, LOL!!! Don't worry, You'll be OK with time and practice.

Welcome to the forum, by the way!birthday_balloon

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Kiara
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June 3, 2014 - 6:03 am
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Hellooo Victor, welcome :)

Like everyone says, it takes lots of practice to get good intonation. I've been playing for many years now and still hit wrong notes (more often than I care to say :)) And it's not something that you can see. It is good though that you've had some other musical experience and can hear when you hit a wrong note, just keep up the practice. And yes, as boring as they seem scales are great. I have only recently started with scales and can see the benefits.

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Njusticeforall
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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June 5, 2014 - 5:08 am
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Thank you again everyone for the tips! Scales are really helping me out now, and I actually don't find them boring at all, as weird as that may sound. Best wishes to you all!

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coolpinkone
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June 18, 2014 - 1:30 pm
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Nice to meet you.. "just get some tape...."  ha ha ha just kidding.  Sorry, I used tapes in the beginning, and it was like going through rehab to play without them.

The fact that you know that your intonation is not correct is the first step to making it better.  When I started playing I could not hear that.

Good for you.  Welcome to the forward.  Look forward to hearing you play.

Cheers. 

Toni

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 19, 2014 - 10:33 pm
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True story, I actually put tapes on a violin for the first time ever in my life. Since I never had any myself and my students have mostly been students and pros I have never been in a situation to put tapes on an instrument.
Someone recently bought a Fiddlerman Concert Violin and asked if I could mark where the tapes should be. I found some tape and did it. However, it wasn't that easy. There is no definitely spot to place the tapes. Do you place them where the tip (nail) of the finger is, the center of the finger pad or somewhere between. I put my finger down correctly then I had to figure out where to put the tape. Figured that I should look down the violin from where a person actually holds the instrument in place. Didn't make it much easier but I ended up finding a sort of solution.....No matter if you use tapes or not, fine tune with your ear and memorize the feel of where you put down your fingers.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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coolpinkone
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June 19, 2014 - 11:26 pm
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That drove me nuts Pierre!!! My teacher put some wide tapes in my early days.. According to her grip ...And I got a tuner and they were not right for me.   I guess they were a just a"  guide..".. Later when I did not have lessons I made thin tapes based on how I made the notes correct.  Regardless... I like the idea of getting a consistent grip and finding the notes by muscle memory and fine tuning with the ear.  I am still weak in that area.

 (Talking to teach about things I learned online was a sour note for sure)

(Not criticizing my teacher who plays violin so very very beautifully  and has many many students who do well)

i miss my lessons and teacher... 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 20, 2014 - 8:32 am
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Do you use guideline tapes on your fingerboard?

  • I did in the beginning but obviously not now.(40% : 2 votes)
  • I never did, nor did I ever want to.(40% : 2 votes)
  • Yes I do, but plan on removing them.(20% : 1 vote)
  • I sure do, and they will remain on my fiddle.(0% : 0 votes)
Total Voters: 5

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Njusticeforall
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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June 21, 2014 - 5:32 pm
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Thank you coolpinkone, nice to meet you too! I agree with you both about the tape.. I've played with a taped violin (wich my teacher uses with his new students) during my first 2 weeks, because I didn't have mine yet.

For me, it's easier to play without the tapes, just because it's so easy to trust 100% on them, so you end up focusing on what you see, instead of what your hear or feel, so you got to be really careful about that.. and as coolpinkone said, sometimes the tapes only give you and idea of where to put your finger, but that may not be the correct place, as the margin of error in the violin is really small. But I can see why teachers use these tapes.. the violin is a really hard instrument, especially because you need to "create" the notes, so I think it's a good way to allow the starting student to play something while they develop their ears, . It has surely helped me in my first lessons, otherwise it would be much harder to play Twinkle, twinkle little star haha

Now I prefer to listen and feel what I play (thank you all on this thread and my teacher, for theses advices blink), using techniques, like checking notes with open strings, or playing intervals, like perfect fourths.. but I certainly would have had a lot more trouble without the tapes. I agree 100% with Pierre.. what matters is that you start to memorize the feel of each note, as soon as possible, the tapes may be used just as a guide to facilitate your early playing :)

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