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Is clear intonation physically possible?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (6 votes) 
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Composer
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April 28, 2012 - 3:47 am
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Question: Should we

a. Tune the motor mechanism for a 'clear-from-the-outset' manner of playing OR

b. Make allowance for using evasions such as continuous readjustment (eg. moving the finger back or forth very quickly, shading vibrato)

I vote (a) and demand that all instructors who utilize (b) be placed in front of a firing squad.

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Worldfiddler
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April 28, 2012 - 5:57 am
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I would aim for option A myself, but there's always going to be an element of option B during that process, I think.

I think good intonation is partly an inbuilt thing, but improvements can be learned.

Little things like playing the sharps slightly flat, and the naturals slightly sharp.

Example 1 :

Play a 2-note chord of C#+open E. The chord will sound sweeter if the C# is a fraction flat.

Example 2 :

Play a 2-note chord of C nat+open E. The chord will sound sweeter if the C nat is a fraction sharp.

Weird, eh?

Back to the original statement, I agree with composer's view of the importance of option A 🙂

Jim violin-student

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Oliver
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April 28, 2012 - 10:02 am
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I was wandering about and came on a cute site which included a monumental quote.  I had some thoughts along the same lines previously but I was clobbered to see it in print (too wide to fit page so I'll paraphrase).

Heifitz ..... Master Players.....not relying on their ears !!!!!!

http://fiddleheads.ca/writings.....ation.html

First of all, I like the suggestion that I could render a robotic version of some good music even lacking special musical ability.  On the other hand I don't believe it at all.  "Close" is never close enough.  What about context, mood, key, etc.  For that sake, performance?  Now someone will say that vibrato never comes to the rescue !! 

The real reason I was snooping about the internet was to find a quote, which I didn't and now I'm getting desperate.  ????   It goes something like this ......   "If it were not for adjustments, I would have no intonation at all."  Who said that   or something like it?

coffee2

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Joe
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April 28, 2012 - 10:43 am
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So what are musicians to do not if, but when finger placement is less than precise;  hold off key and hope no one notices?

I THINK NOT!

So why not from the start give praise to the newly initiated for knowing how and when to reposition, evade, or just suck it up and improvise.

In my estimation, there is no option A; one might aspire to perfection, but when was the last time you heard any? It doesnt exist.

Pitch accuracy is everything, yet seldom acquired perfectly except through experimentation.

I wont even broach the issue of instrument detuning during play.

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TerryT
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April 28, 2012 - 10:48 am
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I put learning vibrato to one side for exactly the reason of looking for note purity without any masking apart from rapid direct adjustment
(oh yeah, plus the fact it was getting on my tits not being able to do it!!)

I was born with nothing,
and to my surprise I still have most of it left!

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Oliver
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April 28, 2012 - 12:07 pm
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I would guess that a common good approach is an inoffensive first placement followed (instantly) by any needed correction.  And a bulls-eye can never be wrong !

 

Terry  Vibrato is your friend but if you insist on really knowing where the notes are then I guess that works too !  (Simple finger vibrato is adequate to cover a multitude of sins)

coffee2

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ftufc
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April 28, 2012 - 1:13 pm
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I love this topic,,, it is the 45 - 180 min. drama of every day of my life.  First of all, Oliver, your link is great!

“Why are a violinists fingers like lightening?”

“They never strike the same spot twice.”

But aside from this funny, the message is VERY practical and useful.  I learned an invaluable learning technique from the article.  I had mentioned in a prior thread that I spend the first 15 min.s of every practice using a pitch analyzer for every note I practice; my incorrect use of that exercise was that I sort of "wiggled" my fingertip back a bit or forward a bit until I got (measured by the analyzer) and heard the correct pitch.  What I'm going to start doing is lift my bad, naughty finger up from the string and take another direct shot at the correct pitch so that my finger will learn its target.... I think this is a VERY important way to train.

My teacher's moniker is "Pitchfixer", and as lame at that may sound, I'd also attest to the fact that I don't know any player, personally, who hits the correct pitch (without adjustment) more regularly than he.  In a two-hour chamber music recital that he performed recently, I heard 3 slightly off pitch incidents from him (which btw he immediately adjusted); and I was focusing only on his quality of performance (unfortunately I didn't hear the beauty of the entire performance) because I wanted to see for myself just how good was my teacher.

Also, as I had mentioned in a prior thread, I feel it is a monumental task to hit the correct pitch on every note because of the inaccuracy of the instrument; your hand, specifically your fingertip; my fingertips measure between 7 - 10mm in dia., there really is no "tip" with the center being hard and gradating outward; that's a crap-load of inaccuracy; there is no solid fixed bar point of contact.

Knowing that it isn't "humanly" possible to hit the exactly correct pitch on a fretless instrument except by mere coincidence, my question is, how accurately do people hear pitch.  It's all about the acuity of the measuring instrument.  The pitch analyzer is pretty accurate, but people's hearing acuity is enormously disparate.  It's just like everything else that is around us in our real world; there's a crap load of stuff that we don't see accurately,,, we have just to assume that paint on the wall is solid and that the air we breathe isn't its own sea of matter.

My teacher's answer to this issue is, learn to play to the people who have the finest sense of hearing and everyone else will be happy.  Violin is such an arduous pursuit,,, I sometimes wish I had taken up the shaker!

 

 


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Oliver
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April 28, 2012 - 2:00 pm
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Some numbers around the internet:

Common pitch resolution  10 (musical) cents.

Good resolution 5 cents.  Piano tuners, etc.

There are reports of even less than 5 cents.

I can readily hear when another instrument I'm playing with is off.  This causes trouble and some people don't like me cry

FM has a pitch/note tester game but he ambushes the game by varying time intervals between notes. 

An independent calculation  (mine) says that a "good" note aim is accurate at 0.010" or 1/4 mm.  FAR beyond what a person might do with good repeatability.

coffee2

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Fiddlerman
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April 28, 2012 - 3:07 pm
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First strive to hit the note as close as possible, then adjust as quickly as possible and vibrato is absolutely a form of camouflage as well as an embellishment.

GREAT practice is to play through pieces with no vibrato and concentrate on each and every note from time to time. Vibrato can always be added later.

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

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ftufc
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April 28, 2012 - 7:02 pm
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Hey Oliver, I'm confused; a pretty normal state for me, but sometimes I like to spring out of my confusion long enough to grasp certain concepts...  what is the measure "cent", e.g., 5 cents and 10 cents; clearly not centimeters.  Or did you use "cents" in a relative capacity?dunno

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Fiddlerman
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April 28, 2012 - 11:59 pm
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A cent is a unit of measure for musical intervals.
100 cents is the interval between half steps, for example from C to C#. Usually the human ear can not recognize intervals of less than 6 cents.

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

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Joe
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Fiddlerman said
A cent is a unit of measure for musical intervals.
100 cents is the interval between half steps, for example from C to C#. Usually the human ear can not recognize intervals of less than 6 cents.

 

That is not good news.....if music cents were money, I'd need about 400 dollars worth of corrective hearing.....violin-student

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cdennyb
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joe said

Fiddlerman said
A cent is a unit of measure for musical intervals.
100 cents is the interval between half steps, for example from C to C#. Usually the human ear can not recognize intervals of less than 6 cents.

 

That is not good news.....if music cents were money, I'd need about 400 dollars worth of corrective hearing.....violin-student

ROTFLMAO... good one Joe, I'm with ya buddy... we'd have to rob the bank to get a clean piece of music played properly...roflol

"If you practice with your hands you must practice all day. Practice with your mind and you can accomplish the same amount in minutes." Nathan Milstein

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ftufc
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April 29, 2012 - 1:32 pm
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VERY interesting; thanks FM.  I'd never heard that before, and conceptually very useful.  So it's a measure of distance associated with pitch, VERY cool.

And the 6 cent perceptibility ties in to my issue of a 7mm - 10mm fingertip slop.

SCRATCH THAT!  For anyone who is intrigued by the mechanics of this issue, I just went to this site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.....28music%29 , and it is so enlightening & fun and it is applicable to the art of producing great sound. Check it out!  See how accurately YOU can distinguish pitch; clearly I can hear the variation of pitch at 10 cents when played together, but I'm hard pressed to hear it when played separately at 10 cents; these crappy 57 yr old ears; I need a new set!

Okay, so bottom line, a cent isn't a measure of distance, but a measure of relativity, one pitch to another; but in a practical app, you can sort of correlate 100 cents = approximately 16 mm (+/- 1mm, this variance is because I'm manually measuring the distance of a half step with a steel ruler on a finger template - nowhere can I find the exact measure stated). 

WAIT, SCRATCH THAT TOO!  Because the fingerboard is a logarithmic platform so the actual mm between half steps gets smaller as you go up the neck.  So there is no practical accurate correlation of measure between cents to mm.  CRAP, thought I was onto a better understanding of this,,,, and I just wasted 20 min.s that I could've been practicing!!!b-slap

Damn you Oliver [lmao], you tricked me into a snipe hunt!!!!

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Oliver
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April 29, 2012 - 1:37 pm
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There is a correlation IF one specifies where a statement might apply.  My figure for 0.010" accuracy was for the "A" string in first position.

As you point out, it gets dicey up the fingerboard.

coffee2

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

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myguitarnow
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April 29, 2012 - 5:08 pm
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? Ok, you all just went way over the way I think. Why complicate yourself so much ?

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RosinedUp
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ftufc said 
 a 7mm - 10mm fingertip slop.

A 10 mm error would put you closer to the next pitch on the chromatic scale than to the pitch that you were trying to play.  For example, trying to play E on the D string, you would be closer to Eb or F than you would be to E.  And if you were trying to play the D an octave higher on the D string, you would be off by more than a semitone: you would be flatter than Db or sharper than D#.

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Picklefish
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@rosined up- right out of Fleschs' book. lol, just got it and was reading about tone when I saw this post.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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RosinedUp
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picklefish said
@rosined up- right out of Fleschs' book. lol, just got it and was reading about tone when I saw this post.

Oh yeah?  Actually, being a numbers-oriented guy, I deduced it from first principles.  Does he really say the same thing about a 10 mm fingering error?  My post was a quantified way of saying that a 10mm error would sound like hell.

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The book says consider A and Bflat. The distance between these two notes is approximately 60 vibrations. The spatial distance is only 2 millimeters. So, those 60 vibrations have to occur within those two millimeters. Thus one vibration equals 1/30 of a millimeter. So assuming the A is in tune, I would have to place my finger in a location that is accurate to the 1/30th of a millimeter. He goes on to say, to play in tune, in terms of physics, is an impossibility.

This was written back in the 1930's I think. I got the newly translated and edited one published more recently.

"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.

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