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Tuning, drones, intonation, and why the violin makes me insane
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February 26, 2012 - 4:57 am
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I have a confession.  I'm addicted to my Korg Chromatic Tuner.  I cannot tune my violin,  I can't even pretend to know much about the various tuning 'systems' (equal temperament, Just Intonation, whatever else).  Nevertheless, this won't stop me from giving Pierre a hard time about his videos on Tuning, Drones, and the natural notes on the G string. 

Lets start with tuning.  Pierre, after the A is tuned with lets say a tuning fork,  how am I supposed to know what is a perfect 5th between it and the open D?  Does that not assume an aural skill which I do not have?  The suggestion of utilizing Twinkle Twinkle little star is a cheat.  I cannot detect any interval because I have no ear training and this instrument is not fixed like a piano.

Now the drones video.  I thought a drone is a fixed reference pitch to enable measurement.  This is always done via double stops or an open string.  I don't know why you demand bowing two open strings on the tuning video but on the drones video you use a tone on an external device (Ipod in this case).   Thats not a drone, its a cheat exactly like using an electronic tuner. 

On the G string video,  you should be playing the open D string drone in addition to the G string and then a measurable interval exists between the open D and the stopped A on the G string.  You can't have (what you call a drone) A playing on your Ipod while you "find" the A on the G String.  Thats my idea of cheating. 

 

Bottom line:  How do you find the note A on the G string utilizing whatever tuning 'system'.  I have no idea without looking at my tuner and it telling me whats an A.  On the piano its not a problem.  On the violin,  I say the beginner requires a lot of upfront training in music theory and ear training (Relative pitch, perfect pitch). 

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Oliver
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February 26, 2012 - 9:18 am
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If you must have a tuner to establish pitch, how do you select pitch when you play?

I know of a good first chair who practices with a scroll clip-on tuner but puts it away when performing.

coffee2

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Gail
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February 26, 2012 - 10:08 am
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There's no such thing as cheating in music.  violin_girl

Whatever it takes to tune your fiddle is fair.  Not tuning it is unfair to whoever has to hear it!  Peace!

exactly

I've learned so much from my mistakes that I've decided to make some more.

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February 26, 2012 - 10:45 am
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I tune the A string only with a tuner and all others off the A

Play the A and D together to tune the D.  Play the D and G together to tune the G string.

Play the  A and E together to tune the E string. 

This way even if the A is off a little everything else sounds fine.violin-student

No matter where you go, there you are!

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February 26, 2012 - 10:48 am
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Keep in mind that the strings are in different octaves and you are listing for harmony when tuning. When the waves stop , your there!

No matter where you go, there you are!

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February 26, 2012 - 12:46 pm
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"Play the A and D together to tune the D"

 

Well I know that but how do you determine whats a perfect 5th by using the ear only?    I can't tune the D because I lack the aural skill of detecting various intervals.

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February 26, 2012 - 12:58 pm
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"...how do you select pitch when you play"

Through memorization and the use of impressionable melodies such as what exists in the Suzuki books.  Once I hear a cute melody on a MP3 file it sticks in the mind and I can determine whether various notes are roughly in tune and correct as necessary.  Problem is formal studies in scales exist to improve evenness of pitch, rhythm etc through practice.  I don't know how the sensitivity of my ear improves when in fact I have no aural skills to begin with.  I may get through all the Suzuki books and my intonation is average, not of a professional caliber without even being aware of the fact.

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Oliver
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February 26, 2012 - 1:43 pm
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I agree that scales do not improve pitch recognition.  They only improve the ability of determining where to put the fingers.  

I'm curious to know what you define as "professional caliber" ?

Only a relatively small percentage of players possess outstanding musical ability but it is often enough to serve the purpose and that's the bottom line in the amateur arena.

coffee2

PS  Your approach to playing probably represents the vast majority of players at the amateur level.  I wouldn't be alarmed unless you have higher expectations.

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

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Fiddlerman
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February 26, 2012 - 2:13 pm
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Composer said

Lets start with tuning.  Pierre, after the A is tuned with lets say a tuning fork,  how am I supposed to know what is a perfect 5th between it and the open D?  Does that not assume an aural skill which I do not have?  The suggestion of utilizing Twinkle Twinkle little star is a cheat.  I cannot detect any interval because I have no ear training and this instrument is not fixed like a piano.

I am not sure what you mean by "a cheat" but it could help some people recognize the interval. Once you have learned the interval by heart you won't need to think about twinkle twinkle. I know what a fifth sounds like the same way I assume that you know what the color blue looks like. You can tune a violin perfectly by turning the peg backwards and forwards slightly until you feel that the sound waves, vibrations smooth out. It's hard to explain if you have never heard it. Also, there are some many different tunings in the world. In the orchestras that I played in Europe we tuned high to about a 443 A.

Now the drones video.  I thought a drone is a fixed reference pitch to enable measurement.  This is always done via double stops or an open string.  I don't know why you demand bowing two open strings on the tuning video but on the drones video you use a tone on an external device (Ipod in this case).   Thats not a drone, its a cheat exactly like using an electronic tuner. 

I don't know why you say it is not a drone. A fixed reference point can be external as well as on your own instrument plus the idea is to better your intonation and not to pass a test. About the open strings, I only talk about playing two open strings to tune the violin not to work on fingering intonation. Use open strings above and below fingered notes as a reference to make sure you are playing in tune. I suppose it won't work for someone who's hearing is not developed enough to recognize the perfect intervals.

On the G string video,  you should be playing the open D string drone in addition to the G string and then a measurable interval exists between the open D and the stopped A on the G string.  You can't have (what you call a drone) A playing on your Ipod while you "find" the A on the G String.  Thats my idea of cheating.

There it is again. Still not sure why you use the word cheating, do you think we are being tested. A guide is not a cheat and doesn't mean you should use it all the time. It's for practicing and learning. The truth is that I can use any note as a guide even if it sounds strange to you.

Bottom line:  How do you find the note A on the G string utilizing whatever tuning 'system'.  I have no idea without looking at my tuner and it telling me whats an A.  On the piano its not a problem.  On the violin,  I say the beginner requires a lot of upfront training in music theory and ear training (Relative pitch, perfect pitch). 

This question I understand but I'm not sure I can help you understand how to do it. Intonation is to me like color probably is to you unless you are color blind. You must be able to recognize the 'intervals'. You should study my fingering charts and place your finger as close to that as you can and adjust using your hearing. If you don't hear the difference you may attempt to use the open strings above, in this case the open D, as a perfect 4th reference. Same thing with the waves smoothing out. Not everyone can hear intonation so well and may have to work on it for a long time.

Lastly, I do sell Fingerboard Appliques for the person who needs them. They help you put your finger in the right place not only by sight but by feel a little like with a guitar. They are fairly easy to take off after you get used to playing and know about where to place your fingers.

I am sorry if this is hard to understand but not all people are blessed with great pitch recognition. It's harder for someone like me to explain since I always had an easy time recognizing intervals and intonation. I am far from playing perfect but I do hear when a note is too high or low. Check out my intonation game and see if it makes any sense to you.

Thanks for the questions as they may help others wondering the same thing and not wanting to ask.

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Oliver
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February 26, 2012 - 3:41 pm
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Composer,

I was just browsing through this thread again and something occurred to me.  You said you had no "ear training".  That is probably a factor in your condition.

"Ear training" is a continuous process for as long as one learns violin.  That is even true if it is not at a totally conscious level.  I know that specifically because I can "hear" things now after 5 years that I would never have dreamed of several years ago and I'm sure that others have that same experience.

coffee2

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

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Mad_Wed
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February 27, 2012 - 11:18 am
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Composer said

...

Lets start with tuning.  Pierre, after the A is tuned with lets say a tuning fork,  how am I supposed to know what is a perfect 5th between it and the open D? ...

Exactly the same question i asked to my teacher on the first lesson. She said that i have to hear it. She tuned my violin perfectly and then asked me to play any 2 strings together and turn a fine tuner - strings started to clash (?).. and i realized the feeing of a good 5th, when returned that fine-tuner back. Next time i could do it myself easily. But still i can't tune the violin so quick by only 1 note when it's out of tune very much... And prefer to use FM's violin tuner when i change strings for example....

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February 27, 2012 - 1:52 pm
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Pierre, questions for the drones video:

1) What is an A-drone?  Where did it come from?

2) When you play the B, how did you determine what is a B because you still had the A-drone playing on your i-phone?

3) Why didn't you play a B-drone in order to find the B just like you did with the A?

 

General comments:  It is trivial to find the A because you are simply matching some mysterious audible reference that didn't come from your violin.  The reference pitch (drone) is the same as the one you are trying to find, therefore the interval is a unison.  But when you play the B, thats a different matter and no explanation is given how to find it. The two tones are different so how do you find the correct distance that determines a "correct" B?

 

Questions for the 'Play natural notes on the G string' video:

1) You ask to use the ear to find the interval between open G and A.  But how is that done?  Presumably the interval is different than a perfect 5th and therefore Twinkle Twinkle doesn't work. 

 

Again, absent in this discussion is what is a tuning system on a violin?  You can't assume equal temperament like a piano and what constitutes a particular note depends on context.  A scale is a musical structure of some sort,  tuning in reference to scales must be different that a piece with a different harmonic and melodic structure.

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Fiddlerman
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February 27, 2012 - 5:27 pm
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Composer said

Pierre, questions for the drones video:

1) What is an A-drone?  Where did it come from?

A major = A C# and E being played together. I created it using Finale and midi instruments

2) When you play the B, how did you determine what is a B because you still had the A-drone playing on your i-phone?

The B natural is the second note in an A major scale. It is a major second interval that fits with the A major drone (chord)

3) Why didn't you play a B-drone in order to find the B just like you did with the A?

Because the B is contained in the A major scale. For example the distance between the B natural and the E in the drone is a perfect 4th. Very nice combination and so are all the notes in the A major scale. This is how music is constructed.

Questions for the 'Play natural notes on the G string' video:

1) You ask to use the ear to find the interval between open G and A.  But how is that done?  Presumably the interval is different than a perfect 5th and therefore Twinkle Twinkle doesn't work. 

All intervals sound different. A major second is like the 2nd note in Happy Birthday going over to the 3rd note. "Hap-py <-- M2nd --> Birth-day"
Thus recognizing intervals.

Again, absent in this discussion is what is a tuning system on a violin?  You can't assume equal temperament like a piano and what constitutes a particular note depends on context.  A scale is a musical structure of some sort,  tuning in reference to scales must be different that a piece with a different harmonic and melodic structure.

The tuning system is to learn where to place your fingers. With the violin you must also adjust because no-one is perfect. The way to adjust is to use your hearing. To do well you need to work on all scales and arpeggios in every key including all the minor scales. You usually cover all the combinations and intervals. Chromatic scales might make more sense to you.

You learn distance between fingers as a comparison to tempered but our physical finger placement is not perfect so we must use our ears (hearing) to adjust further. The more you work on scales and arpeggios the better your finger placement becomes. Drones aren't for everyone but they give you a guide for intonation.

There is no way I can cover everything in one video so there are many things absent from my discussions on my videos. I'm a little confused as to whether you are trying to learn or trying to criticize my teachings.

dazed

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but the one who needs the least."

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Ryan
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February 27, 2012 - 6:55 pm
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I have a hard time hearing the correct notes as well. I downloaded the "Tune Master" app on my iPhone. It seems to be reasonably accurate and I use it especially when I practice scales or when I think a note may be off a little bit. I don't want to be reliant on any device but I also want to be sure to learn the correct sounds. 

When I first started, I would play songs with my brother and couldn't hardly tell if we were playing in tune or not. No I can at least tell when we are out of tune. 

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Pierre, I'm not trying to be trollish but it seems to me at least that "using your ear" is a common statement amongst violinists and it implies innate ability as opposed to developed skill.  I guess I'm trying to nail down whether ear training/aural skills (in addition to music theory) are a required upfront necessity before doing practically anything with the violin or not.  If you look at the following Wikipedia article, it seems fairly time consuming and nontrivial:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....r_training

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Fiddlerman
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February 28, 2012 - 9:11 am
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I see,

Well I don't think you need to tackle ear training before starting. Maybe at the same time or be working on it constantly until it clicks. I mentioned the fingerboard appliques because for many this is the only chance to get started on the instrument. For those who have a hard time hearing intervals.
Are you a violinist, or thinking about starting?
With these appliques you can actually feel the right place to put your fingers as well, not as prominent as a guitar but it certainly makes it much easier than the tape that lots of teachers use.

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

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