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Finding notes without a tuner/drones
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Composer
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May 11, 2013 - 1:27 pm
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The point is that intonation is supposed to have uniform structure and that means relating notes to other notes. This doesn't happen with a tuner/drones/physical markers. In a theory book, the scale degrees have a function which I won't go into here but this is a thread for concrete ways of finding notes. So here goes, starting with G-Major.

 

Assume open-G is in tune...another thread topic is tuning the violin.

 

1. A-Natural - this should be within the realm of anyone. Sympathetic vibrations (a kind of more resonant/ringing sound) is the most useful tool for finding notes. The G, D, A, and E's are always tuned this way. First finger plays A-Natural.

 

 

2. B-Natural - This note functions as a leading tone to C-Natural. But where is C-Natural? So, in order to tune B to C, you have find C first. Second finger plays B-Natural.

 

3. C-Natural - This note is the hard one. One way to find the C is that it is a perfect 4th above open-G. Another way to find a C is to play a perfect 5th down from the third finger G on the D string. But here is a trick. The G-Natural on the D string can once again be found with sympathetic vibrations. Then you simply move the finger exactly across to the G string. The finger should now play a C exactly in tune.

 

4. Now with your 3rd finger on C-Natural, you can find B-Natural. Unless you have really thick/thin fingers, B-Natural will be found simply by placing the 2nd finger right against the 3rd finger. The B natural should sound intervally quite close (function as a leading tone) to the C-Natural.

 

5. D- Natural - This note again can be found with sympathetic vibrations. But a better way is to play a unison double stop between the open D string and the fourth finger.

 

6 E-Natural - Again, use sympathetic vibrations. First finger on the D string.

 

7. F-Sharp - Functions as a leading tone to G-Natural. So, have to find G-Natural first.

 

8. G-Natural - Sympathetic vibrations or play an octave double stop between the 3rd finger on the D string and the open G string.

 

9. Now to find F-Sharp. Same procedure as step #4 with B and C.

 

Finished. Really, it didn't take any ear training skill in intervals to find any of the notes. I bet 99% of the instructors out there simply hand you a scale on a sheet without any explanation whatever on structuring intonation on a string instrument.

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May 11, 2013 - 4:09 pm
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Before moving on to tuning the D-Major scale, there is a flaw in the previous post:  I used a trick to sidestep using the ear to tune the C-Natural.   That requires the skill of recognizing the interval of a perfect 4th between C-Natural and the tonic.  Again, I don't like using external devices for that because there is a difference in timbre between violin and piano.  Also, you should not get conditioned to the tempered intervals on a piano.  A single stop scale on a violin should have a players subjective viewpoint on how wide or narrow certain intervals can be.

The only way to make this precise and easier is to learn how a double stop perfect 4th is tuned on a violin.  In this case, it is either in tune or out of tune.  No player preference can be allowed without unwanted beats appearing in the sound.  And thats the objective of the next post.

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DanielB
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May 11, 2013 - 4:55 pm
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Nice write-up, Composer!

The only point I might differ on a bit is in regard to practising with drones conditioning a player towards equal temperament.  I can see where it definitely would if a person used a drone note for each note of the scale and just matched it.  But the way I usually use a drone for practice is to, for example, set a drone note at A 440 playing and then play an A minor scale or melody against that single note, using the sound of the intervals between the notes played and the steady drone to practise the intonation.  It doesn't have to be equal tempered, since one can also work pythagorean or just or whatever one wants to work on. 

I would also say that it is strictly a training aid, not a full training method in itself to use drones or anything else.  You have to work also at practising without the drone.  But it can be helpful for the fingers to become accustomed to the feel of where they need to come down on the fingerboard, and it gives the ear some practice at hearing the intervals.

More useful, in my personal opinion, for working with melody rather than scales.  But working scales against a single drone note can help the ear with learning the interval sounds and how the slight differences between equal, just and pythagorean actually sound in context against another note. 

 

But that is really kind of picking at a minor point of your post, sorry.  The method you explained is a good one, I use it myself for checking notes.  It is quicker and easier than turning on an electronic tuner.   LOL

For many beginners though, the electronic tuner that came with their violin is all they have to use as a reference, and any "instructions" that came with the instrument are usually probably pretty bad, I would imagine.  Most sites I have seen online as well (including even this one) rather assume that a beginner will just automatically know what a scale sounds like, or will be able to hear even from the beginning if they are playing a melody "in tune" or not.  Some of that is something that most musicians with some experience had to learn themselves at some point but rather take for granted.  But it is a learned skill, and doesn't come packed in the box with the instrument. 

Again.  Good write-up!

 

"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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DanielB
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May 12, 2013 - 2:19 pm
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(Long, technical, talks about playing harmonics, mostly directed towards Composer.  Most folks here will really rather just get themselves another cup of coffee and move on to another topic.  Maybe even go out for donuts.) 

 

Ok, I can't resist the obvious other bone to pick.

"leading tone".. "simply by placing the 2nd finger right against the 3rd finger"..

Really?   I mean, don;'t get me wrong, this is a good write up.  But with all the yelling about guesswork and approximation resulting in people only playing sorta in tune, that seems like a bit of fudging..

One word.  Harmonics.  If you can play harmonics, I mean just the natural "open" harmonics on any string (not talking about the closed ones where the string is fingered to the board or "false" or "artificial" ones where it just sounds sort of like a harmonic).. You can get octaves easily, of course.  Half the length of the string, 1/4 of the length of the string.  

But 5ths are also pretty easy to play with harmonics.  To play the harmonic that is the 5th (plus an octave, but that's fine for tuning purposes) you find it right about where you'd put the pinky finger on the G string to play the D.  By playing it at the same time as you play the octave D harmonic in the middle of the D string you can tune the D string correctly from the G string.  Without any electronic tuner or any ear training to be able to "hear" a natural 5th.

Yeah, whooptie-doo.  Big deal.  But the 5th played on the E string is B and will give you your B natural to compare your fingered B on the G string (or on the A string) against, without subjecting us noobs that I presume you are attempting to enlighten, to guessing "leading tones" or "well, put the finger right next to the other finger and you're probably at least close".

That is not all that hard.  I was tuning my violin that way within the first few days (since I also happen to be a guitar player who tunes by harmonics and so it was obvious it could also be done on violin).  Playing natural harmonics isn't particularly difficult on violin though, I'd say it is actually easier to get them on violin with a bow than on a guitar with a pick. 

But.. the root and the 5th aren't all that are available as harmonics on any string.  The major 3rd is only a little harder to get.  I'd say the easiest one to find is between the 5th+oct already mentioned and the octave.  It isn't precisely in the center between those two spots, but very close, maybe a mm or so closer to the finger playing the 5th+octave than the one playing the octave.  Since it is a natural harmonic, there is no approximation on the position.  It will only ring with a note when you are on the right spot.  Again, it is in an octave, but higher octave notes are good when tuning or finding pitches, since errors in beats per second will be magnified since there are more beats per second in the first place.

We could get our B that way, but we have the one easily available on the E string, as already mentioned.  But on the D string we now have an F# we can use for reference.  On the A string, we have a C#.  And on the E string, we have the G#.

Anyway, my point was that it isn't necessary to have people guessing at "leading tones" or wondering if their finger is the correct thickness to get the B.  Harmonics are a reliable way of checking it.  You were doing so well up to that point.  But carry on.

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You're welcome.

"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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Worldfiddler
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May 12, 2013 - 6:49 pm
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The point is that intonation is supposed to have uniform structure and that means relating notes to other notes. This doesn't happen with a tuner/drones/physical markers. In a theory book, the scale degrees have a function which I won't go into here but this is a thread for concrete ways of finding notes. So here goes, starting with G-Major.

I can't help thinking that you are over-complicating what is a very simple concept.

Actually, a tuner and physical markers do make a lot of sense. A drone is a simple reference to the root note of the scale (in this case, G).

What you are describing is a simple ascending scale in G. Physical markers would tell you where the notes are. if you look at the G scale on a piano, it's quite clear what the relationship between the notes are. If there a black key between two adjacent white keys, that's a whole tone between the two white keys (two half-steps, or semitones), If there's no black key there, that's a semitone. It's just the same on the fingerboard - a tone is a 'big space', a semitone is a 'small space'.

A piano is often used in the early stages to help with identifying notes on the violin fingerboard (which to many is nothing more than a blank map).

Mr Jim

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Fiddlerman
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May 13, 2013 - 7:05 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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LOL

Over-complicating, as Mr Jim suggested, is my opinion as well.
Any distance between two notes is recognizable. You don't need to find a perfect 4th or 5th in order to play a 2nd or 3rd......

I remember a student colleague when I was attending U of M school of music who was practicing left hand finger exercises in the air which he apparently did every day. I asked him what he was doing and he explained that these exercises were designed to give control for finger independence. He considered himself an expert at doing these exercises so I asked him to teach me. He gave me a few examples of what to do and I copied him immediately but was able to do it at least twice as fast as he. The guy freaked out and kind of got depressed. (He was among the least talented musicians attending the school but extremely devoted)
The point is that you don't need to over complicate technique and ear-training. For intonation you need to listen carefully to every single note. If you have trouble, you need to slow it down and concentrate until it starts to make sense. Practice slowly and remember that every single note is important.

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

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Worldfiddler
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May 14, 2013 - 5:56 pm
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Here's a little thing for anyone who is interested.

If you listen only to the melody (eg a scale), how accurate is your ear for getting all the notes in tune? How easy is it? Does a drone make a difference?

This is how I think that a drone helps with intonation. I've played and recorded some examples of a repeating D scale, ascending, then descending.

In almost every instance, one or more notes is out of tune.

Listen to the first set without the drone, then listen to the second set, which is exactly the same, except I have added a drone.

Which one is easier to spot the out-of-tune notes on?

 

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/gu.....-drone.mp3

http://worldfiddlemusic.com/gu.....-drone.mp3 

 

Mr Jim dancing

 

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