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Thinking the names of the notes while playing?
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October 3, 2019 - 4:25 am
Member Since: August 1, 2019
Forum Posts: 37
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Hello everybody,

Some weeks ago I read through another book about violin playing (the one written by Antoine Morales). In his book he advises an excecise for better intonation in which you should think the name of the note, how it sounds, which finger it is and how big the distance to the former finger is. He states that as time goes by you will get faster and faster with this until you allways do it when your playing.

I found this advice interesting and I am wondering if I should start doing this. I am curious to hear if you are doing something like this? Do you think the names of the notes wenn youre playing or does it distract you to do so?

Gordon Shumway
London, England
Pro advisor

October 3, 2019 - 5:32 am
Member Since: August 1, 2016
Forum Posts: 1305
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It may be something that is level-dependent. In other words, you have to decide what level of player his advice is aimed at, and qualify the advice if you are above or below that level. You get different things that lose importance as you get better, but they lose importance at different rates, and if you maintain them all at the same level, the more important things may get obscured by the less important.

The intonation is by far the most important thing. The names of the notes in the scale, IMO, should only concern beginners and should take a back seat when you get better.

I'm being very vague because our community orchestra began Puccini's Chrysanthemums last week, and it is in C# minor with a lot of chromatic work, some half-position work (2nd finger on A - G string, first finger on D# - D string), and really the only thing of importance is knowing exactly what any note or enharmonic is supposed to sound like in the context of the key sig. It involves scale shapes and the left hand frame shape (and writing the fingering of every note in pencil, lol!). Knowing the name of any note is almost dangerous, lol! In simpler music, someone mechanically educated in Suzuki might be happy, but when sometimes you have to play a C# (or G#) with your third finger and sometimes with your 4th, knowing it's C# or G# may trip up a mechanical student, unless I suppose it's a way of saying the note is more important than the fingering. (I'm not happy with what I have written there - it seems like babble)


Trondheim, Norway

October 3, 2019 - 5:45 am
Member Since: October 11, 2012
Forum Posts: 404
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I personally don't think the name of the notes while I'm playing. I only try to keep the sound of the note in my head. Actually, the only time I've done anything else is when I'm working on scale degree exercises. I only think about the degree I'm moving from and to what degree I'm heading. It's primarily to help my memory though, and not due to intonation or anything like that. I think thinking the name, the sound and the finger can get quite overwhelming, especially later down the road when the pieces/tunes are getting fast and more challenging.

'Armed with theory, practice becomes meaningful. Through practice, theory becomes fulfilled.' - Egon von Neindorff.

Honorary advisor

October 3, 2019 - 7:36 am
Member Since: March 25, 2018
Forum Posts: 456
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One benefit from saying the note names aloud, or thinking them, as you play is this solidifies the names of the notes in your mind as you play.  This can be used as a tool to help with muscle memory because you are recognizing in your mind, what the note is along with the fingering as you play.

Another benefit is, indeed, to associate the name with how it sounds.  This helps to develop your ear.  But be careful, it really only helps when you're intonation is consistently good.  Otherwise you are associating the name to notes that are played out of tune.  By the time you have developed good intonation, you probably will be beyond the need to speak the notes anyway.

The question of whether this is beneficial at your stage of learning is really whether or not you have the notes already connected with your fingering, or your intonation is seriously off.

Also, this really is only something that can be done when playing relatively slowly, with quarter notes or eighths, because it would be very difficult to say the notes with fast 16ths or 32nds.  When you reach the stage where you are playing notes at higher speeds, your muscle memory should already be developed.  It simply will not be possible for your speech to keep up, and it would be very difficult and distracting to concentrate on both the playing and thinking the notes without the muscle memory.

The best way to improve intonation is to play scales slowly.  This will help both your muscle memory and develop your ear.

- Pete -

October 4, 2019 - 3:26 pm
Member Since: August 1, 2019
Forum Posts: 37
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Thank you all for your replys.

You kind of confirmed what I allready guessed. By the way his advise was aimed at beginners. His entire book is written for people who want to start playing the violin.

Up until now I only thought the names of the notes when playing some scales as I play them slow enough that I wont get any trouble. But when I read his advice and after that tried to do this with some pieces that I am playing I found it really distracting.

Regular advisor

October 4, 2019 - 3:54 pm
Member Since: November 10, 2018
Forum Posts: 132
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I can't think the names of the notes ; let alone speak them aloud (no way ! wouldn't even want that). Like HP, for me it's all about hearing in my head the sound I want to play - after that my fingers tend to find the right place on their own (with a bit of trial and error but in the end, I still have no idea what note I'm playing). That's what 3+ years of learning to play without sheet music does to you 🙂 .

Now that I (try to) play in an amateur orchestra, and therefore can't escape sheet music, an association "place of the note on the sheet (visual) <--> place(s) of the note on the neck / fingering(s)" is kinda forming in my brain, but there're still no names involved. I haven't yet understood why it should be so indispensable, even if I've heard/read that it is. I don't think I'm capable of it anyway.

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