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Traditional Fiddle Intonation vs. Classical Violinist Intonation
Different Venues, Different Intonation?
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (11 votes) 
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ELCBK
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January 24, 2021 - 1:28 am
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Recent questions on the forum about intonation lead me to recall what I believed when I was little. 

I didn't know the term "intonation", but I had a few piano lessons - so my understanding went as far as, "a C is a C, no matter how high or how low and same for the rest of the notes, period". 

Now that I've played my "Mortimer" long enough to hear intonation better, I'm starting to hear the differences in some tradition fiddle music - some notes don't sound right being played "spot-on" with a tuner, and I try to adjust accordingly. 

I believe the important thing to know is intonation can vary, depending on the music and the venue. 

So far I've been able to hear differences in some traditional Irish, Nordic and Old Time intonation. 

The only Irish Fiddler I recall actually mention this is Kevin Burke.  In some of his tutorials he'll say something like "I like to play this note a little flat" or "I can't decide if this _ is a little sharp or if it's a _# played a little flat - or something in between". 

In the "Swedish Fiddle Tunes Book" by Rowan Piggott, he says "make sure to tune to perfect fifths and play with Pythagorean tuning".

Here's a good article that describes a little more.   

https://fiddlingaround.co.uk/t.....ation.html

There's actually quite a few forms of intonation - where your tuning of note intervals in a scale vary. 

These different scale systems have names that are well described here along with more links for further exploration. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.....cal_tuning

Classical Violinists have need to make changes in intonation, also. 

They need to change their form of intonation depending on whether playing solo, with piano accompaniment, or a string quartet. 

Pythagorean intonation sounds great for a Soloist, but can also be taken a step further! 

 

You can watch ALL the intonation videos at Violinmasterclass for more information. 

giphy.gif

 

So, when I'm out of tune... I'm being expressive!

- Emily

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ELCBK
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February 23, 2021 - 10:33 am
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Wanted to point out (from another thread) GregW found he has a book of music that actually shows use of tonal accent symbols! 

GregW said
@elcbk the other two books I have Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island and Scottish Fiddle Tunes ( from Schott )  dont have that symbol.  The P.E.I book does have a small UP ARROW to say the note is substantially sharper than indicated pitch and a DOWN ARROW for one thats flatter than indicated pitch..  but none have the symbol you pointed out.

 Chris Haigh mentions Neutral notes - "in between sharp and flat" in his "Traditional Intonation" video (also in some of his tutorials) . 

 

giphy.gif

 

...got to find that note!

- Emily

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Gordon Shumway
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February 23, 2021 - 11:23 am
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Without having read the articles or watched the videos yet, I'd be wary of being over-technical. 

If I were playing fiddle with a group (I'd never play solo) I'd go with the room and the general feeling. I think we're unlikely to have such well-defined muscle memory that we won't get carried along.

It's the same with rhythms. You have to  have a feel for it. Classical musicians are also notoriously bad when trying to rock it by counting.

Description is one thing, but treating it as prescription can be fatal.

The only technical thing to know is about the thirds. I saw someone the other day talking about them, but I forget where. It's the same with the "blue third", it's neither major nor minor, it's in between.

Yeah, I write way too much for someone who has neither read the articles nor watched the videos!

Andrew

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GregW
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February 23, 2021 - 11:38 am
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in a jam or session..the group will help with intonation and groove whatever it is in that group.  having the wrong or bad groove or rhythm is more distracting than a note too sharp or flat.  obviously play in the same key but a few notes being off isnt bad.  playing solo..or practicing id try and be spot on..thats the goal.  playing with a person backing youd probably want to be in tune with eachother.  

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stringy
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February 23, 2021 - 12:03 pm
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i always shorten the interval in Irish music, c sharp to d, f sharp to g, otherwise I found it always sounds flat, to me anyway.

When I play guitar in a band it doesnt matter, in saying that, I have never played in a band with anyone who used a fretless instrument, never played my fiddle with anyone else yet either, never really had a chance as we have been in lockdown ever since i started learning it, one ofmy friends who I used to jam with lives in york and another one has moved to st petersburg of all places, so probably will never jam again. to be honest thats really the only reason I am on here to talk to other musicians, I miss it.

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Gordon Shumway
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February 23, 2021 - 12:12 pm
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I glanced at the articles. I'm sorry, but the word "pythagoras" makes me bilious - it's one of the biggest red herrings in the history of music. Yeah, he (or someone who claimed to follow him) knew what a fifth was, but he really didn't know very much else.

Andrew

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Gordon Shumway
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stringy said

another one has moved to st petersburg of all places

Err, St Petersburg Russia or St Petersburg Florida, lol?

Funnily enough I had a mild fantasy about living in Helsinki when I found you could get the overnight express from there to St Petersburg first class for only a hundred and a few USD.

(how do I know there's a St Petersburg in Florida? I think there's a Salvador Dalí museum there!)

Andrew

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stringy
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February 23, 2021 - 12:48 pm
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Russia, he works helping under priviledged children there, I love Dali by the way,I have even been to his house in figueres in Spain crazy house,  and well worth a visit, but the town itself is a rubbish dump.

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ELCBK
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February 23, 2021 - 1:17 pm
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WoW! 

Lol Laughing Emoticons

I just want my poor intonation to be taken as artistic expression...

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Sasha
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February 23, 2021 - 2:33 pm
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This is one area I definitely don't overthink things and just go with what I find works for me.   I tune my fiddle to perfect fifths because the sound annoys me otherwise, use an offset tuning for my guitar that accommodates the sound and playing style I use most often because it sounds better than equal tempered tuning.

Oddly enough, I found out what I have done for years is similar to the way Van Halen did, which makes since, since I tend to use a lot of chord shapes from his book of playing.

As far as perfect intonation goes with Irish/folk fiddle styles, I cannot speak to that, but for something like blues, a good blues sound and style absolutely depends on microtone bends.  Bending that 4th up a quarter step, or even close but not quite a 1/2 step has a lot more attitude, feel, and authenticity than just landing on a flat fifth.

And then there are all those eastern music forms using quarter tones all over the place...

Wow, I talk a lot.  I am just trying to imagine how boring I would be if I *did* overthink things!

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GregW
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February 23, 2021 - 2:33 pm
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ELCBK said
WoW! 

Lol Laughing Emoticons

I just want my poor intonation to be taken as artistic expression...

  

 

We can joke about it as i did in the other thread concerning the books wink..yes i hear yah.. but in all seriousness I think your intonation sounds great.  whatever youre doing stick with it !

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wtw
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@ELCBK I thought the exact same thing… if only…

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ELCBK
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February 23, 2021 - 4:25 pm
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I LOVE everyone's input/opinions here!

@GregW - 

Thanx, Greg. 

Seriously, there are times when I feel a note should be played a little sharper or flatter to sound best if just me and think I can match what I hear if I play along with other music... well, until I lose focus. (lol)

I am grateful, at this point, that I can at least hear when I'm off - whoops, too late! 

 

@Sasha - 

Great info!

Please don't stop talking - talk more! 

I've been trying to get people to talk about this subject for

quite some time now, even in other threads here. 

It is a serious subject about expression. 

 

giphy.gif

 

There is so much more to this instrument than most people think and

always good to have a little closer look.🧐 

...and ignorance isn't always bliss.

- Emily 

 

Since Sasha mentioned tuning to perfect 5ths, here's good info for beginners. 

Fiddlerman has great advice for holding your violin to tune, reasons you tune up from a lower pitch and think "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for your 5ths while tuning. 

https://fiddlerman.com/tutoria...../4313-2/ 

You can really hear what it sounds like as you get close to the perfect 5th in this Red Desert Violin video.  I have the video starting where you 1st tune the A string and use long bow strokes... 

 

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Sasha
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February 23, 2021 - 11:07 pm
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So, on tuning... I actually own a tuner now.  I never had or used one.   Ow that there are some very good and reasonably priced strobe tuners that you can store sweetened/offset tunings it’s finally worth it. It is definitely more of a convenience thing though.

Another reason starting on A string, then D, G and finally up to E is that the perfect fifth is 2 cents off from equal tempered. That means at most the G is 4 cents off and the D and E strings only 2 cents off from equal tempered.  Starting on the G would put the E at 8 cents off, which would become noticeable.

The tuner I use has those offsets built in.

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Mouse
February 23, 2021 - 11:11 pm
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I think I use the Kevin Burke theory. My intonation may sound off to others, but to me it is just fine and is the way I like it to sound. Here’s to you, Mr. Burke, you have set me free!!!!!! 😁😁😁😁😁

Cello, Violin, and Viola Time! 

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ELCBK
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February 24, 2021 - 3:21 pm
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@Sasha -

Hmm Thinking Here Smiley

You've really piqued my curiosity! 

What's the tuner you have & how do you use it? 

Does the Fiddlershop carry it or something similar? 

 

giphy.gif

- Emily

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stringy
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I just use a tuning fork for A then tune the others from that,.

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Sasha
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February 24, 2021 - 4:49 pm
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ELCBK said

@Sasha -

Hmm Thinking Here Smiley

You've really piqued my curiosity! 

What's the tuner you have & how do you use it? 

Does the Fiddlershop carry it or something similar? 

- Emily

  

I use Peterson strobe tuners. I have the pedalboard version (which has no mic so once good for electric instruments) and I have the iPhone app. Both are great, and the app is a great value. I think there are also Android, PC and Mac versions, but I have not used any of them.  All of them have the sweetened tuning capabilities though.

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AndrewH
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Sasha said
So, on tuning... I actually own a tuner now.  I never had or used one.   Ow that there are some very good and reasonably priced strobe tuners that you can store sweetened/offset tunings it’s finally worth it. It is definitely more of a convenience thing though.

Another reason starting on A string, then D, G and finally up to E is that the perfect fifth is 2 cents off from equal tempered. That means at most the G is 4 cents off and the D and E strings only 2 cents off from equal tempered.  Starting on the G would put the E at 8 cents off, which would become noticeable.

The tuner I use has those offsets built in.

  

 

Interesting that you mention it: the 2 cent offset for each perfect fifth is why violists and cellists do not actually tune to perfect fifths below the D string for ensemble playing. (This is something I learned relatively late, only a few years ago.) In the absence of a relatively pure interval such as an octave or a fifth, the human ear can perceive a pitch difference of about 6 cents. For the violin, that is fine, but for violists and cellists, tuning to perfect fifths results in a 6-cent offset from the tuning A for the C string, and an 8-cent offset from the violin E string.

 

Instead, when playing in ensembles, violists and cellists tune their C and G strings to "tight fifths" from the string above -- these are not equal temperament fifths, but in between perfect fifths and equal temperament fifths. The ear eventually learns the sound of that interval.

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ELCBK
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February 24, 2021 - 9:29 pm
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@Sasha -

Thank you!😊 

 

@AndrewH - 

That's very helpful information, Andrew. 

I was not aware that way of tuning was used - sure makes sense! 

Thanx! 

 

giphy.gif 

 

- Emily

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