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Developing Reliable Intonation

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This is a two month intonation building system for the
advanced high school/college level violinist

Check out the Tuning CD

One of the most important decisions we make in building our perfect intonation is choosing the most reliable fingering over one we think might sound better because of a particular color we are seeking. Sometimes we like keeping melodies on the same string and we sacrifice intonation for a color when consistent intonation would be much more important. We should always choose the more reliable fingering and force our bow arm to come up with the colors we need.

  1. Keep both shoulders down. Push the head down without squeezing the shoulder up to hold the violin up.
  2. Find and write in the positions you are using in your part.
  3. Play slowly with a metronome.
  4. When you find a note that is out of tune, tune the notes using some knowledge of what the harmony is. Find the root of the harmony and tune your notes to it. Once you know what the notes sound like in tune it is time to train by feel/touch how to be consistent.
  5. Training by feel not be ear.
    1. Lift and drop fingers in the right spot 5-10 times in a row.
    2. Train the arm by starting in the old position on the last finger down and throwing the hand to the new position and throwing the fingers down 5-10 times in a row.
    3. It is essential to train with total relaxation. We will only build reliable intonation when all actions happen with a relaxed throw and not one that is being placed. Lift and throw the fingers down do not squeeze them down. Same with the actual shifting motion. Throw the hand with the biceps to the new position not squeezing with the fingers and trying to hold some shape of the hand - relax during the shift!!!
  6. Find a tempo that you can play your piece perfectly in tune and run your pieces 3-4 times a day. (Most people have to use a metronome to stay slow without speeding up).
  7. After about two to three weeks of training 3-4 runs in tune daily you should feel confident that you are in tune. At this time you can start running your piece once a day at a quicker pace but never faster than you can play in tune.
  8. Continue to practice slowly for two months and then you can start working for the faster speeds with the real expectation of playing confidently in tune at any performance that comes you way.
  9. Another thing to do to build the speed is much left and right hand alone practice or training. This builds coordination that is essential for reliable intonation.
  10. Try playing a passage at half speed and concentrate on what it feels like to play in tune - remember no squeezing with the fingers or hand. Then, when slow is comfortable, maybe 3 runs, play it top speed and seek the same relaxed feel. Do the fast and slow runs side by side and get the same feeling slow and fast.


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