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Intonation Exercise

Posted by bj on Monday, February 2, 2009

I've been trying to come up with ways to better work on my intonation, since my brain seems to just be shutting down on scales, which I know are useful, but I'm feeling like I need to put them aside at least for a little bit. I'm burnt out on them totally.

I've had suggestions from others that I work on waltzes, use drones a lot, and a few other things, all which I've been doing, but somehow when I'd record, I'd still hear bloopers.

I don't like playing with the tuner on, since I think that trains your eye to ear more than just your ear, but I've been thinking that there had to be a way to USE  the tuner so that I could improve.

This morning was a Eureka moment in figuring this out, or at least I think it was. It'll become more clear as I use my new method.

The method is to play with the tuner off while recording, but then listen to the recording with the tuner on and try to spot TRENDS. And listening without the fiddle in my hand allows me to insert a layer of objectivity into this whole process.

I've been doing this analysis this morning and here's a couple things I've come up with.

I usually hit the D on the A string dang near or exactly right on when I'm going UP. I usually hit it flat when I'm coming down, and will also flatten the C# a tad if the D is flat, since the third finger is "dictating" where the second finger is gonna go. Oddly, the B is usually not a problem.

The E and F on the D string are almost always sharp, no matter which direction I'm headed in.

Now, with this information I can isolate different bits of tunes where these issues crop up and practice them as exercises. Then repeat the process, and see if improvement is happening.

I'll keep y'all posted.



7 comments on “Intonation Exercise”

Swing Says:
Monday, February 2, 2009 @9:07:14 AM

The one thing that may help, if you listen carefully, when you hit each note, whether it is in the scale or an arrpegio. If you are right one, the note will ring. This usually occurs more noticeably on the fifihs and eigths, but it actually occurs on all the notes.

I tend to play sharp, but have been working on being more focused in my listening etc. It is always going to be that as you get better at it, the more demanding you become of it.

Play Happy

bj Says:
Monday, February 2, 2009 @9:13:22 AM

Yeah, well, this bit of introspection came after hearing Paul Riffon play yesterday. I don't think this guy could hit a bad note if he tried. He's ELEGANT in much the way JP Fraley is. So it made my playing, alongside his, sound . . . ragged.

That's me talking. Meanwhile he was telling me I'm doing more than fine for the time I have in. it means a lot hearing that from him, but sheesh, I just sounded so . . . awful.

Grassapelli Says:
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 @7:08:52 AM

That comment from Swing about the note ringing is a clue.
The note rings because it's in tune with the open strings.

The technique I've used, and still do, is to play the perfect intervals. Examples:

1. Play the 4th finger with the next higher open string. That's the wonderful unison drone effect we fiddlers do. Starting the finger a little flat for dissonance and sliding up to the in tune spot is fun and helps your intonation.

2. Play the 3rd finger with the open string that's lower. That's an octave. Serious violinists do this one to get better intonation.

3. And the fussiest perfect interval the 4th. Play the first finger with the open string that's higher. E on the D string with the open A string, as an example. Very slight difference will make it out of tune.

The open strings need to be in tune for this to work, of course.

bj Says:
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 @7:13:46 AM

Thanks, I'll work with those. And yeah, I can most of the time hear the ringing when I'm playing slowly, but on the faster tunes it gets . . . lost, whether I nail it or not, and partly because I'm still not as nimble as I want to be, and my fingerings aren't always clean when I speed things up. So many little nitpicky things to work on! Well, it could be worse, I could still be struggling with squeaks and the bowhold!

playmorebluegrass Says:
Thursday, February 5, 2009 @5:28:04 PM

one suggestion that might help u is to learn a few scales....you know the keys that are most common to fiddle. and thank you for all your comments bj!

bj Says:
Thursday, February 5, 2009 @5:38:17 PM

LOL! For the first YEAR I did scales every dang day!

playmorebluegrass, your blog is fun to follow. I hope you keep it up. And I can't wait to see the Wedding Pics!

playmorebluegrass Says:
Friday, February 27, 2009 @8:13:49 AM

thanks bj! people like you make it more fun!!!♥

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