Saturday, August 1, 2009 @4:49:37 AM
Intonation, the elusive violin-playing element for me so far (along with bowing, etc. etc.)
Although my instructor will tell me things after I play a piece, like, “That was better, but your intonation was off a little here, here, and also here” as she points to various passages on the sheet music. I had been concentrating most of my efforts on the bow technique and posture. My left hand I felt was good - after all I am an experienced mandolin player. Right? Wrong. The mandolin has very little to do with the fiddle. It has been helpful in some aspects, but the fiddle doesn’t have frets, those 23 handy-dandy metal things, that tell you exactly where to place your fingers. On the fiddle I have to learn those locations while looking at a black blank piece of Ebony. I know approximately where to go, but not exactly. Big difference.
So, how can I teach myself good intonation? I thought about this very hard and came up with two ideas. I invented (I think ) an exercise where I place my electric tuner on my fiddle’s scroll, and practice playing scales very slowly. Very slowly. Up and down the scale. Key of C and key of G mostly. Two octaves. And doing so while using as few open strings as possible. I do this for about 15 minutes in my practice session. The second thing I figured out was a little device called a “fine tuner”. Oh, I had one on the E string. Only. I noticed that most professionals just use one and on that single string. Problem with this is that my old fiddle probably has out of round peg shafts and peg holes: It is hard to tune (something I will alleviate soon). So when I tune up, sometimes, most of the time, other than the lucky E string, the others I content myself to just get in the ball park. Problem with this is now that I am doing more and more double stops, and some in second position, I need to know exactly where to plant my finger, and on the first try. I cannot just compensate for bad tuning with my fingering. My fiddle has to be tuned exactly. (What a revelation, huh…Duh!) So, I put fine tuners on all 4 strings. And I use them.
Between the tuner/scales exercise and the addition of the four fine tuners my intonation has improved, and my teacher has commented to that affect. I explained to her what I am doing, and she nodded approvingly.