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Fiddle Lovers Online


Oct 26, 2021 - 7:52:15 AM
22 posts since 8/1/2015

Thanks for any advice on this, and I’m not sure if it’s a finger size issue or finger position issue but here goes.

I have been taking fiddle lessons for about a year now and working through the American Fiddle Method by Brian Wicklund with my instructor.

At this point I am up to Grandfathers Clock and am finding more intonation issues as my fingers are not the thickest, but definitely not thin for sure. When I look at the tuner and work on intonation for say a F# with my left middle finger (on any song not just this one) but then put my left ring finger down for a G my ring finger is always sharp.

I am working on relaxing my finger pressure even more to keep the finger tips as small as possible but still I cannot get close enough to keep from either going sharp, or being flat on the lower note to get the next higher in tune.

My instructor has not had any advice on how to fix this so I’m reaching out here for any advice from here as I know you all have a lot of helpful advice with your experiences.

I mostly play banjo but wanted to learn fiddle also but struggling to get past this so thanks in advance. If not maybe I need to break out my mandolin which I have but have never played and go that direction lol.

Oct 26, 2021 - 11:18:35 AM
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Swing

USA

2070 posts since 6/26/2007

Fat fingers should be no deterrent for good intonation, I have played with several people who had really big fingers and they did fine... practice scales but play them like a tune so they become less boring, but practice them....if you have only been playing a year and you recognize the difference between being on or not then you are half way there

Play Happy

Swing

Oct 26, 2021 - 11:55:29 AM

doryman

USA

231 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Swing

.if you have only been playing a year and you recognize the difference between being on or not then you are half way there

Play Happy

Swing


I agree with this.  At least you know that you have an intonation problem!   The rest is fixable, given time and practice. 

Oct 26, 2021 - 1:00:35 PM

Old Scratch

Canada

843 posts since 6/22/2016

If I notice my intonation is off on a particular note in a particular tune, I'll often make a point of 'over-compensating' for awhile - f'instance, if I play the note too sharp, I'll pull the finger back till I'm playing it flat, and consciously do that until I forget about it, and the finger creeps back up - but not as far, just to where it should be. That's my theory, anyway .....

Oct 26, 2021 - 1:21:25 PM
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1904 posts since 12/11/2008

I mentioned in another thread here that I have the same problem. I believe (or my ears want to believe) that I solve the problem by pressing my middle finger firmly against my index finger when I want to actually hit that darn note. I've also begun to position my left hand slightly further "south" on the fingerboard.

Oct 26, 2021 - 2:23:35 PM
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boxbow

USA

2687 posts since 2/3/2011

Has your instructor brought up the technique of rotating your left elbow under the instrument as you shift strings? If you don't rotate under, you have to compensate by reaching further, at a less favorable angle. The OP mentioned the D string. Same problem on the A string or E string?

Oct 26, 2021 - 5:57:31 PM
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2303 posts since 8/23/2008

If your finger tips are too wide to play semi-tones in-tune then the lower finger needs to be moved out of the way. However, good intonation is achieved by anticipation; that is the pitch of the note about to be played is heard in the 'inner ear' before the finger actually presses the string. The inner ear is trained to hear the correct pitch by matching fingered notes with the open strings. The 3rd fingered note is an octave higher than the adjacent lower string, the 2nd fingered notes are in harmony with the higher adjacent string, the first finger can be matched to the higher and lower strings. Practice matching these notes always listening for pleasant harmonies, adjust pitch when necessary then try again without adjustments and repeat this process until improvement is noticeable. The next stage would be to improve intonation on just one string; begin open string to a fingered note on that same string, take notice of the interval these notes make, check with the open adjacent string for good intonation. Repeat, but make special effort to 'hear' the interval of the fingered note before it is to be played. In this way we train the 'inner ear' to the hear the notes before they are played and the fingers are compelled to play what we hear. In the beginning this practice should be very slow and with persistence good intonation will happen in a Nano second.

Oct 26, 2021 - 8:45:02 PM

123 posts since 7/30/2021

Hmmm...I just watched myself playing F# and G over and over, and I see my second finger lift out of the way just as the third finger is coming down...
Is there a reason you need to leave your second finger down beside the third?
If the music doesn't require it, it seems that it would be ok to pick up your second finger and "make space" as the third is coming down.

Keeping fingers down is an excellent habit for banjo and guitar players (I really struggled with that, learning guitar!!) but I don't think you need it as much on fiddle/violin (since usually not playing chords, just playing a single note).

Wish you success with your fiddling! (Although I love mandolin too :-)

Oct 27, 2021 - 3:44:55 AM
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Peghead

USA

1632 posts since 1/21/2009

If your fingers are wider than a half step you need to "kick out" when you play half steps. One finger nudges the other out of the way. It's something most people have to do in upper positions but others have to do it in first. Follow your ears.

Oct 27, 2021 - 3:52:32 AM
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2393 posts since 10/1/2008

Good advice above. Shifting your hand a hair toward the scroll a hair and moving your elbow a bit will definitely help. Playing scales and double stops with an accompanying cello tone can assist your ear in staying within bounds. Working with a tuner is boring and frustrating but it works .... time and practice. I am just starting my third decade of fiddling my days away and I still work scales and double stops for intonation.

Oct 27, 2021 - 7:42:48 AM

12517 posts since 9/23/2009

Michael Cleveland appears to have chubby, stubby fingers, and he plays the living daylights outta his fiddles...so...appears to not hinder him whatsoever.

If you are pretty new...intonation is a thing that just doesn't kick in right away. And if you've been playing for a while...intonation is a thing that will always haunt you...lol...at least it seems that way to me.

I agree with the others that if you KNOW you are sounding pitchy, that's the biggest obstacle already overcome. Time will help.

I've watched Micheal Cleveland closely on youtubes and once was fortunate enough to see him perform at no cost to us at our public library and of course I showed up early and sat in the front row directly in front of him. I'm really curious about how he is so, so, so doggone good. I've noticed he doesn't land his fingers, at least from what I think I've seen, he doesn't land his fingers point blank on the spot where he wants them...seems to me he has the habit of starting slightly flat from where he wants and in a big hurry, before it's much audible, he gently and quickly glides them exactly into place where the intonation is nothing but perfect and sweet. Now...the big question is...how do WE...we humans (I'm also convinced people who play like that were dropped here from some other planet...lol...it just ain't human), we earthlings...how do we learn to do that and make it sound so perfect and sweet???? Million dollar question.

Oct 27, 2021 - 8:37:20 AM
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JonD

USA

35 posts since 2/12/2021

I’m still figuring out this intonation thing too!

Breaking it down, there are three dimensions involved in finger placement— finger height (and associated elbow rotation), finger/hand position up or down the fingerboard, and rotational angle of the hand and fingers relative to the fingerboard. Add to that wrist angle: straight, slightly angled, or collapsed (pancake). I’ve concluded the sweet spot for all these factors is different for every player— I just have to figure out what works for me. Maybe after a few thousand hours… :-D

Decisions about leaving several fingers in place need to be made if your next move is, e.g. a fast roll, or a quick trip back down the scale. It’s probably possible to alternate fingers successfully for these moves, but I’m not that quick. Since my fingers are wider than thick (due to a broad fingernail) the hand angle needs to be large enough to tuck one right ahead of the next. Rotating the hand all the way to parallel wouldn’t work. I see all sorts of hand angles in closeups online, so again I suspect it’s whatever works. Am I on track with this conclusion?

Anyway that’s my musing in this conundrum for the beginner.

Oct 27, 2021 - 9:34:17 AM
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doryman

USA

231 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by groundhogpeggy


If you are pretty new...intonation is a thing that just doesn't kick in right away. And if you've been playing for a while...intonation is a thing that will always haunt you...lol...at least it seems that way to me.
 


That is the paradox.  The better you get at intonation, the more discerning you become about intonation.  The target is always moving!   

Oct 27, 2021 - 10:33:23 AM

22 posts since 8/1/2015

Wow lots of information and many thanks for your help and taking the time to respond.

My instructor plays fiddle but it’s not his primary instrument. He plays a lot of instruments so no input as my placement of elbow etc.

I finally jumped to working on scales as with Suzuki and the book we on they (scales) we’re never emphasized to practice. Not saying the book, but teacher never pushed so I think there has been other issues with it but when we play during my lesson (always playing together) I am sure I lower my volume, or adjust pitch with him.

May not be the best idea for sure but I’m sure that’s what I do.

Wrist…does my wrist collapsing and not corrected cause some of my issue?

Again thanks so much.

Oct 27, 2021 - 11:00:28 AM
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12517 posts since 9/23/2009

Some people say don't collapse your wrist...some really good fiddlers do collapse their wrist...another million dollar question. I think what we are left with is we can all compare notes and thoughts, but in the end we have to figure out what works for each one of us as individuals...that's my view of it anyway. Would be different if we talked to classical violinist...it would be you have to do everything in some particular way...etc. For BG or OT fiddlers, it's different...much more individulaized.

Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 10/27/2021 11:01:42

Oct 27, 2021 - 11:17:58 AM
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123 posts since 7/30/2021

I think you just need to allow yourself to lift/move your second finger when you put your third down. That should solve any physical issue with intonation...

...but yea, it's something that always needs to be "maintained". Whenever I don't play for awhile, the first thing to go is the playing in tune! No frets to help .. :-)

Oct 27, 2021 - 5:07:50 PM

Quincy

Belgium

190 posts since 1/16/2021
Online Now

Hey bobayres,I have been taking violin classes sinds July 2020. I often record myself and then post the videos on my YouTube channel to see the progress. If I look at the videos of one year ago, I can hear my intonation was far from what it is now. At that time however, I thought I was doing ok haha.
Sometimes when I look back at previous recordings I am ashamed of what I hear lol.
Then I can only think how couldI play so false and NOT hear it? I guess I just couldn't do better at that moment.
Now my intonation on single notes is a lot better, with double stops I am having more troubles.

The more I practise the better I get.

Edited by - Quincy on 10/27/2021 17:08:39

Oct 27, 2021 - 9:43:53 PM

22 posts since 8/1/2015

I have never posted playing anything but can see how recording and watching periodically could be a good thing to see your improvement. Something to consider. Where we live we don’t have WiFi ( I know kinda crazy but we don’t) so anything with video world not post lol. Maybe it’s saving me lol.

I did visit a violin store while on vacation today and they were able to help some also. Showed me how me breaking my wrist down was causing my fingers to become even a little thicker instead of using the very tips. So that’s a habit I need to figure how to break. But they also recommended going back to the very beginnings with a different beginner book which focuses on scales and see if both help.

Will see if it does when our trip is over. Will post if it does but thank you all.

Oct 28, 2021 - 8:37:02 AM
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Old Scratch

Canada

843 posts since 6/22/2016

Never helps to break your wrist - up OR down!

Oct 28, 2021 - 12:23:07 PM

2468 posts since 10/22/2007

Intonation is much easier when there is something to compare. Tuning, being in good tune is important. Then one can compare a fingered/stopped string to an open string.
Doe-Ray-Mee, etc. can float sharp or flat but typically the intervals stay amazingly good. This is why I still enjoy playing with a guitarist. To the point where it doesn't matter if the guitar has drifted sharp or flat, I adjust to it. Embrace fretlessness.

Oct 28, 2021 - 1:20 PM
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1904 posts since 12/11/2008

quote:
Originally posted by farmerjones

Intonation is much easier when there is something to compare. This is why I still enjoy playing with a guitarist. To the point where it doesn't matter if the guitar has drifted sharp or flat, I adjust to it. Embrace fretlessness.


Totally! Let your fingers do the walking. Not an arbitrarily placed strip of metal.

Nov 5, 2021 - 8:38:18 AM
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2303 posts since 7/4/2007

Move your fingers with your ears. And recalibrate constantly using drones and doublestops.

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