How To Play a Violin In Tune
Would you like to learn how to play a violin in tune? Is your violin teacher always correcting your intonation? Do you go home from your lessons worried that you'll never develop a 'musical ear'? Stop worrying because this page will be music to your ears.
A great musician of many musical instruments told me once that the violin, viola, cello and bass were the hardest of any instrument family to play. This is because there are no notes or keys to push down, you have to find the exact hairline spot to play each and every note. If you are not in that exact spot, your note will be out of tune.
I'm willing to bet any beginner stringed instrument player will also tell you how hard it is to get the notes in tune. I've been there, done that. I feel your pain, so let me help you out!!
Here are some simple tips and strategies that can teach you how to play a violin in tune.
#1 Play Along With the Piano- Match note for note with the piano. Find a friend who plays piano and ask them to play your part with you. My dad spent many years at my side playing violin music on the piano so I could hear my notes. Much to his relief and mine, all that hard work paid off. When first learning how to play a violin in tune, this method works really well. It's great for beginners to hear the piano play their part correctly, and mentally hear the direction the notes are supposed to go.
If you play a note that sounds too high, carefully bring your finger closer to the violin scroll until you hear the right note. If you come across a note that sounds too low, slide it closer to the violin bridge until it is in tune.
#2 Practice scales on a daily basis - Becoming more familiar with different keys and the placement of whole and half steps within those keys will help you play in tune in your performance pieces. Scale System for Violin by Carl Flesch is my all-time favorite scale book. It is for the advanced player and has three octave scales plus variations, doublestops, and octaves. If you're looking for something a little simpler try Scales in First Position for Violin (String Method).
#3 Play Down an Octave - Whether you are playing with someone or alone bringing high notes down an octave can help you hear the correct tonation. If you are playing along with either a piano or in a group setting, have someone play down an octave while the others play the original music up high. Then switch parts. If you are playing alone play the high tricky parts down low and listen really carefully. Move the music back up high and try to replicate the intonation that you studied down low.
#4 Tune to Yourself - As you practice, take any chance you get to tune your notes to open strings. For example if you play an A note with a finger pause and play the open-string A. Listen to both closely and see if they match. Tune the fingered A note to match the open-stringed A note then move on.
#5 Use Pitch Drones - If you are playing an A mjor scale then you can set the tuner to A or the 5th of the scale which would be an E. The goal is to perfectly harmonize every note to the drone. Keep a drone on the entire time you practice for perfect intonation!
For help with solors and concert pieces, figure out the key of the piece and set the pitch to the key. If your song is in D Major, for example, turn on the drone pitch to D. The Korg TM-40 Large Display Digital Tuner and Metronome is an offordable metronome AND digital tuner that has all 12 notes of a scale.
#6 Use Computer Software- Intonia is a great program that I highly recommend for anyone learning how to play a violin in tune. To find the site click here. Intonia is a pitch recorder. It is designed to help string players visualize intonation. It works like this; you play and it records. While recording it displays a continuous chart of your music. It then assigns each note a color according to your intonation; white shows you are in tune, red means you are sharp, and a blue note is flat.
Learning how to play a violin in tune is not easy, but it is worth it. You will have a stronger desire to practice and perform your violin if you like the way you sound. Take the time now to develop a strong musical ear, and train your mind and fingers to find the right notes.