How To Play With Good Intonation On The Violin - BONUS TIP - Violin Lesson - Violin Tutorial

How To Play With Good Intonation On The Violin - BONUS TIP - Violin Lesson - Violin Tutorial

Intonation is like having a best friend, you will struggle to maintain the friendship. But if you set your ego aside, and take good care of making it work, then you two will get along just fine. 

Intonation on the violin takes a lifetime to master. Even to this day, I pay attention to intonation. 

You stumbled upon here for some answers on intonation and we'll dive into some basic principles. Here we go!

Intonation Practice

Did a professor ever ask you, "Why are most violin concertos composed in the key of G, D, and A?"

This is a question I ask my intermediate to advanced students. Usually I give them about a week to figure it out. 

The answer is it is because these keys have are utilizing more open strings than any other key on the violin. G Major is a perfect example. In the western classical music tuning system, the key of G on the violin utilizes all 4 open strings in a G scale. 

Why is this relevant? Because using open strings to your advantage will increase your resonance, your tone, and your overall intonation depending on the key. This way, you are working alongside the resonance of your instrument This gets a bit more complicated when you're using different tuning systems such as Just Intonation, Equal Temperament Intonation, and Pythagorean Intonation (also known as melodic intonation). But for sake of this article, we're just talking about some practice tips on common intonation problems. 

On the contrary, a key like E-flat is one the most difficult keys to pay in tune because there are no open strings available to you in the scale. This is why many orchestras require Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 39th symphony because the primary key is E-flat Major. 

But Eric, how do you practice a key if there are no open strings available to use your reference?

Read on, and I'll show you the way... (Mandalorian fans, anyone?)

Drones

Another way to improve your intonation is to practice with drones.

Wait, drones? Like the ones that fly in the sky?

No! Not those. cello drones.

I like using cello drones because it's easier to match the timbre of another cello than a violin. You can also practice your scales with drones in your ear by using a headphone or an earbud. The goal of course is to eventually transition out of using cello drones and hear the intonation in your head while you're playing. This takes many years to master, but have no fear! Slow and steady. 

Etudes

Lastly, another way to fix your intonation is to practice etudes. An etude is a short composition that is designed to help the player improve their technique. Etudes help with all sorts of technical issues. Etudes also help shape the left hand in a specific key so you're saving yourself some practice time when you transition into real repertoire. 

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