Intonation Practice

Yasmin said: Nov 16, 2006
Yasmin Craig VitaliusInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
14 posts

I have a number of transfer violin students all in the book 4 area. One of their weak points is intonation in quick passage work. I have reduced arpeggios and other patterns, like in Vivalidi, to a series of triads that I play on the piano while they play the passage to help ground their ears. This seems to be working well but we can only do this at their weekly lesson.

The problem is that their parents want to do this at home to help but they don’t read music and don’t seem to have a concept for how the piano keyboard is set up. One parent asked me to write things out, almost in a tablature style where you draw a keyboard octave and darken the keys to press for a particular chord. This seems awfully cumbersome and will take me a while to do. While I’m willing, I’m wondering if there are any teachers out there who have experienced this situation and have a better solution?

Thanks for your thoughts.
Kez

Connie Sunday said: Nov 16, 2006
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

The potential problem that I see, in teaching string intonation by referring to the piano is that the piano is equal tempered and the violin, viola, cello—are NOT. Intonation on the violin is context-oriented, the context being the key. Thus the leading tone (for example)—the 7th scale step—is HIGHER on the violin than it is on the piano. I sure would not use the piano.

At Book 4 level, do you only use Suzuki books? I am more of an “eclectic” teacher, i.e., I didn’t want to get drawn into the discussion about persuading a traditional teacher to study Suzuki method, but what other materials are you using? My students, at Book four, are also doing Hrimaly, Wohlfahrt and Trott doublestops. Not a lot, but a little bit every week, and the scales in Hrimaly with Suzuki bowings. Some of them are studying spiccato now, too. They all read music and play chamber music and sightread. I’m very proud of them (can you tell?)

[Regarding additional materials, I do the same with piano students, adding in Teaching Little Fingers , Alfreds, and now, Schaum books, along with the Suzuki books. Did not Dr. Suzuki talk about this, using “reading books?” Numerous students of mine take violin or viola, and piano with me. ]

There is a photo of the younger members of my chamber group at the bottom of the page at http://beststudentviolins.com/

Connie

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Gabriel Villasurda said: Nov 16, 2006
Gabriel VillasurdaViolin, Viola
81 posts

Another poster mentioned Tempered Intonation, so what I propose will also have this problem. This poster is absolutely right. Nevertheless, if problems are SO bad, tempered pitch will be a considerable improvement. We all end up playing with a piano from time to time, so we ought to be able to play in that “language” too.

As for generating some guidance for at-home practice, why not devise an exercise, generate a midi file which you can e-mail to your student. Most homes these days have computers; your student can play along with the computer. Midi files play back using Media Player or Quicktime—free programs that just about every computer have.

Remember, playing arpeggios across several octaves requires good mobility between finger patterns—sharp 3 on one string but natural 3 on another string. The Vivaldi passage comes to mind: A C# E G natural, etc.—two kinds of 3rd finger in close sequence. Check that fingers are able to move easily along the length of the string (north and south) while also changing strings (east and west).

If you are totally mystified about midi files, send me a personal message and I’ll send you a sample exercise.

Gabe Villasurda

Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI
www.stringskills.com

Yasmin said: Nov 16, 2006
Yasmin Craig VitaliusInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
14 posts

Indeed, I agree that there are some problems with using a tempered instrument to help our intonation. However, it is incredibly helpful since many of these kids didn’t get adequate ear training before and don’t have any sense of interval sounds. We do a lot of singing and I require a lot of listening, but some kids seem to have a harder time hearing vertically, rather than horizontally.

I do appreciate your response, Gabriel, as it give me a very concrete idea of how to help.

Kez

Connie Sunday said: Nov 16, 2006
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
667 posts

I’m doubtless hopelessly old-fashioned, but I’m very suspicious of using MIDI and other sorts of electronic interfaces to study violin. I guess my argument would be that violin is a human instrument, with a human voice. The idea in violin is to produce a beatufiul tone. Wouldn’t Dr. Suzuki’s “tonalization” exercises be better than using an electronic device?

I have all my students play scales in half notes, and move pretty quickly into three octaves and shifting, mainly because of the fear I remember I had, as a student, learning the new positions. It’s wanting the student to overcome the urge to drop back down into the first position. But that’s a separte issue, of course.

Just my .02

Connie

Free Handouts for Music Teachers & Students:
http://beststudentviolins.com/library.html#handouts

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 17, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

mshikibu, anyone with a website as extensive as yours is not “hopelessly” old-fashioned…..

All the same, there’s nothing wrong with using MIDI files IF the student has a good set of computer speakers at home and knows how to use them. But I prefer to have them use open strings to work on intonation. I spend a lot of time working on the ‘ringing’ notes as anchors for my students.

Simon Fischer’s “Basics” book has some very good (and very clearly written out) ideas for tuning scales.

Practicing with drones can be helpful too…. there’s a Cello ‘drone’ CD you can get (inexpensive non-MIDI way to get students to practice with drones)

http://www.navarrorivermusic.com/cello_drones.php

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