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  • #14968 Reply


    Hi everyone,
    I’ve been playing the violin now for about 4 years following the Suziki method. My problem is that i don’t seem to be able to play fast melodies without messing up my intonation. For example, playing Allegros, Allegrettos or even the 1/16 notes that are in the middle of a melody. Itzhak Perlman once said that start learning a piece very slowly first. I tried to follow that advice but as i start picking up speed, i reach a point where the intonation starts to go wrong, even if i play the melody very well in slow speed.
    I also tried that with scales so that it would be an easier melody but the same thing happens.
    So, has anyone had this problem and how do you suggest dealing with it??

    #14974 Reply

    Dianne Adkins

    Hi Nermin-Sabry! I am a Suzuki teacher. I always tell my students, ‘To play fast, you must practice fast.’ Most of the time, it is too hard to practice an entire passage of 16th notes fast at first. So we must develop a strategy. First remember that what you hear on the CD goes way faster than you should try to play the music. It isn’t until you are well into Book II, for example, that you would try to play pieces in Book I at CD tempo. So, some steps in conquering your difficult passage are as follows;

    Break Them Up!
    Ha ha ha, can you tell I’m feeling the bern? OK so what I really mean is break the passage up into little pieces. So take the first 4 notes and try playing them, ,only them, fast. Is it easy? If so, good! One unit down! 20 or so to go! Play this group of notes over and over, 100 times or for 30 seconds. This is like drill work that warms up the fingers. With each repeat, you fix intonation until you can play this group fast, easily, with good intonation.

    If that first group of 4 notes posed some problem, and it was not easy, we have to figure out why. Is there a string crossing or difficult fingering involved that slows you down? Is there a bowing involved that makes it hard? Whatever is making it difficult, try to simplify the ‘unit’ by taking these steps.

    1. Play it without the bowing
    2. Make the rhythm easy by eliminating ties
    3. Try playing it forwards and backwards over and over
    4. Take out the fingering to identify a difficult bowing

    Quite often we find the hard parts are not related to fingerings at all, but have an underlying bowing challenge. So once you fully understand the rhythm, have mastered open string bowing where string crossings are adding to the challenge and can play the fingering, bowing, and rhythm — Play it forward and backwards, fast, over and over.

    Master units, then expand.
    So you practiced the first 4 notes and they are fast now, and easy, and in tune. Next, practice the next group of 4 notes the same way, finding what makes it hard to play fast, simplifying as needed, building back to the original group with fingerings and bowings. Now the next step is to play these two fast little units together. So, try these 8 notes fast now. If they are easy, fast and in tune. Start the next group of 4 notes. If they are hard to put together, practice fast this way.

    1. Play unit 1. Stop. Think. Play unit 2. Repeat. The stop between can be as long as you need. Just be sure to play the units fast.
    2. Modify the units where possible to practice all the notes on 1 string, and play that fast.
    3. Play fast, what comes before the unit you practiced with all the notes on 1 string.
    4. Try to put them together. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Fix intonation on the repeat. Maintain a fast, small unit practice.

    In this manner, you practice all the units individually, identifying problems and fixing as you go. By the end of your practice session, you should have made pretty good progress. Maybe you got it right where you wanted it. Don’t be disappointed if on tomorrow’s practice you find your fingers have slowed down and lost a little traction. You will get it back to where it was faster today. And tomorrow, even faster. Until soon, you’ll pick up your violin and whip out the notes at lightening speed, EZ, PZ.

    One additional suggestion to push the practice for speed is to change the rhythm. This is most useful in a string of 16th notes that just don’t seem to want to flow. If you play them with a dotted rhythm, you require bow and finger to move faster in pairs of notes. This method identifies tricky spots that you need to iron out with the methods described above. (simplify, take out fingerings, etc) Make sure to practice both dotted 8th + 16th, and 16th + dotted 8th patterns. As well, try starting both up bow and down bow. Making it harder when you practice small units, makes it easier when you go back to the way it was originally written.

    Let me know how these strategies work for you! If you have specific music or passages, you need me to create units for, I am happy to do that. Good Luck!

    You got this

    #14987 Reply


    For good intonation, I play notes with the tips of my fingers, not the pads or the side of the fingers. I also practice 4 finger scales to get used to proper finger placement on the neck. I play open A, first finger, open A. Then place the first finger down and play 1st finger, 2nd finger, 1st finger. Next, place 2nd finger down, play 2nd finger, third finger, 2nd finger. The same with the 3rd finger and 4th fingers. Then go back down to the other way. I repeat the drill on all 4 strings in first position. This exercise helps me train my fingers to automatically hit the right note. I can make the notes in-tune by habit. I also practice arpeggios in first position. When I can play in tune, I speed up the tempo a little until I can play it in tune. These exercises help me learn how much space to put between the 1st and 2nd fingers and how close to put the 2nd and 3rd fingers. Hope this helps!

    #14988 Reply


    Wow! Thanks a lot Dianne! I will definitely follow the steps you mentioned and i’ll let you know how it goes.
    By the way, i’m in level 4 now of the Suzuki method, so you can imagine my frustration with this problem while at the same time time practicing to shift to higher positions!!
    I used to take lessons but i just moved out of my home country so i’m gonna have to go on on my own until i settle down and explore my new options.

    Thanks again for the time you took to send me this great advice, i’ll do my best to follow it accurately! 🙂

    #14994 Reply

    Christie Morehouse

    Thanks, Dianne. That is helpful.

    #15148 Reply

    Christie Nicklay

    Thank you, Dianne! Very useful tips. I run into the same issues, so this will definitely be on my to-do list.

    #15254 Reply


    Those are great tips Dianne!! Just a couple of weeks ago for the first time I tried to practice a fast/difficult passage using the process you described here too: play it as dotted 8th + 16th, and 16th + dotted 8th patterns. I had never tried that before and I thought how is this gonna help me? I tried it and even after only a couple of minutes I could play the passage much faster with the correct intonation.I repeated it a couple of days and then it just became easy. 🙂 It’s amazing!!

    #15406 Reply

    Dianne Adkins

    OH Mariko! You make me so happy! I’m so glad you tried changing the rhythm like that, because what that did was put two notes faster and two notes slower. It showed you the difficult pairs and the easy pairs. Once you know how to practice, you can learn ANYTHING in any subject, too! But I’m so pleased this is helping you and saving you time!!

    #15424 Reply


    THANKS Dianne!! Yes, I’m very happy too that I’ve tried that. :-)))

    #17217 Reply


    Wow this is great !!!

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