June 13, 2015 at 5:32 pm #2828
Maybe a stupid question to ask. But still…
When I was choosing an instrument to buy I read the descriptions of many violins which described that this one has a good intotation and that one has a better intonation. What exactly is the intonation in the violin playing?June 13, 2015 at 6:24 pm #2829
Not a stupid question at all! Intonation refers to the pitch of a specific note (how in tune it is). This term is used often when you are playing a stringed instrument as your intonation can be “good” or “bad” depending on how you are doing putting your fingers in the right spots to find the right pitches.
Where you heard the term intonation concerns me. Intonation shouldn’t be a term used to describe instrument quality, as all instruments have the ability to have the same intonation. This basically just means the instrument starts off in the same pitch (in tune). Even the worst instrument can produce proper intonation, but the differences between stringed instruments should differ in other ways.
Here are a few qualities that should be describing an instrument (intonation is not one of them).
1. Sound projection – This refers to the instrument’s ability to produce a loud sound.
2. Depth/warmth – This is probably the most coveted quality of an instrument. A comparison would be how you would enjoy listening to the radio more when you hear the sound with a nice sounding bass in the music. A warm sounding violin is much more pleasant to listen to (and play).
3. Instrument cleanliness – This somewhat has to do with the player, but mostly how the instrument is setup. A good qualitiy violin will be easy to play, and thus have a great cleanliness of tone. A cheap violin will be hard to play, while a better quality violin will be easier to play.
Hope that helps! If you are interested in any instruments I have to offer, I run a website that includes all my recommendations. Superior Violins is our sister website and all the instruments we recommend have personally been approved by our small company. We are all players with a passion and love helping others–read about our Violin Tutor Pro team who all also work on Superior Violins.June 13, 2015 at 7:33 pm #2845
Yes, ” to intone” is an active verb (infinitive) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinitive and its use to describe inanimate objects is questionable at best. Intonation is the act of intoning. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/intonation In any case the instrument cannot act of its own accord. Although, it seems to do so at times? 🙂June 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm #2848
Maybe it was talking about how well the instrument holds a tune? I knew a young, beginner musician who had a cello that seemed to need tuning every half hour or so.June 15, 2015 at 3:06 pm #2898
The concept of “intonation” in an instrument really only applies if it generates fixed pitches (because it has frets, keys, valves, etc.). Then the concept could indicate how well the instrument stays in tune up the fingerboard (i.e. guitar or mandolin) or throughout the full range of notes (i.e. clarinet or trumpet). A poorly designed or damaged instrument can be in-tune with itself in one range or key and out-of-tune in another.
With an instrument like a violin or viola, that doesn’t really apply. Tune the strings, and then the intonation is up to the player.
Can the player can influence the “intonation” of instruments with frets or keys or valves? With many of these instruments, yes–but they do most of the work for you. On a bowed instrument, you have to earn every note. As a 30-year guitar player who recently picked up viola, this reality is a daily challenge!June 15, 2015 at 4:46 pm #2901
Great response Loren! They say stringed orchestra instruments (violin, viola, cello, double-bass) are the hardest to play because of your point about intonation. Here is some good news and bad news. The good news is that if you establish good fundamentals in the left-hand (practicing proper finger placement), you will find that progression on one of these instruments is not much harder than any others out there (even guitar). The bad news is that if you don’t focus on fundamentals, this will lead to your inability to create proper intonation consistently. It’s never fun to play an instrument that you can’t get to sound consistently in tune–but it really is possible if you approach learning the right way.
My advice to anyone out there interested in improving their intonation is to focus on fundamentals either by taking private lessons or utilizing our lessons. This is key to your success playing the violin, and ultimately will help you with your intonation, rhythm and much more.June 15, 2015 at 6:55 pm #2904
Intonation is everything, no Good Intonation means no Good Playing = No Good Music. About violin intonation depends on the violinist and the instrument. I always think and say that the violinist makes the notes, creates the music, the violin by itself with 4 strings can show only 4 notes, all the rest is the violinist who makes them. According to a certain way and view of speaking.June 16, 2015 at 8:53 pm #2933
Another important idea about intonation is using the key signature and scale tones to “color” the pitches. For example, on a piano F# and G-flat are enharmonic, but strings can make a subtle difference between them. Also, the 3rd and 7th tone in Major keys “lean” or resolve to the next higher tone. Of course this is more appropriate in solo playing, but is also quite effective in small-group ensembles. I even teach this when my students are playing basic etudes. (Wolfahrt, Kayser, Kreutzer, Dont, Sevcik).June 16, 2015 at 9:07 pm #2934
Oh, one more thing…it is helpful to use the overtone series to help with intonation. Simply put, it’s the way you can check a fingered pitch with an open-string pitch. If playing a G, then (on a good instrument) you should hear your open G resonating. The same technique is used when tuning the open strings, where the pitches seem to “lock” together.June 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm #3105
Thank you so much for your answers! And, Michael, you gave really a profound explanation. Now I know really much about what the intonation is. Maybe I didn’t understand it right at the beginning as I didn’t really know what it can mean. The linguistic and the musical meanings of this word are so completely different!
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Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 13 total)