Embarrassed about Bad Intonation?
Is there hope?
Jul 05, 2012
Have you chosen to play the violin because of how expressive it is? Oh how wonderful it would be if you could freely perform and be fully expressed through your violin playing and music!
Do you instead find yourself locked up and afraid to play out because you might play out of tune?
Does this fear of being out of tune dominate your entire approach to violin playing? Your confidence is low, your bowing timid?
Yes there is a way to break out of this rut - but how?
1) Act like my bassoon playing neighbor! We always know when she is practicing because her husband is outside cutting the grass & washing the cars.
Create an atmosphere where you can play your violin and NOBODY will ever hear you! Close the windows and kick everyone out!
2) Pick a piece of music that you know very very well. Give yourself permission to play out of tune (as well as to play in tune).
3) Remember why you chose to play the violin in the first place. Immerse yourself in that desire and emotion. Create the violin sound you want to strive for in your imagination.
4) Play the music you picked with complete abandon! Let it out in all it's glory: the good, the bad & the ugly!
5) Resist the temptation to pass any judgement (good or bad).
6) Repeat your music at least 2 more times with all your heart and soul and no technical judgement whatsoever!
7) If you naturally got better with your 3 repetitions - keep repeating the music until you plateau.
8) Do this for several practice sessions with the goal being that you are enjoying the freedom of expression and not a technically perfect performance.
9) Time for improvement! Intonation is one of 3 things: in tune, too high, or too low.
10) Pick a phrase from your music and perform it with complete abandon. Notice the intonation. Identify spots and choose: in tune, too high, too low, or can't tell. This is simply an act of witnessing, noticing, and commenting.
11) Repeat the spot with abandon and notice again: in tune, too high, too low, can't tell. As you repeat this process a few times the intonation should clean up unless there are other issues going on (see below). Once intonation is cleared up repeat a few times for re-inforcement.
12) When you feel you are ready with the entire piece - play for someone you feel very safe around. Perform with abandon! Notice what went well and what didn't. Address the issues at your next private practice session.
13) Gradually add more people in your audience while keeping your practice sessions completely private.
The point is that you must come from the stance that music and violin playing are first and primemost expressive. Get comfortable with yourself playing with expression.
Intonation practiced with the same energy as you would perform is actually going to streamline your practice and keep you expressive.
If you need remedial help with your posture consult a teacher. If you just don't know where the notes are - I've got you covered with The Fingerboard Workbook Series.
Lastly - if performing is too stressful and ruining things for you - try on the idea that you can remain a closet violinist! Keep it meaningful for you!
If you want to tackle performance nerves, try these ideas here. I've also blogged about when Stagefright Happens. There are also numerous books on the topic!
The more you search for self expression through playing, the more you will be interested and engaged. The audience is more satisfied to hear a heartfelt imperfect performance than an impersonal perfect performance.
What are you waiting for? Let it out and fix the intonation along the way!
by Diane Allen
and Auditory study of
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First through eleventh positions.
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