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Intonation

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Johnny L, May 14, 2004.


  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I was browsing through the wealth of music and method at my community college library, and I found a book on violin technique written by some guy from Russia. Lots of hair splitting over fingerings and compositions, and how these two things work together to evolve one's concept of virtuoisity.

    To the meat in the middle: some discussion was made of intonation as a means of personal expression and style rather than an effort to conform to a fixed standard. I thought that was interesting idea, as I have to admit that being absolutely in tune all the time can get a little bland.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Hmmm. The only thing I can relate to this in my tired state is relative (true) intonation vs. the Bach 'perfect klavier' intonation. Because as any music student knows, technically the notes in the western scales are not actually in tune. If you have good or perfect pitch you can hear that a perfectly tuned piano is actually out of tune, because if you were to tune it right by the time you got to the end of the octave it wouldnt match up. Make sense? I'm rambling now... I think I'll continue this discussion tomorrow. :)
     
  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Even when playing against a well-tempered and (rarely in-tune) clavier, a variable pitched instrumentalist (voice included) will bend the pitches that are out on the afore-mentioned beast else they sound out of tune. 3rds, 7ths, etc. I think this is one reason why sampled sounds of acoustic instruments sound so flat, and that fixed-pitch instruments in general sound less 'live' than their micro-tonal enabled bretheren.
     
  4. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I don't have that book with me right now, but I don't recall it discussing intonation with respect to tempered tuning issues either...though I can't say that the harmonic series can't be offered as some kind of root cause for such claims.

    I read into it something like what can happen when a note is played slightly sharp, lending a little additional brilliance to it (or at least making it more noticable). I want to say some of the opera stuff I hear on NPR has this kind of flair. I didn't mean to imply that playing in tune isn't an important skill to master at all, just in case there's some confusion.

    I was driving for a couple-hour stretch some months ago, listening to Edgar Meyer's Bach Suites. Edgar Meyer plays in tune and isn't afraid of fingerboard dots. He's awesome, no doubt. But after about 30 minutes of suites, I couldn't listen to it anymore because I kept wanting to doze off - no sour notes sharp or flat, no notes to make me intuitively hear that something should be noticed. I just couldn't describe it this way until I read that little violin technique book I found. Maybe that's what he was after - something audibly seamless - and I shouldn't be saying anything bad about it, but it also gets kinda bland after a while and I've got to throw Gary Karr back in for a recharge.
     
  5. kontri

    kontri Guest

    Oct 5, 2002
    Denmark
    Good sound helps intonation.

    You intonate differently from baroque to modern and there´s a difference in playing with piano and playing with other string players. But first I would (and I my self am) think mostly about tone quality and basic intonation.

    Example
    In baroque music all major thirds must be unbelievable low and minor thirds high. You can actually use the flagolettes to here how low the major third should be. But of couse this doesn´t work with piano.

    that´s my 5 cents.
     
  6. Heifetzbass

    Heifetzbass Commercial User

    Feb 6, 2004
    Upstate, SC
    Owner, Gencarelli Bass Works and Fine String Instruments, LLC.
    I think the concept that Johnny L is referring to is called expressive intonation. Using the ability of our strings to "lead" a little more into the leading notes. The tension and release idea has more impact because you are getting closer to the release... it has its place. I think of this more with the "romantic" school of playing, especially like Heifetz, Rabin, and some of the other early 20th century violinists. The virtuosi could get away with it- we just play "out of tune".

    When you are playing with an ensemble or piano accompaniment you really have to "play in tune." Equal tempered scales are what most concert audiences expect. Most players have tendencies to play certain notes lower or higher depending on their function in the scale. ie, correcting thirds, etc... No big deal, but that is just trying to fix the problems inherent in the equal temperment.

    IMHO,
    Brian
     
  7. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I have to admit I'm not well versed right now in the technical aspects of being in tune or out of tune and so forth. Most of this stuff is about learning how to discuss what I hear and what my intuition tells me in a way that offers meaningful discussion.

    My personal preference has been ensemble performance and "blending in" - no notes out of tune with the fixed-pitched instruments, not even a single beating or chorus effect. As far as how those fixed pitched instruments are tuned to accomplish certain goals, I'm not too hung up over that. But when I work on the solo repertoire now, or I play some simple improvised arco solo with a band, I feel compelled to stand out. My intuition drives me to play with greater risk, to push the envelope somehow.

    I'll probably be working on improving my intonation and muscle memory always as I continue with the doublebass, and it's possible I'll never get to a point where I have a virtuoisic control over my intonation. But to find out that intonation can be harnessed like this, well, I think it's awesome.
     
  8. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    There's something about an upward moving scale, played ever so slightly sharp at the thirds and other "moving notes" that gives it a little extra bite. I've heard this out of various professional musicians, over the years, as well. It refers to that "blandness " spoken about above, I think.

    Among basses, the intonation problems were not where I expected them to be - bass sections, that is. Try to get 7 or 9 bass players all on the same B flat in half position, A string. You'd think it would be simplest of all. Not so. The hard passages fly well. That B flat rarely does.

    I invented "nut position" for myself to cover that - move half position up to the nut and do the B flatwith the 2nd finger. Almost infallible in a section.

    MWM
     
  9. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I may be abusing a confidence, but I heard Edgar say that he used ProTools extensively on that album. If you're not familiar with that program, it is used, among other things, to "fix" the pitch of any given note. Just about everybody here in Guitar Town uses it in their studio nowadays for recording and mastering and they're not afraid to use it.
     
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I heard him play the 1st Suite in person. Whatever he did in ProTools was likely not very severe.
     
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I saw Tamsin Little playing the Ligeti Violin Concerto at the Proms last year at the Albert Hall and the soloist was tuned slightly differently to the accompanists - some of Mahler's music calls for a violin tuned slightly sharp as well.....:meh:
     
  12. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Well, I'd certainly be using that "fix my pitch" feature extensively, but I'm still working on learning to play in tune and have a long way to go.
     
  13. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    It's all interesting, except the discussion is of soloists and single bass things, it seems. Intonation really becomes problematic in big sections, and only sectional rehearsal seem to solve it. Even among a group of excellent bass players.

    Does Edgar M ever play tutti, or is it always a solo or small group gig. I've heard him and watched videos, and have never seen anything quite this remarkable, myself.
     
  14. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    No sweat, man, run with it if you want until this thread dies or gets shut down.
     
  15. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    OK - I'll run with it - You list the "string Game" books in your bio. Do you have any copies? One of the best overall approaches to playing I've seen and should accompany Simandl, Nanny, or whatever other study books a fellow has. I gave my copies away long ago, would like to have another.

    Matt M
     
  16. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Yes, they are great books. No copies, but my community college library has them. It's one of the few benefits to being an adult beginner with the bass and bow, to be led directly to pedagogy sources and then left to run with the ball myself. Explore your public/higher learning book shelves - you might get lucky as well.
     
  17. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    Thanks for the suggestion. I found these books after I had fairly well worked through the standards, Nanny, Sim -, etc., and had a pretty good stack of literature. I found them in the University library, too. We've got Univ. Tenn. Chattanooga here, and I bet they will also have them. This set is well worth whatever effort it takes to get it.

    Playing the String Game gave me a whole new way of looking at strings, and I used it not only for some of my students, but myself as well.

    Matt M
     
  18. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    After the string game books, my teacher recommended The Inner Game of Tennis to me. A great book to work on the mind with as one works on the body and the mechanics of playing.
     
  19. kontri

    kontri Guest

    Oct 5, 2002
    Denmark
    Why do you recomend The inner game of tennis since we have The inner game of music.? Is there something in the inner game of tennis that is better, fx. about the body?
     
  20. matt macgown

    matt macgown Guest

    Dec 1, 2003
    Chattanooga, TN
    How about the "Inner game of fly fishing!?" Good bow routines.
    Matt M