Ask the Experts: how to help a beginner pupil with intonation issues


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This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of The Strad 

A string teacher asks how she can help a young student whose intonation isn't improving - and who doesn't seem to be aware of the problem. A range of teachers have contrasting experiences to share.

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The question I have a nine-year-old violin student who has just passed ABRSM Grade 2 with a reasonable mark. I think he has real talent – he has a great bow technique, always makes a clear sound, is interested in the mechanics of playing, and asks intelligent questions. However, his intonation lets him down. He is generally in the right ballpark, but tends to be slightly out – typically a little under the note. I have tried to get him to sing problem phrases back to me, but he is not a great singer and I suspect his intonation issues stem from a genuine inability to hear if the note is exactly in tune. How can I help him?


MEREDITH ARKSEY I can clearly recall my teacher telling me that I was out of tune at that age...

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