Ask the Teacher - Ruggiero Ricci


The veteran violinist and teacher gives his top technique tips in a special anniversary feature

Explore more Featured Stories  like this in The Strad Playing Hub

How can one improve one’s intonation?

Practise scales with a drone tone underneath. You need to measure from a fixed point, like a surveyor. If you don’t have a fix, you can’t measure – there’s nothing to measure from. Working on intonation is not finger training; it’s ear training. To improve your intonation you have to train your ear, not your fingers. Your fingers don’t know anything. If you have a double-stop, you must always tune the upper note to the lower note. The lower note establishes the pitch. You don’t fix the lower note to the upper note.

You once suggested starting a piece with an up bow instead of a down bow and practising it bowing backwards. Why would one do this?

Normally you cross strings from G to E on a down bow, but if you play the opposite way, you’ll find that it’s difficult to cross strings from G to E on an up bow. Practising backwards bowing is good for your bow arm.

Should one practise loudly or softly?

That depends on the pupil. I tell some students to go home and practise pianissimo because they press too much. They squash the sound by not using enough bow. But to hear if you’re in tune, your practice needs to be loud…

Already subscribed? Please sign in

Subscribe to continue reading…

We’re delighted that you are enjoying our website. For a limited period, you can try an online subscription to The Strad completely free of charge.

  • Free 7-day trial

    Not sure about subscribing? Sign up now to read this article in full and you’ll also receive unlimited access to premium online content, including the digital edition and online archive for 7 days.

    No strings attached – we won’t ask for your card details

  • Subscribe 

    No more paywalls. To enjoy the best in-depth features and analysis from The Strad’s latest and past issues, upgrade to a subscription now. You’ll also enjoy regular issues and special supplements* and access to an online archive of issues back to 2010.


* Issues and supplements are available as both print and digital editions. Online subscribers will only receive access to the digital versions.