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