Expressive intonation when used on the violin takes utmost advantage of the sympathetic vibrations of our open strings. We should as a matter of course tune 4ths, 5ths, and 8vs to our open strings whenever possible; this makes the violin ring beautifully, enriching our sounds and giving us a sense of ease as we play. However, in addition to checking constantly for agreement with open strings, we can go further and begin to hear the relationships between groups of notes.  Basing these groups on 4ths and 5ths will make for consistency in intonation and a more expressive and powerful sound. It will also give us smaller half steps, wider major intervals, and smaller minor intervals; these are all hallmarks of expressive intonation, wherein we intensify and exaggerate functional harmony.

Perfect consonances such as 4ths and 5ths can be divided by their relationship to the open strings into two categories: Dark, building in 4ths up from the G string, and Bright, building in 4ths down from the E string.

Dark Side

G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, all flats

Bright Side

E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, all sharps

You may have noticed that music in keys such as D, A, E, and G is often easier to make sound; this is because it is naturally using the ring of the open strings contained in the key. You may have conversely noticed more difficulty in works written in flat keys such as Eb, Ab, and Db. Not only do these keys contain fewer of our open strings, they also require us to relate in 4ths to the open G string – the “Dark Side” — which we might prefer to ignore. Even a movement in C Major such as the Bach C Major Fugue will be full of opportunities for mistuning C major chords with the G string, because we will try to tune them “up” to the E string. This is particularly difficult if we tune our fifths perfectly open.

 

Here is the tuning I recommend instead:

Keyes Compromise Tuning

E: Tuner at A=442

A: Tuner at A=441

D: Tuner at A=441

G: Tuner at A=440

 

This results in:

Dark Side

G, C, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db: Tuner at A=440

Bright Side

E, B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#: Tuner at A=442

All flats are lowered and all sharps are raised, leading to narrow half steps and widened whole steps in both major and minor scales. In major scales, the 3rd, 6th and 7th steps are high. In harmonic minor scales, the 3rd and 6th steps are low; the 7th is high. The distance from C to C# is greater than that from C to Db. These narrow half steps greatly intensify our emotional expression.

 

 

  1. Opening up the hand – invite, encourage, do not insist!
    1. Play all stretching and widening exercises pp at first, to release and melt the webbing between the fingers.
    2. Keyes sliding: hold one finger, slide other fingers up one at a time, do not allow held finger to buckle or move. Keep wrist in relaxed but straight line.
    3. Kourgouf sliding: place all four fingers on string, slide each finger up one half-step, beginning with fourth finger; do not allow hand, wrist or other fingers to move; then slide back down beginning with first finger.
    4. Dounis Daily Dozen #3 – sliding.
    5. Stretching: 3 fingers in third position on E string, first finger on A string, slide first finger back to first position, do not allow other fingers to move or buckle.  Continue with successive fingers.
    6. Dounis stretching: Artist’s Technique of Violin Playing, pp. 24-29.  1-2 minutes maximum, no finger pressure whatsoeverBe very careful of this one!
    7. Simon Fischer Basics: “Widening at the Base Joints”
    8. Simon Fischer Basics: “Minimum Finger Pressure”
    9. Simon Fischer Basics: Thumb Spa, Thumb Counterpressure
    10. Dounis Daily Dozen # 2 – holding and releasing.
  2. Framing the hand – all the world is a quadruplestop!
    1. The fourth finger is king, and the hand is balanced and energized between third and fourth fingers, while releasing and reaxing in thumb, index and second fingers.
    2. The wrist is relaxed but straight.
    3. The hand is melted and released to bring the third and fourth fingers closer to the neck/fingerboard.
    4. Think finger patterns at all times – on string and in the air.
    5. Keyes finger patterns on one string – chromatic and diatonic.
    6. Galamian one-position scales. Hold fourth finger down continuously.
    7. Doublestop for string crossings.
    8. Sevcik Opus 1 Part IV # 2 – holding and releasing.
    9. Kourguof – holding and releasing.
    10. Schradieck “The School of Violin Techniques” Vol. 1 pp. 2-4 – air patterning and releasing.
    11. Kreutzer #9 – air patterning and releasing.  Use second finger to fourth as much as possible.
    12. Sitt 50 Daily Finger Exercises.