How to play better in tune with an electronic tuner
If you’re learning on your own, you might find it challenging to play the left-hand fingers in tune. Drone-tuning™ is the best way to learn and practice this FUNdamental skill. But you might still need some extra help. So let’s turn to digital technology and use an electronic tuner.
Get An Electronic Tuner
The same tuner that you use to tune up the strings can be used to help you find the correct left-hand finger placement.
Either a phone app like Cleartune (what I use). There are lots of other options for this.
Or the free Google Tuner
Or a clip-on tuner like the Snark.
How To Correctly Place The Left-Hand Fingers With An Electronic Tuner
First, make sure your fiddle is in tune using the tuner. Review the lesson on that: Tuning The Fiddle.
Then use the tuner to find each note before you play a song. For example, if you’re playing a beginner song on the D string.
Play D1 (which is called E and is played with the pointer finger) and use the tuner to adjust the position until it’s in tune.
Repeat the process for D2 (which is called F# and is played with the middle finger) and D3 (which is called G and is played with the ring finger)
If you’re starting on a different string, then find the first few notes on that string with the tuner.
In the future, use this strategy to tune up any notes you are struggling with. Once a note is in tune, continue to play it and simply listen to how this in-tune note sounds.
Don’t let the tuner become a crutch
Now here comes a key step: Look away from the tuner. And if you’re using a clip-on tuner, I recommend you turn it off.
You do NOT want to be staring at the tuner while practicing. You want to turn your attention to working out technical problems, listening and making music.
Don’t let the tuner become a crutch. If you have the tuner on while playing scales and tunes you’ll wind up being totally reliant on it (insert frustrated, super-mopey emoji here). If you turn it off, you create a small obstacle to using it so that you can’t just glance over. I think this might be enough to keep you from over-using it.
How often do I do this process
At the beginning of a practice session, spend 3-5 minutes just working on your tuning with an electronic tuner. Play each fingered pitch of a scale for 30 seconds or so.
Then, use this process at key points during a practice session. Before you start to play a song, use the tuner to find the first few notes. Or use it to play the scale for the song.
Alternatively, you can slowly pay a scale up and down using the tuner and adjusting as you go. Do this for 3-5 minutes.
Once you find the correct pitches with the left hand, try closing your eyes and playing:
Another tool to help you play in tune is finger tape.
Finger tape on the violin neck is like training wheels on a bike. In short, tape gets you in the ballpark, but it won’t get you perfectly in tune. You need your ears for that! (That’s why I urge you to learn Drone-tuning™ sooner than later.) Learn more here: How to Place Finger Tape
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