How To Play In Tune
How can I play better in tune? What can I practice? What tips will help me play in tune?
This is a course to help you play in tune, and this lesson is an overview of the different tuning strategies. I’ll go into more detail on each strategy in separate lessons. Here is a library of tuning exercises to help you practice your tuning for each note on the fiddle:
These exercises and tools will dramatically improve your tuning if you practice them consistently.
As a beginning fiddler, playing in tune can be frustrating, and without a teacher it can seem impossible.
I will offer four main tools and strategies:
As well as some tips to improve your tuning:
- How To Play Better In Tune With An Electronic Tuner
- Listen for resonance
- Memorize everything you practice
- Play with eyes closed
- Play bass lines
- How To Play In Tune With Kesh Jig
- Webinar: How To Combine Tuning Strategies
Tuning notes with drones
I’ve talked at length about how great drones are for practicing almost anything: your tone, scales, tunes, improvisation. Probably the best thing they do for a beginning student is help to hear the correct pitch and learn to play the note in tune. In this course I’m going to go into fine detail on how you can use drone notes to drastically improve your tuning.
The basic process for drone tuning:
- Listen to a specific drone for the note you want to tune.
- Play that note on fiddle, matching it as best you can.
So for D1, which is an E note, you practice with an E drone. Alternate between just listening and playing. Move from a single note to more complex exercises.
In the dedicated lesson on drone tuning I’ll offer different exercises that you can practice with play-along tracks to improve your tuning. You can then continue to apply this to everything else you learn.
In this course I’m introducing the idea of a call-and-response loop. The basic idea: listen to something and then play it. Here is an example:
Notice the space after the exercise. This is where you will play the exercise. Call-and-response practice is a way for you to perfectly integrate listening and playing. Not only will this improve your tuning, but it will help you to hear the other instruments as you fiddle, making it easier for you to play with others.
I’ve created a library of Tuning Exercises that you can use to practice all the tuning strategies in this course.
In addition to these, you can practice in “call-and-response mode” using all the existing audio loops on FiddleHed. Just alternate between playing and listening. You can also practice call-and-response on your own or with a practice buddy. I’ll go into more detail in the dedicted lesson on call-and-response loops.
An interval is the distance between two notes. Practicing different intervals trains your ear to recognize their sound, allowing you to play better in tune on more complex pieces. For example, if you have practiced the interval D3-A1, then when you play that in Oh Susannah it will be easier thing for you fingers to do and you will have a better idea if it’s in tune or not.
I’ll go into more detail about intervals in the dedicated lesson, and provide some exercises. In addition, you will now find interval exercises in the “Warm-ups” section of most tunes on FiddleHed. There is also an entire module called Interval Central. This is a library of all the interval exercises on FiddleHed, organized by string. It allows you to practice exactly what you need to practice.
Audiation is the process of “hearing music in your head”. Like when you’re walking down the street and are humming a tune. Your brain is playing back that music, and when you hear it in your head you feel like humming or singing the melody. We do this unconsciously all the time.
We will practice audiation intentionally in order to play better in tune. The basic idea is, you play a few notes on the fiddle, and then try to hear those notes in your head. If you practice this consistently, you will train your inner ear to hear those notes. With continued practice of audiation, you will be able to hear when something is out of tune and get better at correcting it.
In addition to helping you play better in tune, audiation will help you remember tunes and visualize music.
I’ll go into more detail on how to improve your tuning with audiation in this dedicated lesson. You can practice audiation with the call-and-response loops I made for this course.
Once you get the idea, you can practice audiation on your own with scales, parts of tunes or whatever you are working on.
Tuning with resonance
The last thing I want to show you is a little tuning trick: listening to resonance.
If you play D3, which is G, perfectly in tune, then you will hear a ringing sound. That’s the open G resonating with the higher octave D3. If you play D3 strong enough, you might even see the G string move and vibrate! Try moving the note out of tune now. Notice how you don’t hear the ring any more.
You can use this trick to test the tuning for D3. At the same time, you are training your ear to listen for for resonance. If you practice this, your fingers will learn to naturally adjust to the correct pitch.
All these techniques overlap and interact with each other. In each lesson of the course, we will go in depth on a single strategy, show how the strategies are interconnected and then practice them with play-along tracks.
Now go fiddle with it…
Lessons complete in the How To Play In Tune module: