There’s one thing I have learned in the few short months I have been learning to play the fiddle–proper intonation is a must. It’s a good idea to mindfully practice good intonation, rather than just sawing away at practice time and hoping it’ll work itself out. Not many folks appreciate playing with a fiddler whose intonation is off.
There are a couple bits of advice I have heard regarding achieving good intonation:
- Practice along with recorded scales
- Practice over a drone note
When practicing to recorded scales you are listening to your playing and attempting to match your tone with the recording. It isn’t hard to hear when you’re a bit off. The idea is that eventually your fingers will learn where to go to play the notes accurately. Here are some links to scales that would be useful for playing Irish traditional music–feel free to download!
Playing along to a drone means that you are listening to a single note–probably the root or tonic of the scale or tune you want to practice–and listening to the relationship between your note and the drone note. You can also play tunes along to it if you want to make it a bit more musical. I find this method more intuitive–the drone becomes almost like background, in a way, and you are able to listen attentively to your own playing. This link will take you to a site where you can play along with or download drones–every possible note is represented. (To download, click the link, then right click on the drone you want. Select “save as” in the menu and voila!)
I am not a brain scientist, but I get the sense that using these two techniques in conjunction forces you to use your brain in slightly different ways, solidifying your ability to play in tune. It’s helped me quite a lot–try it for yourself.