William Fitzpatrick - violin expert

Achieving Great Intonation - Part 5

Fifth video about achieving the perfect pitch on the violin.

In this video, Prof. Fitzpatrick continues his video series about violin intonation, with practical examples from actual music compositions.

Released on April 2, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to virtualsheetmusic.com's Meet the Expert. My name is William Fitzpatrick and I am professor of violin at the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music, which is located on the Chapman University campus in Orange, California. I am as well, director of Music Share, which is located in Irvine.

We've had a lot of conversations about pitch or intonation with regard to patterns. Well, why don't we look at it in a little more practical way? Let's look at a piece of music, or a couple of pieces of music, and let's explore a bit into how to use these patterns. Why don't we start with Beethoven, the romance in F major?

Now, there are some interesting spots in this Beethoven to figure out how in the world we find the notes. For example, there is a spot which starts with a G and goes to an F. Now, how do we get to that F? Let's look. We have the open G. Now, what do we have in our left hand? That's what I call mapping.

First, we're going to look and find, where's the D? Third finger. Well, that's where my first finger will go. What am I going to do next? Whole step, half step. From here, I find it. Now, obviously, we cannot take that much time to find the note, but we can begin to choreograph or to slightly program how we find it while we're playing the G.

Let's see. We can do ... Except, I'm not going to play ... that's how I'm going to practice it to find the notes, so we have what? One, two, three, four. This is how I'm going to use my patterns to find the notes that we're doing. Let's see. Let's try another piece. For this piece, let's use Bruch Scottish Fantasy.

Now, I remember that I went to Sweden to visit a friend, who was a violinist, and I was enraptured by Bruch Scottish Fantasy as performed by Michael Rabin. Now, I remember I was trying so hard to play it like Michael Rabin, but to help me with it, I didn't look at the music. Okay? Here we go. I'm playing it for my friend, showing him what I felt was so, so wonderful about Michael Rabin.

Now, my friend looked at me and said, "It's true, Bill. His performance is really, really beautiful, but it doesn't start on a B. It starts on a B-flat." And I'm like, "Oh." Okay? How would I do that? How did I start a piece in one key? Someone said to me, "Bill, it starts on another note." And I was able to do it. I simply transposed the inner hooks. I knew where the patterns were.

Whole step, whole step. Whole step, half step. Whole, whole. Half. That's how I did it. Now, hmm, did I have to know that it wasn't B natural, G, A, B, B, E? No, I didn't need to know that. Did I need to know that it was B-flat? I didn't know, I didn't need to know. I just remembered the patterns intervallically with what was going on, and I could play it in whatever key.

Now, just as a little aside, do you know where I learned to do that? Believe it or not, in Nashville, Tennessee. Because I used to do country music sessions there when I was like 17 or 18 years old. Sometimes, a senior would come in after we'd practiced something and she would sing or he would sing with us in person or live. He would come out and go to the producers, she or he would say, "It's just too high. Can't we do it a half step lower?" We would have to add, right on the spot, lower it a half step.

We didn't have a lot of time. I mean, these are three-hour sessions. There were four pieces in the session. There was not a lot of time, so you would have to mentally calculate how to lower that pitch that was written on the page a half simpler. This was the beginning of me understanding through intervals or through patterns, how to deal with things.

I hope that this has been an interesting journey. It's certainly been interesting for me to share it with you. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to ask. I'll see you the next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Michael Morera on June 7, 2015 @8:36 pm PST
William this was very interesting!
Tosh * VSM MEMBER * on November 5, 2014 @2:29 pm PST
Hello Professor:
I just finished going through all 5 of your videos regarding playing in tune/pitch. Thanks for your advices regarding finger patterns, etc., all of which is very helpful. I apologize for getting to these videos long after you posted them.
However, I would like to add one important thing about this issue: It seems to me that often when violinists do not play in tune, the problem is that they are not (or are incapable of) listening accurately to what pitches are being produced by their playing. One can get sloppy in terms of listening awareness, so that one thinks one is playing in tune, when one is actually playing slightly out of tune. It is analogous to someone who sings out of tune, but is completely unaware of it. I believe Isaac Stern once said one had to actually hear in one's mind what a sequence of notes sounds like accurately, "before" playing those notes, and thence able to compare what was actually produced with what those notes should have ideally sounded if in tune. Correct "listening to oneself" is I believe as important as knowing what finger spacing, patterns, etc., should be employed. (I once performed the Bach double violin concerto with another violinist...and while rehearsing this piece, I said to her that she was only playing "approximately in tune", that she was actually out of tune on many notes by a small but noticeable degree, usually a bit flat. She said her brother had told her the same thing, but that she couldn't hear it herself. I suspect she was unable to hear internally what the notes should sound like, and beyond that, also unable to hear accurately what was actually being produced by her playing.)
Perhaps in a later video you could address this important problem of accurately knowing what being in tune entails, and, being able to accurately compare what is produced by one's playing to this mental template.
Peter Machado * VSM MEMBER * on May 7, 2014 @7:43 am PST
When we play someting in four flats, it's b,e,a,d and so it's a flat, so we as junior ameteur violinists have a problem with this, frequently we just play it instead in A, this means three sharps, and we don't have to rewrite the music for A, we just play the notes as is - our formula is open, open, open for the second finger, and open open close for the thrid finger. It's that easy, we think in three sharps from 4 flats and don't rewrite/change any notes on the page.
William on May 7, 2014 @10:37 am PST
Et voila!
Eugenie van Zyl * VSM MEMBER * on April 16, 2014 @9:12 am PST
Intervals and patterns. Yes!!! I am begiining to understand why these two things are so important because it makes violin playing just easier!! I also can relate to you when saying you do not know what notes you are now playing when in another key, because one just go according to the pattern. Thank you Professor William, for these handy tips! They are so important!! I love your programme!
William on April 16, 2014 @3:49 pm PST
Merci! Thank you!
Kathleen Barry * VSM MEMBER * on April 16, 2014 @8:04 am PST
So, in order to play intervals, don't you still have to know what note you are playing? So, would I teach a scale first by showing where each half step is? Memorize that. But in playing a piece, one would have to be thinking in keys constantly...what happens when an accidental happens.....Oh how I wish I could take lessons from you! Kathy
William on April 16, 2014 @3:36 pm PST
You need the notes to discover the patterns. At this point the notes are not needed as they and the notes are fused. Hope that this is helpful...
Janice H. on April 3, 2014 @4:10 am PST
Very interesting content....thank you for giving your time and talent!
William on April 3, 2014 @10:52 am PST
Dave on April 2, 2014 @9:32 am PST
What's the best way to work on playing octaves in tune?
William on April 3, 2014 @10:52 am PST
Practice 6ths with your 3rd and 4th fingers ... This will lead to giving you a visual repair ...Hope that this helps!
Eugenie van Zyl * VSM MEMBER * on April 2, 2014 @7:53 am PST
Dear Mr Fitzpatrick, I enjoy your lessons on great intonation so very much! I am still witing for that ONE MOMENT when my violin will make the sound that is soothing to my ears - if it really means buying a better violin, I will do it tomorrow. My violin playing still sounds terrible and although I play the piano in church, I dare not play one piece of music on my violin to anybody - it just sounds terrible! I am busy with Book II of Suzuki and are taking lessons with Lora @ Reddessertviolin.com but long for the day that my violin playing will sound clear and soothing to the ear, really! Thank you for your very interesting lessons on intonation and how the scales work and the finger positioning & tetrachords etc - you are a great professor! Wish Saskatchewan province were right next to Chapman University!
William on April 3, 2014 @10:50 am PST
... and it will come! Thanks for your support!
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