Like most Suzuki youngsters, I went through a phase where I had little stripes of tape placed on my fingerboard to guide where my fingers ought to go. Which I’m guessing was my first lesson on intonation, and the idea that there’s a precise place on the fingerboard, where if you put your finger right there, all is good in the world because the resulting sound that comes out of your instrument rings, and just sounds right.
Of course, the rebellious part of me resented those lines, and I remember getting into an argument with my mom one day because she said I wasn’t putting my fingers square on the lines, and I insisted that the lines must not be in the right place because it didn’t sound right (I know – maybe sort of cute in hindsight, but probably not so much at the time).
Of course, years later, as my repertoire grew more difficult, and intonation became more of a challenge, there were many a day when I wished there had been frets on my fingerboard to help guide my fingers (even though, as you’ll learn in today’s episode, that actually would have made things harder, not easier).
In any case, if you’ve ever struggled with intonation, or got into an argument about intonation with your quartet while tuning chords, or diligently practiced with a piano or electronic tuner or drone and were still told that your intonation needed work, today’s episode is for you.
Cellist Minna Chung is a fellow Oberlin grad, who serves on the faculty of the University of Manitoba, and is co-author of the book CelloMind – a book which gets into all the details and intricacies of intonation, from the different types of intonation (and why that matters) to practical exercises for improving one’s intonation.
In this episode we’ll explore: