Developing Good Intonation – 2

In one of his articles published in Strad a couple of years ago, great bassist and teacher Gary Carr was talking about the “memory” of our fingertips (my own way of putting it here, not sure if he actually worded it like that), that is, the fact that our fingertips actually “feel” and “remember” the vibrations of the string, and if one could just relax and trust them, they would actually hit the right places with higher accuracy than usual, provided we have done some amount of scale, arpeggio and etude practice in our lives.  His research had involved playing music (on the bass) for children with impaired hearing and after being quite impressed at how the vibrations passed through the floor made them actually “hear” the music and enjoy it, he went on to adjust sensors to his fingers, and the final conclusion was that our fingertips “hear” the sound and react to adjust it before our ear does it.

The article was an eye-opener for me, and in a very relaxing and pleasant environment of a summer music camp (as a teacher), I tried to “trust” my fingers rather than guiding them with my ear.  Well, the results were pretty impressive, except only when my fingers, wrist and arm were completely relaxed.  This was yet one more reminder about how important it is to stay relaxed when you are playing.  Mentally connecting this article to some writings of Julie Lieberman, a well-known American violinist, improviser and teacher, and a book I was browsing, called the “Inner Game of Tennis,” I concluded that Gary Carr is absolutely correct, only if we can mentally “quiet down” our anxious consciousness, that’s trying to direct our every single move, and instead concentrate on breathing and relaxation.  (“Breath out!” says Paul Katz in one of his youtube videos).  This way, with minimal finger pressure on the string, we can teach our fingertips to remember those frequencies and reproduce them accurately later, we can teach them to measure the distances between the notes correctly.  I have to repeat myself here again (and I promise to write this phrase again and again in my future blogs): Observe, don’t judge.  Use only as much pressure on the strings as necessary for a good quality sound, remember to breath out, keep your shoulders relaxed and wrists supple, and your intonation can improve dramatically.

Have a good one;