Reply To: Out of tune players

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Intonation seems to be one of the most challenging elements to teach in music. I am currently a music education major, so I have not put this to practice but most of the suggestions thus far are great! I like the snake/radar game, but I think I would also adapt it and have individual students try it down the line. One student could play a note while another student matched it. Then the student who just matched the note would play a random note for the next student, and it would go on down the line! I imagine students, as long as they do not get crazy, would greatly enjoy this exercise. This would be a great way to assess your students individually.

I also like the mention of using piano chords. I think it is important the the teacher have a keyboard or drone of some kind that the students can learn to lock on too. It only takes one out-of-tune kid to throw of the majority of kids around him or her, so the piano will help be a guide that can be heard throughout the ensemble.

With intonation, I think going back to the basics would be extremely beneficial. By removing difficult fingerings, bowings, and dynamics. teachers can focus on good bow stroke and intonation. Encourage the students to listen and record their efforts, so they can hear themselves. If it is not good, do not tell them that it’s good! While observing orchestras in the area, I often hear teachers saying “good” to the intonation when it had gotten no better!

And lastly, I think good left hand position and technique is HUGE in finding and hitting the right pitches. For example, if the left hand thumb is constantly moving up/down/sideways, it is going to become even more difficult to have consistency in finger patterns and notes.

I hope this helps,