The neverending challenges of intonation

I’ve spent most of my student and professional life experimenting with and practising intonation, so I love it when I read something about it that I find exciting. Years ago, I read Ross W. Duffin’s How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony (and Why You Should Care) as if it were some potboiler novel (I couldn’t put it down, and stayed up all night reading it), because it made so much sense of what I’d being trying to accomplish as a string quartet player.

Another such revelation was Barry Ross’ The Violinist’s Guide to Exquisite Intonation, which shows a trick for making your intonation work using the harmonic series on a stringed instrument that was so beautifully simple, I kicked myself that I hadn’t noticed it before.

So I was excited to come across this blog post by the Metropolitan Opera principal bassoonist William Short, which encourages wind players to think about intonation the way brass players do. (I already knew something about that, being married to a trumpeter, but Short’s concise, to-the-point explanation makes it very accessible.)

I hope my students will translate some of this to their daily work on the cello. So much of what we do is experimental guesswork, and the shadow side of this is second-guessing ourselves. Wouldn’t it be great to play in the confident certainty that you were doing the right thing, intonationally?


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