How to Train Your Ears and Play in Tune on the Violin or Viola?

by | Oct 14, 2013 | Play in Tune | 2 comments

How can you know if you are in tune our out of tune?

How to train your ears and play in tune on the violin or viola.

Today I got another question from Peter: Hi Zlata, I have another question. I hope its okay that I ask you something so often. I am slowly learning how to place fingers on the fingerboard. I want to play in tune and to do that I want to master a skill which will help me to recognize sounds correctly. I can check if I am playing in tune by comparing with open strings or other ways. How do I learn ear and finger accuracy? What is the easiest way to learn that?

There are many things to say about this subject! But in just a couple of minutes I will show you in this video what are the things that you need to look into.

If you are playing the violin you are constantly listening to the sound, testing it to your internal hearing and adjusting it. So there is no way to play perfectly in pitch with headphones on in a couple of years. So violin playing is constantly listening and adjusting. If you are listing to your own violin playing, you must know if it is in tune. To be able to hear that, you must have an internal imagination. Like you can imagine how an apple looks or a photograph or something 3D, you can really have something in your  head. You can also have a sound image, an understanding of what is happening in the music. Maybe an idea of the feeling it gives you and you can imagine in your head like maybe you heard a song on the radio that is stuck in your head, well that is your internal hearing. If you recall this internal hearing and this imagination, so hearing a sound while there is no sound, we call this audiation: the understanding and the imagination of sound. Maybe you can google around that subject audiation. There are several ways to train that. You need to be able if you play something to test it to your internal hearing. If you are not imagining something there is nothing to be tested. You need to have that in tune picture in your head and then you can compare your playing with it. There are lots of ways in lessons of how you can train a student’s ear and how you can train a student’s intonation.

  1. There is online a lot of ear training software where you can learn to recognize pitch and intervals and chords, chord progressions.
  2. Then of course there is the finger accuracy. This is 80% mentally. So of course you train your fingers and muscle memory, but intonation is in 80% in your head not in your hands. You should really be able to imagine the notes and constantly adjust to this. Listen to other players and adjust on that.
  3. Of course to train your muscle memory and to train your ear, practicing scales is very useful.
  4. It doesn’t happen in a day. It takes a lot of training and lots of lessons to be able to play in tune. And it will never be perfect.
  5. Also be conscious, don’t just play notes. Be conscious about what your hear and what you want to hear and what you are playing. Listen to your playing. Lots of people who are playing the violin don’t listen to their own playing and that is the most difficult part of violin playing: really listen to yourself and be able to test that to your internal imagination of sound.

It might be a bit vague and sorry that I can’t give you the solution like this is how you learn it and you will play it in a couple of days, that is just not the reality I can’t do magic here. I hope it will be useful to you.

Is this video useful to you? Please let me know in the comments!



PS: Do you want to see YOUR question answered in a Violin Lounge TV episode? Post a comment below!


  1. Thisbe

    Such a good explaination! Training your ears happens all the time if you are playing. Even in a passive way your brains are absorbing the tones and scales. I did not realise but if I compare my hearing-quality with 2 years ago it clearly developed. Sometimes I train myself by hitting random piano keys with my eyes closed and try to recognise the tone. A nice game!


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