A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems


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Above some tempos, aural feedback will also be unusable, but aural feedback has the advantage that we can process auditory stimuli faster. In comparison, it takes 50 ms for humans to trandsuct visual stimuli in normal light.

~ Flute pedagogy for school music directors

Hanson et al. Technologically, audio delay was also less than graphics. The audio latency of the pitch-correction software was Further, intonation data required a low-pass filter to be stable enough for human perception. Combined feedback will suffer from the same sensory overload problems that both aural and visual feedbacks have independently.

The combination will not fix flicker in visual feedback, audio noise in the aural feedback or potential overstimulation, but having both does give the participant the option to switch focus if desired. In fact, there was some evidence that trying to use both feedback methods simultaneously was itself overwhelming P2, P Familiarity turned out to play a significant issue for both feedback methods, but in different ways.

Despite largely positive response to aural feedback, both adult participants mentioned it was necessary to habituate oneself to having an additional audio source and manage potential sensory overload. Strong evidence that aural feedback takes some acclimation comes from separating lessons further into component parts, splitting intonation performance between scales and arpeggios Table 4. As stated in section 3. Reduced version of Table 2 giving the MAIE of different sections with scales and arpeggios separated.

Improvement in intonation error throughout the lessons without aural compared to reduced improvement in cases with aural feedback suggests it may take time for a user to become accustomed to aural feedback. In both methods using aural feedback, intonation accuracy during scales was more than 2.

This gap is the largest difference between group means seen in this entire study. Intonation in aural inclusive methods improved in comparison to non-aural methods during arpeggios, and by the common repertoire section, intonation in aural inclusive modalities improved to the extent that they were largely on par with non-aural modalities. Improvement between scales and common repertoire for aural feedback inclusive methods was nearly double the improvement seen in both non-aural cases.

Some of this difference may be that, while visual feedback uses a sensory modality which is not strictly required for performance, aural feedback alters a key, already in use mode of feedback. Participants must become accustomed to hearing their violin in only one ear while hearing a compressed pitch corrected version which does not necessarily match their playing in the other.

While participants were used to playing with teachers and hearing two people playing, participants reported aural feedback was quite different P8, P It was much easier to hear and see. Because of the compression, I could tell which one I was aiming for really clearly.


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When I had got into it, I was getting to grips with the feedback and was getting much better at correcting my pitch. Familiarity was a challenge with visual feedback for a different reason: unfamiliarity with note names. Participants found the basic bar graphic described and pictured in Figure 2 easy to use, but note names were of limited use. Only 3 study participants, P4, P6, and P11 showed competence naming notes in a score. All other students referred to notes by their first position fingering. Even more experienced players displayed poor knowledge of note names.

This is an area we expected Suzuki students to be weaker and indeed, despite making up two-thirds of participants, only one of the students recognizing note names was a Suzuki student. The problem with note unfamiliarity is that most students could therefore not determine whether they were playing the correct note or not. This expectation usually proved untrue thus reducing the usefulness for correcting highly out of tune notes. However two players pointed out displaying previously unfamiliar note names may provide a learning opportunity. I will know the notes; how to say them in the letters.

Participant comments suggested that one reason for liking visual feedback over aural feedback was that it was more explicit.

Intonation and Reliability

Three users P2, P8, P11 expressed that it was sometimes difficult to decide which way to fix a note using aural feedback whereas with visual feedback it was easy to interpret as it showed in which direction to move their finger. P11 stated:. It's enough information for me to correct it…like I knew I was out of tune when you were just teaching me without anything, without any aids, but I didn't know how to correct it, whereas this is really clear how to correct it…[With] the headphones, I could hear that I was out of tune and that made it quite stressful, where as [with visuals], there is only one thing I'm listening to, it is just my note which is easier to process and really clear …whether I am too high, too low.

P5 also suggested that aural feedback could be stressful as one might hear they were wrong but did not always know the best way to correct it. Trust is crucial for intonation feedback tools to be useful. If a practice aid is frequently wrong, it loses its value.

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This was true even as it struggled to correctly identify the pitch of the three lowest notes on the violin. Asking P6, who has perfect pitch, about visual feedback at the bottom of his scale:. Trust and authority were necessary to encourage participants to use feedback, but they had the drawback that participants were less likely to report issues during the experiment. For instance, with aural feedback, there were multiple times the author initially failed to correctly set the key for aural feedback, yet only two participants P4, P11 ever pointed the mistake out.

Similarly, if headphone volume was uncomfortably loud, rather than speaking up the participant would often tolerate it through out most of the lesson or until the author sensed something was amiss P8, P9. Despite trust being high, two participants P1, P8 expressed they thought the system was sometimes wrong. Neither of them said they liked the aural feedback, with P1 preferring no feedback at all. Active use of aural feedback is difficult to assess outside of self-reporting since listening is not externally visible.

As an observer, it can be difficult to infer whether an improvement in intonation accuracy is due to the enhanced feedback tools, the student's self-assessment based on their internal memory of the task, teacher instruction, or another contextual factor. Especially as out quantitative data is inconclusive as to whether aural feedback has any effect on intonation error and therefore any indication whether it is being used or not, it is valuable to confirm its active use outside of self-reporting. Being a manual intervation, there were occasional instances in the study where the key for a task was temporarily set incorrectly.

Repeated or uncharacteristic intonation error triggered the primary researcher to ask whether the key was set correctly. Though sometimes correct, sometimes it was not.

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In most instances, the error in intonation was neither severe nor sustained, so while suggestive of active use of aural feedback, it was not strongly indicative of use. However there was one instance where a mistake setting the key correctly led to strong evidence that a participant was actively following and using aural feedback. P9 was shy and rarely provided any exposition about her experiences within the study but was perceived as a diligent student. During her last lesson, which was using aural and visual feedback, she worked on a Minuet by Bach in G Major, shown in Figure 5 and which she was playing by memory.

Previously we had been working on a task in A Major, and the researcher forgot to change the key for aural feedback to the new key.


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Score to Bach's Minuet 1 arr. The piece begins with an A section in G Major. A red bar marks the change in key along with starts and ends of sections. As she continued playing, intonation error steadily increased, until mean error had risen from 27 cents initially, to 40 cents. Figure 6 illustrates a segment of her playing while aural feedback was incorrectly set to A Major. Section of P9 playing Bach's Minuet 1. Red lines represent the nearest note in A Major, and green lines the nearest note in G Major.

As P9 had played the Minuet in previous lessons with the correct accidentals, the uncharacteristic error caused the researcher to check the key and notice the incorrect C. Baffled why an otherwise attentive student who normally tried to follow instructions was not making a correction that was seemed within her skill level, the reseracher double checked the key setting and realized the mistake. Figure 7 depicts P9 playing the same section shown in Figure 6 , but with the correct aural guide. Red lines represent the nearest note in A Major, with green lines the nearest note in G Major.

Through the accident of incorrectly set aural feedback, we can see strong evidence suggesting P9 was following aural feedback. In spite of direct repeated instructor intervention, and prior aural memory of the piece, P9's C s and G s perceptually followed the audio feedback guide. While the error in the aural feedback setting would have increased her intonation error when she was using it, if she was successfully following a correctly set guide at other times, we would expect her intonation accuracy to be better in lessons with aural feedback.

Though not statistically conclusive, P9's broader results in Figure 3 support the idea that P9's intonation benefited from aural feedback as both lessons including aural feedback resulted in the lowest intonation error for P9's lessons. As the teacher conducting lessons and watching the use and reactions of students to the different feedback methods, my impressions, though biased by knowledge of the research objectives, remain relevant and potentially insightful. Overall, students were very positive toward all methods of feedback. Just as Johnson found in her studies of violin practice aids Johnson et al.

Students liked aural feedback for the reasons we expected: it helpfully highlighted error, giving the correct version that most students could intuitively follow once they got used to it. It was hard to tell how much students were using it, leaving me sometimes surprised that some students did not correct themselves. It is also appeared that once the algorithm for pitch detection had been altered to capture first fingers more easily section 2. Although it is not evident in the numerical data or student quotes, from my teacher's perspective it appeared that very few students genuinely used the visual feedback.

Both adults, P2 and especially P11, seemed to make a continuous effort to look at and respond to the visual feedback, but otherwise, despite comments saying they liked it, only three children P3, P6 and P8 visibly directed attention beyond the very start of the lesson when I presented how to use it. Apart from P11, and possibly P4 who said he kept the visual feedback in his periphery, my impression was no one including P2 used visual feedback beyond the first section of the lesson, scales and arpeggios.

As a result, my subjective impression was that lessons with visual feedback were effectively the same as lessons with no method of feedback. That is not to say visual feedback is not potentially a useful tool, only that in the lesson context with me present, I believe only one or two students used visual feedback significantly. As a teacher, I found both methods of feedback useful as teaching aids, visual feedback more so than aural.

Aural feedback was effective as a concept but I could easily play with the student to achieve similar effect. Visual feedback however was useful in pointing out major error or discussing with the student what note they should be playing, similar to how the teacher used visual feedback in Menzies , p. Though overall I felt visual feedback was a useful teaching aid, there were times it was more of a distraction.

With some students, while giving oral instructions, I was worried about losing their focus to the visual graphic P6. Another time, a student struggling to play a piece from memory seemed more prone to losing her place when she looked at the visual feedback. Aural feedback was also prone to causing confusion if I forgot to set the key correctly. I often could not hear the pitch corrected audio so that it was only when students repeatedly played closer to the wrong accidental that I caught my mistake P1, P8, P9, P Though causing rather than reducing error, this did suggest they were responding to the feedback.

Still, when set correctly, aural feedback seemed more help than hinderance. One final reflection is that though we tested in a lesson context, these feedback methods were designed with practice, not lessons in mind. Aural feedback was not particularly necessary in the lesson as I could just as easily have provided an aural guide by playing with a student with the added benefit that they could watch my fingers.

Students often expected me to play with them which, as P11 pointed out in section 3. However at home, I am not there to play with them allowing aural feedback to fill the gap.

A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems
A Guide to Understanding and Correction of Intonation Problems

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