Fingerboard Bingo

December 01, 2010

At my lesson on Tuesday, David was a little unhappy with some of my intonation. When playing the Marin Marais Gavotte at the beginning of Suzuki book 2 ( it's incorrectly attributed to J. B. Lully) I was consistently missing the D when shifting to 3rd position in measure 22 and again in measure 26. David said that we could charitably call it a C#.

So he gave me a new exercise. Starting with my left hand down at my side I am to pick a note, D on the A-string for example, and a finger, 1st, and without looking place my hand where I think that note is and play. After hearing the note once or twice I am to decide if I was sharp or flat or if I had played the note properly. And only then use my tuner to see where I really was.

Last night and tonight I made a bit of a game out of it, saying to myself things like, "3rd finger on C on the G-string" and then playing it. Or, "2nd finger on G on the D-string." Tonight I realized that this has a faint resemblance to bingo. The prize here isn't a kewpie doll but rather a nicely ringing tone from the cello.

For those notes where I am wildly off, I drop my arm and try again. If my intonation is almost correct I make a slight adjustment and then play the note several times. Five minutes of this as a warm up exercise seemed to have improved my overall intonation for the rest of my practice session this evening. Especially following shifts or extensions.

So, I shall be playing fingerboard bingo for the foreseeable future as a way to improve my intonation.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.