Improve Intonation with Intonia

A casual conversation with another fiddler led me to finding Intonia, a great app intended to help string players visualize intonation by displaying pitch on a scrolling graph in real time. The graph gives immediate feedback as you play a note, scale or song and helps you to see, as you hear, your intonation.

While it is recording, the display scrolls continuously. Your pitch is displayed as the height of the trace. If you’re playing in tune the trace is white, but if you’re sharp relative to your chosen scale and temperament, the trace is colored red. If you’re flat, the trace is blue.

I was writing back and forth with a member of Green Fiddlers the other day about a post I made quoting from Michael Sanchez in his book, Fiddle for Dummies, where he wrote that 75% of people who decide to start playing fiddle quit after just one month. During the discussion, this member told me the biggest help for him in learning over the past three years has been a tone generator app on his phone. He said he didn’t realize how bad his intonation was until he began using this app.

While I am fairly pleased with my intonation, I am always looking for ways to improve it. I looked up the app he uses, and after reading about it, I searched for other apps to see what else was available. Many apps come with tone generators, drones, metronomes, etc., some better than others, but what I had in mind was an app that could listen to me play and give me feedback on my intonation. Of the few I found, Intonia appeared to be the best rated. Another plus, unlike most apps, it was available for download to Androis, iOS, Windows and Mac. I decided on using my android tablet since the screen is easier to view than my iphone’s, and I can place my tablet right on my music stand.

The free version is limited to one minute of sound storage, A=440, equal temperament. An in-app purchase of $4.99 will upgrade to the Pro version. The Pro version includes the following:

  • ‘A’ frequency settable between 400 and 499 Hz
  • Choice of Equal, Pythagorean, or Just intonation.
  • Save and restore audio files
  • Rename or delete audio files
  • Import and export audio files from/to iCloud
  • Up to 60 minutes of sound storage
  • Screen is kept on during recording and playback
  • Playback and record in background mode while the screen is not showing

Here are some things you can do with Intonia:

  • Play a fast passage, and see which notes were out of tune.
  • See intonation in just, Pythagorean, or equal temperament.
  • Tune your instrument.
  • Use as a digital recorder to hear yourself play.
  • Get instant feedback.
  • Visualize articulations, slides, shifts, vibrato, etc.
  • Use it for transcription.
  • Works for all string instruments: cello through violin.
  • Works for many other instruments as well.

Below is a YouTuve video review. One thing the reviewer mentions is that it does not function as well when playing double stops or vibrato, but these techniques don’t really concern me at this time. I just want to use it to make intonation improvements.

So, there you have it. If you are not familiar with Intonia, you might want to take a look at this helpful app. I would be interested in knowing your opinion in the comment section below.

  9 comments for “Improve Intonation with Intonia

  1. Peter
    March 3, 2020 at 4:23 am

    A copy of my reply in the blog (confused streams!):
    “The PC programs are less responsive and not as convenient as the apps on my phone. One Android app (Physics Toolbox) has an audio spectrogram which not only gives the frequency peak in hertz, but also the nearest note name / number plus/minus the number of cents adrift. I’d put up a screenshot, but I’m not that clever with smartphones. It’s even better than my tuner, which has a precision of 10 cents; the Physics Toolbox gets it down to the cent.
    I suppose this technology is good for training the ear, but ultimately we each must learn to rely on that inner faculty, and trust our ears’ judgement.”

    • MoonShadows
      March 3, 2020 at 4:48 am

      @peter

      Just an FYI…What is posted here also gets posted in the comments under the blog article as well, and visa versa. I did this because some visitors seem to read the articles more, and some seem to visit the forum more. I have found since I did this that there seems to be a slight increase in discussions between both camps.

      You are right about these tools helping to train the ear. As we internalize and coordinate the fingers and the ears, the training wheels should come off.

      One thing I have noticed is that if I use either of my electronic tuners to tune my fiddle

      Matrix Clip On Chromatic Tuner MA-8001

      D’Addario NS Micro Violin and Viola Tuner

      and then track the open strings on the Intonia app, the app shows the tuning to be just slightly sharp. Not sure why that is. I would think if the two tuners agree, then Intonia must be just slightly off, but I read somewhere, and can’t find it now, that the Intonia is “supposed” to be more accurate than these tuners…but, for now, I don’t think I am going to sweat it, the difference is so small I don’t think most casual listeners would be able to tell the difference; I know I can’t. Now, perhaps someone with perfect pitch might!

       

      • Peter
        March 3, 2020 at 5:03 am

        @moonshadows – I have the equipment to apply an accurate reference frequency, and it hadn’t occurred to me to do so. I still may not bother: ‘perfect pitch’ is subjective, especially in minor keys. One of the attractions of the fiddle is that the player has total control over the pitch, and can swing it any way they need to get the sound they want. Other instruments in the traditional and Old Time sphere can pull the frequency (tinwhistles, flutes, guitars to a limited extent), while concertinas, accordions and pianos are bound to the spot where the guy with the tuning fork left them.
        We are truly blessed, but it takes work to be worthy of it.
         

        • MoonShadows
          March 6, 2020 at 6:43 am

          @peter Some how I knew you probably had such equipment. You are right about it takes work. Sometimes I feel like I am making no progress. Then, I remember it takes 1000’s of hours.

           

          • Peter
            March 6, 2020 at 7:11 am

            “Two steps forward, one step back.”
            Some days I feel (know) that my playing has degraded, and I just do my best to put the feeling behind me, not in denial but in determination to succeed. The next day, I invariably feel much better and the show goes on getting smoother, wider and quicker. It’s glacial progress, but when I look back on what I was sounding like before Christmas, I happy.
            By the time I’ve retired (66 for me in UK), I ought to be ready to stand up in an Irish session, or sit down in the second violins in a local amateur orchestra.

            • MoonShadows
              March 6, 2020 at 8:13 am

              @peter

              determination to succeed”

              I think that is the only attitude one can have if they wish to keep learning/playing this instrument. It has been said that it is one of the hardest instruments to learn. I don’t doubt that statement for a second!

               

  2. March 2, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    The PC programs are less responsive and not as convenient as the apps on my phone. One Android app (Physics Toolbox) has an audio spectrogram which not only gives the frequency peak in hertz, but also the nearest note name / number plus/minus the number of cents adrift. I’d put up a screenshot, but I’m not that clever with smartphones. It’s even better than my tuner, which has a precision of 10 cents; the Physics Toolbox gets it down to the cent.

    I suppose this technology is good for training the ear, but ultimately we each must learn to rely on that inner faculty, and trust our ears’ judgement.

  3. March 2, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I hadn’t thought of this.

    One of the artefacts of my 40+ years as a radio ham is a group of software products used to analyse sound and display the spectrum in a variety of tunable and colourful ways on a PC screen. The Intonia software uses the same digital audio analysis as these programs, and makes me wonder if I can re-purpose them for intonation practice.

    I know it works for music because in a previous life I taught Sea Cadets how to play the Boatswain’s Call, and I used programs such as these to show the cadets how their calls sounded in real-time on a projected PC screen. It funny how quickly techniques are forgotten, until someone else shows that they’re possible.

    A typical software (free download) is: https://www.i2phd.org/spectran.html There are others, of course. Those curious enough to check it out may be dissuaded by the technical appearance; the software is intended for a technical audience. There are apps available for the smartphone (Apple and Android) too. The better ones allow you to zoom in to a particular range in the sound spectrum, and that’s where you can watch a signal vary in pitch to within a few cents of a semitone.

    I’ll try this out tonight, and I’ll report in again tomorrow.

    • MoonShadows
      March 2, 2020 at 11:46 am

      @P. A. Morris

      Interesting, Peter. Yes, let us know how you make out tonight.

       

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