How does it feel to play an intonated instrument?

Sterner TM


It was an overwhelming experience for me to be able to play upon a correctly intonated instrument for the first time in my life. There must be very few who have done it. What an incredible feeling to have solved a century old problem that has bothered musicians and luthiers around the world! EUREKA - I have cracked it!

It was wonderful to be able to play music without becoming frustrated. Everything fits into place, the music is harmonius, all notes are equal. You don't want to stop playing!

It felt unfamiliar too. Consciously or unconsciously you avoid fingerings or phrases that you know sound bad. You play different things. Suddenly I didn't have to think about that anymore.

I could easily tune perfectly by ear, by comparing unisons on different strings. (Two notes are exactly the same when the interference beats dissappear.) This is impossible on a non intonated instrument. On an intonated instrument a note is the same regardless where on the fretboard you play it. This is the actual proof that I have reached equal temperament!

But, I wasn't prepared for the most overwhelming effect. My only intention had been to get the instrument in tune. I was stunned that the tone of the instrument dramatically improved! The instrument started to sing! The sustain improved a lot. Cool!

At the same time I got somewhat depressed by the fact that I for thirty years (!) had been playing untuned instruments! How much effort have I put in trying to get the instrument in tune! How many times have I turned my back to the audience to adjust the tuning! How many times have I tried to fret harder or bend flat notes - events which have distracted my playing - or the simple frustration that you can't do anything about sharp notes!


Andrés Segovia was once asked for how long he had been playing guitar.
The old master answered:  For thirty years.
But, the questioner protested, shurely you must have been playing much longer?
I've been tuning for thirty years too, Sevovia answered.

Copyright © Anders Sterner