Why am I still Playing Out of Tune?
When students first begin playing often times they play out of tune, this is for a number of different reasons.
Not Holding Violin Correctly
The most common mistake for a beginner violin student is to make a pancake hand- they hold their hand flat like a pancake. What this does is change the angle of your fingers so they are not laying on the fingerboard in the right spot. To fix this, adjust your shoulder rest so you can hold the violin with your chin, then practice several times putting your arm up and making it straight. You can even practice by looking in the mirror to make sure your wrist is straight.
Left Hand Thumb Placement
The next mistake is not putting your thumb in the right spot. Where to properly place the thumb is a debated subject among violinists. There have been many students, in my experience, who have had problems with intonation that were simply fixed by putting their thumb in-between the two finger tapes.
Proper placement of the thumb forces the other fingers to be aligned correctly on top of the instrument resulting in music that is in tune.
Tuning The Violin
The violin goes out of tune frequently, more so than most people might think so it's important to tune your violin every time you get it out to play. Tuning is always a good idea after setting the instrument down or having played for more than an hour. If the violin is out of tune, it is very hard to play the piece of music in tune.
Not Recognizing If You're In Tune or Not
The popular show American idol shows just how bad someone might sound but still believe they are a really good singer. Unfortunately, most of us were born with limited ability to recognize when an instrument is in tune or not; this is where a chromatic tuner comes into play. For any major piece of music or scale, use your chromatic tuner and check to make sure all your notes are in tune.
Not Playing The Right Note
You may not be playing out of tune, you might just be playing the wrong notes. Check to make sure you are playing in the right key signature with the right finger pattern.
Halfway In Between
Sometimes beginner students get confused as to what note they are going to play. Is it a low two or a high two? They compromise and play halfway between the two. This is the worst thing you can do, because then you are guaranteed to play out of tune. My advice would be to pick a side and even if you play the wrong note it will still sound better than if you played the halfway mark.