Intonation meaning: what it is and why Intonation is important in music
Discover the meaning of intonation in music
When we speak or sing, we use intonation (the rise and fall between higher and lower pitches) to generate different notes or convey different moods with our voice. However, if you’ve ever listened to someone singing or practising the violin and felt the need to stick your fingers in your ears, it’s likely due to poor intonation, leading to the music sounding out of tune.
Intonation is all to do with the frequency of sound – how flat or sharp a note is – and therefore relates to the accuracy of pitch. For vocalists and musical instruments that require tuning, each note has its own range of frequency that will create the optimal sound for that particular note. Therefore, musicians need to make sure they’re playing within that range, so the music doesn’t sound out of tune.
However, whether something sounds out of tune can depend on the circumstances. A soloist playing at one end of the frequency range by themselves will likely sound fine, but if they were playing with other musicians that had tuned their instruments to the other end of the range, it would result in a clashing effect, hence accurate intonation becomes even more important when performing in an orchestra or a choir, for example.