Because we discussed in another article about some unique violins, we thought it would be a great idea to also give you some information on how to tune your violin, especially if you are a beginner. If you aren’t accustomed to the process yet, you can find more info on violin tuners in one of our other articles.
Things to pay attention to
The violin is a precise musical instrument which has four strings that are tuned in fifths. This means that the musical notes should be the following for each string: G3, D4, A4, and E5. There are two mechanisms that are used to modify the pitch of a string and those are the pegs and the fine tuners.
Not all violins have fine tuners for each string and some only have a fine tuner on the E string. Even though you buy a violin with a single fine tuner, you can go to a luthier and ask for tuners for all the strings. These finesse tuners are used to change the pitch of the strings within small intervals, of no more than half of a tone or so.
For strings that are very out of tune, the pegs are used first. Beginners, however, should try to avoid tuning using the pegs, as their use can break the strings with ease. That is why it’s important to always keep your violin tuned, in order to avoid situations in which you pull too hard on the string and break it. Moving the peg just a little has a big impact on the sound of the string.
Using a tuner
One of the easiest ways to tune a violin is with the help of a chromatic tuner. You can find such tuners for about $30 to $40 at a music shop, and you can also find online versions. With the help of your phone, you can also get a tuning app to help you.
Using a tuner is often simple, although each tuner has its particular manner of being operated. Most times, however, the tuner shows the musical note that you are closest to and a needle that hovers around it, depending on how close you are to that note. Having the needle dead center is how you know the string is tuned.
A lot of tuners let you know that you got the right note by lighting up green or making a sound. If your tuner’s needle goes right it means that particular string is too sharp and you have to tune it down a bit. When the needle hovers on the left it shows that the string is too flat.
How to use the fine tuners and pegs
When you start to tune each string, you should know that you need to tune from below the note, up. And you have to do this in order to avoid breaking the string. This also helps you with systemizing the process of tuning and it will allow you to learn how a well-tuned string should sound.
You should always try to use the fine tuners if you have them. Fortunately, most beginner violins have such tuners for each string. If you can’t reach the desired musical note using the fine tuners, and you can’t wound it tighter, you should use the peg. But to do that, first, loosen the fine tuner all the way to the end of the screw to avoid tightening the string too hard.
Start to carefully turn the peg, but only do it in small steps. Eventually, you will reach a tonality close to the desired one and when you get there, use the fine tuners to get to the precise note. Meanwhile, use your bow and continuously play the string that you are tuning, listening to its pitch.
When you start playing the violin, particularly when you have new strings, you will need to constantly stop during practice and adjust the strings. The first few days when using new strings, they will stretch more than usual and they will need to be tightened more often.
Experts advise that, when you tune your violin, you start from the A string and then go on and tune the D, G and E strings respectively. Once you do this more times it will come naturally to you. And when you have enough experience you will be able to tune the strings against each other, knowing how they should sound.
Using the sound of a well-tuned string, you can get the rest of the strings to the desired musical notes too. You will be able to do that only using your listening skills and patience, but it will take some time to learn how each string should sound. Some people find it easier to hear the pitch of the string by getting their left ear close to the F holes, as the sound produced there is a pure one.
People playing in orchestras often use this trick and this tuning method. The lead violinist delivers the sound of his or her A string and the others listen to theirs to make sure that every violin is in tune with the others.
To tune your violin this way, you thus need to make sure the A string is in tune. After that, you play it along with the next one, the D string and listen for the perfect fifth interval between them. If you can’t hear it, change the pitch of the D string until you find it. Then repeat the process with the D and G strings being played together.
Finally, play the A and E together, listening for that perfect fifth. But in order to achieve that, you need a good ear and good knowledge of how every note should sound, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t get it right from the start.
If you are pretty accustomed to the notes that the strings should have, but not quite there yet, you can use a piano to tune your violin. Use the middle C note on the piano as a reference note and then play each of the G3, D4, A4, and E5 notes on the piano and tune your strings according to those.