Tuning a violin can be a strenuous task, and can seem daunting, at first. Often, violin teachers tune their beginning students’ instruments for them, teaching how to do so later down the road.
This is due to the frustration that manipulating the strings can cause, the damage that can result, and even physical injury that can ensue from the action.
Also, an inexperienced ear might have difficulty finding correct pitches, and tuning precision requires a skilled hand.
Teachers, with their equipment, training, and knowledge of how to circumvent issues, can find ways around difficulties, and have a knack for solving problems that the strings may cause.
Young learners can give the strings excessive tension, which can make them snap, possibly bringing the bridge and tailpiece with them.
Also, the metallic material can lash the skin. Tuning an instrument is usually not so dangerous, but it certainly poses a risk, and can result in angst.
If a child is just learning how to correct the strings, you might make sure that he or she is supervised, and that the object is taken before damage can occur.
Tuning is, of course, a practical and good skill to have, as students can be in complete control of their practice time with it, can replace strings using it, and can apply the knowledge to other instruments (e.g., guitar, viola, cello, bass).
With enough patience and practice, anyone can learn the ability, and can obtain tricks that help with the task.
The method is useful for one’s personal practice, as well as for other musicians’ – some pianists and music directors hire to tune their intricate instrument or ensemble of strings. Simple and fun to know, finding the perfect note is a helpful power.
This article serves as a step-by-step guide to tuning a violin, and can help with anyone willing to learn from it.
The violin has two sets of tuners: one is on the head, or scroll, and the other is on the tailpiece.
Tuning a violin
The former consists of tuning pegs, which are bigger, often wooden, nuts that can drastically change a pitch or alter a string’s tension. The other is fine tuners, which are metal pegs that can more “finely” tune the strings. They cannot tune widely, but they can change precisely.
When a violin is out of tune, it a good idea to loosen the fine tuners almost completely, so that they can be used as liberally as possible. Then, one should loosen the tuning peg of the lowest string – namely, G – allowing the twine to slack and slink out of place. Once this is done, the peg should be turned in the opposite direction, so that the string can begin tightening.
When the string approaches its desirable pitch, the tuning peg should be slowly pushed further into its hole, so that it does not spin out of place upon being set. The cone-shaped stem of the peg will become more firmly-rooted as it enters more deeply, and will stay more easily once it is released.
After this is finished, the rest of the strings can be tuned, and the user should commence the same process on them. If you have tuned a guitar, you might notice that the processes are not the same; the violin is more difficult to control, and does not conform nearly as efficiently as a modern guitar does.
When all the string are finished being tuned, the ends of them should be clipped, as they can be hazardous to people with eyes. After this, the pitches might require more checking, as string can increase or decrease in tension when others are changed.
Even when it seems that the process is complete, more tuning will likely be needed after some time of playing, especially with fresh strings. However, once the strings are set and clipped, the task can be deemed ‘complete’.
- Loosen fine tuners (metal devices on tailpiece).
- Loosen tuning peg of lowest string.
- Begin tightening the same string, turning the peg away from the violin’s body.
- Push peg further into its hole while tightening, so that it remains in place.
- Twist peg until string is in-tune.
- Make adjustments with fine tuners
- Repeat process for remaining strings.
- Make more adjustments afterwards, so that each string is as close to being in tune as possible.
To figure out which pitch each string should be tuned to, some people use their own ears and minds. Chances are that they have gotten so used to the process that they have memorized what all the strings should sound like. Other musicians use other instruments to find the correct pitches, adjusting their strings according to the frequencies emitted by those tools.
Still others, not worrying about the normal pitch of the string, tune relative to their own violins, using adjacent strings as their guides.
A common method involves an electronic tuner, which displays the pitch being played, showing how close the note is to certain frequencies. If you know the name of the note you want, you will easily be able to find it with tuners like these.
Be careful of excessive tightening. This can lead to breakage, and can be lethal to parts of an instrument. This is another reason for why we loosen the tuners before starting; too much pressure from tightened strings can be dangerous for the equipment. It is better for a rig to be loose than to be stressed (sound familiar?).
Some people are inclined to believe that perfect pitch is required to tune an instrument well. The truth is that, with enough patience and a decent electronic tuner, which can be obtained for free from some phone application companies, instrument tuning can be done even by non-musicians.
It is, again, a useful and practical skill, and can be used on a number of instruments. Beginners, too, can acquire the ability, and can use it to quickly help their companions and future students get on their feet. Just follow our steps and you will too!