Tuning your violin is very important to get great sound out of it. When your violin is not tuned, no matter what you play, you will always end up playing out of tune.
The four strings on the violin are tuned in perfect fifths. About fifths, you will learn as we go down this post.
The four strings on the violin are tuned to these notes:
Knowing the pitch is also vital. The pitch of the strings from lowest to highest is G3, D4, A4, and E5. The numbers indicate the octave or pitch of the notes. Usually, it is easier to understand the octave using the piano as it is basically a repetition of 12 keys from lower to higher pitch.
As a beginner, you might be wondering how you can tune your violin because the last thing you want is to complicate your learning with an untuned violin. That is why this article will show you different ways to tune your violin. You might use some later as you progress.
Table of content
- Different ways of tuning the Violin
- Alternate Tuning
- Important Tuning Tips and FAQ
Different ways of Tuning the Violin
- Tuning with violin Pegs
- Tuning with violin fine tuners
- Tuning with a piano
- Tuning with a Tuning Fork (Advanced Tuning)
- Tuning with perfect fifths. Double stops (Advanced Tuning)
Tuning the violin with violin Pegs
The violin has 4 tuning pegs, which as the name suggests, help in tuning the violin. I usually advise beginners not to tune with the pegs unless absolutely necessary, in order to avoid unnecessary string breakages. Yeah, You do not want your strings to break, although it can happen. But don’t worry because I have covered four tips in this video to help you while changing strings to prevent that.
Before you start, you need to know the pitches of the notes you want to tune. As a beginner, who might not have a perfect ear for pitch, I will advise that you download a violin tuner app on your mobile to help you with this. There are tons of free violin tuners you can download. As you already know, the violin has 4 strings: G D A E
Follow these steps:
Step 1: Place the violin upright on your lap to start with.
Sep 2: Find the desired pitch on the app. Make sure it is for violin.
Step 3: Grip the peg between your left thumb and index finger.
Step 4: Slowly turn your tuning peg so it’s rotating towards the top of the violin scroll, and the pitch of that string becomes higher.
Step 5: Start plucking the string repeatedly with your right thumb, several times each second. This is important so you’ll always know how close you are to the desired note pitch. And also help you avoid over-tightening the string.
Step 6: As you pluck the string, hold the neck of the violin firmly.
Step 7: Turn the peg counter-clockwise while simultaneously pushing the peg into the pegbox. You will notice the peg tighten in the peg hole while you do this. If you don’t do this, the peg might rotate back. If done correctly, you’ll feel the peg tighten in the peg hole as you do this.
Step 8: When you hear the desired pitch, it means you should stop tuning. Just to reiterate, this must be done smoothly and softly as possible.
Step 9: Most of the time, you can find out that even after letting the tuning peg go, the pitch of the string isn’t quite perfect. It is normal even for professionals. Then, you can loosen or tighten the string depending on whether it is too flat or sharp. Do that until you’re happy with the result. At first, it might seem difficult, but with time and practice, it will become quicker and easier. If your violin has fine tuners, then your peg is just for you to get close as possible to the pitch – the fine tuner will do the rest. I will cover that next.
Tuning the violin with fine tuners
Most violins come with fine tuners. Some violins only have fine tuners on the E string, whereas others have fine tuners on all four strings. Basically fine tuners can be found on your violin tailpiece. To learn more about violin parts you can watch this video.
Fine tuners help you to make little adjustments while tuning with the tuning peg. Usually, when you tune with pegs, you might discover that a string is either off-pitch by a small interval, either flat or sharp. This is where fine tuners come in to fine-tune the string to a perfect pitch.
I will recommend violin beginners to tune more with fine tuners using digital tuners to avoid string breakages. If you must use the pegs, only adjust about a few millimetres at a time. It can make a lot of difference.
In some cases, If your violin comes with only one fine tuner, you can visit a luthier to install the rest into your tailpiece.
Tuning the violin with a piano
If you have a piano, it is very easy to use it to tune your violin. You can also use digital piano if you like, although the accuracy will depend on your pitch ear and also the app. Take a look at the picture below showing the piano keys that correspond with the strings on the violin.
Make sure that you use the “Middle C” as a reference point so you don’t try to tune your violin an octave too high or too low. It can make a big difference. Let’s assume that you want to tune the A string
Step 1: Play the A note on the piano
Step 2: Match the correct string to the note.
Step 3: Adjust the pitch of A String with its fine-tuner to match the A note sound from the piano.
Tips: You can use the pedals on the piano so the note you play is able to sound free, and so that you can have both hands available to tune the violin.
Tuning the violin with a tuning fork (Advanced tuning)
This is rarely used now as compared with digital tuning or tuning by ear. A tuning fork can help you get the “A-440″, which is the frequency for the A-string on the violin. These are the step by step guide on tuning to an A-440” tuning fork.
Step 1: Hold on to the base of the tuning fork, and tap the tines against something hard like your knee. Step 2: Then, while still holding the base of the tuning fork, gently touch the ball of the tuning fork to your violin or the top of your bridge. You should be able to hear the ringing sound of an A as your instrument vibrates.
Step 3: Tune to that note! Once your A string is in tune, tune your other strings to your A in perfect fifths.
Tuning with perfect fifths. Double stops (Advanced Tuning)
This method is mainly used by advanced violinists. This method uses the principle of perfect fifths for tuning. In music, the perfect fifth is the interval from the first to the last of five consecutive notes on a diatonic scale. The double stops technique is when you play two notes on the violin at the same time.
It is a recommended skill to have as a violinist. Follow these steps to tune using this method.
Step 1: Firstly, make sure that your A string is tuned. You can use one of the methods I have covered.
Step 2: Play double stops with D and A String. Listen attentively to hear the perfect fifth.
Step 3: Play double stops with G and D String. Listen very carefully for that perfect fifth sound.
Step 4: Play double stops with A and E String. Listen attentively to hear the perfect fifth.
Alternate Violin Tuning
G-D-A-E tuning is considered the standard tuning as I pointed out at the beginning of this post, however, alternate tunings are commonly used by country fiddlers to suit the style of their playing which ordinarily cannot be accomplished using the standard tuning. Here are a few of the most common alternate tunings.
- G-D-G-D – (Lower the E and A strings) – Key of G Major
- G-D-G-B – (Lower the E and A strings) – Key of G Major
- A-D-A-E – (Raise the G string) – Key of D Major
- A-E-A-E – (Raise the G and D string) – Key of A Major
These alternate tunings are not recommended for beginners. You are better off sticking to the standard tuning which can make learning the violin easier for you.
IMPORTANT VIOLIN TUNING TIPS AND FAQ
Which string should I tune first?
I will recommend that you start tuning on the A string. It is a good practice among orchestral violinists to start with A-440 tuning, and then subsequently tune other strings like D, G and then E in that order.
My violin does not have fine tuners on all four strings. Is that okay?
It is recommended that you buy a violin with fine tuners on all four strings, especially for beginners. It is okay for more advanced players to have violins with just one fine tuner or none at all. In fact, some high-grade violins do not come with fine tuners because some believe it makes the Tailpiece heavier and thus influences negatively on the sound of the violin. The good news is that most violins do have a fine tuner, especially on the E string.
Why is it difficult to tune the E String on the violin?
Ever heard of strings breaking while tuning? Yes, it does happen but more likely when you are tuning the E string. This is because E string is the thinnest string and thus prone to breakage during tuning.
Like I mentioned earlier on, turning the tuning peg too much can cause that to happen. Thankfully, most violins do come with a fine tuner on the E string to help reduce the need to use the peg.
My new strings are so out of tune. Why?
Usually, when you change your old strings with a new one, it can take some time before the strings adjust and not be out of tune. It is basic physics strings tension caused by stretching of the string.
Anytime you change strings, you will need to tune more often at least for the first few weeks.
What should I use to tune?
- A digital, chromatic tuner or an app either from the Google play store or iPhone Stores.
- A pitch pipe
- A piano
- Tuning fork
I recommend digital tuners for violin beginners because most do display when the note you’re tuning matches the correct pitch.
As a beginner, tuning the violin can seem daunting at first, however, if you follow the steps in this article you will find it relatively easy. And as with every other thing, the more you do this, the better you get at it. So pick up your violin and make sure it is tuned using any of the methods I have shown you in this article.
Leave a comment on issues you have when it comes to tuning the violin.
Side Note: Are you a beginner violinist and you are interested to learn violin in a step-by-step easy guide? Then you might be interested to join this Free Online Violin Course at no cost.
Hi, I’m Rimma, a mom of one, passionate about teaching violin. In my free time you, will find me watching my favorite TV shows.