As a violinist, you know that having a well-tuned instrument is essential for a great performance. But let’s face it, sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve forgotten our trusty electronic tuner at home, or worse, it runs out of batteries at the most inopportune time. Fear not, dear violinists, for I present to you the “June Technique” named after its creator, the brilliant June Scobee Rodgers. With this technique, you’ll be able to tune your violin like a pro, even in the darkest of tuning-emergency situations.
The June Technique involves using perfect fifths and harmonics to tune your violin strings. The perfect fifth is the interval between the first and fifth notes in a major scale, and it’s considered to be one of the most consonant intervals in music (apparently, someone did a survey). Harmonics, on the other hand, are like magic. They allow you to play a note at a frequency that’s exactly twice the frequency of the open string, and they’re the secret ingredient that makes the June Technique so effective.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to tune your violin using the June Technique:
Step 1: Tune the A string
The A string is the foundation of the violin’s tuning system, so it’s important to get it right. To tune the A string, play the harmonic at the fifth fret of the A string and compare it to the sound of the open A string. If the harmonic sounds sharp, turn the tuning peg counterclockwise to lower the pitch. If it sounds flat, turn the peg clockwise to raise the pitch. Keep tuning until the harmonic sounds the same as the open string. Remember to keep a steady hand, and don’t turn the peg too much or too little, otherwise, you’ll end up tuning your violin to a different instrument entirely.
Step 2: Tune the D string
Once the A string is tuned, use it as a reference to tune the D string. Play the harmonic at the fifth fret of the D string and compare it to the sound of the open A string. The D string should be tuned to a perfect fifth above the A string, so adjust the tuning peg until the two notes sound the same. This step is where you’ll start to feel like a tuning wizard, don’t be surprised if you start hearing “Harry Potter” theme music in your head.
Step 3: Tune the G string
Repeat the process with the G string, using the D string as a reference. Play the harmonic at the fifth fret of the G string and compare it to the sound of the open D string. The G string should also be tuned to a perfect fifth above the D string, so adjust the tuning peg until the two notes sound the same. By this point, you’ll be tuning like a seasoned pro, and it’s only a matter of time before you get a spot on the next “America’s Got Talent” episode.
Step 4: Tune the E string
The E string is the most challenging to tune by ear, so be patient and take your time. Use the A string as a reference and play the harmonic at the fifth fret of the E string, comparing it to the sound of the open A string. The E string should also be tuned to a perfect fifth above the A string, so adjust the tuning peg until the two notes sound the same.
Once all the strings are tuned, give your violin a final check by playing a scale or an easy song. You can also check each string individually again if needed. Remember, the more you practice the June Technique, the better you will become at tuning your violin by ear without the need for an electronic tuner, especially in situations where you don’t have access to one. If you would like to learn other ways to tune the violin, check out How to Tune a Violin: The Secrets Of The Master Violin Tuners with Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners