Knowing how to tune your violin effectively, and often quickly is a vital aspect of playing, and the better you become at it the more naturally and intuitively you are able to recognise the right pitch. What can aid you and what can hinder you are issues which we will try and address. Here are 8 tips for helping you to get and stay in tune, build your intonation ability, and develop good tuning habits.
1. Buy a good quality tuner.
We don’t all have perfect pitch and instruments don’t always remain perfectly in tune therefore we all need a tuner of some kind. These days there are many great digital clip-on and electronic chromatic tuners on the market at reasonable prices and don’t forget there’s always the traditional tuning fork too.
2. Check your strings.
Old and worn strings are prone to sound false or not hold their tuning. Equally strings caked in rosin do not function at their optimum, keep them clean, have them checked and change when necessary.
3. Get a professional violin set-up.
Trying to tune an instrument that is suffering from the effects of wear and tear (from very frequent use), or other problems that mean that things are always a little out and / or where there are intonation problems or buzzing can mean that some professional TLC is the most sensible course of action. A professional violin set-up will, for example, ensure that:
- The tuning pegs fit well, turn smoothly and hold their position.
- The nut is good condition, string slots evenly spaced, contoured correctly and well lubricated.
- The fingerboard is in good condition, has the correct curve and doesn’t buzz.
- The angle of the neck and bridge height are correct.
- The bridge feet and the bridge itself are well fitted, and the string heights at the end of the fingerboard are correct. Make sure strings are not embedded too deep in the top of the bridge.
- The tailpiece is fitted correctly and is at the right distance from the bridge.
With these and other elements correctly attended to the whole process and end result of tuning should be enhanced.
4. Start with the A string.
This can help to make sure that the tension of the strings is kept, thus helping to keep the sound post in the right position and minimising the impact on the tuning of the other strings. Some people also find it easier to anchor the tuning to a thinner but full sounding string, the pitch of which can be easier to hear (such as the A). Tune the E string last.
5. Tune up rather than down.
Starting low i.e. gradually increasing string tension upwards to the correct pitch rather than going too high and then loosening the strings, is better for your strings and gives a better result. See the next point…
6. Make small adjustments.
Assuming that your strings were more or less in tune the last time you played (some players reduce the tension on strings slightly after playing) you should only need small amounts of tightening of your tuning pegs and fine tuners to bring it back into tune. See the next point….
7. Make use of fine tuners or fit mechanical fine-tuning pegs
If the pitch to be reached is small i.e. less than a semitone, use the fine tuner on the tailpiece rather than the tuning peg. There are also some excellent options for mechanical (geared) fine tuning pegs. Wittner produce an economical option built in a high-tech composite material with a matte finish to mimic ebony, if you’d like a geared peg with a real wood head then excellent options by pegheads and perfection planetary pegs and get rid of your fine tuners!
8. Become very familiar with one note.
If you play and hum one particular note e.g. an in-tune ‘A’ each time you play and at the end of playing, you may be able to recognise, and become very familiar with the exact pitch of that note over time. This can help with a more intuitive and more confident approach to tuning.
For information about getting a professional set-up, violin repairs, and / or purchasing a new digital tuner, visit our Stoke Newington shop, see our website, contact us online, or call us on 020 7249 9398.