Hi I’m Vi Wickam with myTalentForge.com. Here’s a lesson for you on how to tune your violin or your fiddle- depending on what you call it! Same instrument!
Here’s my violin and you can hear that it’s in tune.
Learning to tune your instrument is one of those beginning things that is very important. It’s very important that our instrument is in tune because that gives us the point of reference for intonation for where we put our fingers.
So, the names of the strings are: G, D, A, E. They sound like that. The A string is tuned to what we call “A-440”. What that means is that the pitch or the vibration of the A string is tuned to 440 hertz.
Now what is a hertz you might ask? 440 hertz means 440 cycles per second. So the A string vibrates 440 times in one second to create that pitch.
So, if you want to get your A string to perfectly 440 hertz, the easiest way is going to be using a Strobe Tuner. Now, I use a strobe tuning app with an app called iStroboSoft for my iPhone.
There are a number of other chromatic tuners that will allow you to tune your A string to 440 hertz.
Now, when we’re looking at our instrument, we have a set of tuners down here on the other side of the bridge. And we have these tuners up here at the top. These are our regular tuners, and these are our fine tuners.
We use the regular tuners to get us close to the right pitch, and the fine tuners to really hone in on the exact pitch that we want to get the string to.
So I’m going to de-tune my instrument a little bit…
I’ll get out my iPhone here with my Strobe Tuner. I’ll tune everything down… now it’s really out of tune!
We don’t want to use these tuners up here to get us all the way there. So what we’re going to start out with is getting our A string to the right pitch.
I’m going to open up my iStroboSoft app, and I am going to play my A string- which is currently a G note that’s kind of out of tune. Now I’m watching the Strobe Tuner and it’s telling me as I’m getting close to an A note. So that gets me pretty close!
Don’t just tune it. If you notice, I’m putting my finger on the other side of the scroll. This is the scroll here- shaped like a scroll.
Now I’m back out of tune… I can see that right now I have my strobe tuner set to show me the hertz, or the frequency of that note… And that’s right about 440!
So, I can then tune my other strings to the A. Now, if I hadn’t gotten the A close enough, then I would use this fine tuner to adjust- turning the tuner to the left will make the pitch lower, or the frequency lower.
Pitch is another name for frequency. If I turn it to the right, it’ll make the pitch higher.
On my strobe tuner you’ll see that there’s an arrow here that points up or down telling me that right now my string is a little bit low. So if I turn it to the right, you’ll see that the numbers get a little higher as I’m getting closer.
Right now, I’m pretty close. So, A string is pretty good, and we’ll come back to the A string after we get the other ones. Because each string you change, will cause the other strings to move a little bit.
Now you’ll hear when the D string is right in tune with the A string, it gives us a little nice ring. And when it’s a little bit off, it really sounds rough.
If you just want to get close, you can use a tuner for all 4 strings. And that tuner will get you pretty darn close.
Tuners generally use what’s called Tempered Tuning. And tempered tuning is a strategy for making your instrument be the same amount of in-tune in every key.
I prefer to use what’s called Just Tuning. I tune my A to 440, which you can hear that it’s gone a little bit flat now because I brought my D string up…
Now it’s important that you put a little bit of pressure in on the peg when we turn it, so that the peg doesn’t slip and drop- like the A string just did. Isn’t this fun?!
So we’ll tune our G string up now. When I use Just Tuning, I use open 5ths. So a 5th, in terms of frequency, is 3 halves the frequency- if we’re going a 5th above. Or 2/3rds the frequency if we go a 5th below.
We’re getting a little physics-y here, but that means that for a perfect 5th from my A string and my E string to be perfectly in tune with each other, the A string is going to be 440- because that’s our standard, and the E string is going to be 660 hertz.
Now if you’re just trying to get it pretty good in tune, use your tuner and don’t worry about this whole discussion about perfect 5ths. So, as far as the tuner is concerned, a perfect fit is a little wider than the 5th on a tuner in tempered tuning.
It’s especially important on the E string to use the fine tuners. On the E string, if you don’t use the fine tuners, you’re likely to snap the E string, because the E string is the highest-tension string of the strings. It’s thinner and it’s higher tension, which means it’s more prone to break.
And I’ll tell you there have been lots of students of mine, as they’re learning to tune their instruments, who have broken the E string. There have also been lots of parents who have broken the E string when they’re trying to help their students tune.
So get the E string close and then you can be looking at your tuner while you do that, and then when your tuner gets close, then you can use the fine tuners to tune.
Now, you can hear that as I tighten the G string, it loosened the other string. So that brings us back to the A string to bring that one up again.
Get that one close again… […]
So, in terms of frequency, if we’re doing open 5ths or perfect 5ths, the A string will be 440 hertz, the E string will be 660, the D string will be 293.333, and the G string will be 195.555.
That would give you the most intonation between those strings which will also lead to the most ringing of the strings when you play.
Not everybody does this- this is just the way I do it and I like how it sounds.
It gives you a really sweet sound, and the instrument becomes in tune with itself. Whereas if you’re using Tempered Tuning, to me it’ll sound a little bit out of tune, even when all the lights show up green on your tuner.
One of the cool things that the strobe tuner I have on my iPhone uses, is it also offers what it calls Sweetened Tunings- which are tunings that are better in tune with the instrument itself.
I can choose alternate temperings of the scale, so I can use a Just mean tone temperment or something like that, which gets a lot closer to those open 5ths.
So to recap, we have our regular tuners that will get us close, and our fine tuners that will hone in on the actual pitches. The A string is 440. A violin is tuned in 5ths, so if we go […], that gets us our E […], and gets our D.
The strings are G, D, A, E- 195.5 repeating, 293.3 repeating, 440, 660.
There is nothing better than a violin when it’s played in tune and there is nothing worse than an out of tune violin. So please tune your violin!
I hoped this helped!
If you have questions, post them below. It’s been a pleasure teaching you how to tune your violin- I’ll see you next time!
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