How To Tune A Violin

How To Tune A Violin

Hi Guys and thanks for dropping by,

Today I’m going to show you how to tune a violin and discuss some of the common difficulties and errors that can occur when students or parents try to tune on their own. 

When I was a student, there was no such thing as a ‘tuning app’. To tune my violin, I either had to use a piano and my ears, a tuning fork or wait for my weekly lesson to roll around so that my teacher could do it for me. Oh, and then there were those nifty electronic tuners that all the cool kids had. 

These days, you can just download an app and off you go! Easy right? Well, not quite. 

From broken strings to snapped pegs there are so many things that can go wrong when you’re not sure what you’re doing. So, let’s take a look at how to get your violin back to sounding great again without causing any unneccessary damage!

Which App?

There are many free tuning apps available and essentially they all do the same thing. Here’s what came up for me when I searched for ‘violin tuner’ on my phone. 

I’m going to go with the first one for no other reason than it’s specifically for violin and, well it’s first.

Just make sure that the tuner you download has the ability to ‘listen’ to you playing each string; it should ask you for permission to record audio. 

Once you’ve downloaded your app of choice, you’re ready to start tuning!

Getting Aquainted With Your Fine Tuners:

The fine tuners are hopefully where all of your tuning will take place for the time being. As a beginner, you will most likely have all four fine tuners installed on your violin; more advanced students may have only one or sometimes even none at all. 

Take a look at the following slides and familiarise yourself with your fine tuners and how they work. 

Which String?
Take a look at which fine tuner tunes which string
E String Is Too Flat
Try turning your E String fine tuner in the clockwise direction. This will make your E string sound higher (sharper).
E String Is Too Sharp?
Try turning your E string fine tuner in the anticlockwise direction. This will make your E string sound lower (flatter)
All Strings Are The Same
Do the same thing for each string - be sure not to loosen or tighten too much!
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Fine Tuner Fails:

It’s important that your fine tuners turn easily in both the clockwise and anticlockwise directions. If this isn’t the case, you will want to loosen them as much as possible so as to try and get the screw back onto the thread. With some of the cheaper violins, I’ve found the fine tuners to be such poor quality that they are essentially defunct. If this is your case, you’ll unfortunately need to tune with your pegs and perhaps have your tailpiece (or entire violin) replaced at the earliest opportunity. 

There isn’t too much that can go wrong when tuning with the fine tuners. Although it is not advisable to turn your fine tuner too far in one direction, even if you do, it is unlikely that you will break or damage your string. You may, however cause them to become stuck or lose their thread.

Take a look at the slides below for some pictures of what not to do:

Don't Tighten Too Much
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Fine Tuner Fails:

 

Tuning With The Pegs

When you’re just starting out, try and avoid the pegs as much as possible. However, if your violin is very out of tune, or if your fine tuners are getting too loose or too tight, you’ll need to use them. 

Take a look at the following slides and get used to how your pegs work before you begin tuning.

Too Far Anticlockwise:

Using your pegs to tune can be quite risky. A small twist in the anticlockwise direction can result in quite a drastic increase in the pitch of your string and twisting even a little too much will cause your string to break. If this does happen, you’re going to need to replace the string. 

To avoid breaking your string, it is advisable to loosen before you tighten. This will mean that the peg can turn more gently and there is less likelihood you’ll slip and twist too far. 

Too Far Clockwise:

Although you won’t break the string by loosening it too much, it could slip out of it’s hole which is annoying to say the least. If this does happen, check out my video on how to replace a string to see how you can reinstall it. There is no need to buy a new string if this happens but you may like to straighten it out so it’s easier to put it back in place. 

Broken Bridges And Other Disasters:

Whatever you do, don’t loosen or remove all your strings at once. At best, this will result in your bridge falling out and at worst, it will lead to your soundpost dislodging and once this happens, you’re going to need to take your vioiln of to the luthier. 

Let’s Tune Now:

Now that you’ve aquainted yourself with the fine tuners and pegs, let’s begin tuning your violin. Take a look at the following slides before you begin and again, always try tuning with the fine tuners first. If possible, you should leave tuning with pegs for your teacher!

Congratulations!

Learning to tune your own violin is an important part of your violin journey and something that you will get better at over time. While it’s not ideal to use a tuning app forever, it’s certainly a great way for beginners and their non-violin playing parents to ensure that practice is done on a well tuned instrument.

Don’t forget that if you need a hand with how to tune a violin or anything else violin related, you can reach out through social media or in the comment section below.

Your violin is now hopefully back to sounding beautiful and ready for you to resume your practice!

Marketa 🙂

(founder of myviolinbff.com)

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Wow! You are a great teacher with passion. Kudos.
    I once ran off from Guitar classes over pain in my fingers from holding down stings. what would you advise one like myself to do if they are to finish the training and become Pros in the instrument?

    Francis.

    1. Hi Francis and thanks so much for your kind words,
      I don’t play guitar but I think the strings are a lot thicker. Over the years, I’ve developed quite callous skin on my fingertips so I don’t actually feel the strings as much anymore. That being said, I do have students who complain of pain in their fingers from the strings.
      I’d suggest practicing for short amounts of time and building up as your fingers become more accustom to the strings.
      Have a great day 🙂

  2. Thank you for this article. When I was at school I learnt to play the violin and I really wish there had been application tools and help like this then! I keep telling myself I will return to the violin one day and progress further so i’m going to bookmark this site as I can see it will be so helpful, thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Maddie,
      These days there are far more resources available to students; it’s amazing!
      if you do return, I’d love to hear how you go
      Have a great day 🙂

  3. This was easy to understand and informative. Nice post!

  4. This is brilliant to know, my daughter is due to start violin lessons very soon so we will need all the help we can get and I’m sure tuning her violin herself will be an essential skill she will need to learn, plus it will be a bit easier on our ears 🙂
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much, Amy
      Best of luck to you and your daughter! 🙂

  5. Hey,

    I have found this article interesting. Tuning a violin is quite similar to a guitar but I can imagine it will be a bit more sensitive and easier to snap a string. I also love the sound of the violin, especially in the Rock bands that I like to listen to.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    1. Hi Tom and thanks so much for your comment. I haven’t tuned a guitar but I think you’re right about the sensitivity to snapping.
      Have a great weekend 🙂

  6. Hi Marketa,

    Thank you for your article. My friend has started taking violin lessons recently and this is a really helpful article that I am pleased to share it with her. Keep up the good work.

    Many thanks,
    Yoana

  7. I LOVE music. Nowadays I unfortunately only listen to it and don’t make any music myself, and your article reminded me of that omission. I never played the violin, but had a guitar for awhile, and tuning was one of the more difficult things for me. I did have a tuning device at some point, but like you said – you have to know what you’re doing, otherwise a device won’t add much value to your efforts.
    Great explanation, Marketa, and play on 😀

    1. Hi Hannie and thanks so much for reaching out
      so many people listen to and love music but haven’t had the opportunity or time to learn an instrument for themselves.
      It’s great that you have a basis with guitar and you will always be able to pick it up again if you so wish.
      Have a great day and best of luck 🙂

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