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A Complete Violin Tuning Guide

Lemuel Huang, July 15, 2011

Many beginners learning how to tune a violin often face big challenges and problems. Why is it so difficult sometimes? The pegs won't turn or stay, strings break during tuning, the violin bridge snaps off the belly, the soundpost becomes lose, the fine tuners on the tailpiece don't work, difficulty discerning or comparing small pitch differences, and more.

If you don't know exactly where your problem is, then the following introduction may help you to identify where in the tuning process you are stuck. On the other hand if you would like to read the whole violin tuning guide from beginning, then jump to the bottom of the page.


Introduction - A snapshot of the violin tuning process

Typically, the process requires the following three skills or steps:

  1. Comparing the sound difference between a reference tone and the sound of your violin.
    First, you'll typically need a source for generating reference tones for each of your violin strings. Reference tones can come from a number of sources such as a piano or a tuning fork. If you don't have access to any such source, you may use our online violin tuner.

  2. Using the violin pegs to tune the sound of each string most of the way close to the reference tones.
    Many problems can happen at this stage. Sometimes the pegs are really hard to turn. They appear stuck or when they actually move, the pegs feel like they are turning through sticky gum or tar. Yet another problem occurs when the peg is easy to turn, but as soon as you let go, the pegs won't stay in place, but loosen up again.

    There are good reasons and solutions to these problems. Please see this article, "Problems with Violin Pegs" for more information.

    In addition, it is important to check over your violin bridge before tuning. You will not only reduce the risk of damage to your violin, but also optimize the sound. See this important article, "Avoiding the Bridge Snap" for more information.

  3. Fine tuning each violin string to match the reference tone (well at least very close to matching).
    To fine tune a violin, you need to hear minor pitch differences between the reference tone and the sound of your violin. This is not easy for many beginners. To put things in perspective, it can take years of ear training to discern very small pitch differences. However there is a solution.

    You can solve this problem by using a ptich detecting device. These electronic devices essentially "hear" (through a built-in microphone or vibration detector), the sound of your violin and tells you what note is being played. See this article, "Fine Tuning Violins with Digital Tuners".

    Another challenge is to make small increases or decreases in the pitch of your violin. This is not easy with pegs. The problem experienced here is that you either turn the pegs just a little too high or a little too low, but never right on. To solve this problem, metal violin fine tuners added to the tailpiece are usually used. For beginners, this is an economical and easy way to start.

    (For many advanced violinists however, adding metal violin fine tuners to the tailpiece changes the sound quality of the violin, because they add weight to the tailpiece and change the string length. To solve this problem, some have obtained tailpieces with lighter built-in fine tuners, or obtain very light carbon-fiber tuners. Some violinists have also opted for the more expensive FineTuning Pegs with "gears" in the peg shaft. All this will be discussed in future articles).

    Fine Tuning a Violin without Fine Tuning Parts

    If you don't like to add any of these additional parts to your violin, there are tuning techniques used by advanced violinists to fine tune a violin, and without cost. Please see this article, "Fine Tuning A Violin Without Fine Tuners".

    Finally many wonder why the violin doesn't stay in tune after it is finally tuned. For example, after leaving the violin for a a few hours, the violin strings, especially the A and E go off tune. This is actually quite common. It is more than likely to happen if the strings are new, or made of gut. It can also happen with large changes in temperature and humidity.

What's Next?

Learning how to tune a violin becomes much easier once you understand the problems beginners often face, and how to solve and/or avoid them. In the following pages, you will find detailed information complete with photo images. Although, I have arranged this article so that beginners can follow the tuning process page by page, please feel free to follow some of the links listed further below that may apply more to your situation.

The next two pages are important. These are things you must check over on your violin to avoid the risk of damaging your violin and optimize the sound at the same time.

This is page 1

Next Page 2: Tune a Violin - Avoiding the Bridge Snap - IMPORTANT ======>

Page 3: Tune a VIolin - Problems with Violin Pegs - IMPORTANT
Important notes on peg problems and setting them up for optimal tuning....Read more

Page 4: Online Violin Tuner - Understanding Reference Tones
A neat online violin tuner and experiments you can try with an online piano tuner...Read more

Page 5: Installing and Using Violin Fine Tuners
Once you have brought the pitch of your violin strings most of the way towards the reference tones by using pegs, there are a number of low-cost fine tuner parts you can add to your instrument...Read more

Page 6: Fine Tuning Violins with Digital Tuners
Although there are many digital tuners on the market, there is one quite amazing digital tuner in particular, that will help you with your intonation while playing...Read more


Other Ways to Generate Reference Tones
Conventional and new ways that reference tones can be generated... Read more

Fine Tuning a Violin Without Fine Tuners
These fine tuning techniques are used by advanced violinists which you can use if you do not have any problems discerning pitch differences...Read more

How to Tune a Violin Using Only Pegs
Photos illustrating how advanced violinists may use only their left hand and fingers to tune violins...Read more

Installing and Using Fine Tuning Pegs Coming Soon
No more wrestling back and forth with your pegs! These neat set of pegs will help you fine tune your violin EASILY!.

A Review of Pusch Tailpieces with built-in Fine Tuners Coming Soon
Have a good look at the built-in fine tuners that come with these tailpieces. The two advantages of these tailpieces

Installing and Using the Light-Weight Carbon Fiber Tuners by Bogaro and Clemente Coming Soon
Don't want to add weight to the tailpiece or change the string length, and don't want to spend so much for fine tuning pegs, then these specially made carbon fiber tailpiece fine tuners


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