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Using Digital Tuners to Tune a Violin
Help with Intonation

(The Complete Guide to Violin Tuning - Continued from page 5)

There comes a time for some that no amount of reference tone generators, violin fine tuners or correcting peg problems will help in fine tuning a violin. Fine tuning is a skill and essentially boils down to our hearing. It is the ability to bring the sample pitch or tone (in this case the sound of your violin) to match the pitch of a standard reference tone (coming from this online violin tuner for example).

What happens if I'm unable to hear the pitch difference? One sure way to solve this problem is to obtain a pitch detection device that would provide visual feedback (such as a LED display) of the note you are playing. This would not only be good for tuning but for intonation training (or ear training) as well. A couple of these devices are discussed below.


 The Center Pitch UniversalTM

The Center Pitch UniversalTM, a very unique and impressive intonation tool by Onboard Research Corporation, provides immediate intonation feedback up to 5 notes per second (Was from my own testing, but could probably respond faster). In normal practice routines, it can provide response to such skills as slow scales, arpeggios, octaves, long tones, slurred notes and more. For beginners it is an excellent tool for ear training

It can be used in noisy environments such as a band or orchestra. The device doesn't use a microphone for detection, but rather it is clipped unto your instrument, and is able to "feel" the vibrations. So you are able to tune and play without interference from ambient room sounds, even when it is very noisy. It can be used not only on violins but other stringed, brass and woodwind instruments.

There is one thing I wished this device had, which would make the device complete in my opinion, and that is a reference pitch generator. It would have also been nice if the device would display the piano octave for which the note falls in (Example: A5 for note A in the fifth piano octave and A3 for note A in the third piano octave). If you want to get a clear picture on piano octaves, please refer to the online violin tuner page.

Features of the Center Pitch UniversalTM

  • "Feels" the pitch. Play anywhere without interference from room noise
  • Large LED display for easy viewing.
  • Displays "accidentals" (sharp or flat notes) enharmonically (as either sharp or flat).
  • Displays the note in Concert Pitch or as transposed for B-flat, E-flat or F instruments.
  • Adjustable A-reference detection between A - 440Hz (standard), A=441Hz or A-442Hz.
  • Weighs less than two ounce, battery operated, 60 hours of use per set of batteries.


  • Tuning Range - Seven Octaves, 27Hz to 6000Hz
  • Tuning Precision - Better than one cent
  • Battery Life - 60 hours of continuous use
  • Dimensions - 1 3/4" wide, 5 1/4" long, 3/4" thick
  • Power supply - 6 volts
  • Battery Type - CR2032 coin cell; two batteries required.
  • Lifetime Warranty (USA and Canada only, 2 years international).

Click here to purchase this device.


Using the Center Pitch UniversalTM with a Violin

Attaching the Center Pitch UniversalTM to your Violin

First locate the space between the G and D pegs on the left and the E and A pegs on the right side of the peg box. This is the space on the violin that the device will be clamped. Don't worry, the clamps are made with soft rubber, so it will not damage your violin.

After clamping the device on, you will notice two ball swivel joints behind the display that enable you to position the LED display.

Face the LED display towards you in playing position.

After you face the LED display towards the tailpiece end, press the blue colored "Power" button to turn in on.

There are three other buttons on the panel.

  • A-ref - A reference button, changes the internal A reference note detection to one of A=440Hz, A=441Hz and A=442Hz. For the violin, it should be set to 440Hz.

  • enhar - Enharmonic button, changes displaying accidentals from sharp to flat or flat to sharp. For example, if you are playing sharp on A, you would see A-sharp (A#) or B-flat (Bb) depending on your enharmonic setting. For the violin, it should be set to sharp.

  • trans - Transpose button, changes between Concert Pitch (i.e. Key of C), or transposed for B-flat, E-flat or F instruments. For violins, leave the transposition in Concert Pitch.

Tuning and Intonation Training

This tuner is a chromatic tuner. That means that it uses the 12-note chromatic scale as you see the notes on a piano keyboard (To understand the chromatic scale click here).

When a particular note is fully in tune, the display will show the symbols ">>>" on the left and "<<<" on the right (The photo on the right shows A-note fully in tune. Notes that are played too flat will show fewer ">" characters on the right. Notes too sharp will show fewer "<" symbols on the left. There is also a symbol pattern for very very flat or sharp (See below).

I really find this device great for intonation training. Although this device can respond to notes at a rate of greater than 4 notes per second, it does not make sense to play this fast, because you would not be able to visually keep track of all the notes that appear on the display. For intonation training, I would suggest playing no faster than one note every two to three seconds.


Note A Tiny Flat

Note A Tiny Sharp

Note A Very Very Flat

Note Very Very Sharp

To purchase the Center Pitch UniversalTM click here.


 The IMT-204 Intelli Metronome/Tuner

The Intelli IMT-204 is an integrated Digital Metronome and Dual Tuner device. I will not be going over every feature of this device, but just those that can help you tune a violin.

The pitch detection capability relies on a built-in microphone. When the IMT-204 is in tuning mode, it essentially displays on the LED the note name that you are playing. The tuning range is from A0 to B7 (8 octaves). It is not as sensitive as the Center Pitch UniversalTM described above, and also requires that the room be quiet. It also does not display the piano octave for which a note is displayed.

This device also has a built-in pitch generator ranging from A2 sharp to C6 sharp. A2 refers to the second piano octave containing the note A. C6 refers to the sixth piano octave containing the note C. For violin tuning, you'll need G3, D4, A4 and E5.

Tuning Features and Specifications of the IMT-204

  • Chromatic and guitar tuner for intonation training.
  • Tuning range is 12-note chromatic, A0 to B7 (8 octaves)
  • Large LED display for easy viewing.
  • Built-in microphone and jack (6mm mono jack) for electric guitar
  • Adjustable A-reference calibration or detection between A - 430Hz to 449Hz with 1Hz step.
  • Displays how are sharp or flat you are in cents
  • Works for most string and reed instruments including the human voice.
  • Built-in stand tilts the unit for table top viewing or mounts on music stand
  • Non-volatile memory maintains all settings during power-off
  • Automatic power off - 3 minutes with no signal
  • Pitch generator range: A2# to C6# (40 notes)
  • Pitch generator shift (430 to 449Hz, 1Hz step)
  • Battery source: dry battery 2 X AAA (3 volts)

To purchase the Intelli IMT-204 tuner, click here.


Using the Intelli IMT-204

Placing the Intelli IMT-204

The device has a built-in stand enabling it to stand on a table facing you. Make sure that there is no other noise in the room, as it picks up other sounds.

Try to set the device on the same level as the violin in such a way that the F-holes of the violin (where most of the sound travels out from) is facing the microphone of the device (labelled MIC on the front).

Pitch Generation Mode

Press the POWER button to turn the device on. To tune a violin, one would start in Pitch Generation mode to generate reference tones. To set the device in this mode, press the SOUND button (next to the POWER button) until you hear a fixed sound.

You can increase or decrease the pitch by pressing the two buttons labelled NOTE as shown to the right. For the violin, you'll need reference tones 3G, 4D, 4A and 5E to show on the upper right hand corners when tuning each string.


Using Tuning Mode (for fine tuning)

To change to tuning mode, press the TUNER button (same as SOUND button) until you hear no sound coming from the device.

The microphone is now listening to ambient sounds. You will even see the LED flashing red, yellow or green as you speak.

The Tuning Display

This tuner has chromatic and guitar tuning. For violins you want to use the chromatic tuner (This means that it uses the 12-note chromatic scale as you see on a piano keyboard). To set the tuner for chromatic tuning, press the GUITAR button until you see the word CHROMA located right underneath where the notes are displayed on the upper right hand corner.

For violins, you should see a tuning calibration for note A of 440Hz shown on the upper left hand corner. If not then press the CALIB buttons (the two leftmost buttons) to adjust.

You should also see no "b" symbols (called flat used for flat tuning) located towards the upper center of the display. If so, press the FLAT until you see no flat symbols left.

Now, whenever you are in tune with any chromatic notes, the needle on the display moves towards the center, and the LED flashes green. The name of the note is shown on the upper right hand corner.

If you move away from any of the notes in the chromatic scale, the needle in on the display moves away from the center and the LED flashes red or yellow. If the needle falls to the left of the center, the note displayed on the upper right hand corner shows that you are playing too flat on that note. Likewise, if the needle falls to the right of the center, then the note displayed is played too sharp.




Note A in tune (Green LED)

Note A flat (Red or yellow LED)

Note Note A Sharp (Red or yellow LED)

To purchase the Intelli IMT-204 tuner, click here.



What's Next?

This concludes the 6-page "Complete Guide to Violin Tuning". If you found this guide helpful to you, and would like to comment, please join our forum and make any suggestions, corrections or criticisms. I would be very happy to hear from you.

This is page 6 - the last page

Page 1: Introduction to Violin Tuning
A snapshot view on tuning violins, the process, it's problems and solutions...Read more

Page 2: Tuning a Violin - Avoiding the Bridge Snap - IMPORTANT
The most important thing to check before you tune a violin. Prevent damage to your violin and optimize the sound...Read more

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


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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