Violin Tuning Question

Violin Tuning Question

I’m using a chromatic tuner to tune my violin after changing the strings.

Here is my problem: The G string sounds way too low, although my chromatic tuner says it perfectly in tune. However I’m afraid to tune it up the next octave in fear of over tensioning the string.

Will the first G I come it when tuning be the correct G?? I’ve played a G on the D and compared it with the open G and they sound like the same note but the open G sounds very low.

Forgive my ignorance!!! or perhaps I am realizing that I am tone deaf… explains the playing anyway.

Thank you for the help.

Re: Violin Tuning Question

Way too low compared to what? Its meant to sound alot lower than the G thats on your D string.

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You’re absolutely right. Sometime you just need a slap in the face to wake you up.

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Do you mean that youve got it sorted now?

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

I suggest a course of leeches.

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The pegs have to be parallel

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Mark, you’ve confused me - was that a joke?

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

The bridge should be curved into nearly a semicircle once you’ve tightened all the strings. If it’s flat, you haven’t tightened them enough. Keep tightening.

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That depends on your bridge…mine certainly doesn’t need to be a semi-circle.

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I’m obviously too thick this morning for this level of sophisticated humour

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

Don’t overtighten or loosen too badly; after playing ADAE, AEAE, then GDAE and then DDAE, my bridge was horrendously warped over the bass bar, and I had to thumb it back into place and retune a couple times over.

But it was TOTALLY WORTH IT for the fun of the scordatura!

—DtM

P.S. In some sense, a lower or higher G shouldn’t matter. The notes are the same…it might actually sound pretty badass if you kept it an octave down. Some fiddlers use the low open G as a bass drone; a LOW LOW open G would be incredibly, insanely cool and ringingly pipe-drone-y.

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mine hass a bass drone in the correct octave. I have one of those fiddles that has to be played loudly anything other than in the string and it sounds lie and it sounds like an elderly asthmatic. If in doubt tune it to the g then play scales, you will soon pick up any mistakes.

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

If the G string - or any other string for that matter - is tuned too low it becomes floppy and loses the tone and volume it has at its design tension. In addition, its intonation will wander all over the place and will depend a lot on how you bow it.

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Btw, Panhandle, you’re very unlikely to be "tone deaf". True tone deafness is a physiological condition, and is rare. What people think of as being tone deaf is no more than a lack of practice and training in really listening to the notes, and this applies to most people in the early stages of learning a variable pitch instrument or singing. I’ll also add that learning a fixed pitch instrument such as a piano and almost never getting the chance to really listen to or learn a variable pitch instrument is unlikely to improve one’s fine perception of pitch.
I think perhaps I’ve thrown a ball for others to pick up and run with!

Re: Violin Tuning Question

It’s easy ( not a fiddle-player ).
Play the open G, all other strings being in tune. Play A on the G string, B, C, D. The D on the G string will, of necessity, be the same note as the D on the open D string. You couldn’t possibly be having it an octave too low, it would be soo floppy it would not be playable.
There !
Just as a test, play anything that doesn’t normally include the G string, but play one string low - it all sounds right, yes, but loww ? Everything fits together ? Then you are in the right tuning.
These moments of self-doubt when you are on your own will soon pass.

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If you have a tuner that clamps onto the fiddle, you may want to readjust it when you tune the G. Sometimes there are dead spots in the wood, and the tuners don’t act right. I’ve seen it happen on one of my fiddles and it almost always happens on my cheap mandolin.

Just an idea.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been a discussion about tuners in general. Some people love them, and others think you should just tune the A with a fork or something and do everything else by ear.

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Well, tuning the A with a tuning fork or from an "A" played by a fixed pitch instrument (because a fixed pitch instrument isn’t always necessarily precisely in tune with a tuning fork) and then tuning the other strings by ear has always been the centuries-old way of doing it, and is still one of the best ways of training the ear.

An electronic tuner doesn’t encourage the player to train his ear because his eyes are concentrating on a needle on a scale or flashing lights.

Anyway, how do you know an electronic tuner is accurate, unless you get it calibrated by a physics lab, or have the results of its use assessed by someone with a trained ear?

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Tuners should not be used with stringed instruments. A person with a good ear will naturally tuned a violin to perfect fifths, not the eqaul-tempered fifths that a tuner will give you.

Yes, it’s only an extra 1.9 cents per string pair, but some would find that significant. Very expensive tuner/preamp combos might let you adjust the values for G, D and E if you’re so inclined to use a tuner.

Now if you’re playing with an equal-tempered instrument like a piano, then there will be a discrepancy between your G, D and E and the piano’s G, D and E. This is to be expected and is just a part of how modern music works.

So, yes, use a fork or electronic tuner to get A440, but do the rest by ear.

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An important part of learning to tune a fiddle in the earliest stages is to be in a quiet room with a teacher who can show you what to listen for when tuning and how the sound of the instrument changes as the D string (for example) drifts ever so slightly in or out of being a perfect 5th with the A string when you’re tuning it. If the strings of a fiddle are tuned in perfect 5ths then the instrument has a clarity of tone that isn’t quite there if even only one string gets slightly out of tune. When you can hear this, then most of the battle is over.

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As a beginner I find it hard enough getting the violin in tune with a tuner…..the thought of trying to get it in tune by ear is frightening! I guess it’s a trust thing!

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"How do you tune a fiddle" I asked someone when I was beginning. "Just sing the note in your head and tune to that". Ha!

"A person with a good ear will naturally tune a violin to perfect fifths". Maybe there should be an exam for would-be fiddlers and if they can’t tune without help they shouldn’t be allowed to play.

Yes, I’m joking. Are you?

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

Irrelevant but true - a person singing a tonic sol-fa scale slowly will naturally drop 80/81 of a semitone.

Electronic tuners of not…..well, very useful on stage, and a good way to make sure the instruments in tune when you’re learning (there’s nothing more frustrating then playing on an out of tune instrument).

Out of interest, why would you want your A tuned to A440 but the rest of the instrument tuned to perfect 5ths around that? Surely you want the note of the key your tune is in, and perfect 5ths around THAT (so you’ll have to retune for each new key). What about an instrument in 4ths - do you tune to a perfect 4th, or a fourth based on perfectly tempered 5ths?

Re: Violin Tuning Question

Learn to tune by ear; Just keep doing it. You play a stringed instrument without frets for !%$## sake. You must develop an ear for music.

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

Andy, I may be wrong, but according to your bio I take it you’ve haven’t had that much experience of playing the fiddle. Basically, it’s not a good idea to mess around with the basic pitch (A440) of the fiddle family of instruments by more than about a semi-tone. They are designed around that pitch; alter it significantly and you’ll run into problems. For starters, the instrument takes ages to settle down properly to its new pitch, and there are issues connected with the stresses in the instrument and its strings and its playability if the pitch is changed by more than about a semitone. You just can’t be altering the basic pitch of a fiddle every five minutes.
Fretless instruments tuned in fourths. The main one today is the double bass. It’s tuned in 4ths because tuning in 5ths would be too big for an instrument of that size. It is also the main surviving descendant of the baroque viol family of instruments, which were tuned in perfect 4ths, as an orchestral double-bass player today would tune his instrument, Intonation in the orchestral double bass line-up is of paramount importance because it underpins the intonation of all the instruments above it. The same applies to other ensembles with a deep bass instrument.
Going back three centuries, the viola da gamba, which is still used today in performances of baroque music and is more or less cello-sized, has 6 strings tuned in 4ths with a 3rd stuck in there, rather like the Spanish guitar. Those 4ths would be perfect 4ths.

Re: Violin Tuning Question

c.g.:

When I say a person with a good ear will tune a violin to perfect fifths, I mean that they are in tune according to the system of "just intonation", not the equal temperament that you will find on a piano. It’s not a judgment of how "perfectly" in tune the violin is.

If you ask a violinist to tune his/her A to 440Hz and tune his E against that, he/she will settle upon a "perfect fifth" as sounding in tune, whereas on a piano, the E will be 1.9 cents flat compared to the violin’s E.

It’s a strange notion, but adjusting the pitch to perfect intervals (i.e. the 3:2 pitch ratio for a perfect fifth) is something that musicians do unconsciously.

Re: Violin Tuning Question

I have been playing for a long time, I use a 440 electronic tuner - as a guide only. Its handy when the concertina player is ever so slightly flat and it drives you insane, even more so when it reverberates in your fiddle. It helps identify those problems you cant put your finger on. They save you from going crazy with humidity issues as we are having now (95% today, 20% tomorrow).
They have their place, they are invaluable if you dont have a piano to tune against. Everyone’s ear needs calibrating every now and then, if you are the instrument everyone tunes to and you are out of tune, who is right? The person with the instrument thats used to tune to or the electronic tuner that says that instrument is grossly out of tune?

They are a tool, just a small part of the big picture.

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Why do I set my electronic tuner to 440? I’m presuming this is right but I dont know why?

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lazyhound, you’d be right, I don’t play the fiddle. What I meant was - an instrument tuned in perfect fifths won’t create a perfect octave with itself (if you had enough strings). Its a fair point that the ear will naturally gravitate towards a perfect 5th as opposed to a equally tempered 5th, however, if the A string is at concert (A440) and you have two perfect fifths below it (or rather, two 4ths below it relative to perfect 5ths) the G won’t be an equally tempered major 2nd - presumably this would not be a good thing when playing a tune in G with a box or piano?

Another question - are boxes (being diatonic) based on just intonation or equal temprament within the row? And is the difference between the rows (if its a D/G) a perfect 5th or an equally tempered 5th?

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As far as I know, all Western instruments today have equal temperament tunings, be they piano, piano accordion, diatonic accordion, concertina, etc.

However, ttring players have always, and likely always will, approach just intonation when playing amongst themselves.

Regarding flutes and whistles, different models of flutes had different standards of intonation that had more to do with production methods than tuning systems. Rudall flutes and Pratten flutes will have out of tune notes all over the place, but it’s mostly due to how the tone holes and flute bodies have been traditionally constructed.

There’s not much harm in a string player gravitating toward just intonation when playing with an equal-tempered instrument: in the classical world, players unconsciously adjust intonation as they hear it. In Irish music, the pitch range (the number of cycles of fifths needed to play most tunes) is not really large enough to make a difference. A 3.8 cent difference in a major 2nd between a fiddle and a box is hardly noticeable, not to mention the generally lowered standard of intonation compared to more rigid systems like classical music.

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I use a tuner and I’d be lost with out it - its my best friend. Some people are good at certain things - tuning is something I am not good at. Its not even that I cant hear when its out of tune - But I am soooo obsessive about it that it starts to get really irritating - I cant concentrate and then I get upset and it just ruins my night. I dont think there is anything wrong with using a tuner - if it suits you.

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Re: Violin Tuning Question

Electronic tuners are invaluable when playing in noisy pubs or on stage or anywhere where there is a lot of ambient noise. They are also good to help new musicians train their ears.

As for the A=440 concert pitch - that was the result of the ‘Great Tone Shift’ in the 1750s when A was redefined up from about A=432 - up by about a semitone. The amazing thing about violins is that most seem to have survived the increased string pressure while keeping their tone - ie stradivarius and amati instruments. Why the tone shift? to get more sound out of fewer instruments (government cutbacks=smaller orchestras) - a familiar tale.

But that was also about the time of the introduction of the tempered scale which evened out the discrepancies between keys in the natural scales to make it easier to change keys without having to retune one’s harpsichord.

The so-called ‘natural’ diatonic scale is a product of physics - it’s what happens when you take the perceivable harmonic overtones and lay them out in sequence - where the overtones of a series of notes reinforce the wavelength of a given or key note you get a stronger sound - hence the strong positive sound of a major key - where all the harmonics line up. Play the same key note and certain notes that do not reinforce the tonic note and you get a weaker - minor key.