How to Tune a Violin: A Step-By-Step Guide
If you’re new to learning violin, you might be intimidated by the thought of tuning your instrument for the first time. Don’t worry if tuning seems complicated at first. Trala teachers have taught thousands of beginner violinists to tune their instruments. With a good electronic tuner and a little bit of practice, you can be confident in your ability to tune your violin.
Our Trala experts have provided this detailed guide that covers the basics of violin tuning. We’ll go over how often you should tune your violin, steps to follow when tuning, and some tips to make the process a bit easier to help you get started.
If you’re already a Trala student, you have access to an in-app violin tuner that lets you quickly tune your violin at the start of every practice session.
To use it, open the Trala app and look for the violin tuner icon at the bottom of the homepage. Trala will listen as you bow or pluck open strings and tell you how to adjust the fine tuners of your violin (or tuning pegs if you’re really out of tune) to achieve the right note.
How often should the violin be tuned?
It’s always a good idea to tune your violin every time you take it out of the case. Violins are very delicate instruments and can easily go out of tune due to changes in temperature, humidity, or playing intensity.
Tuning your violin before each practice session or performance ensures you’ll produce the best possible sound and that you have an enjoyable playing experience. Plus, it helps you develop your ear for pitch and trains you to be more accurate when playing.
Understanding the 4 violin strings
The violin has four open strings: G, D, A, and E — as you will learn in your beginner violin lessons. Each string produces a different pitch and has its own unique sound.
- G string (lowest pitch): The thickest and lowest string on the violin. It produces a deep and rich sound.
- D string: The second thickest string and produces a warm, mellow sound.
- A string: The second thinnest string and produces a bright, vibrant sound.
- E string (highest pitch): The thinnest and highest string on the violin. It produces a clear, piercing, and bright sound.
Knowing the correct pitches for each string ensures that your violin produces the correct notes and creates a harmonious sound when playing. You’ll also be able to identify any discrepancies in your instrument’s intonation (pitch accuracy) and know when it needs to be adjusted.
Fine tuners vs. tuning pegs
It’s easy to get confused between the fine tuners and tuning pegs when you’re new to violin. The tuning pegs (housed by the pegbox) are used for larger adjustments in pitch, while the fine tuners (located near the tailpiece) are used for smaller adjustments.
If you’re new to tuning, your best route to success is to start out with the fine tuners and discuss with your teacher how to feel comfortable utilizing the pegs.
When using the tuning pegs, turn them gently, slowly, and inward toward the peg box to avoid breaking or unraveling your strings. You can use the fine tuners for finer adjustments, as they are more precise and easier to turn. Remember to always use your electronic tuner or a digital tuner (such as an online tuning app) to check your tuning before playing.
Violin tuning cheat sheet
Depending on the tuning tool you use and how high or low your violin strings are from the correct pitch, you may have to make different adjustments. When using a fine tuner to tune a low string, turn the fine tuner clockwise or to the right to make the pitch higher. If your string is too high, turn the fine tuner counterclockwise or to the left to lower the pitch.
When using tuning pegs to tune a low string, turn the pegs away from you for a higher pitch and towards you for a lower pitch. Use small, gentle turns until you reach the desired pitch.
How to tune a violin: 9 steps to follow
Theoretically, tuning a violin is simple — you make small adjustments to each of the four strings until they produce the correct pitch. However, it takes some practice and patience to get it just right. Follow this step-by-step guide to tune your violin with confidence and precision.
For more assistance, watch this video to learn how to tune your violin as a beginner:
1. Select the starting string
Take out your tuner or use Trala’s in-app violin tuner. Many orchestral violinists start by tuning the A string. Depending on your teacher, they may have you start by tuning your A string, or by tuning your E string. The E string is typically the easiest pitch to recognize without a tuner. If it’s already in tune, it can provide a reference point for the rest of the strings.
2. Adjust sharpness
Pluck or bow the string. If your tuner indicates that your string is slightly too high, or sharp, turn the fine tuner on that string to the left (counterclockwise) to loosen it slightly. You want to achieve the perfect string tension on your beginner student violin, so you must make small, gradual adjustments.
3. Use fine-tuners until in tune
Play or pluck your string and continue to adjust until your violin tuner indicates that you are in tune. You can play the first note of a well-known song (like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”) to check your pitch. Listen for any vibrations or wavering in the sound, which signals you are out of tune.
4. Correct flatness
If your tuner indicates that your string is slightly too low or flat, tighten it by turning your fine tuner to the right until you have reached the correct pitch. A flat note will sound dull and lack the vibrant, clear quality of a well-tuned string. As with the sharp notes, make small adjustments until you get it just right.
5. Use the peg box
If your string is looser and needs a bigger adjustment than the fine tuner allows for, use the pegs located by the top of the violin, or scroll. Tuning pegs allow you to make larger changes in pitch than fine tuners do. Use the peg that corresponds to the string you are tuning, turning it either away from you for a higher pitch or toward you for a lower pitch.
6. Assume the proper posture
If you’re standing, sit down. With the bright facing up and the tailpiece close to you, place your violin on one leg. Anchor your violin to your hip and securely hold the shoulder of your violin with the hand that will not be used for tuning.
Typically, the fine tuners are tuned with the dominant hand, and the hand used for pegs depends on the string being tuned. Right hand for E and A string, left hand for D and G string. Be sure to use the opposite hand as support.
7. Tighten the string with the peg
If your string is too low, it will need to be tightened. Slowly turn the peg away from you (clockwise), pushing the peg into the scroll of your violin as you turn. Pushing in while turning keeps tension on the strings and prevents them from slipping. This is a slow, incremental motion. Remember, never crank the pegs of your violin, or you’ll break your string.
8. Perform a final tuning with the fine tuners
Stop to play or pluck the string. When your violin tuner indicates that your string is nearly in tune, stop turning the peg and firmly push it into the scroll of your violin to secure the string. Finish tuning by using the fine tuner until you’ve reached the desired pitch. Be careful not to over-tighten your strings, as this can result in breakage.
9. Repeat for other strings
Repeat the tuning process with the rest of your strings in this order: A string, D string, G string. Remember to check your pitch often and use small, gentle adjustments for the most accurate tuning. Once all four strings on your new violin are in tune, you’re ready to play.
Tips for tuning your violin
Your violin strings will naturally go out of tune frequently, so it’s important to develop a good ear and to check your pitch often. Here are a few tips to help you tune your violin with ease.
Use a reliable tuner
You need a good-quality tuner or a reliable tuner app to help you accurately tune your violin. It makes the process smoother and ensures accuracy. Trala’s in-app violin tuner is a great option for beginners due to its user-friendly interface and accurate tuning. However, there are other options available, like the chromatic tuner, clip-on tuner, and pitch pipes. Test out different options to find what works best for you.
Prioritize using the fine tuners to avoid string breakage
It’s important to only use the tuning pegs when necessary, as they put a lot of tension on the strings and can cause them to break if overused. Fine tuners make small, precise adjustments and are much gentler on your violin strings. This will help prolong the life of your strings and prevent unnecessary expenses.
Push the peg inward while turning it to prevent slipping
When using the peg box to tune your violin, it’s important to push the peg inward towards the scroll as you turn it. This helps keep tension on the string and prevents it from slipping, which can throw off your tuning. It also helps to stabilize the peg and makes it easier to turn. Keep your fingers pressed against the string as you turn the peg, and use small, incremental turns for the most accurate tuning.
If you’re having trouble with your pegs slipping, watch this video to troubleshoot common violin tuning problems:
Double-check your tuning after tuning the final string
It’s easy to make small adjustments to one string and unintentionally throw off the tuning of another. To avoid this, it’s important to double-check your tuning after tuning the final string.
Play a few notes or pluck the strings to test the overall tuning of your violin. If any strings sound off, fine-tune them until they are in sync with the rest of your strings. This extra step ensures that your instrument is in perfect tune and ready to play beautiful music.
Begin your violin learning journey with Trala
If you tune your violin every time you practice, stick to a regular practice schedule, and keep your violin away from excessive cold, heat, and humidity, you’ll notice that your strings will stay in tune for longer. Most of the time, your violin will only need minor adjustments to get in tune.
However, as a beginner, it can be challenging to learn how to tune your violin accurately. That’s why Trala offers online violin lessons led by expert violin teachers who will guide you through the tuning process, provide tips and tricks, and help you develop a good ear for tuning.
Start your violin mastery journey with Trala and discover the joy of playing in perfect tune. Take your first lesson today.