How to Tune a Violin - Master the Tools Until Your Ear Masters the Note

in Violin

Start with the props and tools; graduate to the ear. The principle applies to reaching and passing almost all the benchmarks in your violin career. At first, you will practice with a tutor or instruction book, learning scales, melodies, and arpeggios, gradually making them matters of muscle memory. As you advance, you will learn simple and chromatic scales in all the most common major and minor keys; then you will practice more purposefully, completing the exercises according to the demands of your ears.

Naturally, the principle applies most powerfully to tuning your violin.

At first, you should tune your instrument with a digital tuner, capitalizing on the machine's fascination and accuracy to get each of your strings just right, and then repeating the process to get your strings in harmony with one another. You will discover, though, as you become more adept at tuning and your ear grows more precise, ironically, you will become increasingly low tech. Working your way up the proficiency scale and down the ladder of technology, you will devolve from the digital tuner to the four-note pitch pipe. The pipe sets the tone for each string just like the machine did, but it will not hold you accountable to a straight line on a machine. Instead, it will challenge to match what you hear from the pipe with what you hear from the string, and your ears will determine the match's accuracy.

At first, tuning your violin probably will seem like the most boring, least productive time in your practice. But your school teachers probably have cautioned you about giving voice to your boredom, because it becomes reflexive: when you say something bores you, you say nothing about the object and everything about your failure to engage. This principle, too, applies powerfully to tuning your violin. Given the importance of learning to hear as you gain mastery of your instrument, if you settle for tuning as just a simple, technical exercise, you miss its point. Nothing contributes more to your hearing's accuracy than precisely tuning your violin. And you can measure your progress toward violin mastery by how well you tune your instrument: you qualify as an "intermediate" when, among other things, you perfectly tune your violin with a pitch-pipe.

At the next level, challenge yourself to tune your beloved four-stringed friend with just a tuning fork, the magical-musical "G"-tone resonating in your ear and then in your string. Of course, you match the string's tone to the fork's, and then you match each successive string to the fourth spot on the one before it. Each time you tune a string, do not just aspire to "yeah, that's pretty good," but push yourself actually to achieve a perfect match, learning to calibrate the fine tuning pegs as if the violin would blow up in your face if you could not do it perfectly.

Finally, when you become both skilled and consummately confident, tune your violin without the tools and props, plying your first string as if The Divine Muse of All Things Violin had set your brain and being to "G." Of course, common sense and the spirit of good ensemble play strongly recommend that you check your ear and the Muse's setting against the machine just for the sake of reassurance. You ought to find, however, the more you hear and internalize the purest "G"-tone, the more accurate your tuning-by-ear will become. And, "it shall follow as the nigh the day," that if you can tune by ear, you also can play by ear. In other words, your ability to tune and play by ear marks your crossing the first threshold of genuine violin mastery.

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Hailey Alton has 1 articles online

Hailey Alton is a violin performer, music lover and teacher. For more great tips on How to Tune a Violin please visit

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How to Tune a Violin - Master the Tools Until Your Ear Masters the Note

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This article was published on 2010/04/01