Anyone who has ever started with a violin, viola, cello, or bass will know, tuning is an essential and ongoing process. Unfortunately, many new players are not taught how to tune an instrument, and are instead left reliant on a teacher or instrument repair person to help. Fortunately, tuning a stringed instrument is not that difficult, and this article will explain in three simple steps how to do it.
Step One: Identify Your Strings
Depending on which type of stringed instrument you are playing, the names of the strings may be a little different. For each instrument listed below, the strings are described in order from thickest to thinnest (left to right if the instrument is facing you). They are:
Step Two: Get Your Pitch
Now that you have identified each string, you need to find the correct pitch to match that string name. The easiest way to do this is by using a tuner. These are usually electronic devices that either clip onto your instrument or sit on a table or stand, hear the pitch played on the instrument, then indicate whether that note is sharp or flat. Alternatively, you can use a reference source, like a well-tuned piano, a tuning fork, or another instrument. This will require you to tune “by ear,” meaning you will have to listen to the note carefully and adjust the string until the “wobbling” sounds stop and the note resonates perfectly with the reference tone.
Step Three: Tune Your Instrument
This is accomplished by turning the black tuning pegs found at the top of the instrument. Some instruments also have small screws where the strings pass through the tailpiece called “fine tuners.” Most find it easiest to first loosen the string so that it plays a note that is a bit flat, then to slowly tighten the string until it is close to the right pitch. Remember, the tuning pegs are only held in place by friction, so you will normally need to pull them out slightly to loosen them, then push them in to hold them in place. Try to do this as one fluid motion to avoid losing the tuning or having the peg pop free later.
Once the note is close to the right pitch, you can use the fine tuners (if your instrument has them) to carefully adjust the instrument with more precision than the pegs usually afford you. If the tuner is getting close to being screwed all the way in, it is probably a wise idea to loosen it, use the peg first, then tighten the fine tuner to get the precise pitch.
That’s it. Tuning is not a difficult process and it is something you will undoubtedly do countless times with any instrument. Of course, if you need any assistance with the process of tuning your violin, viola, cello, or bass, Atlantic Strings would be happy to assist you, free of charge. Just bring the instrument to one of our locations and we will be happy to assist you.