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Tearing my hair out over tuning! HELP!!


Wanda
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Hi

I'm having great troubles tuning my violin with my chromatic tuner. If I tune my A to the green light (the one in the middle of the ten or so red lights), it sounds flat. And then when I get to my lesson my teacher will always have to sharpen it a lot. Is it the tuner that is faulty or something? I've had this thing over two years and I did give up on it a while ago, but now I find that unless my fiddle is in exact tune I can't play a thing properly. It is extremely offputting, and I look forward to my lesson each week for the big reason that I know that at least for the next few days (weather being stable) I am playing with a violin which is in tune.

The tuner is a Yamaha (haven't got the model details) and I'm ready to throw it in the garbage. The strings are Dominants.

How long until I can tune this damned thing by ear? (I've been playing 3 years.) I can hear when it's wrong, and I can hear when it's right. I just can't seem to bridge the gap and make the wrongs right. (Yeah, two wrongs don't make a right, but two Wrights made an aeroplane.) Would be interested in people's experiences: at what stage did you feel it becoming easy/easier to tune your fiddle.

Any advice is more than welcome.

Wanda

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Hello, Wanda,

I can't wait to hear what the "experts" think, but I DID throw out the one I used when I played the guitar(don't even remember the brand) and returned to a tuning fork. If you've been playing a few years, and are still having trouble, here are a couple of things to check out:

1. Can you detect the "wow-wow" (sum-and-difference frequencies) between a reference tone (sine wave from a tuner or pitch from a fork) and the string you're listening to?

2. Can you detect perfect fifths when you draw the bow across adjacent open strings, regardless of whether either of them is at exactly the correct pitch?

If the answer to either of these questions is "no", you need to have a talk with your teacher. It may be that reliance on the electronic tuner is impeding the training of your musical ear. Try comparing your A string with a tuning fork in your teacher's presence and find out how close you come. The reason I suggest using the tuning fork is that it is a vibrating mechanical system, like a string. I wouldn't like to argue about it with an engineer, but I think it's easier to compare a string to this reference than to a sine wave--easier to hear the difference. (By the way, these forks are very accurate--a family member fed my 25 year old tuning fork's output through a transducer to a signal analyzer and found it it centered exactly on 440 Hz., even though it contained some harmonics.)

Regards,

Mark W.

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Hi Wanda,

I began playing violin at age 14, and actually I have never used an electronic tuner. In the beginning it was hard, and so I sometimes tuned to a piano, but shortly after I started learning to tune with a metronome (with an A) and now I use a tuning fork. I actually tried using an electronic tuner once, but I found it really frustrating, and in fact I trust my own ear more anyway.

You mentioned that you can hear when a note is wrong and you can hear when it is right, but if it is wrong you don't know how to bridge the gap until it is right.

The way I was always taught to do it is that if I hear that a string is just slightly off (and if it is only a tiny bit off, it is hard to figure out if it's sharp or flat), then turn your peg until it is REALLY flat and then *slowly* turn it up again until you arrive at the right pitch. If you realize that you have gone beyond the correct pitch, turn the string flat again and repeat. This way you always know which direction to tune your string. One prerequisite for this is to have good pegs that turn smoothly and don't slip. (My teacher recommends rubbing a tiny bit of chalk on the pegs if they slip, and there is something called "peg compound" (mine looks kind of like a lipstick) that you can rub on your peg if it is too hard to turn.

As with everything else, learning how to tune accurately and quickly takes practice. I think that the way to learn is to just force yourself to tune up without depending on an electronic tuner. Your ear will gradually improve and it will get easier and easier.

Best wishes,

Irene

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Hello A. Brown

I have followed the discussion over the years and had hoped that with the passage of time I would learn. But I don't appear to be getting very far.

I have fine tuners on all strings, so the actual mechanics of doing it isn't the problem. What I don't understand, and what hasn't been explained in all the posts, is how my A tuning fork tunes exactly to the "green" on the electronic tuner, but when my violin tunes exactly to the green light it sounds flat. How can this be so?

I think once this is solved, I'll go a long way to being able to tune by ear (using the A fork as my reference point).

I have access to a piano and electronic keyboard, but hate tuning to them. I hear what is said about having to tune to different reference points, depending on who/what you're playing with, and that causes grief too. I just feel like my violin has only the one way of being in tune and sounding good: *it's* way!

I will grill my teacher again on this point.

Hey, maybe it's time to trade up :-)

Thanks.

Wanda

: Hello Wanda,

: There have been various discussions of tuning on this board. Do a search in the archives. Here is a link to one of the discussions.

: A. Brown

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Two things might make a difference. One is the overtone series on the violin-- if not in adjustment, or with false strings, you might be getting false signals somewhere. So, change strings and have a good technician look at the setup.

The other thing is that loud noises tend to sound flat. If you play the violin next to your ear, it will sound flatter than one played 20 feet away. This is one reason that violinists love to go sharp, and even egg each other on in orchestral sections.

Remedy: tune softly, and/or use an earplug in the left ear.

: Hello A. Brown

: I have followed the discussion over the years and had hoped that with the passage of time I would learn. But I don't appear to be getting very far.

: I have fine tuners on all strings, so the actual mechanics of doing it isn't the problem. What I don't understand, and what hasn't been explained in all the posts, is how my A tuning fork tunes exactly to the "green" on the electronic tuner, but when my violin tunes exactly to the green light it sounds flat. How can this be so?

: I think once this is solved, I'll go a long way to being able to tune by ear (using the A fork as my reference point).

: I have access to a piano and electronic keyboard, but hate tuning to them. I hear what is said about having to tune to different reference points, depending on who/what you're playing with, and that causes grief too. I just feel like my violin has only the one way of being in tune and sounding good: *it's* way!

: I will grill my teacher again on this point.

: Hey, maybe it's time to trade up :-)

: Thanks.

: Wanda

: : Hello Wanda,

: : There have been various discussions of tuning on this board. Do a search in the archives. Here is a link to one of the discussions.

: : A. Brown

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Tuning forks are great if you are clever and

coordinated at the same time. I"m not. I have tried

to use one, and they're great if you're well advanced.

but I'm not.

I think you need a different tuner! If when you

tune it "right" it's still not right (and YOU

can tell, you said it yourself,)

Get a different tuner and throw that one away.

I use a tuner, and as the years have gone by, I find

my ear is getting better. There IS hope. but get

another tuner. and continue playing and growing.

I know Hammond Ashley sells some

for about $20, and they work great, have a bright

display that even Old eyes can see just fine!

(you can call them at 1-800-stringbass)

or go to their web site and email them

good luck to you!

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Hi Wanda,

I'd recommend getting a metronome with a (loud) A-440 reference pitch and tuning your A with it. You can use this reference tone to see if your tuner is out of tune and then return it as defective, calibrate it, or throw it out. A metronome is very useful to have anyway.

As for bridging the gap between an out-of-tune note and an in-tune reference pitch, I'd suggest going slightly flat and then tuning up to the desired pitch. You will hear a wavering tone (a wah-wah-wah sound) if the pitch is out of tune, and this wavering will get slower as you approach the correct pitch (it will stop completely when you're dead on pitch). The wavering sound (called "beats") is quite subtle and you will have to listen carefully for it, but once you hear it the whole tuning process will become fairly straightforward.

Good luck,

Victor

: Hi

: I'm having great troubles tuning my violin with my chromatic tuner. If I tune my A to the green light (the one in the middle of the ten or so red lights), it sounds flat. And then when I get to my lesson my teacher will always have to sharpen it a lot. Is it the tuner that is faulty or something? I've had this thing over two years and I did give up on it a while ago, but now I find that unless my fiddle is in exact tune I can't play a thing properly. It is extremely offputting, and I look forward to my lesson each week for the big reason that I know that at least for the next few days (weather being stable) I am playing with a violin which is in tune.

: The tuner is a Yamaha (haven't got the model details) and I'm ready to throw it in the garbage. The strings are Dominants.

: How long until I can tune this damned thing by ear? (I've been playing 3 years.) I can hear when it's wrong, and I can hear when it's right. I just can't seem to bridge the gap and make the wrongs right. (Yeah, two wrongs don't make a right, but two Wrights made an aeroplane.) Would be interested in people's experiences: at what stage did you feel it becoming easy/easier to tune your fiddle.

: Any advice is more than welcome.

: Wanda

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My teacher had never listened for beats nor knew anything about them when I first started taking lessons with her. She was amazed at how accurately I could tune a violin using them. I think some musicians out there struggle with tuning instruments all their lives because they miss out on this excellent tuning secret.

Victor

: 1. Can you detect the "wow-wow" (sum-and-difference frequencies) between a reference tone (sine wave from a tuner or pitch from a fork) and the string you're listening to?

: 2. Can you detect perfect fifths when you draw the bow across adjacent open strings, regardless of whether either of them is at exactly the correct pitch?

: If the answer to either of these questions is "no", you need to have a talk with your teacher.

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Tuning forks do take a bit more coordination. Make sure yours is a good one with a long decay time. Cheap forks, or those that have been dropped, are suspect. The sound from a good one should persist for several seconds before decaying to inaudibility. This should be enough time to pluck the A-string and listen for the distinctive "wow-wow" of the beat frequencies. As explained in the other post, these will become slower and slower as correct pitch is approached. It may take two or three tries, backing off the A-peg and bringing it back up, to hit the right pitch. Incidentally, I'd only recommend using a fine tuner if you are using steel strings. A properly fitting A-peg (one that doesn't slip or bind) is your friend and will serve you well.

Good luck!

Mark W.

: Tuning forks are great if you are clever and

: coordinated at the same time. I"m not. I have tried

: to use one, and they're great if you're well advanced.

: but I'm not.

: I think you need a different tuner! If when you

: tune it "right" it's still not right (and YOU

: can tell, you said it yourself,)

: Get a different tuner and throw that one away.

: I use a tuner, and as the years have gone by, I find

: my ear is getting better. There IS hope. but get

: another tuner. and continue playing and growing.

:

: I know Hammond Ashley sells some

: for about $20, and they work great, have a bright

: display that even Old eyes can see just fine!

: (you can call them at 1-800-stringbass)

: or go to their web site and email them

:

: good luck to you!

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I forgot to mention this one in my last message, but plucking the string you want to tune is better than bowing it (for beginners, anyway) because the bow affects slightly the pitch of a note being played (even on open strings). I tune the A string on my violin by plucking the string and adjusting the peg while the reference pitch is playing. Beats will probably be harder to hear in this situation, but at least the beats will be more consistent.

Victor

: Hi

: I'm having great troubles tuning my violin with my chromatic tuner. If I tune my A to the green light (the one in the middle of the ten or so red lights), it sounds flat. And then when I get to my lesson my teacher will always have to sharpen it a lot. Is it the tuner that is faulty or something? I've had this thing over two years and I did give up on it a while ago, but now I find that unless my fiddle is in exact tune I can't play a thing properly. It is extremely offputting, and I look forward to my lesson each week for the big reason that I know that at least for the next few days (weather being stable) I am playing with a violin which is in tune.

: The tuner is a Yamaha (haven't got the model details) and I'm ready to throw it in the garbage. The strings are Dominants.

: How long until I can tune this damned thing by ear? (I've been playing 3 years.) I can hear when it's wrong, and I can hear when it's right. I just can't seem to bridge the gap and make the wrongs right. (Yeah, two wrongs don't make a right, but two Wrights made an aeroplane.) Would be interested in people's experiences: at what stage did you feel it becoming easy/easier to tune your fiddle.

: Any advice is more than welcome.

: Wanda

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Thanks to all who responded.

Is it possible that a violin can prefer to tune to A442 rather than 440? At 440 it sounds dull, at 442 it comes to life. In ensemble I always need to bring it down to match their A's, but I can hear my violin playing flat and it sounds awful to me.

One of those things I guess: I may not know much, but I know what I like!

Wanda

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Um, actually I've learn NOT to tune by plucking, precisely because most of the time you're playing with the bow and therefore should tune with the bow. If you tune by plucking, wouldn't the intonation be slightly off when you actually play with the bow?

I guess if one is skillful enough, he could adjust his fingers during playing to make sure whatever tuning condition the string is in, the notes are still played in-tune. That also serves as a good argument for a light warm-up (not too much or else the instrument would become out-of-tune sooner) before the actual performance to "get your fingers in tune" so to speak.

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