In the past, a tuning fork or whistle was part of the basic equipment of a well-assorted violin case. Today, these charming aids have become rare – more and more musicians tune their violins with electronic devices, be it a small clip-on or an impressive chromatic tuner, which only holds itself with difficulty on the music stand. Here we give you an overview, which violin tuning aids are interesting for you – and whether it is a good (and cheaper) alternative to tune the violin online.
- General information about tuning a violin
- Tuning a violin using a tuning fork or a tuning whistle
- Tuning a violin after the piano or other instruments
- Chromatic tuners for the violin
- Tuners with metronome: The all-rounder
- Online tuners and apps for violin
- Result: Better online or analog tuning?
General information about tuning a violin
You have probably already found out that you tune a violin by turning the pegs or the fine tuners and changing their pitch with the tension of the strings. Rule of thumb: Turning it counterclockwise increases the pitch, turning it clockwise decreases it.
Feel free to ask any question about the details in the comments. There is also a discussion about problems with tuning the violin here – and about the advantages of fine tuners.
Basically, “violin tuning” means two things:
- The adjustment of the pitch of the strings to the corresponding tones on another instrument or to a generally valid reference tone (chamber tone) or
- the adjustment of the strings to each other, so that the intervals are “correct”.
How to hear the correct intervals is an exciting topic on which we will write more on occasion. And the big mystery, why you start with the A-string when tuning, will also be explained in the following article.
Here the only question to occupy us is:
Where do I get the right tone from to tune my violin?
Tuning a violin using a tuning fork or a tuning whistle
If you don’t have absolute hearing, you need a tool with which you can recall at least the note a (chamber note) – to tune the a string after it and then tune the other strings to match it. Admittedly, this method is demanding, especially for beginners. How easy it is for you depends, among other things, on your previous musical experience. If you have sung a lot, played music or listened to music, your hearing will be better able to determine whether two notes are equal and whether the intervals of the other strings are correct or not.
A tuning fork is the classic tool to “get an a”. Most commercially available tuning forks produce a clear a with a frequency of 440 Hz, which is the chamber pitch common today. Of course, there are also tuning forks for other frequencies, which you can get in specialized shops. The same is true for the tuning pitch .
Like the tuning whistle, the tuning fork has some advantages: It works without power supply and internet access and fits easily into any violin case – but as already mentioned you have to be able to transmit the individual tone correctly to your violin and then tune the other strings accordingly.
Tuning a violin after the piano or other instruments
This method basically works just like tuning by tuning fork or whistle: you take an a from another instrument that is – hopefully – perfectly tuned. If you have a piano at home, you can tune your violin according to it – or according to the violin of your concert master, chamber music partner, accompanying piano or guitar.
Chromatic tuners for the violin
Beyond these analog classics there are today electronic tuners in large numbers, which facilitate or completely relieve you of the complicated hearing work. These devices have a sound recording system that records the tones of the empty strings of your violin and compares them with reference values. A display will show you whether the tuning is too high or too low.
Some tuners are equipped with a classic microphone , others are clamped to the body, to a swivel or to the scroll and record the vibrations of the instrument directly via piezo transducers . Of course, these tuners have the advantage that they deliver good measurement results even if a symphony orchestra is tuning around you. A microphone can have problems.
By the way: Electronic tuners are called “chromatic” when you can tune any note with them – not only preset values, which you need e.g. for the violin or the guitar. Most electronic tuners available are chromatic tuners.
Tuners with metronome: The all-rounder
A metronome, which emits acoustic or optical signals depending on the model, belongs to the special equipment of many chromatic tuners. It is worth thinking about this feature if you want to buy a tuner.
Online tuners and apps for violin
On many websites you will find nice help for tuning, e.g. in the form of reference pages where you can call up the tones of the individual strings online. Real online tuners, which record and adjust the live sound of your instrument via the computer microphone, are available e.g. at musicol.de or flutetunes.com – both of these tools work quite well, whereby the result of course always depends on the quality of your audio technology.
Last but not least: Since even musicians are rarely to be found without a smartphone, there are of course different apps with tuners for the violin, which also often contain a metronome function. In the App-Store or Play-Store you can find free and chargeable offers online – what are your experiences with these tools, which ones can we test for you?
Result: Better online or analog tuning?
This question cannot be answered in general terms, but depends on a number of factors, e.g.:
- Are you a beginner and still having trouble adjusting tones and listening to intervals? Then the classical methods tuning fork and tuning whistle or tuning to another instrument offer first-class practice possibilities! Take the trouble and you will soon be able to do so.
- For more hectic moments you can still use electronic tuning aids, online or offline.
- Would you tune your violin in a noisy environment? Then an electronic tuner is helpful – without microphone, with direct pickup of vibrations.
- Would you like to have a tuning aid that takes up little space and does not require any power supply? Then it is best to use a tuning fork or a tuning whistle.
- Would you like to have additional features like a metronome? Then buy an appropriately equipped chromatic tuner, or download an app to your smartphone.