V.com weekend vote: What do you use to tune your violin?

November 24, 2017, 3:36 PM · A violin, by nature, loses its pitch pretty fast, due to changing variables such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, etc. That means we are constantly tuning our instruments.

tuning

Unless you are tuning in orchestra or have perfect pitch, you'll need to compare your pitch with a reliable outside source, such as a chromatic tuner, keyboard or tuning fork, in order to keep your violin or other stringed instrument in the proper pitch realm.

When you aren't in orchestra, tuning to the oboe's A, how do you find your pitch for tuning? What is your go-to source for comparision? Also, have you changed what you use, over the course of time?

In this vote, I confess that I'm not even including the item I started out using in my early days - a pitch pipe! (Does anyone still use those?) These days I use the chromatic tuner so that I can choose whether to be at 440, 441 or 442. How about you?

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Replies

November 24, 2017 at 11:21 PM · I use an app in my iPhone, but I still greatly value my A-440 tuning fork mounted on a wooden resonator box. When my A string is accurately in tune the fork will respond sympathetically and ring loudly from thirty or forty feet away. So at any time I can check my A string tuning just by listening for the fork ringing. The sympathetic response is very sensitive too. For the fork to respond strongly the string tuning has to be pretty much dead on, within about a cent.

November 24, 2017 at 11:35 PM · I use either A-440 tuning fork or electronic A-440 tone on a battery-powered metronome.

I'm sure this varies among players and string setups, but I'm amazed at how stable the pitch is once the strings are well broken in. With strict, consistent tuning, my instruments stay remarkably in tune, even with all the hot, humid weather of the American Southeast. Even the wound-gut A-D-G, which I have on one fiddle, are doing great at holding their pitch.

November 25, 2017 at 12:47 AM · Either a piano or perfect pitch.

(I've only really memorized the pitch of open strings, at A-440.)

November 25, 2017 at 01:02 AM · When I pull out my instrument and tune it, I decide if the A is within the acceptable realm of pitch range with my own brain. When playing in ensembles, I either tune to a piano or another instrument.

November 25, 2017 at 01:19 AM · I rarely need to tune since I started using Evah Pirazzi gold, but when I do, I use an app or my electronic metronome/tuner. I have perfect pitch, but I don't trust it...

November 25, 2017 at 03:09 AM · When I was at school, I could set the oscilloscope needle to 440Hz without seeing the dial. Absolute pitch was fine then, although I never got to the stage when I could say I had TWO absolute pitches, like what Theresa Finzi said she had after playing Baroque for a month.

Nowadays I can barely hear the difference between YouTube A440 and YouTube A442. More seriously, I hear something in A-flat and think it's in A - My absolute pitch HAS deteriorated! Oops!

November 25, 2017 at 03:55 AM · I certainly don't have perfect pitch, but I've managed to develop good relative pitch when I'm playing regularly, enough that I can usually hit A-440 right on when tuning by ear. I always re-check it with a fork, though -- know enough never to trust my ear alone.

November 25, 2017 at 04:38 AM · I tend to just use my ears alone, even for the A, and check each string against each other.

November 25, 2017 at 09:02 AM · Use addario violiin tuner mounted on fiddle. Some venues are too noisy to tune by ear.

November 25, 2017 at 12:35 PM · My violins is very stable at home. I still keep a tuning fork in my case, it's really best for 440. Need a clip tuner for my viola for orchestra though. Much harder to hear there.

November 25, 2017 at 12:57 PM · a tuba . ;.]

November 25, 2017 at 03:07 PM · Unless I am very tired, I have A-440 in my ear. I like the sound quality of a tuning fork much better than any elec A, so only use apps when I need a 415 to practice Baroque.

November 25, 2017 at 06:31 PM · I voted for an App (I have p!usadd Tuner PT-2 which I like because I can set it to just intonation), but also recently got a little D'Addario chromatic tuner which I can use in noisy environments (it has a contact mic), and in a pinch can rely on my pretty accurate relative pitch (I have 440A memorized but if I've been listening to either baroque or bagpipe music my brain can get confused)

November 25, 2017 at 06:59 PM · My first private teacher, a symphony player, after I'd studied with him a couple years, posed 'dilemmas' that occur regularly in his venue...someone opens the door> Temp and humidity change, the coloratura goes off a whole step high during her cadenza, a string breaks/peg slips...and other unforeseens that effect your playing....can't stop in the middle of a performance...so we'd play our Mazas duets without tuning...or he'd change the standard pitches in his part, for me to chase and adjust...it was good training....and once during a performance, I broke an A string and as I was playing 2nd violin part, the adjustments were't too difficult, but I didn't fold and pout.....sort of like learning to drive a car...Ya' gotta back down, swallow pride and remember that it's better than an accident on the road or on the stage.

November 25, 2017 at 08:07 PM · Mostly use a chromatic tuner by Sabine. I have used a Korg and my phone app, but not really sure I like them too much. I'm going to try a tuning fork, as soon as it gets here.

November 25, 2017 at 08:22 PM · A chromatic tuner mostly. I have a Sabine and a Korg. I've ordered a tuning fork to see how that will work. I think I'd like something that doesn't take a battery.

edit: feel free to get me a baby grand, you'll have to bring it in the patio doors though :)

November 25, 2017 at 08:45 PM · I have a Korg chromatic tuner, but I'm trying to a) break some of my reliance on the dial, b) train my ear, so I'm using the drone tones it will generate to tune. At the moment, I'm at the stage where I still have to use all 4 tones (A 440, D, G, C) to tune my viola, and then check I got it right using the dial.

Next step will be to tune to the A pitch and then match the other 3 strings without the use of the tuner/tones at all. Given my cloth ears, that might be a while off.

Like Jim Hastings and others, my viola's tuning is very stable in the warm, humid weather we have at the moment.

November 25, 2017 at 09:19 PM · Before I volunteered to assist with the local Youth Orchestra I used a tuning fork which I struck and touched the bridge and checked for the sympathetic vibration of the A string. However, since I don't have perfect pitch and now tune 40+ instruments in a noisy music room I find the chromatic tuner a real gift - I even use it in my own studio because it is easier and faster. I guess I'm getting lazy in my old age.

November 26, 2017 at 12:52 AM · Actually I use a chromatic tune or an app on my phone, or a keyboard or a piano, depending on where or with whom I am playing. Sometimes I just use the tuner for the A, and tune the rest by listening for the 5ths. I don't have a tuning fork on a stand, so I don't use a tuning fork for the violin - but when playing the guitar I often use the tuning fork. If teaching and I need to tune quickly and with the student instrument and mine being the same, I use the chromatic tuner or the app (really like the app on my phone). I don't trust my "A" - and beside - technical there is no such thing as perfect pitch - may have the A-440 in my ear, but not the piano A-442, 444 or - 437 depending on when last tuned. (Or the A on my friend's accordion which is not 440.)

November 26, 2017 at 06:31 AM · I almost always use a tuning fork, my sense of A 440 is generally good, but sometimes gets a little sharp, so using the tuning fork is safer.

November 26, 2017 at 10:20 AM · Here in Europe we play orchestra and chamber music mostly in 443 or 442 Hz. Electronic tuners are best suited, I would not fiddle around with multiple forks. I tune with my Korg tuner the A, the other strings by ear. My Tomastik Vision Solo strings hold the pitch very well. Only in a few cases I need to adjust on stage or in the rehearsal room in the whole section.

November 26, 2017 at 11:02 AM · I used a tuning fork but switched to an app: gstring. It works fine, but then I became aware that I was not tuning a violin but measuring frequencies. The quality of my listening was not as great as with the

fork. So, I switched again to the fork. Sometimes I use an App: VocalPitchMonitor to "tune" my scale practice.

Herman

November 26, 2017 at 02:56 PM · There is a D'Addario tuner that clips on to the upper bout right next tto the bass side of the neck. You can see it out of the corner of your eye. They are great and an intonation aid as well.

November 26, 2017 at 03:17 PM · Somewhere in the house I have an old pitch pipe (E-A-D-G) that belonged to my Mother (so that dates it to the early 1920s), but I don't use it because it is slightly under concert pitch and the lower 5ths aren't accurate.

In orchestra I tune to the oboe, but otherwise from a tuning fork - no electronics to go awry, no batteries to fade, and it is 100% reliable. The important thing for the tuning fork to be effective is the accuracy of the user's ear.

November 26, 2017 at 11:08 PM · Usually I play at home alone, where I tune with a Tascam PT-7 set to a Pythagorean scale calibrated to a 415 A. I buy mostly 17th century sheet music and the most modern classical stuff I play is some Haydn and Handel sonatas. But a couple times a year I take my violin to a family event where I play duets with my guitarist brother. Such as a few days ago when we went through a bunch of Christmas carols. Then I try to tune from his guitar but often I suspect he's off so I use my pitch pipe and make him tune at least some according to my 4 strings. The Tascam would easily re-calibrate to 440 but since it doesn't fit in my violin case I learned to enjoy the old-fashioned pitch-pipe and close listening.

November 27, 2017 at 02:06 AM · I use my app, mostly. But when I feel like challenging myself and using my ears I'll use my A=440 tuning fork. It's actually closer to A=441 right now because you can't fight mother nature.... but hey.

November 27, 2017 at 04:33 PM · I started out with a pitch pipe too! I had forgotten about those. They were cute.

I voted for chromatic tuner because that's what I use most often, but I have an A440 tuning fork that I also use sometimes, especially when I'm out and about. It's smaller and fits in my case more easily than the tuner, and it doesn't need batteries.

November 28, 2017 at 02:53 AM · Michael...If it's sharp just warm it up a bit and it will likely drop back to 440. Carry it in your pants pocket or place it under your arm for a bit.

November 28, 2017 at 06:07 PM · I use a chromatic tuner because the A's are so different, depending on what I'm doing. Most orchestras in the area are 442, but churches might be 440. The church where my Suzuki group holds lessons has a piano that's 441. Then my students tend to tune to 440 at school - do I really tune them to 442, just for their lessons? I'd love to just keep it at a steady 442, but it does not seem possible! So at least, with the chromatic tuner, I can get my violin into the right pitch realm for any given situation.

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