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Zlata Brouwer

How often should you tune your violin?

July 13, 2013 at 2:40 PM

A good violinist can play in tune on an untuned violin...

Tune your violin every time your practice... but don't be to rigid about playing on an untuned violin.

If you are performing, you can't tune your violin every 5 minutes. Your intonation should be flexible and your practice hours should prepare you on performance.

Please let me know what you think in the comments below!


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From Kevin Keating
Posted on July 14, 2013 at 2:58 AM
I practice every day, but I don't retune every day. If the strings are stable then the instrument is usually in tune or close to it when I open the case. I give it a strum across the strings. If it sounds good I go with it.
From Zlata Brouwer
Posted on July 14, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Of course Kevin, I agree with you! I should have said in the video: check the tuning every time you practice... of course if the violin is already in tune, you don't need to tune it. Thank for your comment! :)
From Kevin Keating
Posted on July 14, 2013 at 11:44 PM
I will say that with friction pegs, you really need to move the pegs regularly even if the instrument doesn't need tuning. This is especially important in the humid summer. Too many public school teachers have a habit of using the fine tuners so much that the pegs don't get moved often enough. I've switched to Knilling planetary pegs which makes tuning so much easier, so I don't have that problem at all any more. Well worth the cost. Honestly, in a perfect world, I'd like to see all student instruments equipped with planetary pegs.
From Jim Hastings
Posted on July 15, 2013 at 3:32 AM
I tune to A-440 at the start of each practice session, using a tuning fork or battery-powered tone. I find that consistent tuning helps, and I'm strict about adhering to 440. Once new strings have settled in, I can play on them more than an hour at a stretch without any drifting in pitch. Even so, I re-check fairly often during each session just to be sure.

I split my practice time among three fiddles -- about an hour per day on each instrument. All three have steel E strings. Two have wound gut for A-D-G; the third has composite cores.

I'm in the American Southeast, where there's a good deal of hot, humid weather. Even a little bit of air circulation makes a practice session much better. A compact floor fan on the low setting, about 20 feet from me, helps to keep perspiration from building up on my hands.

From Elyane de Fontenay
Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:52 AM
My old teacher would make me practice double stop scales with an out of tune violin. Good intonation practice.
From Royce Faina
Posted on July 15, 2013 at 3:15 PM
I know that there are days when having to contend with humidity or lack of that without the use of fine tuners there is no way I can get an absolute A-440, etc., and so have to rely on my ears as a pilot relies on his/her instruments flying in fog. The same with performing, I can't just stop 'every time' a string slips a tad flat or creeps a tad sharp but I have to have my violin tuned as close as I can or I will never get to "play" with accuracy at all.
From Paul Deck
Posted on July 15, 2013 at 6:30 PM
Very few players are good enough to compensate. All that will happen to us mere mortals is that our carefully practiced double stops are going to sound bad if our violins are out of tune.

One of the most frustrating that I see all the time at student recitals is watching the student on stage having trouble tuning his/her violin, getting frustrated because (s)he knows the audience is waiting, and then starting to play with his/her violin still out of tune. Students should spend five minutes a day just practicing tuning until they've got it, and they should have Wittner tailpieces with all four fine tuners built right in until they can tune quickly and reliably with the pegs. My daughter's first full size violin will be taken immediately to the luthier for gear pegs.

From Pavel Spacek
Posted on July 15, 2013 at 8:50 PM
I beg to differ. "A good violinist can play in tune on an untuned violin..."; yes, they can. They studied long enough to be able to.

But in case of beginners or students I think it is very important that the violin is in tune itself and that they hear the open strings and pure fifths in tune.

I tune at the beginning of the practice (the child is not ready for it yet, once she graduates to bigger size she will be instructed to do so), and after five-minute playing I retune again - the E string usually goes up a little and A string goes down a little (whether the reason is breathing, bow pressure I do not know); we are not talking about big changes, it is touching the fine tuner a little; another check after 20 minutes, after that the strings are stable for the whole time they are played. (The strings are not old, it is their normal behaviour). I am not bothered by fine tuning twice or three times during practice - it provides breaks.

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on July 16, 2013 at 7:20 PM
If I'm practising by myself I don't care so much about absolute tuning. As long as the instrument is in tune with itself it's OK. A quick stroke of the A and D strings together tells me whether they're in tune relative to each other - repeat on the D and G pair, then the A and E. My instrument is stable enough that usually only the E needs touching up; being steel it's somewhat sensitive to temperature. (If absolute tuning is important, I check the A against a tuner before doing the above procedure.)

As for double stops, my intonation isn't quite perfect; I'm still working on listening closely enough to figure out which finger to adjust, and that comes in handy if the violin is out of tune (which also gives me incentive to stay away from open strings).

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