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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: What do you use to tune your violin?

May 18, 2013 at 5:09 AM

What do you use to tune your fiddle, when you have no orchestral oboist around?

From Patrick Tinney
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 5:32 AM
I selected Chromatic tuner and mostly I do use a couple of different ones. I also occasionally us one of three or four on my iPhone.

I do have a tendency to use the apps for the guitars since I have little time for them, though I do enjoy the time I do have.

With the violin there is a ritual. As I set up my stand I get either the combo tuner / metronome or I will get my loud tuner and loud metronome, depending on mood or what I am going to work on. I say loud because both will produce a tone and I use those for drones.

Next I get my bow and violin and being tuning, open string work, left hand warm up then move on to the rest.

I am trying to move to a tuning fork for just the A but have not completely made the transition. I haven't quite figured out how to hold the fork, the bow and pegs all at once. I do think the ear is a bit better than the electronic devices.

From John Cadd
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM
How perverse it is that by tuning the A with the bow ,rather than plucking, you have use a peg on the awkward side of the scroll. Plucking the string drags in a tiny complication in the note sound.It changes as the harmonics of the note die away .Bowing gives a consistent frequency .
I use a Seiko A note built into a metronome. It has an awful sound. You would never sell a violin that sounded like that. Comparing notes with different tone qualities can be a nuisance.Piano tone is better than electronic for comparison.
Just out of curiosity I switched off the Motorcycle GP on tv sound and checked on youtube ----"A 440 note".
Before it played I imagined an orchestra tuning up with the strings and the oboe.Then imagined a piano with A .The youtube tone is a dull electronic sound but it was spot on with the note I imagined. First time I ever tried that . I did not think it mattered if my ear was a bit out. Oh no , now I will have to brag about it all the time .
From marjory lange
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 12:37 PM
I have a chromatic tuner, but I use a tuning fork. The sound is purer, easier to hear.
From David Beck
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 1:03 PM
Have I perfect pitch ? No way !! But through years of experience I seem to be able to hit "A" quite accurately now. Indeed, after volunteering to learn the oboe for an amateur group, when I am asked to give the "A" the electronic device proffered by the flautist to my right will confirm my pitch at once by giving the green light - no messing about.
I cannot pick any other note out of the air !!
That's the result of 4 decades (or Beckades ?) toiling with my violin in orchestras.
From Nicky Paxton
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 1:06 PM
I voted app because, though I have a chromatic tuner, I usually tune off the internet by just typing 'violin tuner' into the search engine. The only difficulty I have is that, if the note is loud, that can make it hard to distinguish between a violin string being just a tiny fraction flat and just a tiny fraction sharp. Some time ago another v.commer put me wise to the presence online of metronomes as well as online violin tuners, which was thoughtful of him.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 3:09 PM
Whew, I was almost afraid to click the "chromatic tuner" choice and press "vote," for fear there would be an ambush on the other side of "DON'T EVER USE THE CHROMATIC TUNER." Well. Maybe if the question was, "Your Aing aside, how do you tune the rest?"

You will never get me to believe a chromatic tuner is an evil thing. I'm sure I use mine "too much" for the purists, but the small difference on an adult beginner (alas, that will forever be my status. I understand this about myself and I accept it) is worth it. Without checking myself from time to time, my F# gets so very sharp in the key of D and G major. And my C-nat gets sharp when I'm in C-major. I use my ear as I play, but the chromatic tuner is that good friend who tells you you've got a piece of spinach stuck on your tooth.

Ah, friends forever...

From Gregory Lewis
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 3:57 PM
Perfect Pitch :) And nobody ever trusts me when I tune until they pull out a tuner. Then the joke is on them. Lol
From Benedict Gomez
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 4:12 PM
I'm pretty anal so I use an app. I like to see the 440hz light up.
From Scott Cole
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 4:54 PM
Since my students have orchestra on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and since their teacher tunes their violin, I just wait till Tuesday then and take their A.

However, don't ask me how the teacher tunes. It's possible she knows I teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays and takes the A from my student on Thursdays.

From Juan Manuel Ruiz
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 7:45 PM
I use an electronic tuner to get the A at 441 Hz, then I use my ear to tune the 3 perfect fifths. I don't have much trouble with intervals, but sometimes I find it hard to get the exact frequency of the A with my ear. I tend to go slightly flat.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Terez, chromatic tuner is the top choice, so we must have a lot of company (I also chose that).

I used to use a tuning fork but I had the same problem of trying to hold it so I could hear it and turn the peg of the Aing at the same time. The tuner is just more convenient because it provides a continuous sound that doesn't fade away before I'm done tuning my A. I tune the other 3 strings by ear, by playing them against each other and tuning the 5ths.

In our orchestra, the oboist uses a chromatic tuner to tune her A to A440, so even when I have an oboe, I'm using a tuner once removed.

From Emma Otto
Posted on May 18, 2013 at 11:56 PM
A few weeks after I started violin lessons (age 9), I joined a small orchestra that was actually conducted by my violin teacher. She would always give us the A with a tuning fork, and everyone would tune from that. I thought it was the coolest thing that violinists could tune just based off of one string, since I had always used a piano for each string individually.

So I asked my teacher how it was done. She picked up her violin and un-tuned all the strings except A. Then she played A and D together. "Does the D need to come up or down?" she asked. I gave the correct answer, and was actually able to tune the violin perfectly. I remember telling my mom later that all I was really doing was basing the notes off of the 5th degrees in "Twinkle Twinkle."

Within a couple years of playing, I discovered that I had perfect pitch. Since then I have rarely bothered to get an A from the piano.

From Paul Deck
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 2:44 AM
The mechanical problem of tuning the A string, which is on the opposite side of the pegbox and difficult to push, is solved nicely by the installation of Wittner, Knilling, or PegHeds pegs. Or, you could do what a few famous professionals (like Mutter) do, and have a fine-tuner on your A string. (Duh!)

I think there needs to be a new app which is an oboe player that plays an A that sounds like an oboe. The fun part of the app would be changing the oboe player's look and personality. Default settings would be nerdy looking and incredibly neurotic of course. LOL

Has anyone ever measured how much the oboe player's A varies in pitch during the typical tuning note?

I tune from a fork but I think the easiest instrument to tune from is the cello.

From Tim Maynard
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 3:26 AM
I use an app that will let me tune in equal temperament, just intonation or other tuning systems. It smiles when you're on pitch, which is kind of nice, and it will generate an oboe (or other instrument) sound if like, though it won't give you the authentic search for the exact pitch at the beginning of the note.
From David Beck
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 7:42 AM
"Has anyone ever measured how much the oboe player's A varies in pitch during the typical tuning note?"
Yes, it's not true that the oboe was chosen to "give the A" because of pitch stability - it was more to do with a penetrating sound.
When giving a my Oboe "A" I watch carefully to maintain the green light on the proffered electronic tuner. But, just as in so many professional orchestras, no-one seems to take any notice.
In some pro orchestras in which I played (which shall remain nameless) few milliseconds of oboe "A" would be followed by a welter of concerto excerpts, mostly very sharp. By contrast, the BBC Philharmonic (Manchester, UK) worked very hard on pitch, and the results are audible.
From Julian Musgrave
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 10:15 AM
Yep, oboes are pants for a steady A. They start flat, end sharp. Might as well tune to traffic noise. So many received wisdom and practice in our domain is nonsense. First thing ANY ensemble should do is play 3 octaves scales in the key of the piece until everyone gets it. Equal temperament sucks anyway....
From Nicky Paxton
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 11:23 AM
As to pitching notes when on my own, I tune a violin as described in my last post. Playing notes on high ledger lines when practising can be hard because I have no keyboard and can have difficulty working out how the music should sound.

As a young boy I was told that the reason why an orchestra tuned from the oboe's A was that an oboe was the most difficult orchestral instrument to tune. I suspect that that may be a myth, but has anyone any ideas on this?

From John Cadd
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Paul Deck has pinpointed a very good advertising theme for the geared pegs.It is a vitally important thing to tune the A. Even one geared peg would make life that much better for many players . You can develop the hand strength and coordination to tune with the left hand around the scroll but it`s not all that easy .
From Anne Horvath
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Best $50 I ever spent was used to purchase a large A-440 tuning fork mounted on a hollow wooden open-ended box. It comes with a mallet. Bonk the fork, and a lovely A fills the room. (Not practical away from the office though).

Some of my students have downloaded woefully inaccurate tuning apps onto their ithingies. Be careful out there...

From David Beck
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 2:32 PM
" oboe was the most difficult orchestral instrument to tune."

Hmm. Sorry, no earth-shattering revelations from me. I recall the clarinet , which I would play in my youth, as being MORE variable as it warmed up, and less "in tune with itself" as the overblown twelfths are not quite true.
I need to constantly adjust the pitches on my oboe (by the embouchure) as I go along. I'd expect the same to be true of many orchestral instruments - triangle-players and a few other percussionists are luckier.

From sarah salmi
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 6:00 PM
I voted chromatic tuner, but actually it's a metronome that i set to give a 442 A and then i tune the rest by ear.
From Vanessa Gouw
Posted on May 19, 2013 at 7:27 PM
Is a pitch pipe accurate? curious about this one, it's not mentioned in the vote.

I voted for tuning fork though as nowadays i use it.

From Charlie Gibbs
Posted on May 21, 2013 at 6:29 PM
I can use either a tuning fork or an electronic tuner, but the nice thing about the fork is that it takes up very little space in my case and has no batteries that can go dead at a critical time. Even if I do use an electronic tuner, I only use it for the A, then tune the other strings off that.

I know, having 4 fine tuners is regarded as cheating by some, but it makes life so much easier. But I don't try to change tuning while the string is sounding - I just remember whether it's sharp or flat, adjust the tuning, then try again. That works when using the pegs too.

By the time the oboe sounds its A, all I'm doing is confirming that my tuning is good - I need little or no tweaking by then.

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