Bought my first violin, won't tune!

November 14, 2018, 3:47 PM · Hi everyone,

So finally took the plunge and bought my first ever violin. Followed some online tutorials and went to tune the thing but ... the pegs usually pull back around almost immediately, and are detuned almost an octave below.

I had the bridge snap down once, which was a very nice reality check for my ears.

Is what I'm experiencing something that tends to happen? (Not the bridge snapping down, I've learned my lesson) but not being able to get the string to hold a certain tension?

ANY help would be hugely appreciated. I would love to turn up to my first lesson with at least a semi-tuned violin!


Replies (28)

Edited: November 14, 2018, 4:25 PM · Where did you get your violin? Because I've read similar stories from amazon violins. Are you gently pushing the pegs while you turn them?

You could apply some peg compound (or the cheaper alternative: chalk) to the pegs. This should keep them from slipping.

November 14, 2018, 4:57 PM · When tuning your violin with the pegs.

Tuning is a gradual and iterative process. Slowly bring the strings up to tune, not all the way at once. I tune each of my strings up to some flat intonation at about the same time and then slowly bring each one to in tune. Every time you tune another string one of those you already tuned will tend to go a bit flat. The strings will stretch and and may not actually stay anywhere near in tune for several days - depending on what string type and brand you am use and how much you play them.

1. Rub a soft pencil lead on the bridge and nut grooves to help the strings slip. (under the strings)
2. Check that the bridge remains vertical every partial turn of the pegs.
3. Lube or tighten pegs as Demian suggessts above.
4. Be sure pegs are pushed in.
5. If your violin has fine tuners at the tailpiece be sure they are not fully tightened when using the pegs so you can use them later for fine tuning.

Edited: November 14, 2018, 9:23 PM · My first violin was a Mendini MV300, don’t laugh, after putting good strings on, it has a nice sound.

Anyway, when you tune this, as Andrew said, you have to take it slow. Once you get used to it, you will be fine. If this is a Mendini or Cecilio (Cecilio bought the Mendini brand) you have to push the tuning peg in before releasing it, otherwise, it will unwind on you, eventually, this becomes habit and you won’t even think about it.

As for the bridge, remember, the bridge is not affixed to the violin, it needs to be free. Because of this, as the strings are tuned with the tuning pegs, they pull the bridge forward, if you do not keep an eye on it, it will flip down.

Turn the peg just a little. It does not take much of a turn with the tuning peg. While doing this, keep an eye on the bridge, after each turn and after the pushing in of the peg, look down and see if the bridge is still straight up. If not, use the fine tuner at the bottom for the string you just tuned and loosen it a tad and GENTLY, realign the bridge. Repeat this process with each turn of the tuning peg.

Do not tune up a string all the way and then move on to the next string and tune that up. Tune the string up a little and then push in the peg, check the bridge, move on to the next string and do the same string. After all the strings have been gone through once, repeat the process. Make sure you push the tuning peg in after each turning. This will become habit. Sounds like more work than it is.

Repeat the process until you are within a couple ticks of in tune on the tuner, check to make sure all the pegs are pushed in and tight. Now, switch to the fine tuners at the bottom and finish tuning, keeping an eye on the bridge.

Since your bridge collapsed, make sure you lined it up properly before tightening the strings too much,

This is how I did the first tuning of my Mendini violin. It would be the same for the Cecilio. As I said, after getting it set up, this will not be a big deal. You will most often use the fine tuners at the bottom.

Another thing, if you do not like the sound, get a new set of strings. I replaced the Cecilio strings with Pirastro Tonicas. It really sounds nice. It actually has a good sound. It is a little hollow, but it sounds nice. It is a great way to decide if you want to take up violin. I still use it periodically because I like the different sound it gives to the same songs I am doing with my upgrade violin.

I could have used this for lessons for a while and then upgraded. It really sounds nice. But, I decided I really liked playing violin. My husband was impressed. He wishes I had thought of this earlier so I could be further along. So, he took me to a violin shop to upgrade. Then we went again and upgraded the upgrade. Keeping this one. Love it.

Another tip: the rosin that comes with these violins is not good, probably any inexpensive (not saying cheap because they do sound quite nice with good strings). Get new rosin for bow. I think I bought Pirastro violin rosin, not sure. It is packed away in my violin case at the moment.

So, turn the peg a little, push the peg in, check the bridge and adjust the bridge if necessary. Move on to the next string and repeat the process. Tune the strings this way until they are about a coule ticks shy of in tune on the tuner. Then use your fine tuners at the bottom. Keep an eye on the bridge.

If a fine tuner screw is too low to be able to tune with, turn the fine tuner screw the other way to loosen the string, not so the screw comes out. It should not be turned so much the screw gets wobbly. Then go to the tuning peg and turn it a little at a time to get it back to the couple ticks on the tuner shy of in tune. Then your fine tuner screw will be higher and you can tune the string with the fine tuner that half step it needs. Do that whenever the fine tuner screws are too low.

If you change out your strings, do NOT remove all the strings at once. Remove one string, then install that new string, using the same process as I stated above up to the fine tuner part, just leave it at the flat stage. Remove the next string, and install in the same fashion. After you install all the strings, check to see if they are to the point where you can use the fine tuners. If not, use the tuning pegs on any strings that are too far off for the fine tuners. As you tune some strings, other strings may become out of tune, so you keep doing it until all strings are tuned. Use the process to give your fine tuners wiggle room as I stated above, if needed.

Get upgraded strings. Get a good rosin and remember to scratch up the top with a fingernail file or something. If you can, get a better bow.

Also, do not let anyone snub your violin if your did get one through Amazon, or any place else and it is inexpensive. Not everyone can afford the better violins, not everyone is sure they want to, or can play the violin, and prefer to check it out with a less expensive one. I have not run into that here, but have when asking questiins elsewhere. Enjoy your violin.

Hope this was of some help and I did not have errors, I am a new 64 yr old student of violin, so others may have better instructions. If anyone has any corrections to what I stated, feel free to correct. I might have stated it wrong.


November 15, 2018, 12:52 AM · It'll tune. Give it time. Sometimes, the wood has to compress first on new instruments.
November 15, 2018, 2:24 AM · If you're a beginner you may prefer four finetuners on the tailpiece, rather than try to tune with the pegs. you probably have one finetuner now for the e-string.

if the bridge collapsed, there's the question whether you put it back in the exact right spot.

Edited: November 15, 2018, 2:54 AM · My first violin cost $50. Nothing wrong with it apart from a high nut which needs fettling, maybe I could give the bridge a bit more camber. I smothered the pegs with Hidersine peg dope. And I put Tonicas on it.
Edited: November 15, 2018, 7:37 AM · Thank you all for your help and advice. As a result, the G,D,A strings are holding closer to the desired note (though they are going flat after a few minutes, but not as much as they were last night)

E strings is a whole other problem. I can get it up to E, and then either two seconds later, or 10 seconds later, it'll suddenly turn around 90 degrees, and the string has gone quite slack. I've done the same with this string as I have with the others, but it is behaving totally differently to the others. Almost as if it is taking considerably more pressure than the rest, and can't hold the tension...

EDIT: To get this string up to tune, I feel like I'm really straining my fingers. It is a real effort, whereas it doesn't feel this way with the others.

Thanks for any further help on this!

November 15, 2018, 9:08 AM · If all else fails, bring it to a violin shop for a setup. Where did you buy it? How much did you pay? It is a slight possibility that you have tuned to too high of an octave on the E string, but I think it likely would have broken if that is the case.

There is a not small possibility that the peg holes and pegs are not "true" and need to be shaped more round than they are. It's also possible that the bridge needs some work (that won't affect tuning, but might affect playability).

November 15, 2018, 10:06 AM · Even after you get it tuned, you might find it gets out of tune slightly often as the strings settle, from what I have read. Fine tuners for those asjustments. That is after you get it tuned. I had more problems with my E string than the others on the Mendini. It no longer has issues. Don’t know what kind of violin you purchased.


November 15, 2018, 12:32 PM · Cheap violins are notorious for having pegs that don't work.
November 15, 2018, 1:23 PM · I agree with Lyndon: cheap instruments are likely to have inferior peg fitting. I have found Hill's Peg Compound is ideal for solving both slipping and stuck peg problems. Hill's contains a balance of lubricant so the pegs turn smoothly and an abrasive so the pes won't slip and slip some more. You need to remove the string from the peg, and apply the peg compound to the shiny spots on the peg, where it contacts the pegbox sides. Apply just enough, wipe off any extra, and re-string. Even after the strings have settled down (so to speak) you will need to re-tune each time you play.
Eventually you may want to have Pegheds installed; these geared pegs eliminate the hassle of stuck pegs/slipping pegs entirely. What a blessing!
November 15, 2018, 1:26 PM · Lyndon, not all inexpensive violins are “cheap” violins. My Mendini is inexpensive, but it is not cheap. There is a difference. It has a very nice clear sound. Not as much depth as my upgraded violin, but it projects really well, and sounds great with the Tonicas. My tuning pegs are no longer a problem, either. They have sorted and settled themselves as they have heen used.

Not everyone can afford a step-up violin or beyond. Those that cannot afford the step-up or more, and I am not saying the original poster is in this group, or even in a group of the less expensive violin, should not be talked down to by saying their violins are cheap. They are less expensive. As I said, my first violin is inexpensive, but it is built well and sounds great. Doesn’t have the fine woods, etc, as the more expensive violins and therefore those using them do not expect they will sound like the step-up or greater violins, but they are not “cheap”. Cheap tends to say something is of poor quality and little value.

To those that are able to afford the less expensive option, they are of great value. It demeans those that come here to ask about and for help with their much loved highly valued less expensive violins. I just wish they were not referred to as “cheap” because to the owner, they are not. No offense intended, I just felt a need to point this out to everyone.


November 15, 2018, 1:29 PM · It's all an elaborate scheme. You are supposed to hate the very first cheap violin.
This way you'll immediately go out and buy another one. It will be better but not as good as the next one you're going to buy.

No such thing as semi tuned. That's like saying a viola is a semi violin.

November 15, 2018, 1:31 PM · Erin, I have geared pegs on one of my cellos. I love those. They were on it when I purchased it. They would really make the inexpensive violin so much easier to tune for those with the tuning peg issues.


November 15, 2018, 1:35 PM · if the pegs don't work on a brand new violin, its most probably a cheap violin!!
November 15, 2018, 1:36 PM · And for the 100th time, Hill compound will make the pegs slip more not less, to get sticking you need chalk, or rouge or rosin.
November 15, 2018, 2:45 PM · Take it to a shop, they can diagnose and fix it right away. They should also nicely give you a hands on tutorial. So many possibilities, i.e. pegs could be improperly shaped, the holes could have a bad taper, strings not wound correctly, etc.
November 15, 2018, 4:01 PM · Thank you all for your time and advice. Definitely a cheap/starter violin. A Stentor 1018 (Stentor Student, often called). £95. Still, I wouldn't expect to come across an obvious defect. I'll try chalk/rosin as I have those available, and see if it makes sense.

Guessing my teacher will be able to help it too. When I contacted her, I told her I had ordered a violin, and she asked me to bring it along. So even if I don't have a quick solution, I imagine I'll have a diagnosis at least!

November 15, 2018, 4:49 PM · Lyndon wrote: "And for the 100th time, Hill compound will make the pegs slip more not less, to get sticking you need chalk, or rouge or rosin. "
Lyndon, Hill's compound contains rouge.
Edited: November 15, 2018, 6:07 PM · Hill compound is primarily a compound to promote slipping not gripping, end of story, it doesn't matter what the ingredients are, that's how it works, it works just like soap, to make pegs turn easily.

Pure rouge will make pegs grip better, a mixed formula that contains some rouge, doesn't say how much, does not promote gripping.

November 17, 2018, 1:41 AM · It just ... worked. I tried the same thing I've been trying, and this time everything just stuck in place. I guess it just needed some time to stretch or settle, or whatever it may be!

Now to make the family suffer.

November 17, 2018, 2:33 AM · I was going to suggest pushing the pegs in firmly.
Edited: November 17, 2018, 2:38 AM · If at first you don't succeed...go on the internet, get lots of information and advice, realise it just results in more confusion, then try, try again
Edited: November 17, 2018, 5:26 PM · Many years ago, when I was having classical guitar lessons, I was in my teacher's guitar store (classical guitars and lutes, nothing else) talking to him prior to a lesson when a "customer" wandered in, and went round inspecting the instruments hanging on the walls and plucking the strings. He then muttered something about "these aren't in tune, they're rubbish", and wandered out. Cue eye-rolling by my teacher!
November 17, 2018, 6:07 PM · Peg compound is great.

You also have to wind the string LIKE A GUITAR STRING. This means that it LOOPS OVER ITSELF at some point, usually at the beginning. Thus, when the strings get tighter, the strings will also lock itself tighter. Friction keeps the strings in place. Without the LOOPING OVER, strings slip.

November 18, 2018, 3:27 AM · Ahhhh that's good to know. My wife is being very supportiv and has asked me if I'd like anything for my violin, for my upcoming birthday. Given this is an approx 100 dollar violin, does it make sense to put some new strings on it? Budget around 60-70 dollars. Any recommendations?
November 18, 2018, 5:01 AM · for that money about the best strings you can get actually cost a bit less; Pirastro Tonica, highly recommended. Be careful where you buy them, a lot of counterfeit chinese versions on ebay.
Edited: November 18, 2018, 8:27 AM · I had a situation some years ago with a new set of HT steel strings (steel is ok for classical cellists, btw!) slipping on the old very smooth pegs despite looping over. My solution, which worked perfectly, was to apply rosin with my bow to the peg winding of the strings before refitting them.

My daughter has that cello now and I've passed that rosin tip on to her.

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