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.

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, 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, 1:35 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 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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